The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 102, Milwaukee Bucks 76

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 14, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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[Game-specific advanced stats forthcoming.]

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

  • Even a thorough scrubbing of the Mavs’ Friday night game against the Milwaukee Bucks would reveal few — if any — notable flaws. Dallas started fast, repeled Milwaukee’s advances, and finished strong. They played a dominant game on both ends of the court, and rested weary legs in anticipation of Saturday’s date with the Sacramento Kings. They left absolutely no doubt of the game’s verdict, a welcome occurrence in a season where doubt has become a recurring theme.
  • Vince Carter had his highest-scoring game in a Maverick uniform by way of a remarkably aggressive first-quarter performance. He had two nice dunks — both in the half-court offense, mind you — in the first five minutes of the game. Carter has brought an assertive scoring approach to each of his games as a Mav, but this quick start was notable if only because his performance was so efficient and so emphatic.
  • The first of those dunks:

  • Those in desperate need of an asterisk can turn to the absences of Andrew Bogut and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, two of the Bucks’ top defenders and, frankly, two of the league’s top defenders. The Mavs succeeded in every aspect of the game and likely wouldn’t have been derailed by those two players alone, but their absences are at least worthy of some notice, however minor their impact might have been.
  • Rick Carlisle is right: steals aren’t necessarily indicative of sound defense, as even the most undisciplined pick-up baller can gamble in the passing lanes. But for the moment (and particularly on Friday, when four different Mavs logged two steals or more), Dallas is supplementing a strong defensive foundation with some impressive turnover creation. The Mavs may not have the quickest group of perimeter defenders, but Delonte West, Jason Kidd, and Rodrigue Beaubois all rank in the top six* in the league in steal percentage (*Note: Beaubois and Kidd are not technically qualified statistical leaders, and thus don’t appear on Basketball-Reference’s leaderboard. However, their individual steal percentages would place them at #1 and #6 in steal percentage, respectively.).
  • On that note: Dallas scored 33 points off of 19 Milwaukee turnovers in this one, indicating that the Mavs are not only generating turnovers, but live ball turnovers. Those are far more valuable, and helped the Mavs offensively during every stage of this game.
  • It was a true pleasure to see Beaubois working as a weapon in the open court again:

