Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FTR ORR TOR
Dallas 90.0 113.3 52.5 27.5 30.2 12.7
Denver 93.3 39.3 36.9 37.3 13.3
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Shawn Marion (16 points, 8-14 FG, 10 rebounds, six assists) spent another game guarding a highly effective point guard, although this particular assignment may be his most unexpected yet. Ricky Rubio? Still unusual, but does make some bit of sense. Chris Paul? As a matter of necessity, Dallas needed to throw Paul off guard. But Ty Lawson (three points, 1-8 FG, two assists, two turnovers)? Marion should have struggled to stay in front of him, even with height and length providing theoretical counters. But he kept up, and when the Nuggets tried to free up Lawson with screens, the Maverick bigs did a terrific job of containing the speedy point man and preventing him from turning the corner with a burst. The sequestering of Lawson was a showcase of wonderful defense on pretty much every level — a smart (and unconventional) assignment, persistent on-ball defensive effort, and terrific, well-timed help.
- Oh, and when Lawson wasn’t in the game, Marion guarded Andre Miller (zero points, 0-5 FG, two assists, two turnovers), too — just because he could, and because Rick Carlisle apparently likes embarrassing opposing point guards.
- All of that said: Lawson and Miller were in a particularly tough spot, as both Danilo Gallinari and Nene missed the game due to injury. Any team can be devastated by injury to a key player, but “superstarless” outfits like the Nuggets are particularly vulnerable. Denver has a nice collection of overall talent and a style that fits the personnel well. But every single piece is an essential component of the formula; Gallo, Nene, Lawson, Miller, Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo…a system predicated on total balance risks going lopsided when any one of the pieces is removed from the equation. When two of those pieces are absent? It’s remarkably difficult for the rest of the roster as-is to compensate, a talented bunch though they may be.
- And a zone defense against the Nuggets on a night like this? That’s just mean.
- Holy cow:
- It’s great to see Lamar Odom (14 points, 6-12 FG, two assists) shooting with confidence, and not out of lethargy. Earlier in the season, it was common to see Odom use the jumper as an escape; upon catching the ball on the perimeter, he would put up a jump shot as a way out of a possession rather than as a natural product of it. Now, Odom is catching the ball, and immediately moving to take advantage of his situation. If his defender is out of position, Odom might drive straight toward the basket to create productive play action. If he has some breathing room on the perimeter, he’ll launch up a jumper without hesitation. His body language is good, his energy level is high, and — at the risk of reading too much into a solid performance — all seems right with the world.
- Jason Terry sat out of the game with a right quad strain, Rodrigue Beaubois was absent for personal reasons, and Delonte West suffered a painful injury to his right hand in the second quarter and never returned…and yet Jason Kidd (13 points, 4-6 3FG, three assists) played just 22 minutes while Vince Carter (15 points, 5-10 FG, 2-4 3FG, six rebounds) played 26. Rick Carlisle is a genius, Dominique Jones (four points, 0-6 FG, six assists, four rebounds) showed up, and the Mavs on the whole took care of business.
- In a league laced with entertaining defenders, Corey Brewer (nine points, 3-15 FG, seven rebounds, four assists, five steals) has to be near the top. He’s all over the place; Brewer times his streaks and swipes so perfectly as to take advantage of an offensive player who has turned his head or is in the middle of executing a spin move, brings relentless energy without over-helping, and maintains good defensive position. Maverick or not, it’s hard not to be impressed by his brand of D.
- The transition game is typically kind to Lawson, but he was made a victim by mismatches created in the open court. When Dallas pushed the ball, Lawson often found himself matched up on Marion or Odom as a matter of necessity; pace-based pressure creates big problems for the defense, which lacks the time to establish itself or even to make sure the right defenders are guarding the correct opponents. From there, it was easy — a quick pass over the top of Lawson’s head would result in an open bucket or at least a good look, and there was virtually nothing the Nuggets could do in response.
- Marion gets a lot of credit for his defense and physical tools (even at this stage in his career, his second bounce is phenomenal), but likely doesn’t get enough praise for just how intelligently he works off the ball. Knowing when and how to cut isn’t as simple as one might think, and Marion does outstanding work moving off the ball and — more importantly — moving in a way that makes him both available to the ball-handler and invisible to the defense.
- That said, for all Marion’s versatility, he probably shouldn’t be throwing many lobs:
- Jones had some really beautiful finds, and did a terrific job of showcasing his abilities as an emergency playmaker. For simplicity’s sake, I’d describe Jones as a drive-and-kick player, although it’s never really as simple as driving and kicking. There’s a nuance to making those feeds at the right time, and putting the ball in a place where teammates can actually complete plays. Jones — who has always had a strong playmaking streak — is starting to pick up some of that nuance. Who knows what his ceiling as a passer might be, but it’s good to see some legitimate improvement in his approach to that particular role.
- I still don’t understand the complete implosion of Brian Cardinal’s three-point shooting. So, so strange.
- Kenneth Faried (12 points, 4-7 FG, three rebounds) is such an entertaining player to watch, particularly because I find his relentlessness in trying to get to the rim to be especially admirable. Self-awareness is always a good look. Still, I’m a bit perplexed as to why he hasn’t been a better rebounder; was his work on the glass in college really so bloated by the lower caliber competition of a weak conference?
- The team-wide defensive effort was just terrific by the Mavs, and a huge reason why Dallas led the entire way and saw that lead eventually balloon up to 31 points. Maybe it’s not entirely fair to judge a defense’s efficacy against a team with such substantial injuries, but Carlisle and Monte Mathis nonetheless have to be thrilled with the way the Mavs locked in on D. The Nuggets’ productive offensive possessions were so precious few, and at times they even had trouble executing routine passes around the perimeter thanks to the Mavs’ pressure.
- Brandan Wright, sticking with it:
- The box score says that Kosta Koufos (12 points, 6-7 FG, 14 rebounds) had a good game, which is news to me. He certainly didn’t have a bad one; Koufos had some very nice cuts and finishes, and was responsible for some of the Nuggets’ best looks at the rim for the night. But I don’t think his production was necessarily indicative of his in-game impact, largely because so few Nuggets actually made an impact beyond serving as a bit of a speed bump.
- Out of curiosity: How does everyone feel about Brewer, Rudy Fernandez (14 points, 5-9 FG, 2-5 3FG), and Jordan Hamilton (10 points, 2-5 3FG, four rebounds)? Two of those players could have been in Dallas, but does it matter at this point? Is everyone comfortable with a salary dump for the sake of off-season planning? Would it have been a non-issue due to the Mavs’ crowded rotation? What’s your take?