Dallas Mavericks starting center Samuel Dalembert has come a long way from not being able to wake up on time early in the season. It seems like yesterday Dalembert was still stuck in head coach Rick Carlisle‘s dog house, but he has woken up with a jolt as of late.
In fact, Dalembert has been money for the Mavericks just about the entire second half of the NBA season. During December and January, Dalembert feebly averaged fewer than six rebounds a game, with just 5.1 points a game in January. Once the uber cold days of February hit, Dalembert saw increased minutes and contrastingly heated up. In February and March combined, Dalembert averaged about eight rebounds, seven points and more than a block per game.
Those averages have remained about the same in this first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, except Dalembert has been a shot-blocking machine. In last night’s Game 3 victory, for instance, he had a gargantuan four blocks! His defensive presence out there can’t be embellished, either. Dalembert has been holding his own protecting the interior from the mayhem created by perennial Mavericks killers Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Check out Parker’s performance last night as well. In the first half, Parker scored a deranged 17 points, but in the second half, the Frenchman had just one basket. Collapsing on defense at the end of games had been the Achilles heel for the Mavericks prior to these last two victories, so Dalembert’s spot-on Dikembe Mutombo impersonation has taken the Mavericks from simply an elite offensive team, to a well-rounded contender.
It’s that sort of interior defense that enables stars Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki to be heroes.