  • Yet it’s worth noting that aside from a nice floater in the second quarter, Beaubois struggled with his intermediate game. He obviously did well around the basket (including a nifty finish on a baseline hand-off from Dirk Nowitzki), and finished with a decent 1-of-3 from beyond the arc. But Beaubois missed each of his six pull-up jumpers off the dribble from mid-range, an area of his game that seems to come and go.
  • Consistent, meaningful ball movement generated some great looks for Dallas’ perimeter shooters, and the long-range shots finally started falling — against one of the better teams in the league at defending the three, no less. The Mavs shot 10-of-22 from deep (including two makes in two attempts for Shawn Marion!) for just their third mark of 35 percent or better in a game this season.
  • Per Janosch Ferda of Mavs Moneyball: the Mavs had already created a +33.7 efficiency differential by halftime. They certainly wasted no time in extinguishing any hope the Bucks had of registering their first road win of the season.
  • I’m sure Lamar Odom isn’t quite used to playing during the fourth quarter of a blowout game, but I was impressed with his passing, rebounding, and defense at the tail end of a contest that was already decided. His play didn’t include anything worthy of being termed a legitimate breakthrough, but to see Odom rebounding in traffic, establishing good defensive position and maintaining verticality, and looking to set up his teammates is certainly a positive sign, even in an uncompetitive game.
  • Brandon Jennings, to his credit, is living up to his preseason goal of improving his scoring efficiency this season. He was the one Buck able to create buckets on Friday night with any kind of consistency, and his 19 points in 26 minutes were the only thing preventing Milwaukee from being ground into a dust so fine that the AAC’s air conditioning would have scattered their ashes. The Bucks are in a tough, tough place on offense, and though Bogut’s eventual return will help out quite a bit, even a versatile center can’t solve all of Milwaukee’s scoring problems.
  • It’s obviously early yet, but it looks like the Mavs got a bit of a steal with the two-year signing of Brandan Wright. Nobody knows how many legitimate minutes Wright will really play during his time in Dallas (though he did log nearly five minutes at the end of the second quarter without Rick Carlisle being prompted by foul trouble), but he’s quickly become this season’s Corey Brewer: When Wright steps on the court, good things happen. That doesn’t mean he’s ready for regular minutes or capable of anchoring a defense, but Wright’s energy and athleticism create a fun, productive dynamic on the court.
  • Milwaukee has played league average defense thus far this season, but Dallas’ cuts and ball movement made them completely fall apart. Bucks players were already staring at each other in disbelief at their own defensive breakdowns as early as the first quarter, and unfortunately for Milwaukee, that incredulity only continued.
  • I’m not exactly sure what happened to Brian Cardinal, The Career 38-Percent Three-Point Shooter, but I hope he finds his way back to Dallas. Cardinal has started his season by shooting 3-of-21 (14.3 percent) from distance, negating his one — literally, one — offensive application. He’s obviously still a good locker room guy and can offer some surprising defense from time to time, but that three-point stroke has to come around.
  • No Maverick played more minutes than Jason Terry’s 26, and even the heavy-hitting starters were capped at about 22 minutes each. Dominance has its rewards, even those beyond the nice boost in point and efficiency differential.
  • The Brockness Monster was put on this planet do one thing and one thing only: grab every damn offensive rebound within a 30-foot radius. He may be hidden in relative obscurity behind limited minutes and a specialist role, but Jon Brockman (six offensive boards in 19 minutes) has officially gone back to work after a slow OREB-ing start to his season.
  • Delonte West brought the same combination of scoring, playmaking, and defense that the Mavs have come to expect (and rely on) from him, and in this particular outing, I couldn’t help but appreciate the smoothness of his ball handling. Jason Kidd does a good job of protecting his dribble (the vast majority of his turnovers come on mishandled or jumped passes), but he lacks the ability to penetrate into the paint for more reasons than his lack of quickness. West, on the other hand, not only has better burst off the bounce, but exhibits a very fluid, natural dribbling control with the ball in his hands. He’s a pleasure to watch in pretty much every regard, but West’s command and flair off the dribble is one of my favorite wrinkles of his game.
  • The Mavs had separate runs of 14-0, 14-5, 9-0 (twice), 7-0, 6-0, and 5-0 (twice). Pretty damn amazing.
  • It was a rough night for the Bucks’ young reserves, too, an oddity in a blowout: Darington Hobson went scoreless on eight attempts from the field, Larry Sanders could barely stay on the floor, Tobias Harris finished 1-of-6, and Jon Leuer played just 13 minutes.
  • After taking note of the fun synergy between Terry and Beaubois this season, I had a thought: is there any Maverick with whom Terry doesn’t have great chemistry? His rapport with Dirk Nowitzki in the two-man game needs no introduction. His dual-setup arrangement with Jason Kidd creates some of the Mavs’ best three-point attempts. He’s developed some awesome, unexpected pick-and-roll chemistry with Ian Mahinmi, and recently has been working some strong sets alongside Beaubois. JET’s skill set seems to jive with just about everyone, though he seems to operate the least with West (little playing time overlap), Marion (for reasons unknown), and Haywood (oven mitts for hands).
  • Shaun Livingston was the only other Buck — aside from Jennings — to score in double figures. I know the natural tendency with Livingston is to wonder what could have been if not for that infamous, gruesome knee injury, but in the second phase of his career, Livingston has become a fine player as a reserve guard.
  • Every single Maverick posted a positive single-game plus-minus. Raw plus-minus — particularly on an individual game level — can be a pretty meaningless stat, but the across-the-board excellence on Friday night makes for a nice bit of trivia.
  • It’s still odd to see that Dirk Nowitzki is averaging just 18 points a night 12 games into the season, but the post-lockout landscape is a pretty strange place. He’s managed that average with three games — including one on Friday night — of 11 points or fewer , so it’s safe to say that mark will improve by year’s end. Yet Nowitzki’s slow start — due to rust, lack of conditioning, and unbalanced games — has been curious to chart.
  • Larry Sanders — an athletic, big who’s still trying to figure out the NBA game in his second season as a pro — managed to foul out in under 18 minutes. Impressive, really.
  • Dirk Nowitzki became the 23rd player in NBA history to score 23,000 points. These things matter, because round numbers are of such great import to us. While I can appreciate the neatness of 23k, I have a hard time seeing these kinds of milestones as anything other than a convenient excuse to applaud an all-time great. Nowitzki certainly deserves as many ovations has he can get, so I won’t dare let my raised eyebrow over our societal obsession with round numbers get in the way of Nowitzki’s lauding. Take a bow, Dirk. You’ve earned it.
  • Jeffrey Thompson

    My favorite Maverick is Ian Mahinimi.  That guy has just come out of nowhere.  He is certainly a player that the Mavs should keep when it's time to start rebuilding–him along with Yi Jianlin (aka Chinese Dirk) and Ricardo Beubois.

  • Charles

    I just took a look at Mahinmi's contract and realized that he's UFA after this year. Can we even afford to keep him if we're going after the big names this summer? After 13 games I'm starting to develop 2010 Beaubois level of excitement and hope for Mahinmi.

    • Boshua

      We can afford him if we dont get either Howard or Deron.