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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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.

  • Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 7-14 FG, four rebounds) played a mere 26 minutes thanks to the stilted nature of the game, but the Mavericks did a much better job of getting their best player the ball in preferable positions. Even a versatile talent like Dirk has his comfort zones on the floor, and Carlisle ran some familiar sets to establish Nowitzki more deliberately.
  • Long jumpers — and the ensuing long rebounds — killed the Mavs. Not as much as the turnovers, mind you, but Dallas did themselves no favors with their stylistic approach on this particular night. Dallas is a jumpshooting team, and that isn’t likely to change any time soon. But when those shots aren’t coming through well-executed offense, the Mavs only fuel the fast-breaking efforts of their opponents. That’s harmful in a run-of-the-mill regular season game, but lethal against an opponent like Denver.
  • Vince Carter rebounded nicely on offense with the kind of performance that can hopefully become more regular: 11 points on six shots, three assists, and a pair of three-pointers in 20 minutes. Carter obviously has the potential to be a more prolific contributor on a part-time basis, but this kind of showing is a nice baseline from which to evaluate his future performance.
  • The Nuggets buried the Mavs with a 20-0 run. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you play a talented team in a sprint of a game on the second night of a back-to-back, and I’m guessing Dallas won’t be the first to succumb to such a fate this season.
  • Personally, I’d like to see more of Carter in pick-and-roll situations this year. He had a well-executed sequence with Brendan Haywood around the 3:30 mark in the first quarter, and the possibilities with other pick-and-roll partners — Nowitzki and Odom, namely — are pretty intriguing. Far more so than the prospect of Carter sitting in the corner as a spot-up release option, which has so often been the case when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.
  • In terms of his chemistry with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, West has a little Jason Terry in him. He doesn’t look for his shot as actively, but the patient back-and-forth between West and the Mavs’ other captains mirrors JET rather nicely.
  • On an individual level, Brendan Haywood had a pretty strong game. Thanks to Haywood’s defense — which started early by denying position and continued through challenging the shot and boxing out effectively — Nene was kept relatively quiet. Holding an opposing big to eight points and seven boards on 4-of-8 shooting in limited minutes isn’t spectacular on face value, but Haywood took away Nene’s best opportunities in the post and provided a steady individual defensive base against one of Denver’s greatest weapons. He clearly wasn’t on-point as a team defender (even the Nuggets’ half-court buckets came far too easily), but Haywood was active and had a focused effectiveness. Baby steps.
  • Are we certain that Shawn Marion (two points, 1-5 FG, six rebounds, three assists) actually played in this game?
  • It’s hard not to be captivated by Lawson, either as an open-court terror or a smooth leader of a structured offense. His abilities as a head-on driver have always been impressive, but I’m more astounded with his growing ability to negotiate the space between the opponent’s interior defenders and the baseline. Lawson works those angles as well as any point man in the league, and uses some crafty moves to finish over taller and longer opponents with shocking regularity.
  • The Mavs started the game by leaving Haywood as the sole offensive rebounder while getting the other four players back to defend in transition, but as I noted above, those designs faded quickly. It was a good idea, but Dallas doesn’t have the discipline or conditioning at this point to battle such a break-heavy offense.
  • We need to talk about Sean Williams, who did his best Corey Brewer impression in 11 minutes of action. His impact was instant and tangible; it didn’t take Williams long to energize the crowd with athletic finishes and impressive defensive flashes, and his first playing time as a Maverick warrants an extended look. It’s the dunks. It’s the athleticism. It’s the total production in limited minutes. No one’s asking for a legally binding agreement, but Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright simply aren’t effective enough to deny Williams minutes on face. Hopefully Carlisle will give him more meaningful opportunities in the games to come, and we can get a better sample of how Williams functions as a member of this team.
  • Worth noting: Williams looked terrific, but committed a Mahinmian five fouls in 11 minutes. Not good.
  • Also worth noting: Williams litterally vomited on his way off the court, a first for this viewer and surely for Williams. Maybe altitude sickness? Dude gets up there.
  • I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see rookie Kenneth Faried once the game had already been decided, but George Karl must not be entirely comfortable with him just yet. How he’ll fit into the NBA world is a genuine curiosity, but Faried is a fascinating athlete and a potentially dominant rebounder.
  • Jason Kidd (12 points, four assists, two turnovers) manages to toe the line (that metaphor seemed particularly appropriate) between hunting three-point shots and profiting purely through opportunism. I realize that’s an odd thing to say about a characteristically unselfish, pass-first point guard who only recently developed an outside shot, but Kidd doesn’t get eight three-point attempts — nor does he get four three-point makes — without actually pursuing those shots.
  • As enjoyable as it is to see Lawson running the Nuggets as a solo act, the on-court dynamic between him and Andre Miller is pretty fascinating. It was hard to get a feel for just how Lawson and Miller will operate as a tandem due to the bizarre nature of this game, but that unconventional and uniquely talented pairing is worth keeping an eye on going forward.
  • Lamar Odom (six points, 1-10 FG, seven rebounds) made some more impressive moves, but looks lost and out of sorts as he attempts to soak up an offense and adjust to his new teammates. For now, Odom is a Mav in name only; he’ll find his way through the system in due time, but at the moment he’s forcing shots in an attempt to carve out his place on the team. I’ve read the spoilers and everything turns out alright in the end, but Odom is set to face plenty of trials in the early going of this season.
  • As good as the Nuggets are now, imagine how tremendous they’d be with the mid-season addition of Wilson Chandler, who will return from China at the conclusion of the CBA season. This thought warrants an obligatory mention of the questionable translation of the Nuggets’ style into playoff performance, but with a Chandler infusion, Denver would be one of the top regular season clubs out there. That’s not nothing.
  • More to come in a separate post, but Rodrigue Beaubois’ decision making through the first two games has been much improved. For the first time in his career, Beaubois looks like a basketball player, rather than the haphazardly effective guard who thrived early in his career based purely on the element of surprise. No one knew what to expect from Beaubois as a rookie, and he was able to succeed as a function of his obscurity. Things are a bit different now, and though Beaubois isn’t quite a household name, he’s making plays with smart reads rather than contrary play.
  • Guest

    The Mavs are simply a mess right now and one can only hope they manage to develop the necessary chemistry in time and reach the playoffs. That teardown of the team combined with the shortened preseason really turns out to be a worst-case-scenario.

  • FromWayDowntown

    I'll be THAT guy: Carter will (apart from occasional mouth-watering flashes) do absolutely nothing good for the Mavs. His D is atrocious and I suggest we count his “good” offensive games.
    All that said: In a team with wonky chemistry and doubtful motivation having someone like him is…