The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Denver Nuggets 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 20, 2012 under Recaps | 11 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.

  • Kenneth Faried (nine points, five rebounds) is a good player and an incredibly active defender, but he had the incredible misfortune of being pitted against a most dominant Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 12-19 FG, 11 rebounds, six assists). What, precisely, would you have any defender do against Nowitzki at the top of his game — much less one with relatively limited NBA experience and far less matchup-specific experience? Dirk maneuvered too well to be blanketed, shot too accurately to be stopped, and passed too effectively to be doubled. Faried was damned before he even had a chance to consider his options, as Nowitzki triggered his usual array of fades and jumpers en route to one of his most spectacularly efficient performances of the season.
  • Dallas’ 33 assists were a season high, and the furthest thing from an empty total; the Mavs’ ball movement was the most successful and consistent force in this game, and sustained even during the roughest offensive stretches. The shots didn’t fall, but to the Mavs’ credit, they never abandoned the process. That commitment is more important than any series of makes or misses, wins or losses — it’s the backbone of successful offense, and that the Mavs are relying on a replicable formula to generate points bodes well for their future this season.
  • This particular matchup made for a fascinating watch due to the fact that size was a uniquely irrelevant factor. Nowitzki demands a certain size and length in defensive response, but Dirk aside, both teams were free to play whichever players gave them the greatest chance for success, regardless of the opponent’s configuration or traditional positions. The Mavs largely stayed “conventional,” if you could really term their usual lineups so ridiculously. The Nuggets, on the other hand, toyed with all kinds of combinations, most of which used Denver’s army of wing players in a futile (in retrospect, anyway) effort to get the jump on Dallas. Faried split time with Al Harrington as the only big on the floor for long stretches of the game, and though Denver couldn’t use their wing-heavy lineups to create any in-game leverage, it was still a hell of a sight.

  • As much as Dallas’ offensive success was built on Nowitzki’s brilliance and collective ball movement, the Mavs also got a lot of mileage out of quick reversals by way of live-ball turnovers and secure defensive rebounds. There was no effort made to grind down the transition-fueled Nuggets with half-court sets; Dallas looked to push whenever convenient, and took advantage of their many ball-handlers in their efforts to selectively ignite the break.
  • Monday provided a bright spot for so many Mavericks, but Jason Terry (10 points, 4-12 FG, 2-7 3FG, three assists) wasn’t one of them. JET had put together a particularly solid run over the previous five games, but on this night he served as the one stagnant element of the Mavs’ otherwise freewheeling offense. Terry just clung to possessions a bit too tightly; he forced the action, stalled sequences, and cluttered what could have been a universally commendable offensive showing.
  • New Nuggets JaVale McGee and Wilson Chandler (13 points, 6-16 FG, four rebounds) were ready and in uniform, but McGee unfortunately saw no court action; George Karl is right to take his time with McGee and really integrate him as a member of this team and system, but it would have been fun nonetheless to see how McGee would run as a part of such a prolific, fast-breaking squad. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, though Chandler — who was a member of the Nuggets last season before skipping across the Pacific to spend his lockout playing in the Chinese Basketball Association — did see some court time, and already looks completely up to NBA speed.
  • Nowitzki made not one, not two, but three sweeping hook shots. We live in a beautiful world.
  • Both teams were clicking offensively, but the Mavs were simply able to extend their offense beyond the Nuggets’ limits. It really is easy to see shades of the same resilience in this team that marked last year’s championship model; that alone doesn’t guarantee a thing, but there’s plenty of reason to believe in this team’s potential beyond their week-to-week inconsistencies.
  • Jason Kidd (seven points, 10 assists, four steals, zero turnovers) was amazingly aggressive with the pass and shot alike, and on one particular possession, he even drove all the way into the paint for a drive-and-kick possession. Considering how limited Kidd looked just a few weeks ago, that foray down the lane is akin to emerging from a cleansing fire unscathed. Kidd has apparently been born again, for what Mavs fans can only hope is more than a single night.
  • For all of Dallas’ offensive triumphs, the Mavs’ pick-and-roll ball-handlers (particularly Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois) perhaps played too readily into the Nuggets traps in the two-man game. It’s easy to superimpose a certain obstinance over JET’s refusal to hit Nowitzki for an open three, but that may be reading too much into the situation; Terry, even at his most trigger happy, has never really been a selfish player. Beaubois (14 points, 6-14 FG, six assists, three rebounds, three turnovers), on the other hand, can easily be cast into the role of trying to do too much. There’s simply no other explanation for his slow break of the trap followed by overdribbling in the corner; Beaubois wants to produce and undoubtedly feels pressured to do so, and sometimes seems to make the wrong play as a result.
  • On a related note: Rick Carlisle was very patient with Beaubois in this one. There were several times in the game where one could almost feel a quick hook coming, but to Carlisle’s credit he let Beaubois play through his mistakes. That not only turned out well in terms of Beaubois finding a good rhythm (and doing a respectable job on the defensive end), but also kept Kidd’s minutes down. Well played by all involved.
  • Denver was derailed a bit by injuries to Andre Miller (right shoulder) and Danilo Gallinari (left thumb), both of whom were sidelined completely by their ailments. It’s never a good thing to see two terrific players go down, even if the Nuggets are more equipped than most to offset their losses with depth.
  • For the second straight game, the Mavericks did an outstanding job of dominating the defensive glass without both Brendan Haywood and Shawn Marion. That the Mavs were somehow able to do this and trigger the fast break with guards leaking out is nothing short of miraculous; so often NBA basketball makes defensive rebounding and transition offense as an either-or affair, but Dallas was able to secure the board and outlet quickly enough to test Denver in transition as well.
  • Brandan Wright (15 points, 7-9 FG, six rebounds, one block) deserves particular kudos for altering a ton of shot attempts and going all-out on his rebound attempts; it wasn’t at all uncommon to see Wright soar for a rebound only to come crashing for the floor, fully extending himself possibly beyond what was logical. We’d be singing a very different tune if Wright were to sustain any kind of injury, but that’s an effort we can admire at the very least, accented perfectly by his startling athleticism. Wright’s effort and finesse are hardly a surprise at this point, but they still make for an engaging watch every time he steps on the floor.
  • It’s obviously entirely too early to tell, but it seems as though Rudy Fernandez (nine minutes, seemingly due to Gallinari and Miller’s injuries) and Chris Andersen (DNP-CD, even with McGee not playing a minute) may be the odd men out of the rotation in Denver. The additions of Wilson Chandler and McGee, coupled with the emergence of Faried, was going to throw some player or another for a loop; George Karl seems to have made the right choices (though one could certainly argue that Andersen deserves playing time over Timofey Mozgov or Kosta Koufos), but it’s a tough break nonetheless considering how important both of those players had been to the Nuggets’ earlier success.
  • With Nowitzki out of the game, the Mavs made it a particular point of emphasis to establish Vince Carter (14 points, 5-9 FG, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks) on the block against various smaller defenders. That’s proven to be an effective weapon for the Mavs in small doses this season, but this round of Carter post-ups was a bit messy; at best, Carter was able to draw fouls, but he otherwise committed a turnover and was stalled from making any progress during his back-down sequence. Carter still managed to play a very effective game, but this one aspect of his offensive repertoire appeared inaccessible.
  • Does any point guard use the pump fake more effectively than Andre Miller?
  • Kirk Henderson

