You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- The Mavericks deserve no leniency, no respite from blame. They lost to a bad team. They lost to a bad team missing Jose Calderon, Sonny Weems, Andrea Bargnani, a half-game from Linas Kleiza (who was ejected), and a limited stint from Jerryd Bayless (who injured his ankle, left, returned, re-injured his ankle, and departed for good). They lost at home. They lost a game they should have won unless half of their roster was comatose, and yet they failed to keep pace. This loss doesn’t mark the end of Dallas’ days, nor does it quash the Mavs’ dreams of contention, but it’s a notable demerit that can’t just be written off.
- Ed Davis may have been the best player on the court for either team. He notched 17 points (on eight shots), 12 rebounds, three steals, three blocks, and zero turnovers in just 31 minutes, which is a bit more than most anyone expected from the rook against a proven defense. Davis has a nice touch and good instincts, but he had it way too easy. Brian Cardinal’s substantial minutes at the 4 didn’t help, but Shawn Marion really should have (and could have) done a better job in boxing out Davis and keeping him away from the basket.
- Marion (12 points, 5-10 FG, five rebounds, three turnovers) and Caron Butler (15 points, 7-16 FG, three rebounds, four turnovers) had decent games, but with the Mavs’ various defensive concessions, that wasn’t enough. If Dallas had put together a superior defensive showing, a win would have been reasonable even with an average offensive performance sans Dirk. Instead, Jason Terry was the only Maverick with a plus offensive performance, and the team sputtered to a mark of 90.5 points scored per 100 possessions. Yuck.
- Dallas was plagued with unproductive passing and frequent ball-handling errors. On average, the Mavs commit a turnover on 13.8% of their possessions. They forked it over on 20.2% of their possessions last night, in part because of over-dribbling and over-passing that took the place of substantive playmaking. Dallas has an excellent creator in Jason Kidd (seven points, 3-11 FG, six rebounds, four assists, three turnovers), but he did little to set up his teammates with quality looks, and when he did, they were unable to connect. Not all of the Mavs’ failures were due to execution — they missed a number of quality three-point looks in the fourth quarter, for example — but turning the ball over so frequently stalled Dallas’ offense and triggered Toronto’s fast break.
- The three-point shooting finally came back to earth. Dallas made just five of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc, good (probably the wrong word choice) for 22.7%. The starters didn’t make a single three, and Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Butler combined to go 0-for-7 from distance.
- Nowitzki misses very few games due to injury, but on those rare occasions where he does sit, the folks watching at home are usually gifted with Dirk’s on-air broadcast stylings. Nowitzki joined Mark Followill, Bob Ortegel, and Jeff “Skin” wade for over half of the third quarter last night, and didn’t disappoint. He took shots at Brian Cardinal and Jason Kidd for their age (the latter of which he said was 58 years old), gave a lengthy defense of his game-night sartorial choice, offered some intelligent commentary, exploded after Tyson Chandler slammed home a Kidd alley-oop, and yelled “Got ‘em!” after Linas Kleiza was ejected. Followill described Dirk’s on-air showing as an “A+ performance” during Nowitzki’s sign-off, to which Dirk fittingly responded: “Yes, it has.”
- Where have you gone, Tyson Chandler? Maverick nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Brendan Haywood (two points, two rebounds, one block) was predictably lethargic, but Chandler (three points, six rebounds, three turnovers), too, had a bit of an off night. He may be the second best Mav on his better days, but this was certainly not one of them. Ian Mahinmi was the most impressive big to man the middle for Dallas, and he didn’t exactly have a huge night; two points, one rebound, and two blocks for Ian.
- As poorly as Dallas played, they still had a winnable game sitting in their lap for most of the fourth quarter. The Mavs rushed shots. They turned the ball over some more, just for kicks. They surrendered open looks to Leandro Barbosa (12 points, 5-12 FG, two stealsk) and DeMar DeRozan (16 points, 7-13 FG). They just flubbed any chance at serious competition over the final minutes. Needless to say, Dallas needs to be better. These losses happen, but the Mavs need to be better.