The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 98, Phoenix Suns 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 5, 2012 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.

  • The Phoenix Suns clearly planned to smother Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 7-17 FG, six rebounds, seven assists) with multiple defenders, and he made them pay with smart passes through and over the top of the defense. The precedent was set early in the first quarter: Shawn Marion set a baseline screen for Nowitzki only to find himself wide open under the basket just seconds later. Both defenders had rushed out to attack Nowitzki out on the wing, and in an efforts to satisfy their defensive emphasis, had forgotten about the other forward on the floor.
  • This was another very typical, low-scoring performance for Jason Kidd (three points, three assists, five rebounds, four steals), in which he manages to control the game in other ways. Nowitzki and Vince Carter helped Kidd enough in the playmaking department to make him a luxury in that regard, but his help defense was phenomenal against the Suns’ fluid offense. The game plan was simple: 1) Move Kidd off of Steve Nash as much as possible, 2) Allow him to dominate the passing lanes with his good timing and better anticipation, 3) Profit.

  • Speaking of Carter (seven points, 3-10 FG, six rebounds, five assists) as a playmaker:


  • On one play, we saw Steve Nash (15 points, 12 assists, four turnovers) set up Marcin Gortat for a free, uncontested bucket directly under the basket after keeping his dribble alive on a trip down the lane. On another possession, Nash lost his dribble without much of a defensive challenge at all, uncharacteristically stumbling his way into an unforced turnover. The NBA world is right to wonder how close Nash’s clock might be to midnight, and it’s honestly a damn depressing possibility to consider. Nash was an incredible part of not only the history of the Mavericks franchise but NBA history, and whenever time does come calling, it’ll be a truly sad day for fans of the game. That could be tomorrow. Or maybe his rib injury is the sole cause of all this worrying, and we’ll all feel rather silly when he’s looking more like himself inFebruary.
  • At the 7:08 mark of the third quarter: a sighting of the very familiar Rodrigue Beaubois alley-oop curl. Jason Kidd had to make a slight adjustment on the fly to get to the proper spot, but all’s well that ends in a Beaubois oop.
  • The Suns don’t exactly provide the best competition on the glass (they rank below the league average on both the offensive and defensive ends in terms of rebounding rate), but Brendan Haywood’s 12 rebounds in just 24 minutes? Ridiculous. Haywood has a lot of trouble scoring after offensive rebounds unless he has absolutely perfect position, but his performance on the offensive glass has gone above and beyond already high expectations.
  • Gortat (22 points, 10-15 FG, 10 rebounds) is such an impressive finisher around the rim, and on Wednesday he showed off a very complete array of contortions and shots in his efforts to score. He’s a finisher in the true sense of the word; he can complete a Nash pick-and-roll with a simple, powerful dunk, but he also has the body control to adjust en route to the rim, even in midair if need be. Dallas fans likely don’t wonder what could have been considering the result of last year’s playoff run, but Gortat sure would’ve had a productive career in a Maverick uniform had Otis Smith passed on matching Dallas’ offer in free agency.
  • The Mavs on the whole did an exceptional job of using the game’s “little things” as a conduit for greater success. Hustle plays, transition defense, rebounding — Dallas was covered on all fronts, and used the fringe elements of the game as a way to separate from the Suns in spite of some underwhelming shooting overall. That’s great to see on any night, but even more impressive against a fast-paced team that requires opponents out-hustle them in order to establish and maintain their defense. The Mavs accomplished that much and more, as they channeled the chaos into positive play on both ends.
  • A prime example: