Washington Wizards 102, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 28, 2009 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.

The mantra of the Mavs’ off-season was finding more help for Dirk Nowitzki. If you were to evaluate the fulfillment of that goal solely on last night’s performance against the Wizards, I don’t see how the assessment could be anything aside from “huge, embarrassing failure.” But hey, guys, this is the first game of the season. That means we’re grading on a curve, and “huge embarrassing failure” just so happens to round up to “pretty terrible, but I’ll get over it.”

There are far worse things than losing your home opener, and the Mavs’ offensive struggles against the Wizards should not be construed of anything more than a one game aberration. We know that this offense works, and we know that these players are more capable than they’ve shown. Jason Terry is simply better than 4-15 FG, and Shawn Marion is definitely more impressive than his largely invisible offensive performance. Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea should be held responsible for the rest of the crew, as the shots need to come easier for the Maverick bigs. None of that happened, and Dirk was left to his own devices. He didn’t disappoint (34 points on an atypical 10-25 FG, 12-13 FT, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks ), but it was far from enough to stave off a shockingly effective Gilbert Arenas (29 points on 10-21 FG, 9 assists), empowered by the surprise contributions of Randy Foye (19 points on 8-14 FG) and Andray Blatche (20 points on 8-14 FG, 7 rebounds). Dirk isn’t a bad guy to back, even in a one on three shoot out, but the Maverick guards were only slightly more effective perimeter defenders than, say, a chair.

The Mavs were clearly confused by the pick and roll, as Arenas and Brendan Haywood abused the Mavs for almost the entirety of the first half. Haywood responded with three thunderous first quarter dunks, resulting in a giant metaphorical wagging finger in the general direction of Erick Dampier. Damp knows better and the rest of the Mavs know better; if Dampier was too busy preventing Arenas from taking a quick jumper, someone else (ANYBODY else) should have stepped up to prevent Haywood from waltzing down the lane, untouched. That kind of defense is just unacceptable…unless, of course, you’re playing in the regular season opener and shaking off an inch-thick coat of rust.

Gilbert deserves more praise than the cursory treatment I’ve already given him. Considering everything he’s been through physically and mentally, he was a revelation. He fully compensated for the absence of Antawn Jamison with a deadly pull-up jumper, and Gil’s forays into the paint emanated both creativity and resolve. Plus, Arenas had a way of answering every would-be Maverick run with a huge play of some kind, either with a dagger of his own or a perfectly placed pass. Maybe he wasn’t yelling “HIBACHI!”, but Gilbert Arenas was back in almost every other sense. As a basketball fan, that excites me. As a Mavs fan, not so much.

There were a few bright spots to help mask a pretty disappointing effort. For one, J.J. Barea was a key reason the game didn’t get out of hand sooner. He dominated the second quarter, creating scoring opportunities off the dribble against an opposing team clearly unable to combat his speed and craftiness. Also, the Mavs were set on getting to the basket to start the game. The result was 23 first half free throw attempts, which is just an ungodly amount for the Mavs.

But if you absolutely must take away something from the Mavs’ flub against the Wizards, take this down and circle it: The Mavs were just…off. Dirk Nowitzki hit an unexpected dry spell in the first half, when he shot just 3-12 from the field. Jason Terry’s jumper went half-way down on more than a few occasions. Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden were just slightly out of position to receive an entry pass or challenge a shot. The team defense, the rebounding, and just about everything else was a step slow and a bit flat…and yet the Mavs were still within a stone’s throw of winning this game. Had Foye and Blatche not channeled their inner demi-gods, we could very well be celebrating one in the win column. The Mavs still have a lot of work to do, but they also have nothing but time.

Closing thoughts:

  • The only Mavericks to post a positive +/- were Quinton Ross and Kris Humphries.
  • It wasn’t a great day for the newcomers. Shawn Marion biffed a dunk attempt and horribly airballed a corner three. Drew Gooden airballed a midrange jumper, and found most of his attempts ended up clanging off the rim.
  • Marion’s night wasn’t nearly as miserable as Gooden’s, though. Shawn was able to post up Caron Butler in on the block, and easily converted a few flip shots turning over his left shoulder.
  • In the second quarter, the Mavs surrendered three consecutive and ones to the Wizards, courtesy of Blatche and Fabricio Oberto. Yeah, that sucked.
  • DeShawn Stevenson had no place being on the floor. His three point stroke was miserable, and he could not stay in front of Jason Terry.
  • Rather than the expected small ball lineup, the Mavs fielded a unit of Barea, Terry, Kidd, Marion and Dirk with mixed results.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki,who was unquestionably the best Maverick on the floor. Not only was Dirk the offense’s only net positive, but he was also aggressive on the defensive end, competing for rebounds and blocking a few shots. We even saw glimpses of a few new toys, as Dirk busted out his running hook (it was very short) and a hesitation move off the dribble that froze Brendan Haywood where he stood. A great all around night for Dirk, who managed to salvage a poor start with a fine second half performance and a parade to the free throw line.

  • charlie’s bro’s bro

    terrible, disgusting, pitiful, pathetic defensive effort. guys i think we need out there more: ross, humphries, roddy (where was he??) guys i’m ready to cut right now: drew f. gooden. i can’t think of one useful thing he did last night. he got beat on defense repeatedly and he lost countless rebound battles, mostly because he’s either bolted to the floor or he had some large steel ball bearings installed in his feet.

    shot selection was our main problem on offense i think. when the game started to slip away we began to run down there and take the first shot available, often a three pointer without having our feet set. it was really, really frustrating to watch. we have more talent than that and, more importantly, we have veterans who should be able to regulate that better.

    i was impressed with marion early on, but he really kind of disappeared. we just are not a great team when the offense is jj barea and dirk taking turns. we didn’t attack the basket well, and long rebounds on our long shots let the wiz get out in transition at times.

    my guess is that we overlooked the wiz a little bit (lakers are next), and they blew us away. they had a bunch of flukey shots go down, and arenas was absolutely on fire. that blatche guy disrupted our offense a bunch and he really wreaked havoc on our D– not necessarily by scoring but by repeatedly making someone chase him. then again that was also a product of our absolutely terrible defense.

    a win at LA would make up for this nicely though.

  • Andrew

    Give ‘em a break. The pick and roll is a seriously new fangled offense. No one has ever seen it before.

    Seriously though, the one thing that seriously disturbed me about this game–and I kind of expect us to start like 1-3, and that wouldn’t bother me too much–is Kidd’s new-look three. Last year he had great success with the old rec-league standby, put the toe on the line to keep your body centered, take it slow. This year he seems to be trying a quick release shoulder shot, the kind that requires real touch and finesse, something he’s never had, ever, in his entire life, ever.

    If Kidd becomes even WORSE on offense, I don’t know what will happen….

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