“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
WORST. TRADE. EVER. I mean, did you see how out-of-sync Caron Butler looked? How many botched put-back attempts he had? How Serge Ibaka made a baby hook over Brendan Haywood?
Well, get used to it. Until the Mavs, new and old, have sufficient time to get acquainted, we’ll likely see more of the same. But you’ll also see Caron Butler charging baseline for a one-handed throwdown. You’ll see Brendan Haywood finishing a contested layup on the move after a feed from Jason Terry. In terms of what Butler and Haywood brought to the table in the first game of the rest of our lives, there was a lot to like, and a lot to make you cringe. That’s just the way of things when you’re incorporating new pieces into the rotation, especially with players as significant as these; the old Mavs are trying really hard to integrate the new ones, the new Mavs are trying really hard not to overshoot and alienate the old ones, and everyone out there is just a bit anxious to prove that the trade is as good as it sounds.
The result was some awful shooting, defensive failings, and finding ways to either move the ball too much or move it too little. Dallas Mavericks as pick-up team are not good enough to beat a team as skilled and successful as the Thunder, but that doesn’t say much at all about how good the Mavericks will be when they play like themselves.
On the other hand, you have to applaud the Thunder’s performance. Kevin Durant’s 25 points an 14 rebounds is impressive, but it took him 28 shots to reach that total. On most nights, the Durantula has to carry OKC’s offense. But last night it was his counterparts — Jeff Green (17 points, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks) and Russell Westbrook (17 points, eight assists, six rebounds, just one turnover) — bearded wonder James Harden (17 points on 5-7 shooting, five rebounds, six assists), and the cavalry of Thunder role players that got the job done. The Mavs had a particularly tough time stopping the Thunder’s transition game, in which Westbrook drove it down the throat of the defense before finishing at the rim or kicking it out to an open shooter. For a night, he was a more explosive Tony Parker, and the cast of OKC’s shooters were gunning from the corners in the Spurs tradition.
Fouling also turned out to be a huge problem, as the step-slow Mavs defense ended up hacking the Thunder to the tune of 30 free throw attempts. Most of OKC’s struggles have taken place on offense, and giving them that many free points is just asking for a loss. Know your opponent.
The Mavs were far too hesitant on offense to counter, as efforts to include Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood were often met with turnovers or a short shot-clock. Jeff Green and, oddly enough, James Harden, played some pretty terrific defense on Dirk (24 points on 9-22 shoot, nine rebounds, six assists), with Green in particular hounding Nowitzki out of any late-game heroics he may have had up his sleeve. Dallas couldn’t manage much at all in the way of scoring, as Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and Caron Butler (the only other Mavs in double-figures) combined for 39 points shooting 12 of 41 from the field. The Mavs played poorly enough offensively to fall short of a lot of teams in this league, and their lack of purposeful ball movement and poor shooting were exacerbated by the hyper-athletic, impressively active Thunder defense.
It certainly wasn’t the Mavs’ finest hour, but hardly their darkest. Give it time.
- The Mavs’ third quarter was miserable. Just miserable. They shot 3 of 21 from the field and scored just 11 points. Sigh.
- J.J. Barea leap-frogged Rodrigue Beaubois in the rotation last night, which makes sense. Though Roddy may seem like a nice defensive match-up against Westbrook, Rick Carlisle was much more concerned with integrating Butler and Haywood into the offense. That’s something that Barea, the more experienced point guard of the two, is able to do…at least theoretically. Barea didn’t exactly have a terrific night, but that doesn’t make the logic any less sound.
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many terrible misses from a Maverick team. Butler and Haywood whiffed some of their attempts, which you could easily chalk up to nerves. But how about Dirk? Kidd? Terry? There were some truly miserable attempts that caught nothing but air or backboard, making last night not only one of worst nights of the new year in terms of offensive production, but certainly the worst in terms of offensive aesthetic.
- DeShawn Stevenson did log some playing time, though he only contributed one turnover and one missed shot.
- To the Mavs’ credit, they hit the offensive boards hard. Butler led the team with four, but Marion, Nowitzki, and Haywood each had three, followed by Erick Dampier’s two. Then again, the Mavs missed so many shots around the basket (they were somehow 9-24 at the rim, compared to the Thunder’s 17-25) that they afforded themselves plenty of opportunities to snag boards.
- Does anyone on this planet not love watching the Thunder play basketball? I enjoy watching just about every team in the NBA, but watching OKC is a pretty sublime experience.
- With the game on the line, Rick Carlisle went with a lineup that he was comfortable with: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Erick Dampier. It didn’t really help; the Thunder still closed out the game with authority, holding the Mavs at arm’s length the whole way.