The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 93, Phoenix Suns 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 24, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First 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.

  • This was certainly more of a defensive win than an offensive win, though Dallas had a way of playing to the extremes on D. The Mavs did a good job of pressuring shots, clogging passing lanes, and preventing penetration in a general sense, but were periodically victimized by Steve Nash’s (eight points, 2-9 FG, 12 assists, three turnovers) typical pick-and-roll brilliance. The defensive execution on those high screen-and-rolls improved as the game went on, but as late in the third and fourth quarters we still saw the occasional breakdown in coverage that led to a wide open attempt for Marcin Gortat within five feet of the basket, or an open three-point look for a Suns shooter without so much as a mild contest. Dallas’ final defensive numbers were pretty solid, but it would be reassuring to see some steadiness in their execution. It’s easy to settle for improved effort and play in the second half en route to a win, but when a team is posting elite defensive marks for the season, they deserve a bit more scrutiny than an “all’s well that ends well” outlook would typically provide. Bravo for the rebound, but those first-half quirks can’t become too common.
  • Although Dallas struggled offensively overall (45.7% eFG%; 99.9 points per 100 possessions), this was an oddly dominant performance by the Maverick bigs. Brendan Haywood  (5-10 FG) scored Dallas’ first two buckets and finished with 10 on some pretty aggressive moves to the rim, Ian Mahinmi (4-7 FG, 9-12 FT) scored 17 points on just seven shots, and Brandan Wright came off the bench in the first half to play some productive minutes alongside Mahinmi rather than behind him. There was a stretch in the second quarter when every positive play on the floor seemed to be due to either Mahinmi or Wright, and their energy on both ends was crucial as Dallas figured out how to adjust their defensive coverage.

  • Oh, and no big deal or anything, but Shawn Marion scored 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the field and connected on four of six shots from beyond the arc. His totals could have been even gaudier, too; although Marion still managed to score here and there down the stretch, Dallas hit some patches of stagnant offense that clogged up Marion’s slashing lanes. He had been milking the slip-screen for all it was worth (the Suns’ aggressive pick-and-roll defense left wide open intermediate shots for quick rollers, giving Marion a prime opportunity hit his pet runners without much impediment), but when the game tightened up, Dallas’ overdribbling and ball stoppage didn’t allow them to reset the offense in time to work Marion in for a high screen. I suppose offensive dominance against a former team is its own reward, though, and Marion really was brilliant in his predictably versatile array of flips, hooks, runners, and jumpers.
  • Your periodic check-in with the most entertaining two-man pairing of the Mavericks’ season:

  • Offensive rebounding was a rather considerable problem, as the Suns were able to stay in this game virtually by way of effort alone. The defensive breakdowns and offensive stalling obviously did a fair amount of damage to the Mavs’ cause, but to allow Phoenix — one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the league — to grab 29 percent of the available boards on the offensive end is indicative of pretty poor defensive focus. Marcin Gortat (four OREBs), Jared Dudley (four), Markieff Morris (four), and Grant Hill (three) all put in work to attack the security of the Mavs’ defensive rebounds, and their relentlessness paid off nicely. Closing out defensive possessions is crucial to ensuring that previous efforts of denial and prevention aren’t in vain, and though the Mavs were able to hold out for a relatively uncontested win, they could’ve put this game away a few minutes earlier if defensive rebounding wasn’t assumed.
  • Lamar Odom scored 11 points on 10 shots, registered five assists, grabbed a few boards, and committed no turnovers — and yet I nearly thought his performance was unworthy of consideration for a bullet point. Sure, Odom is getting a greater opportunity to be involved in the offense in the absence of Dirk Nowitzki and has yet to have a “breakout” performance. And indeed, Odom still isn’t the player he can or should be. But the fact that decent performances have become nondescript for Lamar already indicates a notable improvement. Odom didn’t connect on more than 30 percent of his field goals in any of his first five games as a Maverick, and has scored in double digits just once in his first 13 games this season. It’s not hyperbolic to say that Odom’s term in Dallas began miserably, and though he still fades in and out of games and has his share of defensive lapses, the productivity appears to be returning incrementally. There are no grand moments of revelation in the NBA; there are merely the gradual, continuous processes that nudge players towards success, or in Odom’s case, toward normality. Monday’s game was a continuation of that course.
  • Kirk Henderson

    Ian Mahinmi time! The man has been a beast since the 3rd quarter of the finals.  Love him and Wright playing together. There will be mistakes, but they play SO hard.

    Odom's playing better, but I'm starting to have beef with his Caron-Butler-2009 mode where he just stops the ball. When he gets it at the top of the key, I think he has to be more decisive.  He sizes up the situation, and by then the defense has rotated.  Then he either does his little slow dribble and pull up, or he finally swings the basketball to the next offensive player.  He rarely takes a hard dribble towards the hoop.  

    Rob, where does Odom like the basketball? He hasnt seemed comfortable with it in the half court yet.  He brings it up with urgency and seems to make pretty good decisions, but when the offensive is set up, he seems to have no comfort zone.