The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 102, Utah Jazz 96

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 4, 2012 under Recaps | 5 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 story of this game begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki (14-21 FG, 40 points, six rebounds, 29 minutes), as is so often the case. It’s a rare treat to watch Dirk play an offensive game so full of efficiency, production, and unheeded will. Dirk was at his best throughout Saturday night’s matchup with the Jazz, taking advantage of poor defense and open opportunities to sink jumpers at his discretion. Dirk’s signature, elusive mid-range jumper made a welcome return back to its typical successful form, and a myriad of Jazz defenders were unable to hinder Dirk’s rhythm and improved lift. Quite simply, it’s fantastic to watch him play such a unique, terrific brand of basketball. Following four consecutive losses, a Mavericks’ victory and Dirk’s return to superstar output certainly felt important to righting the proverbial franchise ship with the Western Conference playoff race reaching a frantic pace.
  • In his first game back with the Mavericks, Lamar Odom (3-5 FG, nine points, five rebounds, three assists, 18 minutes) displayed both an impressive amount of energy and skill. Odom has been faced with considerable struggles this season, both on and off the court, and it was nice to see a positive crowd reaction to Odom’s strong play on Saturday night.
  • I was initially puzzled by Rick Carlisle’s decision to insert Vince Carter (3-8 FG, nine points, four assists) back into the starting lineup for Rodrigue Beaubois (1-4 FG, three points, two assists). Carlisle’s comments after the game indicated he was looking to keep Beaubois’ minutes to a low after he logged 31 minutes yesterday against the Hornets. It’s a reasonable concern, given the busy upcoming schedule for the Mavericks, and Carlisle has consistently managed lineups and minutes effectively throughout his coaching career. Still, it’s an odd decision after such a stellar game from Beaubois only one night before, and a clear display of Carlisle’s willingness to constantly tinker with the starting lineup. However, Beaubois did little to invalidate Carlisle’s decision, as the attacking, effective style Beaubois utilized so impressively Friday night was replaced with a more passive and jumper-filled regimen, resulting in a generally underwhelming performance.
  • The defensive strengths of Brendan Haywood remain intriguing. Haywood seems to struggle with lateral, instantly moving centers, as evidenced by Brook Lopez’s recent dismantling of Haywood during a 38-point scoring output, but he seems to shine against shooting, gradually moving centers, as evidenced by tonight’s strong effort against Al Jefferson (4-12 FG, 11 points). It’s a logical separation, as Haywood isn’t exactly fleet of foot and doesn’t possess great reactive ability, but it’s still interesting to intake the dichotomy of Haywood’s matchup-reliant failure and success, within only a few brief nights.
  • A Mavericks’ victory appeared in hand when the Mavericks surged to a 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but a series of turnovers and stalled offensive movement allowed the Jazz a brief comeback attempt. Dirk Nowitzki was forced to return along with the Mavericks’ primary unit, and the Jazz comeback was eventually quelled behind Dirk’s ten points in the final five minutes.
  • Jason Terry (8-15 FG, 22 points) had a confident, natural bounce back game. Terry remains, and will remain, the Mavericks’ second most important player. The Mavericks’ defense has been impressively strong this season, but the scoring output of the team has become a significant issue. As a result, Terry is even more essential to the Mavericks’ continued success.

Connor Huchton is a contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm, an editor of Rufus On Fire, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Connor on Twitter: @ConnorHuchton.

  • Shmichael

    Thanks for filling in Connor while Robert Thomas is partying it up in Boston.

    In regards to Haywood, I feel like he tends to play much better against “elite” level centers while average centers tend to sneak up on him.  I think he, like Baron Davis on the Clips, doesn't seem to care when his opponent isn't supposedly elite.

    I stopped watching after the Mavs seemed to be coasting to victory.  I'm shocked that our second team couldn't hold the Jazz off.  I'm always hearing about how deep the Mavs bench is, but times like these make me wonder if it really is that good.

  • Matt Hulme

    Shmichael-

    I agree with you that the play of the Mavs' second unit is disappointing at best.

    But we have to remember that this is still not a healthy team. It was Odom's first game in over ten days, Delonte West (a significant and highly valuable player to the team) is still on the road to recovery, and Brandan Wright (who had been playing close to 20 minutes a contest) was out. Throw in Marion's somewhat visible (but definitely substantial) fatigue, and  this is a team needing its starters more then usual right now.

    That's not to make excuses; every team has injuries and in some ways we're far from the worst off, but it's all come together at a rough time in the schedule. But even with all that said, I don't think it's our biggest issue, which is this:

    Without Dirk on the floor, this currently constituted Mavs team DOES NOT RUN AN OFFENSE. It's a pick-and-roll heavy offense, and no one can run it to half the effectiveness or defensive confusion as Dirk and (fill in the blank, almost; Kidd, Roddy, JET, Delonte, etc.) whoever he's running it with do.

    Dirk creates off the ball mismatches and panicked defensive switches and constantly frees up, kicks out to, and opens up teammates for good looks. It's the same case as years previous, only more glaring than most: other than Roddy B (and a healthy Delonte) at times, no one else can create their own shots.

    Carter's too slow (hate to say that), Terry's a jump shooter who lives and dies off fast breaks and catch-and-shoots, Kidd's ancient (but very savvy), our centers are almost exclusively defensive fives (though improving offensively, especially Haywood), Odom is still a work in progress and on his best nights only a third option, Delonte is hurt but showed signs of life, Marion is fantastic at times but you simply cannot run an effective offense through him, Yi is a spot-up guy, and Beaubois still plays too much like a rookie to control an offense for long stretches.

    But as long as Dirk's healthy, on the court, and not in foul trouble, we're fine. Let's just hope he's well rested for tonight. Because this week, and this month, and the rest of the seaso heading into the playoffs, is going to the brutal for this old dog of a team. I'm just worried Dirk won't have the legs to do it alone.

    • Shmichael

      Even with those injuries I guess expectations are high because the Mavs are the highest scoring bench team.  However, I think this is such a deceptive stat because Jet starts the game on the bench, but really after the first 6 minutes of the first quarter he really is a starter.  I feel like Vince Carter (or whoever gets the start) is really the bench player, not Terry.

      And I agree with the offense looking awful without Dirk on the floor.  I may have revisionist history, but it feels like the Mavs offense with Dirk out of the game last year was predominantly pick and rolls with Barea/Terry and Marion.  That tended to create space for others to cut or shoot.  With Dirk out of the game now, our offense seems to be one on one plays leaving the rest of the team watching.  

      Also, is it just me or does it seem like Mark Cuban is trying way too hard to get Marion to be defensive player of the year.  I get the sense Cuban wants to trade Marion for more cap space as he attempts to achieve his master plan of signing Deron williams and Dwight howard.  

  • kp

    Are you kidding me?  Why is Vince Carter starting at all?  It's such a joke.  He's washed up.  Give Roddy B more minutes.  How can any coach pretend to maintain any sort of credibility after demoting someone who is performing very well?  Can you imagine that happening at work?  Connor – your blog entries have been excellent.  But we need you to write less, to keep you “fresh”.  We're going to bring on some old joker who wouldn't start on most other NBA teams instead.  Wow … Carlisle is indefensible.

  • steve

    I hope for Roddy's sake that Cuban trades him. All of this yanking around has probably been just as detrimental to his development as a young player as his foot injury a year ago. The fact that he often plays well (when given opportunities) in spite of Carlisle's fickleness is a testament to Roddy's maturity. The Mavs' blogosphere should stop protecting Carlisle and speak the truth. Maybe that will shift the discourse and have some influence in reversing these ridiculous trends.