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.