The Difference: Utah Jazz 123, Dallas Mavericks 121

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 17, 2012 under Recaps | 6 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.

  • This game went all the way to the competitive limit, but Dallas’ defense eventually collapsed because of its collapses by design. The Mavericks were content to swarm the Jazz bigs on their interior catches, and although that’s sound strategy considering the personnel and skill sets of both teams, Utah benefited from far too many wide open jumpers. A result this insanely intricate obviously wasn’t decided by those comfortable J’s alone, but if we’re looking for a consistent factor that carried more weight than, say, controversial calls or specific late-game sets, attentions should rightly turn to how so many Jazz shooters found unoccupied real estate. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Gordon Hayward don’t need offensive help, and yet because of the specific gaps in the Mavericks’ defensive matchups, there was little choice for Dallas but to offer systemic help. Look to Jefferson and Millsap’s tough late-game makes, an absent whistle, or Devin Harris’ baffling number of threes, but the Mavs seemed to really lose this game when their inability to create stable offense became juxtaposed with their defense conceding that very thing to the Jazz.
  • If nothing else, this game taught us plenty about Rick Carlisle’s desperation for offense, and more specifically, his designs to improve the Mavs’ offensive potential with perimeter shooting. Dirk Nowitzki (40 points, 13-26 FG, nine rebounds, six assists) was predictably spectacular, but no Maverick seemed both interested and capable enough to assist him throughout the bulk of this game. Jason Terry (27 points, 11-25 FG, 4-9 3FG) was absolutely tremendous late and both Delonte West (16 points, 5-8 FG) and Vince Carter (18 points, 5-15 FG, 12 rebounds, four assists) did great work in spots, but had all of their efforts come earlier and more consistently, this game may have been decided in regulation. Dallas was wanting for scoring of any kind beyond Nowitzki, so much so that Carlisle kept Brendan Haywood on the bench for the game’s final 30 minutes in favor of the more offensively capable Ian Mahinmi, and parked Marion — who was unmistakably absent in his time on the floor — for the final 27 minutes in favor of either Carter or West. That’s a pretty lengthy substitution of defense for offense, particularly when Jefferson is so formidable down low and Gordon Hayward was blowing by Jason Kidd with regularity. Yet considering the downward slope Dallas’ defense has taken over the last 20 games or so, an offensive jump-start is an absolute necessity. This isn’t a one-time occurrence; this team’s scoring is in shambles, and the defense is no longer oppressive enough to pull out consistent wins. Substitution patterns this radical may have been too great a cost, but Carlisle’s concern for the offense within the context of this game and the playoffs is rather clear.
  • Kirk Henderson

    What a ball game. Had the Mavs gotten the rebound instead of watching Millsap slam home the Haywood missed shot, the game would have been over.  

    I know this is a minor point and something that I'm probably being ridiculous about, but I think Ian Mahinmi might have had his worst game of the season last night. I honestly think he has no clue how to hedge on screens. Mahinmi gets the motions right, but he fouls or gets beaten every time.  He was beaten on 4 tips (in all the Mavs lost 6 tips, the opener, Ians jumpball, Terry's jump ball, and the 3 OT jump balls) he committed a number of silly fouls including a late game loose ball foul that had no reason for happening. He was blocked on a dunk attempt when a lay in off the glass would have done just fine. He went to a reverse lay in when a dunk was there. 

    So many little things arent going the Mavs way since the All Star Break. The team is mostly focused and does play hard, but the ball isn't bouncing their way when it matters. I hope this changes in the playoffs.

  • Matt Hulme

    You hit it right on the head, Rob. My biggest fear for some time with this team has been their offensive desperation when operating outside of Dirk.

    Of course, last night it was as evident as ever, with the offense basically becoming a shadow without Dirk on the court, and not much better when he didn't at least touch the ball on a given possession. JET was his usual stellar-in-the-clutch self, and Kidd, West, and Carter all had their moments, but none of that was possible without Nowitzki's touches.

    Even JET was mostly relegated to a spot-up guy off Dirk screens and their own (much beloved for my part) version of the two man game. While this is all fairly in the norm, it's a bit alarming that we didn't utilize it more. I saw FAR too many isolation possessions wasted at the top of the key between our guards. Kidd was good with the spot up, but made some incredibly key errors in passing, Terry forced a few too many, Carter took too many ill-advised drives (more like barrels) toward the rim with unproductive finishes, and Marion was neither active enough on offense nor given enough opportunities to do so.

    And while Dirk wasn't perfect, he was by far the most efficient scorer, even with double teams and closeouts preventing but a handful of good looks. Again, while this is far from the norm, it's more than a little worrisome that at the tail end of the regular season, we still haven't found a viable second option.

    I do think Carlisle waited too long to sub West in for Kidd (Kidd was on fumes and West was certainly cold after sitting out that long), but I understand his thought process.

    On defense, we need to block out more and snag those rebounds. Too many second chance opportunities and easy buckets off our laziness underneath.

    Speaking of laziness, how awful and slow have our closeouts been of late? I wish I had counted the number of times we left open shooters beyond the arc, not even bothering to close out as they drained open triples. That's my single biggest peeve with this team, and I've got to think that the mentality would be completely different if Chandler's voice was still there. But I won't dwell on that. Brighter days are ahead. …Right?

    • Matt Hulme

      Side note: I can't be the only one who grits his teeth every time Vince Carter drives to the basket. The man seems absolutely, certifiably nuts out there once near the basket, forcing up shots under double and triple teams that he has no right taking.

      The kick-out exists for a reason, and no Mav is less prone to use it than Carter. And the worst part is, defenses know it, and collapse on Carter accordingly.

      • Kirk Henderson

        Sometimes he seems crafty, because his lift isnt there with any consistency, the defenders wait for him to leap and he seems to go around them.  Other times he just looks old. He had that once nice move last night to the bucket and everything else he seems to wait for calls while just trying to get it on the rim.  It's a rough thing to watch.

  • Shmichael

    I was listening to the Jazz broadcast and at one point they were congratulating Hayword for not taking a swing after the West Willie incident… Yeah, congrats for not getting yourself beat up…
    And with the whole Lebron leaving Cleveland incident, you would think Delonte West would know better than to stick things in other people.

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