“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret of disappointment.”
Somehow it’s only fitting that when the Mavs are on the cusp of elite status, some familiar demons push them down a peg. I couldn’t care less that they were wearing Warriors uniforms, but yet again, quick point guards had their way with the Dallas defense time and time again, and the results were downright depressing.
Nothing in this game quite turned out as it should. That much should have been certain from the opening tip, when the probable turned questionable turned out Shawn Marion found his way to the bench in a suit. That much should have been certain when the normally careful, deliberate Mavs offense was turning the ball over just for fun. That much should have been certain when the impressive Mavs defense suddenly collapsed on itself rather than on penetration, and when I was begging for Dallas to pick up someone, anyone, in transition. What should have been an easy win over an undermanned team turned out an ugly loss to just six players, and if that didn’t keep each and every Maverick up last night with nightmares of Monta Ellis layups, then we have a problem.
The first half was just sloppy basketball on both ends, which you can live with provided the Mavs show some second half intensity. But despite having a deeper roster and more talented personnel, Dallas very much looked the part of the inferior team for the latter half of the game. The offense was completely out of sorts by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, with the Warriors’ maniacal defensive strategy disrupting the Mavs’ flow plenty. It wasn’t as if Radmanovic was playing stellar defense on Dirk, or that the Warrior guards were locking down Terry; Golden State’s team defense (I know, it surprises me to type this as much as it surprises you to read it) just forced turnovers with help, double teams, and some sleight of hand (creating the illusion of a passing lane when there, in fact, was none).
The numbers don’t properly reflect just how out of sorts Dallas was when it mattered most, but Jason Terry’s infuriating turnover with the Mavs down four and just under a minute to play (video forthcoming) epitomized the night spectacularly. JET and Dirk, two machines created for the sole purposes of putting a ball in a hoop with no unexpected hiccups, combined for nine turnovers. Nine. As in, the titular Plan from Outer Space. The thing seven ate. Just to put things in perspective, before last night, Nowitzki and Terry combined to average just 3.2 turnovers per game.
The defense, as I mentioned before, was an abomination and hopefully an aberration. Though the Warriors themselves had plenty of turnovers, they more than made up for them with frequent and effective drives to the basket as well as the sweet outside shooting of Anthony Morrow (6-8 3FG) and Stephen Curry (2-4 3FG). Morrow simply had one of those games where you’re shocked to see any misses at all in the box score, as his confidence level and on-court positioning were pitch perfect. All the while, Monta Ellis had his way with just about every Maverick defender, in particular exploiting J.J. Barea on the left side of the zone defense. The only Mavs player that showed any effectiveness in guarding Ellis was rookie Rodrigue Beaubois, who managed to slow Ellis on a few drives while the Mavs were in man-to-man sets. Otherwise, the perimeter defense was a turnstyle, the rotation D nonexistent, and the interior D simply a means to the end of an Ellis three point play.
This loss isn’t the end of the world, but it should sting like hell. And it’s a shame, too. Dirk Nowitzki had an excellent night scoring the ball (28 points on 9-18 shooting), despite only getting a few touches during the game’s crucial closing stretch (Dirk had just three shot attempts in the fourth, none over the final 4:28). Jason Kidd (13 assists, 10 rebounds) had a spectacular night offensively, even if he had trouble with the quickness of the Warriors defensively. And Drew Gooden (14 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks) again filled in well for the ill Erick Dampier, providing the low post scoring the Mavs have always lacked against Golden State. But it was all for naught, and worse, the momentum the Mavs had been building over the last five games has essentially been shattered.
- File this game away as Exhibit A for why Rodrigue Beaubois should be eating into J.J. Barea’s minutes. Though Barea’s +/- on the night isn’t bad at all, he was clearly the weakest point of the Mavs’ D last night, and as such, the entry point for a lot of Golden State’s drives.
- I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see more James Singleton, especially considering Quinton Ross missed the entire second half with back issues. The Mavs missed Ross’ D (and Marion’s, and Howard’s, for that matter), and probably could have used Singleton’s energy at either forward spot to ditch the woefully ineffective three guard lineup.
- Tim Thomas is playing pretty well. I haven’t seen anything to worry about in terms of his shot selection or defensive intensity, though his mobility is pretty clearly limited by that knee injury. He looks rusty, but he’s still converting from the post and got his first look at a made three last night. Once the real, healthy rotation falls into place, I definitely see a few minutes for Thomas.