The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 109, Toronto Raptors 104

Posted by Connor Huchton on November 8, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment


Box Score
 – Play-By-Play – Shot Chart – Game Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin. 

  • It’s difficult to avoid a sense of surprise. The Mavericks have now won four of their first five games under the following detrimental conditions: an injured star player, injuries to several other key rotational players, an almost entirely new roster, and a lack of expectant team identity. And yet, it feels as though this Mavericks team hasn’t overcome the odds at all – they’re winning with the simplicity of fully formed ball movement, defense, and overwhelming lineup advantages, all stemming from the principles of Coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavericks won on Wednesday night with the same style that had previously powered them to become the NBA’s second-ranked offense, behind the sums of Vince Carter (6-14 FG, 17 points, five rebounds), Chris Kaman (8-15 FG, 22 points, eight rebounds), and O.J. Mayo’s (8-17 FG, 3-6 3PT, 22 points, six assists) offensive performances.
  • There is a sense within this Mavericks’ team of unceasing purpose. Any lineup – whether it be endowed with Carter or Jae Crowder (3-4 FG, 8 points, four rebounds) or Brandan Wright (5-9 FG, 12 points, seven rebounds) – is quickly cohesive and intently unselfish. Much of this has been powered by Darren Collison (5-13 FG, 15 points, two assists), who this season has performed closer to his 09-10 mold than more recent iterations. The top of the key is his domain, and the Mavericks benefit at every turn due to the unrelenting nature of his movement. The Mavericks are now shooting almost 50% from behind the three-point arc this season (having made 51 of 103 attempts), a percentage equal parts daunting and deserving, and a product of the team’s collective passing efforts.
  • The Mavericks’ ability to mix lineups and hold leads will only be expounded upon after the hopefully rapid return of Rodrigue Beaubois. His presence would quickly shore up the Mavericks most significantly pressing area of concern: backcourt depth. Vince Carter has filled in nicely in stead behind the stellar play of Collison and Mayo, but Beaubois’ return will bring a greater sense of completeness to the team’s rotation.
  • The primary question floating in the minds of many Mavericks’ fans is how a currently effective offense will react to the return of its essential placeholder, one Dirk Nowitzki. I expect continued success and improvement, though a slightly awkward assimilation period may occur. One of Darren Collison’s greatest strengths this season has been in pick-and-roll situations. His distributing efforts have created many open jumpers for Elton Brand, who has not yet been able to capitalize on these attempts with any great consistency. These are opportunities that Nowitzki will be more likely to finish than Brand, and are thus likely to improve the offense’s base efficiency. Though the load of the offense given to players like Brand and Mayo may decrease upon Dirk’s return, the strength and quality of team personnel will remain. Carlisle’s options will grow and the tenets of his offense will likely be implemented at a more efficient rate. The returns of Beaubois, Marion, and Dirk should be eagerly anticipated, despite what change they may bring.
  • It is important to note that the Mavericks 4-1 record has not come against overwhelming competition – the Mavericks’ first five opponents have a current record of 7-16.
  • Matt Hulme

    Other than the third-quarter meltdown against the Jazz, this team has looked energetic, spry, lengthy, athletic, and surprisingly consistent.

    Sure, the team lacks a certain level of focus, as one would expect from a new (predominately) youthful squad (especially one currently lacking its anchor and veteran heart), but that same lack of focus hasn’t been as detrimental to the Mavs as, say, the Lakers, who are a mess right now.

    Now, obviously, egos don’t affect this team the way they do on many NBA squads, and I love that. But this team is also struggling to find an identity outside of the long ball on offense and (as you said, Connor) the increasing efficiency of Collison’s pick-and-rolls. Not that this is a bad offensive squad; on the contrary, they’ve been surprisingly adept and coherent as well as able to adapt and move on the fly. This might be the fastest Mavs squad in the better part of a decade, and even Vince Carter has his old-Vinsanity moments. As you mentioned, with Elton Brand and others filling in for Dirk, this team will certainly become evermore efficient on offense, albiet at a very different pace once Nowitzki is back.

    That all said, this team struggles mightily in the rebounding department, and other than steals and pass breakups, this team is a mess at times on defense. Obviously all of these issues can be corrected in time via Carlisle and his staff, but the defensive issues are going to be difficult to shake, knowing the roster’s shortcomings. Now, this is an issue well-identified prior to the start of the season, and it really hasn’t haunted us much at all thus far against (as you said) weaker competition.

    All in all, I am very pleasantly surprised by this team’s offensive intensity and efficiency, especially in our guard play, and this coming slate of games will go a long way to identifying just how adaptable and solid squad is pre-Dirk.

    Of course, all of this will change once Dirk’s on board, but it’s unbelievable nice to see a Dallas roster capable of actually competing without the Big German in his absence.