“You never find yourself until you face the truth.”
Last night, in a fit of symbolism, I filled a glass half-full with water. I then put on a Tony Parker mask, and proceeded to demolish said glass with a sledgehammer. Abandon hope, all ye who follow this team.
I went into last night’s game thinking ahead. If the Mavs beat the Spurs, that would give them some legitimacy. It could be a big win for a team that has fallen, risen, and seemed on the verge of settling somewhere in the middle. Then I hear the announcement that on top of Ginobili’s absence, Tim Duncan will also be missing the game. No more signature victory, but still a way for the team to gain some confidence against mostly reserves. Needless to say, that’s not exactly what happened.
A quick point guard caused lots of trouble for Jason Kidd, so Carlisle tried J.J. Barea on him. Said quick point guard then caused lots of trouble for Barea, and we lose. Come on guys, this act is getting a little tired. Channel point guards towards the shot blockers, rely on the rotations, force him to get rid of the ball, and make Fabricio Oberto make a damn move. There is one fundamental flaw in the execution of this strategy: they ignored it entirely. Rick Carlisle decided to be reactionary last night, and pulled Dampier from the team’s gameplan entirely rather than make subtle adjustments. James Singleton did an awesome job in filling Damp’s role on the boards, but he just doesn’t have the height or reach of a 6’11” brick wall. I’m not sure that Dampier could have made a tangible difference in the outcome in this game, and I’m inclined to doubt it. But wouldn’t it have been nice to know? We’ve discounted Dampier in a lot of situations, but sometimes he can be a real asset on the floor — even for games for which he seems ill-suited.
This marks three games in a row that Dirk has struggled. Take a look at his stats:
@Houston: 4-18 FG (22.2%), 9 points
Sacramento: 6-13 FG (46.2%), 12 points
@San Antonio: 5-15 FG (33.3%), 14 points
He also has a total of 6 FTAs over that three-game stretch. Dirk has spoiled us all with his hyper-efficient, seemingly effortless ability to score, so the importance of such a stretch is surely overstated. It’s not as if the Dirk enigma has suddenly been solved, but it is the team’s star player going cold at a time where he needs to bring his A-game. It’s not meaningful in a grander sense, but it is unfortunate given the team’s circumstances and what they hope to accomplish.
Every meaningful Maverick run (they were few and far between) was answered by a defensive breakdown. A virtually uncontested Tony Parker layup. A barrage of Michael Finley threes (man, he was dialed-in). A Kurt Thomas put-back. Boom, bang, pow. Each punch to the gut had a visible effect on the Mavericks’ mentality, with heads hanging lower and lower as the lead went from bad to manageable to daunting.
Aggressive pressure limited the Mavs’ offense, and they just couldn’t capitalize in any meaningful way. Jason Kidd was turned into a non-factor, Brandon Bass couldn’t provide any meaningful production, and Josh Howard was unspectacular. Couple all that with Dirk’s offensive mortality and you have a recipe for disaster. The Mavs failed to score twenty points in three quarters. Ugh.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: James Singleton is the only player who would even come close to deserving this. Singleton played the role of a more mobile, active Dampier, and what he lacked in size and shot blocking he made up for in effort to the tune of 14 points (5-10 FG, 2-3 3FG!!!) and 14 rebounds. In a game that I wish was forgettable, Singleton was just about the sole bright spot.