    17 bullet points. Delight, in victory. Dirk's enthusiasm really is fun.  He didnt seem to enjoy playing much for parts of this year, but this is the 2nd game he's had lately where he looks to be enjoying himself.

    Shawn Marion being out is obviously concerning (particularly if he is out Wednesday) but the team has played delightfully well in his absence. 

    • Mikal

       Kirk, I think the 2 points you make here are absolutely correct. Dirk sure has had stretches where he has seemed “off”, and your characterization of him now enjoying himself seems spot on. Also, this team NEEDS Marion, even though we are playing amazingly well without him.

  • DaMavs02

    I think it's fair to start painting Terry as selfish given his comments regarding both his contract and his desire to be given the ball late in games recently. In their double overtime win, he was demanding the ball rather than let Dirk take it. I thought at the time he was joking, but given his more recent comment I'm not so sure.

    He knows he's playing for a contract and everyone knows scoring points = more money.

    • Kirk Henderson

      He's yet to acknowledge that the CBA changed the game. Even Dirk's contract is too much money when you facter in the penalties of going over the salary cap. Terry makes $11 million this season. He wont get more than $4 million a year for 2 years from the Mavs (I bet).

  • Andrew

    Great to see you back, Rob.  Excellent post. 

    I know that people are concerned about Terry's shot selection and that he may have delusions of grandeur.  I think the concern is overstated because Terry has always taken tough shots.  The way he is able to create offense for himself is that, cuoming off of the screen and roll, he can fade away from taller defenders and make them. 

  • Thomas

    That game was so fun to watch, everything seemed to work for the Mavs. Just beautiful basketball, sharing the ball, making shots.

    • Roswell

       Mavericks Basketball 101

  • Shmichael

    Balls.  I completely missed the game last night cause my verizon went out :( .  Super LAME!

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  • Matt Hulme

    I enjoyed just about every aspect of the game itself, but found TNT's coverage to be, shall we say, poor. I like Dick Stockton, and Mike Fratello's color was generally good, but this season, and especially the other night, TNT's halftime crew was egregious and a joke of basketball commentary and breakdown.