Give Marion credit, even if Melo won't
Mavs acquired the rangy forward for nights like this, and he delivered on both ends
Anthony didn't agree that Marion made a major impact in the Mavs' 109-93 victory over the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Center. What about Anthony's awful shooting (3-of-16 from the floor) in his 10-point performance? According to Anthony, that was the product of constant double-teams, not Marion's terrific individual defensive performance.
"Not being funny," Anthony said, "but I don't think he did nothing but play his game."
The Mavs agree that Marion played his game, but the take on how much that mattered was certainly different in the Dallas locker room.
"Shawn definitely was the player of the game," said Dirk Nowitzki, who made a pretty strong case for that honor himself by notching his second career triple-double with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Rick Carlisle opened his postgame press conference by lavishing praise upon Marion, whom the Mavs acquired in a sign-and-trade this summer to address their problem of defending elite wing scorers such as Anthony.
"The key to the game was the job Shawn Marion did on Carmelo," Carlisle said. "He's one of the toughest guys to guard in the league, and [Marion] took the challenge."
Guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry were among others who echoed the opinions of Nowitzki and Carlisle. They all painfully experienced the damage Anthony did during the playoffs last season when the Mavs had nobody to match up with him.
Anthony dominated while Denver dismissed Dallas in five games, averaging 30 points on 49 percent shooting. But he's been miserable in the two meetings against the Mavs in which Marion has played this season.
Melo's offensive numbers in those losses: 13 points per game on 8-of-35 shooting.
Games like this are what attracted Marion to the Mavs. He wanted to play for high stakes, and he thrives on the challenge of guarding stars, especially Anthony.
"Shoot, that was my All-Star spot," said Marion, a four-time All-Star whose most recent appearance on the NBA's midseason stage came in 2007. "Truth be told, it still should be mine.
"I'm taking nothing away from him. I think he's talented as hell.
"But that's not even what it boils down to. Right now, I'm at the point of my career when I want to win a championship."
Marion flashed back to his All-Star scoring form in the win over Denver, pouring in 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting in 29 minutes. That continued a magnificent March for Marion, whose offensive numbers have peaked, averaging 15.6 points on 57 percent shooting this month.
Some might consider Marion's offensive production to be a bonus, considering that the Mavs rarely run plays designed for him. He considers it a key part of slowing down guys like Anthony.
"You've got to make him play defense, too," Marion said. "Most of the high scorers in this league don't play the other end. When you play the other end, it's that much harder to get off."
This is exactly the type of night the Mavs had in mind when they acquired Marion. They thought they needed a tough, rangy, versatile veteran to give them a chance for a championship.
"You think of all the big wing guys, thinking about how disadvantaged we were by playing small lineups last season," said Terry, who scored 13 of his 15 points as the Mavs slammed the door on the road-weary Nuggets in the fourth quarter. "What if? What if we had a long, active defender? It's here now. [Marion] knows his role.
He's comfortable in it, and we love him."
The Matrix needs no love from Melo.