Just two nights after a rough outing that had journalists, bloggers, commentators and even the Schwab calling out the UConn product for underperforming, Tuff Juice sparked the Dallas Mavericks' 103-81 Game 5 pasting of the San Antonio Spurs. Butler had a hot hand from the early going, scoring a game-high and career-playoff-best 35 points on 12-for-24 shooting from the field. He also added 11 rebounds and three steals without committing a turnover in just over 36 minutes to help Mark Cuban's crew draw within one win of tying its first-round Western Conference playoff series.
While Caron didn't turn in a complete about-face from his perimeter-happy Game 4 showing -- 11 of his 24 field-goal attempts did come from 18-feet out or farther (though one was a 60-foot prayer at the end of the first half) -- he seemed intent on socking to us haters and getting better looks at the bucket, going 4-for-7 on shots taken right at the tin and getting the foul line with far more frequency than he did in San Antonio (8-for-9 in Game 5, compared to just 2-for-2 in Game 4). It was a dominant performance in a game the Mavs had to have, the kind of game that tantalizes the Dallas faithful with visions of that one more big-time scorer that can aid Dirk Nowitzki and push their team over the top.
Of course, it was also the kind of performance that leaves longtime watchers shaking their heads, saying things like "If only it was every night," and being skeptical that Butler can turn in reasonable facsimiles in likewise must-win sixth and, if the Mavs get that far, seventh games. But for today, at least, I holster my Haterade and eschew Hato Skins at the vending machine. Instead, I raise my glass of Mountain Dew to you, Caronimo, and feast on deez humility walnuts. Rest assured: They taste like comeuppance.
- Caron Butler