To Better Men and Better Basketball Players

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 31, 2011 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

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“It’s humbling. It’s a humbling game. It’s a humbling experience. Life is the same way. You can win the jackpot, and then lose somebody close to you. Basketball is life. I’ll continue to live, be a better man, and be a better basketball player as well.”
-Lamar Odom, being Lamar Odom

Happy New Year, everybody. Live and be better in 2012.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 99, Toronto Raptors 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 30, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0110.049.338.917.511.1
Toronto95.650.019.413.218.9

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

  • I won’t fully subscribe to the hyperbole and say that Ian Mahinmi (19 points, 6-6 FG, five rebounds, two blocks) was the best Maverick on the floor on Friday, but he was likely the most active and — at the very least — the most surprisingly effective. Mahinmi did some solid work on the defensive glass, but he impressed most in his cuts to the rim off of pick-and-roll sequences and as a weak side counter to double teams in the post. It was a blast to see Mahinmi provide a legitimate offensive impact, but let’s not go overboard: Mahinmi was only so effective because of the Raptors’ inability to cover for their own defensive overloading.
  • The Mavs managed an efficient offense without offensive flow, effective shooting, or superior ball control. Offensive rebounding was the crutch early (Dallas grabbed an offensive board on 45.5 percent of their misses in the first quarter), and frequent free throw shooting carried them throughout. The shooting finally came around, but only after the Mavericks amassed 37 free-throw attempts in a 90-possession game.
  • Andrea Bargnani (30 points, 11-18 FG, seven rebounds) didn’t look new and improved — he just looked improved. Subtle changes in approach translated into a highly productive and efficient outing for Bargs, as virtually all of the Mavs’ big men struggled to defend him on the perimeter. His pick-and-pop game with Jose Calderon was deadly; Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd both managed to look a step slow in their efforts to defend it, resulting in a disappointing number of wide-open jumpers. Bargnani capitalized, and used his pick-and-roll success as a launchpad for a terrific all-around shooting performance.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 104, Dallas Mavericks 102

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas95.0107.447.218.930.412.6
Oklahoma City109.563.538.120.027.4

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

  • Moral victories may be the panacea of foolish NBA fans, but I have a very hard time classifying this absurd 48 minutes of Mavericks basketball as anything but. Just days removed from getting trounced by the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets in back-to-back home games, the Mavs were right back where they were last May: fighting down to the wire with an impressive Oklahoma City Thunder team, scraping together runs for a chance to take the game.
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Interstitial Space

Posted by Ian Levy on December 29, 2011 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The first two games of the Mavericks’ title defense have been ugly — like “Eric Stoltz in Mask” ugly. After two games the Mavericks have an Offensive Rating of 93.8 (26th in the league) and a Defensive Rating of 110.4 (23rd in the league). Both numbers are a huge disappointment, especially when viewed in the context of what was accomplished last season. For now, though, we’ll set aside defensive concerns and focus on efficient scoring.

Ball movement and offensive execution were the premium fuel that drove the Mavs through the playoffs last year. During the regular season, the Mavericks recorded an assist on 63.7 percent of their made baskets — the highest rate in the league. Through their first two losses, they’ve recorded 38 assists on 73 made baskets, good for just 52.1 percent. That mark would have ranked dead last in the league last season. But this is just a symptom, not the disease; the Mavericks are moving the ball, just not to the right spots. When the ball does end up in the right place, the movement of bodies has often ensured that an open shot no longer resides there.

On some level, early season difficulties are understandable. But some big questions remain: Why, with abbreviated training camp and new faces being the standard around the league, have the Mavericks’ struggles have seemed uniquely harsh? Are we  watching kinks that can be worked out, or more worrisome and fundamental changes from the glorious contraption we witnessed last season?

