Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Last week around this time, the Mavs were flying high. They carried a 4-1 record and possessed what looked to be one of the best offenses in the NBA. But after some poor performances and a 1-3 record this week—including the franchise’s first-ever loss to the Charlotte Bobcats—the Mavs have some work to do. But hey, at least they didn’t fire their coach five games into the season.
Let’s take a look at the Mavs’ hottest and coldest performances from Week 3. (Spoiler alert: Cold wins this week.)
Week 3 (@Knicks, @Bobcats, Timberwolves, Wizards)
1) OJ Mayo
With a couple caveats, it was another strong week for the shooting guard affably known as “Juice” (alternate nickname: “That guy who temporarily ruined USC’s basketball program”). Mayo shot 29-of-61 (48%) in the Mavs’ four games this week, including 10-of-20 (50%) from three-point range. He was the Mavs’ most consistent and productive scorer by a considerable margin, averaging exactly 22 PPG. For the season, Mayo’s true shooting percentage (64%) and effective field-goal percentage (60%) both rank in the top fifteen in the league among guards who have played more than negligible minutes. Mayo’s turnovers (3.5 per game this week) and comfort within the offense both remain issues. But if the expectation is for Mayo to be the team’s second scorer behind Dirk Nowitzki, he’s currently showing why that expectation is entirely fair.
2) Chris Kaman’s Shooting
Having watched Kaman miss his first nine million (loose approximation) shots against the Timberwolves on Monday night, my first inclination was that I wouldn’t be able to put his shooting on the hot list this week. Once I crunched the weekly numbers, however, Kaman made the cut even despite that bad outing. Kaman shot a combined 23-of-39 (59%) in this week’s games, including terrific shooting performances against the Knicks (86%) and the Wizards (83%). Only three starting centers have higher true shooting percentages than Kaman (63%): Samuel Dalembert, DeAndre Jordan, and Tyson Chandler. Along with Mayo, Kaman has been the Mavs’ most effective scorer this season.
3) Uncle Ricky’s Temper
Somebody ought to put Rick Carlisle on blood-pressure watch, because his numbers can’t be good after this week. First, he watched in Charlotte as his team turned in a comical late-game performance featuring mistake after bizarre mistake. When Carlisle reviewed the film of those final minutes against the Bobcats, one can only assume that he did so while blasting the Benny Hill theme in the background, driving around the room in a small plastic car, and sporting an oversized novelty hat. Carlisle’s frustration from the Charlotte circus boiled over to the Mavs’ next game against Minnesota, a game that was less absurd but equally frustrating. With five minutes left and the Mavs down double digits, Carlisle exploded after a non-call and was quickly ejected. I don’t know what exactly he said, but I’d like to think he got his money’s worth.
1) Late-Game Cohesion
Over the past decade, the Mavs have had a distinct advantage over most opponents in late-game situations. But with the team now missing veteran closers Dirk Nowitzki (knee), Jason Terry (being a Celtic), and Jason Kidd (chilling in the Hamptons/being a Knick), that advantage has disappeared. The Mavs’ inexperience and lack of roster continuity were abundantly apparent this week, as the team struggled mightily in tight fourth quarters. In New York, after closing the deficit to four points with 7:32 left, the Mavs immediately gave up an 8-0 run that effectively ended the game. The next night in Charlotte, the closing minutes looked like a cross between the And-1 Mixtape Rejects Tour and a freight train crashing full speed into a dumpster fire. During the last five minutes alone, the Mavs gave up seven offensive rebounds, completely mismanaged the clock, botched their transition offense, and—surely worst of all—allowed Brendan Haywood to score a clutch layup. The fourth quarter against the Timberwolves was mostly unremarkable, but only because the Mavs were already losing by double digits. Finally, at home to the winless Wizards, the Mavs squandered an 18-point lead as they allowed the Wizards to shoot 14-of-19 (74%) for 34 points in the final frame. On the bright side, the Mavs still won.
2) Early-Game Execution
As poorly as the Mavs finished games this week, they didn’t start them much better. In Charlotte, the Bobcats led 17-4 to start the game, and the Mavs finished the first quarter shooting just 37%. On Dallas’s home floor, the Timberwolves led 25-17 after the first quarter on the strength of 50% shooting (versus 35% for the Mavs) and a +8 rebounding differential. These struggles led Rick Carlisle to insert Chris Kaman and Dahntay Jones into the starting lineup for the Wizards game, replacing Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder. (Notably, the Collison-Mayo-Crowder-Brand-Wright starting lineup that Carlisle axed has a +/- this season of -18. That’s the worst of any five-man unit the Mavs have used this year, starting or otherwise.) But even with this lineup change, the lowly Wizards made a game of it early until a second-quarter Mavs run. Once Shawn Marion returns to the lineup (which should be soon, although updates on his condition have been sparse), this particular issue is likely to improve.
3) Darren Collison
Truth be told, I could single out several Mavericks players for performing poorly this week. Collison wasn’t necessarily the worst, but he’s the starting point guard, so he draws the short straw this time. Collison shot just 15-of-42 (36%) for the week. In close games where the Mavs sorely needed his offensive production, he twice scored fewer than ten points (four against the Knicks, nine against the Wizards). But more importantly than his aggregate numbers, Collison’s week was marred by mental lapses and poor decisionmaking. Against Charlotte, he mismanaged a key possession in the final minute with the Mavs clinging to the two-point lead. He later committed a key turnover in overtime. Last night against the Wizards, Collison had another key turnover with one minute left and the Wizards threatening to completely erase an 18-point fourth quarter deficit. Jannero Pargo negated Collison’s mistake by missing the game-tying three off the turnover, but against a team better than the Wizards (read: all 28 other NBA teams), Collison’s mistake was exactly the kind that can cost you a game. Still, Collison has shown a great deal of promise in this young season. As he gains familiarity with the system and his teammates, he’s likely to commit fewer mistakes.
Travis Wimberly lives in Austin, Texas and writes about the Dallas Mavericks on Al Gore’s Internet™. Travis enjoys shenanigans, claptrap, and frivolity. Follow Travis on Twitter @TravisRW.