The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Denver Nuggets 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 9, 2012 under Recaps | 4 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 Mavs played active defense on Wednesday night, but that shouldn’t be mistaken with good defense. Denver’s ball movement understandably puts a strain on any opponent, but Dallas’ defenders were over-rotating like crazy, content to make sure that if they were beaten on a particular possession, it wasn’t due to a lack of defensive activity. That’s an admirable aim, I suppose, though not as admirable as a defensive approach that simultaneously brings both energy and restraint. That happy medium is where the Mavs have lived for a good portion of the season thus far, and where they should aim to be come playoff time. It’s also where they weren’t in this particular game, but alas, these things happen.
  • Apparently, the only thing that can keep Jason Terry off the floor at the end of a competitive game is a minor hip flexor tweak.
  • Turnovers weren’t even remotely a problem, as Dallas managed to stabilize its offense without grinding the play action to a halt. The ball was moving from side to side freely, the Mavs used simple elements of their offense to create favorable mismatches, and the shots were falling. That’s an incredibly simple recipe for offensive success, but it was the crisp consistency of Dallas’ execution that made this an incredibly straightforward exercise.

  • The game was definitely fueled by offensive output on both sides rather than defensive limitation, and in that regard, it’s certainly an overall positive that the Mavs were able to outscore the league’s fifth-ranked offense. Even more impressive: the Mavs were able to outscore the league’s fifth-ranked offense while only attempting nine free throws, and while shooting a very pedestrian 32.1 percent from three-point range. Basketball can be a very strange game.
  • Ty Lawson’s (16 points, 5-16 FG, 10 assists, three steals) value in the open court is obvious, but his orchestration of a fluid half-court offense is just as impressive. His range of vision isn’t on-par with the league’s premier playmakers, but Lawson’s patience, creativity, and sheer speed make him such an incredibly dangerous cover. It’s odd to say that a tiny point guard darting around the court is “waiting,” but that’s precisely the case; Lawson moves, keeps an active dribble, and waits. He waits for that perfect window, and makes his move at just the right time. It’s a hell of a show, and one that engages both defenders and spectators equally — albeit in completely different ways.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 11-20 FG, nine rebounds, three assists) has spent weeks as an uncomfortable accessory in his own home, but those days are long behind him. Nowitzki looks wholly at ease going to work against every kind of defender, and he’s finally re-established his offensive game in order to make it more easily accessible.
  • I’m still getting used to the idea of Al Harrington (17 points, 6-10 FG, five rebounds, three assists) as an efficient offensive player, but we’re well beyond the due date for a regression to the mean. This is just who Harrington is for this particular Nuggets team, odd though it may be for him to have a career year at 32 years old. It’s hardly the first time that Harrington has played in a transition-based offense, but Lawson’s aforementioned playmaking skill, the presence of Andre Miller, and the Nuggets’ ball movement in general make Denver and Harrington a perfect match. He’s always had a quick trigger, but Harrington isn’t a selfish player; he’ll swing the ball, cut hard, and screen frequently, all in efforts to facilitate the overall offense. Those actions mean more in Denver than they ever did in Golden State, as more intelligent offensive players are ultimately able to better capitalize on the opportunities that Harrington creates.
  • Rick Carlisle has been accused, at various points in his coaching tenure, of unfairly keeping young players glued to the bench. That hasn’t at all been the case this season; Rodrigue Beaubois (13 points, 5-7 FG, two assists) has been given ample room to live, breathe, and play, and Carlisle’s patience has largely been rewarded in Beaubois’ play. The last few games seemed to act as evidence to the contrary, but with a few days to refocus, Beaubois resumed his role as an efficient all-around scorer with 13 points on just seven shots. Brandan Wright’s (10 points, 5-8 FG, four rebounds) situation is a bit different, but again, Carlisle’s patience is vital to Wright’s opportunities. Dallas’ two-man center rotation now has become a bit of a crowd; to Carlisle’s credit, he’s caught a hyper-athletic shot blocker and finisher in a bottle.
  • Vince Carter (17 points, 7-12 FG, 3-7 3FG, eight assists, five rebounds) in the post is the new Shawn Marion in the post; the mismatches are almost always there, one way or another. And, if the playmaking and shot creation on the block weren’t enough as individual offensive elements, the idea that — when Jason Kidd is in the lineup — Dallas can post up every player 1-4 is fairly tantalizing.
  • A fact worth noting: Danilo Gallinari’s absence mattered a great deal for Denver on both ends of the court. Rudy Fernandez (17 points, 6-9 FG, 2-3 3FG) did a fantastic job of filling in for Gallo as an off-ball cutter and a leak-out threat, but his efforts could have been complementary rather than consolatory. Denver — not at all unlike Dallas — is wonderful as a balanced outfit and capable of moving the ball to all parties. Even with so many other players chipping in offensively, Gallinari would have been a nice player to have in the lineup — or perhaps the piece that would have pushed the Nuggets over the top.
  • CoL

    TWEET ABOUT THIS THINGS ROB!  I almost went to bed without reading the recap because I forgot and you didn't tweet about it.

    Also great job as always, re: Dirk, I think he is back, except for 2 things:

    1) 3p% is a problem… I'ts driving me insane, it needs to get back, I'm scared this could be a mental blockage that he can't get out of, he needs his long range back for this team to suceed in the playoffs.

    2) He is not as aggressive, he can go back to being an efficient shooter and a magnificente offensive force but he is driving or drawing fouls, it's ridiculous watching him end games with 0-3 free throws attempted, this also needs to get back.

    • CoL

      3) Also, unlike what you may read on Spurs forums his defense was great the past season, and very important to team success (the year before that was also very good), but this season he is giving up over 1 ppp on ridiculous % that you would struggle to get in a gym.

      This 3 issues can be masked under the efficient shooting and volume scoring but are very important parts about Dirk's game that are nowhere near close to normal.

      • Thetruth

        its bad, but the real issue is how long is cuban going to keep lamar 'the cancer' odom around. he's terrible.

  • Kirk Henderson

    Gotta disagree on Roddy. He his a couple of long shots early, and they werent even good shots in the flow of the offense. That settled him, but I don't see a shake and bake Josh Howard-style 17 footer as a recipe for success for Roddy. He needs to set teammates up and get to the cup  early, then let his game flow from there. Too often, he worries about himself first.