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The Difference: Denver Nuggets 115, Dallas Mavericks 93

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 27, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas98.094.947.427.611.919.4
Denver117.355.734.223.815.3

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

  • Give the Mavericks credit: they didn’t lose this game solely on offense or defense alone, but managed to clam up and crumble simultaneously. They turned the ball over on nearly a fifth of their possessions. They started with a well-intentioned transition defense, but spend most of the game lightly jogging in the Nuggets’ dust. They allowed 117.3 points per 100 possessions. These first two games have been ugly in a way this franchise hasn’t seen in a long time, and hopefully those universal struggles don’t persist for too long.
  • Delonte West (two points, four assists, three steals) grabbed his first formal start after becoming the de facto starter for the second half of the opener against the Heat. In theory, it was a good move; West is the hands-down best defensive option the Mavs have against Ty Lawson (27 points, 10-15 FG, 3-6 3FG, four rebounds, four assists, three steals). That theoretical decision didn’t do much good against the Nuggets’ outright fast breaks and transition-induced mismatches, but West was still the right call for starting responsibilities.
  • Turnovers aside, the Mavs actually looked much improved offensively in the game’s opening quarter. There were some productive sets, and various players worked well together in strong-side action. It wasn’t anything resembling the offensive sophistication that earned Dallas their first title, but in such dire times, Mavs fans should take what they can get.

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The Difference: Miami Heat 105, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 25, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas100.094.043.328.018.217.0
Miami105.051.332.139.522.0

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

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The Official The Two Man Game Official Dallas Mavericks Official Season Preview for the Official 2011-2012 NBA Season

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 23, 2011 under Commentary, Previews | 3 Comments to Read

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The excruciating introduction to the regular season is finally over: the defending NBA champs are set to take the court again in short order, both for their own benefit and our considerable entertainment. If nothing else, this year promises all kinds of intrigue; the Mavs have lost some notable players, but in their place have added a star, some capable veterans, and a few interesting projects. Donnie Nelson has infused his team with youth and flexibility while maintaining a promising financial outlook, and though Rick Carlisle will have a seemingly infinite number of possibilities and lineups to sort through and fully comprehend, we have the pleasure of watching an expert chemist at work.

The Mavs a truly bizarre roster, but if anyone can optimize the rotation, it’s Carlisle. We may not know exactly what Rick has in mind in terms of terms of minutes distribution or even the starting lineup, but he’ll tinker throughout the season and adjust according to fit and performance. Then, the playoffs will come and he’ll continue to tweak and alter the rotation as he sees fit. There will never be a depth chart with fully dried ink, but the regular season should give us all a fairly good idea of the roles in which Carlisle prefers to see certain players, and the frequency with which certain lineups. It’s all fluid, but the freedom of matchup movement is the very mechanism that has elevated Carlisle close to the top of his profession. He finds and exploits mismatches, and this roster may give him more mismatch potential than any he’s ever coached.

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Now in Session

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 22, 2011 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

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This year’s preseason campaign may be more important than the lead-in exhibitions of a standard season, but there’s still only so much that can be digested from a mere prologue. Still, we can glean hints of the year to come, even in the context of games that don’t matter. With that, here are eight observations from the Mavs’ two preseason games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, laced with a nice balance of optimism and gloom:

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What’s Another Erlenmeyer Flask?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 19, 2011 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves | Be the First to Comment

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Another day, another low-key signing by the Mavs with a potential payoff far greater than the risk. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas is currently finalizing a two-year deal for former New Jersey Net and Texas Legend Sean Williams. It’s not a spectacular acquisition, but Williams — who wore out his NBA welcome during his tour in New Jersey from 2007-2010 — steps in as an immediate impact shot blocker with the potential to be a more complete defender.

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Roosting in Flight

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 15, 2011 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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Empirically, lockout-shortened NBA seasons have had a negative impact on the actual basketball product. The compressed schedule — and in particular, back-to-back-to-back scenarios — plays a huge role in that, as true rest becomes an incredible rarity. The Mavericks will play just 10 games this season on more than one day of rest, according to this scheduling breakdown by NBA Stuffer, and many other teams have it far worse. It’s going to be a brutal, brutal season, even for some of the world’s most impressive athletes.

Yet the potential for fatigue hides another unfortunate reality: While NBA players will be short on time for R&R, they’ll be even more short on legitimate practice. Shootarounds will largely be the default this season, with chances for intense drilling and legitimate instruction a growing rarity. That makes this training camp period even more essential for newly acquired players all around the league, and especially so for the Dallas Mavericks.

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