The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 116, Utah Jazz 101

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 28, 2012 under Recaps | 7 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.

  • Rodrigue Beaubois (22 points, 9-15 FG, 3-5 3FG, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks, two turnovers) is such a fascinating player to watch that Rick Carlisle, unprompted, crafted a persona for Beaubois as entertainer. Even with that in mind, this particular performance may be the promising guard’s finest work — as a competitor, as an entertainer, or in virtually any other role you would seek to assign him. It wasn’t Beaubois’ most prolific game nor his most significant, but never has Beaubois created such a profound impact without caveat. There are no “buts” or asterisks; Beaubois was tremendous, as he flashed every angle of his high-scoring potential with impressive drives, cuts, and jumpers. With so many elements of his game tuned to precision, Beaubois finally found his way. Mais il arriva que le petit prince, ayant longtemps marché à travers les sables, les rocs et les neiges, découvrit enfin une route. Et les routes vont toutes chez les hommes. “Bonjour, dit-il.” C’était un jardin fleuri de roses.
  • If I may gush further: Beaubois’ full-speed reads on pick and rolls were a thing of absolute beauty. He previously would approach such sequences as strictly a two-man game, but with experience, Beaubois’ scope has widened. He sees the baseline cutter and the open spot-up shooter — the men that, in the flurry of addressing their compromise in coverage, the defense has forgotten. Beaubois may always be a scorer first and foremost, but this was a fantastic passing display on a night when it was sorely needed.
  • This game completely exploded in the fourth quarter. Dallas had managed to protect a meager lead prior to the final frame, but Utah was still very much within range of a win due to their effectiveness on the interior. Then, the Mavs snatched the possibility of a Jazz win away without much notice or remorse, and what had once been a very reasonable affair grew into a walk-off victory for Dallas in a matter of minutes. It’s good to see the Mavs close out a game so dominantly, but it’s even better to see a previously struggling offense put together four consecutive quarters of 28 points or more.

  • Lamar Odom (19 points, 7-12 FG, 3-4 3FG) fittingly managed to play a game that was both superlative and understated. That conflict used to define Odom’s career, and oh how both he and the Mavs wish it would define his tenure in Dallas. Some of his effectiveness really did come down to shots falling, but Odom also worked off the ball as effectively as he had in a Maverick uniform and made some really smart defensive plays to keep and build the lead. At the risk of sounding greedy, I would like to see more.
  • If it hasn’t already been made incredibly apparent: this team, its coach, and its fans all desperately want Odom to play well. His first bucket of the game was met with a roaring applause that bordered on a standing ovation, and Odom somehow ended up as the in-arena “Player of the Game” despite Beaubois’ superior performance. Some of the motivation behind their push for Odom’s success is obvious (the Mavs’ interest in Odom playing well is quite clear, and the fans go as the team goes), but I do think the relationship is a bit more complex than just that. Odom is a guy that makes people want to root for him, and I think anyone would be crazy to not factor that into our understanding of the glowing support he received from the American Airlines Center on Friday.
  • It’s sad what’s become of Devin Harris (10 points, 4-7 FG, four assists), a one-time impact player whose plays of import now stand out vibrantly against his otherwise drab performance. Harris has struggled mightily this season, and we should expect no different so long as he remains a part of Utah’s current offense. He’s not running Stockton-Malone pick and rolls all through the night; Harris has been made into a legitimate afterthought, as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap anchor the Jazz’s spread with high-low post play. He’s still capable of more, but hasn’t shown his game to be all that adaptable to what Utah hopes to accomplish.
  • Jason Kidd left the game with 9:47 remaining in the first quarter, and did not return due to a right calf strain. That move pushed the recently recalled Dominique Jones (four points, 1-3 FG, five assists)  into the rotation, and we should expect more of the same so long as both Kidd and West are out. Obviously the presence of either would negate the need for that rotational change, but in the meantime, Jones should have a nice opportunity for some competitive playing time. The initial results weren’t bad, but weren’t great, either; Dallas’ only offensive struggles seemed to come when Jones was in command of the offense, but he did create a bit and he’ll certainly have better days.
  • The impact of Kidd’s absence was hedged slightly by the return of Vince Carter, who stepped into the game and began firing immediately. Not all of the field goals Carter attempted were winners, but I’ll gladly tip my cap to his pure ability to make shots. More importantly: Carter was thrown into the game early, played 28 minutes, and claimed to feel good after the game. That’s as reassuring a sign of good health as the Mavs could possibly get, and the fact that Carter was productive through it all is really just gravy.
  • Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi seem destined to share bullet points in these recaps, but do pardon my bow to convenience. Both bigs brought it all: effort, rebounding in traffic, finishes in the half-court and on the break, and good help defense. They didn’t play perfect D against Jefferson and Millsap, but a combined 17 points and 19 rebounds is wonderful amalgam production from this duo.
  • A random note: There really isn’t much opposing defenders can do — at all — about Shawn Marion’s (16 points, 6-12 FG, four rebounds) runner out of the pick and roll. Once Marion curls around a hedging big, the window for recovery seems to align perfectly with Marion’s release range; just as his man manages to reset defensively, Marion is already in the air with an efficient shot attempt on the way.
  • Gordon Hayward (eight points, 3-6 FG, six assists) looked pretty timid against Marion on both ends of the court, and Dallas looked to exploit his defensive reservation by setting up Marion on the right block. It wasn’t a game-long strategy (largely because so many elements of the Mavs’ offense were working effectively), but Dallas clearly — and correctly — singled out Hayward as a guy incapable of defending Marion’s post-up game. He got a few good looks down low, created some shots for others, and the play action functioned precisely as it was intended to.
  • Yi Jianlian (eight points, 4-9 FG, five rebounds) is making some nice plays, and it’s honestly unfair to be too critical of his shot selection. I still feel that he could draw a line between the shots he can make and the shots he should take, but on the flip side, most of Yi’s attempts are wide open looks from a range of reasonable proficiency. Opponents are leaving him to pick and pop as he pleases, and to some extent, Yi would be crazy to pass up the opportunities gifted to him.
  • Haywood is running the court hard — the result of some nice carrot-on-a-stick work by the Mavs guards. Dallas’ ball-handlers have been rewarding Haywood when he fills his lane and makes a push for the basket, and now that both parties have worked out the timing kinks that had previously resulted in traveling violations, Haywood is as motivated as ever to get those freebies on the break.
  • Dallas’ interior defense was a bit inconsistent, but as hinted above: sometimes that kind of thing happens against a team with multiple interior threats. Better D around the basket would have given another dimple to Rick Carlisle’s post-game smirk, but Millsap and Jefferson are a very tough cover as a tandem. Ty Corbin has both bigs playing together in a way that they simply didn’t last season, and their positive synergy provides the basis for a lot of what Utah does offensively.
  • Enes Kanter hasn’t brought much finesse to his first quarter season in the NBA, but he gave the Jazz a nice lift in the second half of this game with his sheer size and decent technique. Kanter can easily force his way to the cup over and through a defender like Yi, and he did a good job of creating angles by using his body and elbows. The more precise moves will come, but for now Kanter seems to be a pretty solid big with productive instincts.
  • Dallas played most of this game without three of their starters, and yet six Mavs ended up in double figures. We all know that this team is deep, but let the ridiculousness of that feat sink in for a moment.