You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- For the moment, Dallas is one of the shallowest deep teams in the league — or at the very least, one of the least consistent. The Mavs’ lackluster first-half showing wasn’t solely the fault of the subs, but the very notion that Charlotte’s second unit could so thoroughly cook a group consisting of (in part) Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Ian Mahinmi is a bit strange. Earlier in the season — those dark days when Dirk Nowitzki was nothing but a pick-and-pop player — the Mavs were only able to tread water because of their depth. Things look very different these days, which could in part be traced back to the fact that Delonte West’s absence hurts this team in ways that we never could have known.
- It’s always a very distinct pleasure to watch Nowitzki (27 points, 9-21 FG, six rebounds, five assists) go to work from any of his favorite spots on the floor, but he seems to have particular fun with the Bobcats’ antsy shot-blockers. Nowitzki’s very basic ball fake looked like an entirely new move on Thursday night, as the slightest pump would sent a Bobcats defender flying. I don’t think it’s even worthwhile to chastise the ‘Cats for their lack of discipline; that’s Dirk Nowitzki, and when he rises to shoot — or even pretends to rise and shoot — a futile contest may be the best defensive option available.
- Jason Kidd (seven points, three rebounds, three assists) has certainly had his ups and downs this season (as has every Mav, in fairness), but it’s still astounding how little he can contribute at times (In extra fairness, this was actually one of his better performances in limited minutes). I understand that his influence goes well beyond the box score. I know that he spaces the floor and has a great understanding of how to operate a high-functioning offense. But we can only give Kidd so much benefit of the doubt before pondering why his highly esteemed passing skill doesn’t result in more assists or actually create all that many easy buckets. With Kidd, we’re sadly left wondering what’s left; if this is the Kidd that the Mavericks are relying on in the playoffs, then the play of West, Terry, and Beaubois is more crucial than ever — as is Rick Carlisle’s willingness to let more productive players play, as he did on Thursday. Terry (18 points, 6-13 FG, 3-5 3FG, five rebounds, three turnovers) and Beaubois (14 points, 7-9 FG, three rebounds, two assists, two steals) both played productive minutes, and legitimately changed the timbre of the Mavs’ play. Kidd chipped in as he could, but could anyone legitimately say the same about his performance in this game or — barring a few exceptions — any other?
- Dallas’ performance in this one came down to their navigation of two factors: patience and energy. When the Mavs tried to up their energy without having the patience to actually operate in their offense, they gave the ball up on forced shots or live-ball turnovers. When they were patient but lacking in terms of effort, they were second to the ball, lagging in their sets, and appeared hesitant. It took the Mavs a few quarters to figure out how to play with the appropriate amount of both, but once they found the proper balance, things actually went relatively smoothly.
- Around this time of year, I suppose the ledes for Kemba Walker stories write themselves. That said, even when Walker is succeeding, he worries me a bit; undersized guards who rely heavily on pull-up, mid-range jumpers put themselves in a very precarious situation, and although Walker’s speed and generally unpredictable style allow him to create space at the moment, he’s neither a strong enough shooter nor a strong enough playmaker for me to immediately see him as a valuable prospect. He could very well get there (and establishing a more consistent three-point stroke would go a long way in that regard), but offensively there’s a bit to like and plenty to dread, even if it’s solely a product of projection.