Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FT/FG ORB% TOr
Dallas 91.0 111.0 57.3 20.0 20.0 17.6
Charlotte 94.5 43.2 31.5 19.0 22.0
“The future is plump with promise.”
The Mavs finally raised the opening night curtain, and if anyone claims to have predicted that grand of a reveal, they’re lying. Dallas didn’t just play out their first game of the season. They put on a show. There was sleight of hand. There were pyrotechnics. There was brilliant execution throughout, barring one rather tragic stretch bridging the first and second quarters. If that first 48 minutes was any indication, this season promises to be far more fantastic than anticipated.
Dallas started the night with a 16-0 run, and though every point of that advantage was squandered by the midway point of the second quarter, it was but a simple demonstration of what this team is capable of. Not ‘capable of,’ in some distant sense, either, like when discussing adolescent potential or a purely hypothetical call to action. The Mavs were capable of being a great team as of this afternoon, and for this game against the Charlotte Bobcats (I know, I know), they became one. The cynic would rightfully ask if this kind of production is sustainable. I don’t know. No one does. But the Mavs looked damn impressive last night, didn’t they?
Offensively, this was the best we’ve seen the Mavs in some time. Their already impressive efficiency (111 points per 100 possessions) would be off the charts if not for a late first quarter slip-up, in which a lineup of J.J. Barea, Dominique Jones, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, and Brendan Haywood allowed the Bobcats to go on a pretty brutal run. Up to that point, Butler had been getting to the rim fairly effectively. A few clanged jumpers and a handful of Barea turnovers later, Charlotte had erased the Mavs’ early lead and started to forge one of their own. A line switch brought a reversal in fortune, and from that point on, Carlisle didn’t make the same mistake. Clearly a bench unit isn’t the way to go, nor is running any lineup where Butler is expected to create offense without significant help.
When any other lineup was on the floor, the Mavs paced their offense to a rather beautiful rhythm. Everyone shared the ball. Everyone (even Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Terry) cut to the basked and worked toward open space. The sets were almost completely devoid of isolation play, and Jason Kidd (12 points, 2-3 3FG, 18 assists, three steals, just one measly turnover) was generating some obscenely good looks for his teammates. I’ve previously mentioned the impact that Kidd can have on players like Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler, all perfectly useful players but ones lacking in shot creation. This game was an excellent case study in the other primary impact of Kidd’s playmaking: generating wide open looks for the team’s most efficient offensive weapons. It’s by Kidd’s hand that Nowitzki (28 points, 11-13 FG, 13 rebounds) and Terry (22 points, 10-15 FG, six assists, four steals) were able to have such tremendous nights, and the three engineered a stable, replicable brand of pass-happy offense.
That’s right. Replicable. Kidd won’t pick up 18 dimes a night and Nowitzki won’t average 85% shooting for the year, but the elements that made the Mavericks so successful on both the break and in their half-court offense can be accomplished on a nightly basis. The looks were just that good, and while Charlotte’s defense looked positively flummoxed by a maestro at work, Dallas should be able to accomplish something similar even against more effective defensive fronts. Dallas just needs to keep moving, and extend the beautiful flow that brought them their first victory through the rest of the season. If Mavs fans can be bored with these types of performances by the end of the year, Dallas will be among the league’s true contenders. The design has been detailed, now the Mavs just need to mass produce.
Dallas looked terrific defensively, but that’s almost to be expected against a team like the Bobcats. Take an already depressing offense, replace its starting point guard — a sturdy if unspectacular creator who excels in pick-and-roll situations — with a young, shaky, score-first point man, give them limited time to gel, and you have…this. It didn’t help that Larry Brown benched Stephen Jackson for the game’s final 16 minutes for seemingly arbitrary reasons, but Charlotte’s defensive limitations go far beyond any of Brown’s substitutions. They’ll starve for scoring all season, and though Tyrus Thomas (22 points, 8-15 FG, six rebounds) came out of nowhere to lead the team in that department, the Bobcats aren’t likely to get that kind of contribution consistently. As poorly as Charlotte performed on offense in this game, they actually have the potential to be even worse.
Not that Dallas didn’t have a little something to do with that poor performance. The Mavs forced the ball out of Stephen Jackson’s hands early, and gradually transitioned into a more balanced defensive style that contested just about everything within the arc while causing plenty of turnovers. Charlotte’s effective field goal percentage on shots within 10 feet was just 23.6%, a testament to fine work by Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, and a Maverick defense free to swarm from the perimeter. Dallas gave Boris Diaw, Gerald Wallace, and D.J. Augustin license to shoot from the weak side as they smothered anyone attacking the basket, and the results were very manageable. The same approach clearly wouldn’t work against a team with reliable three-point shooters, but for the Bobcats, it was a perfectly drawn scheme.
This is about as good as it gets for opening night. Let’s just hope it’s not as good as it gets for the entire 2010-2011 season.
- The Mavs have never lost to the Bobcats. The all-time series between the two teams stands at 13-0 after last night.
- It looks like Jason Terry will round out the starting unit after all. No chance Carlisle shuffles the deck after a performance like this one.
- Oddly, Tyson Chandler started rather than Brendan Haywood. I was under the impression that the starting gig was Haywood’s to lose, but apparently that part of the negotiating process was a little less explicit than initially reported. Or the Mavs have completely gone back on their initial promise. One of the two. Either way, Chandler looks to be the starter for now (and deservedly so, based on their performances last night), though it’s hardly set in stone.
- Caron Butler had three turnovers, all traveling violations. Exploding to the basket off the catch is clearly an uncomfortable maneuver for Butler at this juncture.
- Brendan Haywood was largely invisible, in spite of his defensive contributions. The box score (two points, three rebounds) is fair to him. Not exactly a compelling case to overtake Chandler as the starter.
- Seven of Kidd’s 18 assists led to made FGs right at the rim.
- The first bucket of Dominique Jones’ career was a long two-point jumper from the left corner. Huh.
- Dallas was impressive in how quickly they triggered the transition game, and even more impressive in their execution on the break. Kidd ran the show expertly, and once he got the Mavs running, wouldn’t hesitate to wait for trailers on the secondary break. Plenty of NBA guards only know one gear in transition, but Kidd’s patience on the break is remarkable.
- Shawn Marion is trying to shoot more threes this season, but the early returns weren’t pretty. An 0-fer on two attempts last night for Shawn, including an airball.
- In the second quarter, Marion was defending Wallace on the perimeter, and somehow forced a jump ball while Wallace was in the triple threat. Marion received no statistical credit for the play whatsoever, but it was one moment among many that attest to his defensive savvy.
- Remember, Dirk Nowitzki ended the regular season of last year on a consecutive free throw streak, and he picked up right where he left off with a 6-of-6 night at the line. His streak of consecutive regular season makes now stands at 78. Minnesota’s Michael Williams holds the record for the most consecutive free throws made with 97 (March 24-Nov. 9, 1993).
- Chandler was a bit out of control in the fourth quarter, as he was involved in a series of tie-ups and strange fouls. He and Gerald Wallace both received a technical foul for one of the entanglements. This is pretty much par for the course with Tyson; he’s rather emotive. He also fouls a lot. Put the two together, and he can get himself into trouble.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: There were so many fantastic performances in the NBA last night that somehow Kidd’s 18-assist evening will probably be overlooked. It’s a shame, because it was an exhaustive exhibition of his creative wizardry. He threw a lob to Chandler. He hit teammates streaking up the wings on the break. He fed JET as he curled around a screen. He found Dirk on a backdoor cut. Kidd did it all, and made it look easy. 18 A’s, but it felt like 50.