The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 117, Houston Rockets 110

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 18, 2012 under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2012-04-18 at 11.46.00 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR

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 strategic turn of the game came when the Mavericks — who had been torched by Houston’s perimeter shooting since the early stages of the first quarter — began switching on every pick and roll. The Rockets immediately looked to exploit that fact by involving Brandan Wright (four points, five rebounds) in mandatory switches and then looking to exploit him off the bounce, but Wright did a fantastic job of getting down into a defensive stance and rebuffing dribble penetration. Similarly, Jason Kidd (12 points, 4-7 3FG, eight assists, one turnover) was as brilliant in denying the post as can be expected; Kidd’s ability to handle defensive switches was a huge reason why Dallas was so effective in the Finals, and he was similarly crafty in his fronting of Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola in the fourth. Houston warily tried to attack what they initially perceived as created mismatches, only to fall back into a less aggressive offense and let Dallas switch without penalty.  (Additionally: Kidd may have began the game with some defensive lapses, but by the end he was in full-on throwback mode. His effort was pristine and the results spoke for themselves. Even with the postseason right around the corner, it would be hard to ask for anything more from Kidd.)
  • That said, Dallas’ defensive adjustment came a bit late, or at least their early defensive failures made it so. There were simply far too many conceded jumpers throughout the first three quarters, and unlike Monday’s game against the Jazz, there was no strategic reason to collapse into the middle and leave the perimeter exposed. Goran Dragic (20 points, 8-12 FG, 10 assists, six turnovers) and company initially played the screen game as aggressively as is their wont, and until Rick Carlisle toggled the Mavs into a switch-heavy set, Dallas seemed hopeless against Houston’s outside shooters. The Mavs had still managed to force a good number of turnovers with a swarming interior defense and shading of the passing lanes, but the paint needs to be defended without such a complete disregard for what lies beyond the arc.
  • Jason Terry’s (19 points, 6-11 FG, 3-6 3FG, three assists, four rebounds, three turnovers) annual rut is apparently well behind him; JET nearly topped 20 points for the third consecutive game, and legitimately altered the course of the contest with his on-court gravity. Even as Dallas’ third-leading scorer, Terry was something of a motivational center. He went on a self-propelled 10-0 run. He attempted to put some early punctuation on the game with an attempted slam. He scored and created and provided all the extracurriculars, as Dallas rallied behind his effort and enthusiasm. It’s not hard to find games in which the Mavericks move one way and Terry moves another, but this contest was marked by their perfect symbiosis.

  • One strategy that was particularly effective for the Mavs that could be worth bottling: Using Dirk Nowitzki’s (35 points, 10-18 FG, five rebounds) re-post opportunities as a chance to get him on the move. Houston closed out hard against Dirk throughout the game, so much so that Nowitzki often had to surrender the ball to Terry or Kidd after seeing his shooting window disappear. Yet rather than look to re-establish at the elbow, Nowitzki would look to attack the basket immediately on his second catch. The change of pace between mini-possessions caught many a Rockets defender off-guard, and gave Dirk a few good looks at the rim.
  • This may have been Vince Carter’s (23 points, 8-18 FG, three assists, four rebounds) most aggressive game as a Maverick, as he almost completely abandoned the spot-up game in favor of attacking off the dribble. With both Marcus Camby (11 points, 5-11 FG, 17 rebounds, five OREBs, one assist, one steal, two turnovers) and Samuel Dalembert (two points, four rebounds) ailing, Houston’s back line defense currently isn’t quite what it should be. Carter took full advantage of that fact with his decisive drives; he didn’t overcommit to selling a pump fake, and he didn’t kill valuable time with jab steps — he just rolled directly to the rim and generated offense off the dribble. This was Carter at his creative finest, and although he didn’t always have the first step or the explosion to finish at the rim, he offered another valuable way to put pressure on Houston’s iffy defense.
  • It’s remarkable just how useful Camby is, even while injured. His commitment to rebounding while hobbled was beyond admirable, and perhaps best epitomized from Camby’s drive to the basket from the right wing and subsequent omnipresent tip-in from the left baseline. Even at his age and with nagging injury, Camby has the drive to make the most of his natural length and instincts. And that’s to say nothing of his abilities as a high-post passer and an invaluable pivot for the offense; Camby is a shining example of how much in basketball revolves around action other than scoring, though he’s certainly not inept in his efforts to get the occasional bucket.
  • Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points in the second half and 21 points in the fourth quarter in a game that was ultimately decided by seven and that Dallas won with a dominant 39-26 final frame. No big deal.
  • Mavs Fan

    Rob, I agree with your description of Camby's skills, but I'm not sure how useful he was in this game. His defense was poor generally and especially on pick and rolls. Late in the first quarter the Carter/Mahinmi pick and roll resulted in two FTS. two dunks, and Camby in the dust every time. In the 4th quarter Dallas abused him with Wright as the screener and either Carter or Jet as the ball handler.

