For those who missed out on the best one-on-one battle of the season, O.J. Mayo scored 40 points to lead the Dallas Mavericks past James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Harden scored 39 of his own, thus solidifying the Rockets and Mavericks' status as rivals.
As for Mayo, he proved that the marriage between he and the Mavericks is a match made in heaven.
Twitter has reacted to Mayo's game, but not as wildly as they should. Mayo not only finished with 40 points, but he scored 14 during an incredible fourth-quarter comeback.
He also happens to rank second in the NBA in three-point field goals and first in three-point field goal percentage.
40-point night for O.J. Mayo. I think he has validated himself, folks. The kid is a 25-year-old star. Mavs win 116-109. 39 for Harden.— Earl K. Sneed (@EKS_MavsNBA) December 9, 2012
It's hard to argue with Sneed on this one, as Mayo already ranked eighth in the league in scoring entering Saturday night's game. With this phenomenal performance, one can only imagine what this game will do for his confidence.
And rightfully so.
Thus far in 2012-13, Mayo is dominating opponents. The way he's shooting is the primary reason Dallas is 10-10 with both Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion injured.
That's been the key to Mayo's season thus far. While many will study his box score and say that he's simply hot with the ball in his hands, that's not the case.
Mayo is not only converting a high volume of shots, but he's being intelligent with what he attempts. That is where we start.
You can count on one hand the active coaches who have achieved more than Dallas Mavericks leader Rick Carlisle. The main reason for his success is the fact that Carlisle has an uncanny ability to do what most others can't.
Take trigger-happy shooters and teach them how to discover the art of patience.
Carlisle has done it with Chauncey Billups, Jason Terry, Ron Artest and even Dirk Nowitzki. O.J. Mayo is just the latest to benefit from his presence.
That was on full display against Houston.
Thus far this season, Mayo is posting a slash line of .482/.523/.844. Against Houston, he scored his 40 points on 15-of-26 shooting from the floor, 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
As for those who expect this level of consistency to disappear, don't. Even if his three-point percentage dips a bit, Mayo is not playing in a temporary manner.
Mayo's shot selection is responsible. Most importantly, the shots that he takes are all within the rhythm of the offense.
His shots are falling at a high rate, but they're also coming naturally. Best of all, Mayo is not going to be the main focus of an opposing defense for much longer.
The Return of Dirk Nowitzki
O.J. Mayo may have established himself as a star, but that doesn't mean the return of Dirk Nowitzki won't alleviate defensive pressure. That is, if teams haven't yet forgotten that Dirk was the 2011 NBA Finals MVP.
You know, less than two calendar years ago.
Nowitzki remains an NBA superstar and is one of the top five most dynamic scorers in the league. He's a 7'0" power forward with above-average mobility and the most lethal turnaround jump shot in the history of the league.
Others may have done it better, but none have done it at 7'0" tall.
What this means for Mayo is that he will avoid double-teams. He'll find openings along the perimeter, roll off of screens and connect from mid-range and beyond the arc with average pressure.
Expect double-teams on Nowitzki.
Working Off of the Ball
The No. 1 reason O.J. Mayo struggled so mightily from the floor in 2011-12 is the fact that he was thrust into the role of a primary ball-handler. Although Mike Conley Jr. handled the starting duties in Memphis, Mayo led the second unit.
He did so without a true point guard to find him coming off of screens.
As a result, Mayo was forced into scoring via isolation sets. Even when there were screens to work with, Mayo was forced to shoot off of the dribble instead of his more natural method.
Spot-up and catch-and-shoot attempts.
That's what we've seen all year from Mayo, as he's found his footing on the perimeter and kept his balance. Mayo has done so by virtue of having the likes of Darren Collison and Derek Fisher facilitating for him.
That's a major change in scenery from his days in Memphis.
The concern for O.J. Mayo may be what will happen once Dirk Nowitzki has retired from basketball or ages further. Mayo will then become the primary focus of opposing defenses, which could lead to his abandoning this responsible style of play.
Fear not, folks. By the time Nowitzki meets his decline, Mayo, who's 25, will have stepped into his prime.
More importantly, Mayo would be playing for owner Mark Cuban. The same Cuban who is willing to spend out of pocket to build a contender.
We're certain to be reminded of such during the 2013 period of free agency.
Mayo has a head coach who will keep his head on right, a superstar to alleviate defensive pressure and the facilitators to aid his game. Furthermore, he has an owner that will keep him surrounded by high-quality talent.
O.J. Mayo and the Dallas Mavericks are a match made in heaven.
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