[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.
- Dallas has long been a team that systematically creates and exploits mismatches, but the most crucial possessions of Thursday’s game didn’t go to Dirk Nowitzki (12 points, 5-12 FG, five rebounds) as he backed down a hapless defender, nor to Jason Terry (10 points, 3-14 FG) as he sized up a big man on the perimeter. Shawn Marion — a walking mismatch if there ever was one — acted as the stabilizer for Dallas’ offense in the second half, even after also doing much of the heavy lifting with smart cuts and creative finishes in the game’s first two quarters. Terry or Jason Kidd fed Marion (22 points, 10-17 FG, seven rebounds, four turnovers) on the left block, let him go to work against C.J. Miles, and benefited when Marion either hooked his way into a score or kicked the ball out to create an open look on the perimeter. That sequence may not have the same magnetism of an impossible Nowitzki fadeaway, but Marion’s post work was effective enough to anchor the Mavs’ late-game offense. That said, I’m curious why we didn’t see Dallas work through Lamar Odom — who had generated some good possessions from the right block in similar mismatches — prior to Marion’s takeover. With Nowitzki clearly unable to bear his customary fourth-quarter scoring load and Terry having a rough night with both his shooting and decision making, why not utilize Odom’s (11 points, 4-5 FG) post-ups as the mirror and counterpoint to Marion’s work on the block?
- The Mavs’ defense this season has thrived by generating steals and forcing miscues, but the roles were reversed as Utah’s defense made Dallas feel the pain of the live ball turnover. Kidd (1-4 FG, 11 assists, six turnovers) followed brilliant plays with horrid ones, but he was far from the only culprit. The entire offense sputtered in the third quarter (as seems to have become the Mavericks’ custom), and Dallas ended up with 16 total turnovers — 12 of which came in the second half — resulting in 18 Jazz points. This team can live with missing shots, if only because the defense has been strong enough to endure that burden. But gifting opponents with easy transition opportunities would be the death of this team if the trend persists. The Mavs have the right idea in their attempts to move the ball, and it’s terrific that no single player is holding up the offense in search of a shot. But that benign ball movement has to be tighter; this team is far too willing to throw the risky (or in some cases, stupid) pass, and that needs to change.
- We’re long past the “Rodrigue Beaubois is what this team needs!” rhetoric by now, but on Thursday night, Rodrigue Beaubois (17 points, 6-9 FG, two assists, two blocks) was, well, what this team needed. His scoring output (of nearly a point per minute) was fantastic, but it was the versatility of his offensive application that paid off big time for Dallas. Beaubois’ points came in a variety of ways, and his efforts to work off the ball for easy scores in addition to creating good looks off the dribble gave the Maverick offense a desperately needed boost. Rick Carlisle again pulled Beaubois in favor of Terry for the game’s final minutes, but the Mavs won this game because Beaubois kept the offense afloat at a time of troubling inconsistency. Dallas scored easily in the first half, and would go on to close the game out effectively thanks to Marion’s aforementioned excellence. But in between were turnovers, errant shots, and then Beaubois, doing everything in his power to tilt the game in the Mavs’ favor. There’s no question that he succeeded, and though the minutes won’t always be there for Beaubois due to the crowd in Dallas’ backcourt, these outbursts still resonate. The Beaubois of infinite possibility isn’t gone — he’s merely hidden away. Si alors un enfant vient à vous, s’il rit, s’il ne répond pas quand on l’interroge, vous devinerez bien qui il est. Alors soyez gentils! Ne me laissez pas tellement triste: écrivez-moi vite qu’il est revenu…