    Something I do like, and hope Dallas continues to experiment with, is using the high pick and roll with Wright as the screener and Dirk standing in one of the corners.

  • Andrew

    Nice post!

    I know Carter had a good game, but if his peak this season is really 23 points on 8-18 shooting, then I really doubt that his utility on offense outweighs his ineffectiveness at defense.  Every time Carter closes out on a shooter he overcommits and lets people drive right by him.  Whle he sometimes plays decent defense, he usual does not have the focus to sustain intense defensive pressure.  He is slow and gets caught on screens easily.  Why is he getting 25 minutes a game???  He is shooting 40% from the field and averaging a mere 9 points in 25 minutes, and offesne is supposed to be his forte.  Conversely, Delonte West knows how to close out, plays good team and individual defense, and is a more efficient, effective, and aggressive scorer (9 points on 46% shooting in 23 minutes). 

    I usually agree with Carlisle's rotation decisions, but not here.  Can someone give me the other side of the story so that I can at least understand why Carlisle has enough faith in Carter to play him 25 minutes a game?

    • Jensen

      Those averages are a little skewed cause West has played in 17 fewer games due to injury (leaving open minutes for Carter) and is just now working his way back into the starting lineup this month.  Now that West is getting healthy and starting and Carter is on the bench, I would expect West's minutes to go up a bit.  The other thing to realize is that Carter is playing a lot more 3 versus 2 now so his minutes are more coming from Marion than they are West.

      I certainly don't like that trade-off (Carter for Marion) more than the other but I can understand what Rick is looking for – this Mavs team can get caught in offense ruts especially when Dirk's on the bench and Carter definitely brings more offensive potential than Trix.  Rick made that choice pretty obvious in the last three games with Carter playing heavy minutes and Trix riding the pine in crunch time.

      While I'm not a huge fan of the Marion post-up (just because at any given point we probably have three better offensive options on the court), it was very effective early in the year (av. 13.3 points with .469 shooting in Dec) and he actually won us a few games with his scoring when Dirk was getting back into shape.  I'm not sure why Rick has shelved that look and moved on to Carter for offensive.  I'm not going to argue that Marion is a better offensive option than Carter cause that's certainly not true but the difference in their defensive skills and rebounding, makes Marion the better option in my opinion.  At least, I would like to see Rick do more offensive/defensive subs if he wants Carter in there at crunch time cause it just doesn't make sense to have your best defensive player on the bench at the end of close games (and a very questionable defender replacing him).

      • Andrew

        I agree with you that Marion is a WAY better option than Carter down the stretch of games.  As weird as Marion's offense looks, he is a more efficient scorer than Carter and he can actually create offense for himself.  Marion played huge minutes during lst year's championship run, and it was a good thing because Marion was BRILLIANT and needed during every one of those minutes. Why would Carlisle go away from that now during the stretch of games for a 35 year old loafer who is shooting 40% from the field?

        • Jensen

          Article came out today on this topic: 

          Rick says Carter is out there for spacing.  No doubt Carter is a better 3 point shooter than Trix.  Marion was hitting them at a decent clip at the start of the season but has tapered off since then.  Carter's numbers have done the same thing actually but he is still way more of a 3 threat so that does provide better spacing.

          Offense/defense subs Rick.  Use it.

          • Andrew

            Huh…that is interesting.  I would say if you put some combination of Jason Terry, Delonte West, Jason Kidd, and Shawn Marion on the floor together, they will have adequate spacing.  Terry, West, and Kidd can all hit the three consistently.   Marion creates spacing in different ways.  When he is set up on the left block with Dirk on the right, Dallas has plenty of spacing. 

            I will say this now: we will not get passed the first round if Carter plays the type of minutes he is logging right now. 

  • Pingback: The Point Forward » Posts Court Vision: A big ‘if’ in Magic report «