The Difference: Denver Nuggets 104, Dallas Mavericks 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 7, 2011 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • All things considered, the Mavs did not play poorly. They merely played one half relatively so. The natural temptation is to pin the outcome of this game on that decisive 10-2 sprint that Denver used to finish out the game, but the initial 24 minutes mattered far more than the final two and a half. That kind of letdown was unfortunate considering how resilient Dallas had been in the second half until that point, but the Mavs put themselves in a position to lose this game with their defensive follies in the game’s opening half. Tactical errors were part of the problem (Dallas was really blitzing screen-and-rolls in the first half, which Denver exploited with excellent ball movement), but the larger issues were in execution; the Mavs were scrambling all over the place, and that almost obscured the fact that Dallas’ defenders were losing track of ball-handlers and cutters left and right. Things tightened up in the second half, but there was a reason why Denver was shooting well from the field at the end of the first half.
  • This game does, however, come with it’s own built-in excuses, should the Mavs choose to lean on them: Jason Kidd sat out this game in order to rest for the playoffs, and Tyson Chandler is still nursing a minor injury to his lower back. Chandler’s absence was certainly a factor in the way Dallas performed on the defensive end, but it’s not as if Brendan Haywood (19 rebounds, eight offensive boards, five blocks) was dead weight. Haywood looked charged to be a starter again, and though his rotations just don’t quite measure up to Chandler’s, Haywood was doing everything he could to stop the Nuggets inside. It just wasn’t the same, and it wasn’t enough. Chandler alone wouldn’t have guaranteed the Mavs a win, and that’s precisely the point; Dallas got a lot out of Haywood, and had plenty of other things go right. But unless they can work out some of the kinks in their play on both ends, Dallas’ playoff run is going to look a lot like this game. (Note: I explored a similar theme for the Daily Dime. See Box #2)
  • The good news: Corey Brewer logged nearly 20 minutes of action, and played some tremendous basketball. It wasn’t just defense, either; Brewer did his work by jumping passing lanes, defending on the ball, and hustling back to contest shots in transition, but he also nailed spot-up jumpers and finished a few drives. Brewer certainly isn’t a player without weakness, but he performed quite well offensively on this particular night, and his play warrants serious consideration for a role as a rotation mainstay. However, as Carlisle knows and Mavs fans will soon find out: those corner threes and shots from the short corner won’t be falling every game.
  • Shawn Marion (21 points, 10-14 FG, 10 rebounds, four offensive boards) was a terrific on offense. He eventually got pulled late in the game for some lazy defense, but Marion was a worthy second fiddle, scoring on runners, post-ups, and second chance opportunities. He was the first to every loose ball on the offensive end, and between his efficiency and Haywood’s offensive rebounding, the Mavs very nearly pulled together a win. That’s what the game’s all about, people: maximizing efficiency on a possession-by-possession basis, and giving your team as many possible possessions to utilize.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (six points, 2-7 FG, one assist, four turnovers) had an opportunity to initiate the offense on a more consistent basis, but had a hard time consistently creating for his teammates. There was a bit of trial and error, which is to be expected, but I do think the entire experience should remind everyone of exactly what it is that Jason Kidd does. Any point guard can make passes, but Kidd makes perfectly placed ones. Even on days when he only registers six or seven assists, he places the ball so well with his teammates that it forces defenses to react in a particular and overt way. Beaubois can run through the sets, doing more or less the same things that Kidd does, but when it finally comes time to make that pass, or find the cutter, Beaubois just isn’t as able. Kidd makes his fair share of turnovers and mistakes, but even with the giveaways piling up, Kidd nonetheless retains the ability to make those perfectly placed passes.
  • Related: Should these two teams meet in the first round of the playoffs (and that remains a distinct possibility, given how well the Thunder are playing and how many losses the Mavs have picked up lately), Kidd’s influence would be considerable. Denver forces a ton of turnovers, and uses those steals and deflections to create fast break opportunities to fuel their offense. Kidd may take risks, but in his stead, Beaubois, Jason Terry, and J.J. Barea combined for 12 giveaways. That’s a huge swing in the Nuggets’ favor, and one that wouldn’t be quite so glaring had Kidd suited up.
  • Though the Mavs did pay the price for their pick-and-roll coverage at times, Dallas’ ability to keep Ty Lawson (nine points, 3-12 FG, eight assists) under wraps was impressive. Lawson has been performing at an All-Star level since the Carmelo Anthony trade, but he wasn’t a significant offensive factor on Wednesday night. Denver can adjust to that situation better than any other team in the league (Raymond Felton simply stepped up when needed, and the Nuggets on the whole showed off some beautiful passing), but it’s certainly positive to see Dallas defend a capable, lightning-quick point guard well.
  • Meanwhile, Dallas’ own waterbug was splitting double-teams and slicing to the rim. J.J. Barea had a hell of a game off the dribble, and though Beaubois was technically starting in place of Jason Kidd, it was Barea who ended up with the ball in his hands for most of the game. That strategy seemed to backfire when Barea committed a costly turnover with just two minutes remaining and the Mavs trailing by four, but 12 points on 12 shots from Barea to go along with 10 assists is a nice return. The aforementioned four turnovers hurt, but Barea was creating off the bounce, a skill that grants him a unique value in the context of this team.