Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FT/FG ORB% TOR
Dallas 90.0 101.1 44.0 20.2 32.0 16.7
Phoenix 92.2 43.1 17.5 27.9 16.7
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 prevailing storyline of this game should be — and is, for the most part — centered around the Mavs’ defense. Dallas’ first quarter D was embarrassing, and particularly so on pick-and-rolls and in transition, which just so happen to be the most elemental aspects of the Phoenix Suns’ offense. Rodrigue Beaubois had quite possibly his worst defensive showing of the season, and his blunders in defending the pick-and-roll were enough to erase the memory of him bothering Monta Ellis. Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki were hardly excused from blame though, and honestly it’s hard not to fault any Maverick on the floor. The Suns shot 13-of-23 (13-of-19 if you exclude their three point attempts) for the frame, and Steve Nash had seven assists in that quarter alone. Dallas turned it around, though. They put a lot more pressure on Nash as the game wore on, and actually rotated effectively beginning with the start of the second quarter. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Mavs’ D was in top form. The ball was taken out of Nash’s hands, and each attempt by Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Aaron Brooks, or Vince Carter to create was met with a strong defensive front. The Mavs will still have plenty to talk about in the film room, but overall the defensive turnaround was pretty astounding.
- Related reading: Sebastian Pruiti’s breakdown of the Mavs’ pick-and-roll defense on NBA Playbook.
- If only the offense were on-point. Although both Nowitzki and Jason Terry hit some big shots in the fourth, the Mavs struggled on offense to a truly ridiculous degree. Dallas alternated fits of turnovers with well-executed sequences ending in errant shots. The only savior? Offensive rebounding. The Mavs grabbed a rebound on over 32 percent of their misses, which when paired with their trips to the line and occasional makes, came up with just enough points to top the Suns. It’s only natural that when the defense starts functioning again the offense loses its luster.
- One more saving grace: Jason Kidd. The Mavs may not need Kidd to be a scorer nightly, but when he’s committing turnovers and not really setting up his teammates, they do need him to do something. On Sunday, that something was scoring (and timely scoring at that, as Kidd made two huge catch-and-shoot threes last in the fourth) and defense. There’s no magic number of assists or points, but Kidd has to find ways to be productive when he’s struggling in other areas.
- See what happens when Tyson Chandler can stay on the floor for 38 minutes? He had a sub-par first quarter, but ended up with 16 points and 18 boards, all while anchoring Dallas’ defense through the final three quarters. Chandler’s more than occasional foul trouble is a pretty big problem for the Mavs, and if they had to worry about his availability in addition to their other issues, it’s likely that Dallas would have lost this one. Brendan Haywood played reasonably well in his limited court time (he had four rebounds in a block in seven minutes), but Chandler is just in a different class.
- As good as Chandler was, Marcin Gortat (20 points, 8-13 FG, 15 rebounds, four turnovers) had himself a game. Of course, most of his damage came off of pick-and-roll action in the first quarter; Gortat dropped 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the opening frame. From that point on, Gortat attempted just four field goals and committed four turnovers, which really speaks to the defensive work the Mavs did on Nash in the final 36. Limiting Nash’s options cuts off access to finishers and perimeter shooters, and though Gortat had a nice array of open layups and dunks in the first quarter, Dallas saw an end to that with ball pressure and sharper rotations.
- J.J. Barea had a strange night. No Mav could match his dribble penetration, and Barea typically found a quality shot attempt for himself or a teammate at the end of his drives. Yet he ended up shooting 3-of-13 from the field, even though nearly all of his attempts were within reason. His five assists are nice, but that shooting percentage doesn’t quite do Barea’s play justice. It was just one of those nights where the shots — jumpers, layups, runners, everything — weren’t falling for him, even though his decision-making was sound.
- I have no idea how Josh Childress ever fell out of the Suns’ rotation. It’s not just a nice, tidy 12-point, three-rebound, two-assist, two-block showing in this game, either. Childress is a player any team would be lucky to have, and though his unconventional offensive game makes him more difficult to fully utilize than a typical three-point marksman, slasher, or post-up threat, his combination of skills, smarts, and defensive ability make him a terrific addition.