Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FTR ORR TOR
Dallas 92.0 127.2 58.9 32.9 26.3 11.7
Houston 119.6 57.0 17.4 31.8 11.5
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.