“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Yes, it happened again.
In few businesses is it acceptable practice to take a product of dubious quality, repackage it, and shove it down the consumers’ throats. Personally, I kind of want my couple of hours back. I feel like I just sat through Transmorphers.
Let me start with the excuses. Chris Paul is a tough matchup for any player in the league, much less Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, and Antoine Wright. There’s a reason why he’s the best point guard in the league, and it’s not because he allows himself to be contained. The Mavs were on tired legs, after playing their fourth game in five nights. It’s unfortunate scheduling, to be sure, but the difficulty of which was exaggerated by the dismal showing against Oklahoma City. Josh Howard was still visibly hobbled by a tender ankle, and the soreness that traditionally comes with back-to-backs left him settling for jumpers and shooting blanks. He did not return in the second half, and the Mavs collapsed.
We’re supposed to be done with all that. Come what may, the Mavs are supposed to overcome all, and prove that they have what it takes to win on the road, much less win against the league’s elite. It seems painfully obvious at this point that that’s just not going to happen. Chalk it up to the lack of defensive execution, the lack of firepower, or the almighty excuses, but Dallas just isn’t getting it done.
That was readily apparent against the Hornets, who are rolling with the punches en route to the playoffs. Tyson Chandler was almost traded? So what? He came back from injury as a man on a mission, and he’s been playing some great basketball of late. Peja Stojakovic sidelined? So what? In steps Julian Wright, and Chris Paul makes sure the team doesn’t miss a beat. So naturally, when faced with a Maverick team brimming with confidence after a great win against the Spurs, the Hornets got their hits in early, endured the eventual run, and then finished with a fatality. It wasn’t ‘Flawless Victory,’ but it was ugly.
No one is blameless, and that starts at the top. Rick Carlisle clearly did not have this team ready to defend the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop, and I can’t even begin to explain why. It’s the Hornets. They have Chris Paul, David West, and Tyson Chandler. How could you not see this coming? Based on their track record, I don’t expect a complete denial of P&R basketball, but some resistance would be nice. It’s tough to defend with players this skilled, but rolling over and dying whenever you see a pick just isn’t acceptable. Well, it shouldn’t be acceptable.
That’s where Dirk (27 points on 19 shots, 7 rebounds, 0 turnovers), who had a brilliant game offensively, came up short. The Mavs played man to man and a matchup zone, but nothing could hide Dirk. They put him on Tyson Chandler and they put him on Sean Marks. Then he was caught watching the ball or switching onto Paul, and that was game over. Should Dirk have been switching onto Chris Paul in the first place? Well gee, that there’s an idea. But it wouldn’t be fair to focus on Dirk’s faults when he was just about the only thing going offensively. Dirk was money, hitting open and impossible shots alike. He combined stellar midrange play with some good work around the basket, and even sprinkled in a three. The Mavs have some serious work to do on the defensive end, but let’s not forget: the Hornets haven’t even come close to figuring out how to stop Dirk Nowitzki.
This is where the offensive superlatives end. The next highest point total for the Mavs was Jason Kidd’s 13, which came on 4-11 shooting and trust me, it sounds better than it was. Kidd was basically in a practice gym for most of the game, shooting open jumpers against a team that refused to respect his shot. And that’s what we’ve been getting all season with Kidd; one night he’ll not only stick the dagger, but twist it in the opponent’s back, and the next he’ll be a complete offensive liability. When Chris Paul has 27 points (10-18 FG) and 15 assists, Kidd’s 13 and 2 just isn’t going to cut it.
For what it’s worth, Chris Paul didn’t really torch Jason Kidd. Barea, Terry, and Wright each had their shot at guarding CP3, and the Mavs switched to a matchup zone in part to stop Paul’s penetration. Nothing was particularly effective. But in the background looms a bigger problem: how many players can the Mavs hide defensively? Dirk is hardly a stud on that end, Jason Terry has his troubles, and Jason Kidd, despite his particular defensive strengths, isn’t able to guard point guards. Something’s gotta give, and when everyone’s trying to hid behind one another, someone is going to be exposed.
Jason Terry and Antoine Wright couldn’t provide the shooting to support the offense in Howard’s absence. The Hornets played heavily to Terry’s right, fully aware of his awkward post-injury handle to his left. He took tough shots, and missed some makeable ones. Antoine Wright on the other hand, was trying to do too much. He pump faked the three and attempted a drive almost every time he touched the ball. His intentions were noble, but the results less so.
Brandon Bass and James Singleton logged a combined 25 minutes, and I don’t understand why. Erick Dampier can’t guard David West and protect the rim at the same time. So if Dirk is on the floor, the Mavs aren’t getting much of an advantage by playing Dampier over Singleton or Bass. Both have the strength and speed to bother West, and would likely be better at contesting after the pick.
After the first half, it really seemed like the Mavs had a shot. They had played just one good quarter, and yet found themselves all square going into the 3rd. That changed in a hurry, as the Mavs’ offense turned impotent and Chris Paul found new and exciting ways to remind you that the Mavs can’t guard him. You’re not going to shoot 39.5% from the field and win many games. That applies when the Mavs play Sacramento or Washington, much less when they play a team as good as the Hornets.
Some random thoughts:
- Henry Abbott has ruined basketball for me. Since reading his series on the traveling rule, I can’t stop watching feet. Among the Mavs, Jason Terry is probably the biggest culprit. Whenever he receives the ball on a pass, it seems like he prances across half the court, and whenever he gets the ball on a handoff, he’s taking steps immediately.
- Moving screens are EVERYWHERE. I’m actively worried that Dirk’s going to get whistled for them, and David West has turned it into an art.
- As Erick Dampier rolled to the basket for what he thought was an alley-oop, James Posey ended up knocking him flat on his back. All of Damp’s weight and all of that force…straight into Damp’s back and elbow, as he fell straight to the floor. Not cool.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki, if only because no one else on the Mavs even came close to helping. Dirk was awesome offensively, and finished with 27 points on 50% shooting, and 8-9 FTs.