Thermodynamics: Week 4

Posted by Travis Wimberly on November 23, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Fire and Ice

Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

A day late (blame the tryptophan-induced coma), but never a dollar short. It’s time for our weekly breakdown of the Mavs’ three hottest and three coldest performances.

This was an interesting week for the Mavs. They were blown out by the Indiana Pacers, but then bounced back the next night in Cleveland against a bad (though young and spry) Cavaliers squad. After a fairly woeful home loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Mavs proceeded to take down the league-leading New York Knicks on the strength of a (mostly) impressive second-half comeback.

So who was hot? And who was not? I’m glad you asked….

Week 4 (@Pacers, @Cavaliers, Warriors, Knicks)

FIRE

1) OJ Mayo

Make it three in a row on the hot list for Mayo. Once again, the Mavs’ starting shooting guard was excellent offensively. He shot 32-of-60 (53%) on the week, including 10-of-21 (48%) from long range. He led the Mavs in scoring all four games, dropping 19 points in each of the first two games and 27 points in each of the latter two. His assist numbers weren’t great (3.5 per game), but they didn’t need to be. With Dirk Nowitzki still on the mend, Mayo’s primary responsibility is to score. He’s doing just that, and he’s doing so quite efficiently. Mayo is currently 8th in the NBA in scoring (22.2 PPG), and among the top 10 scorers in the league, he has the lowest usage rate (25.3%) and the the highest effective field-goal percentage (61%). In other words, Mayo isn’t racking up points by dominating the ball. He’s being judicious, taking mostly good shots, and making them at a very impressive (though likely unsustainable) clip.

2) Big Second-Half Shots

The Mavs played in three tight games this week, so there were several opportunities for big, momentum-shifting shots. With two notable exceptions, the Mavs performed well in this area. Specifically, the Mavs converted at a high rate when shooting for the tie or the lead in the third and fourth quarters. As a team, the Mavs shot 15-of-32 (47%) in those situations. OJ Mayo, Vince Carter, Dominique Jones, Dahntay Jones, and Shawn Marion each shot at least 57%, while Chris Kaman shot a respectable 50%. The two exceptions were Elton Brand (0-of-5 in those situations) and Darren Collison (2-of-6), both of whom have struggled recently to make shots in any game situation. These numbers don’t necessarily carry a lot of significance, especially given the small sample size, but it’s always good to know which players are making the shots that can turn the tide of a close game.

3) Former Mavs

This week, the Mavs faced off against three players from their 2010-2011 championship team: Ian Mahinmi, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Kidd. Mahinmi, now with the Pacers, contributed a helpful seven points on 3-of-6 (50%) shooting against the Mavs, four of his points coming while the game was still very close. Not exactly a scorching hot outing from Mahinmi, but a decent performance nonetheless. Much warmer were Kidd and Chandler, who may have been the Knicks’ two best players on Wednesday night in Dallas. Kidd shot 5-of-8 (63%) from three and notched 17 points in his return to the American Airlines Center, while chipping in six rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Meanwhile, Chandler tallied a double-double with 21 points on 8-of-9 (89%) shooting and 13 boards. He got the Knicks back in the game with a series of devastating and-1 finishes late in the fourth quarter, after Dallas had built a double-digit lead. Then, in a strange twist of fate, Kidd’s and Chandler’s scoring flurries were undone by the only other player on the court who was part of the Mavs’ championship run: Shawn Marion. Marion’s excellent defense on Carmelo Anthony in the final minute preserved a tight Mavs win, sending Kidd and Chandler home with only their league-leading 8-2 record and their millions of dollars to console them.

ICE

1) Point-Guard Defense

The Mavs had a tough week defending opposing point guards. Indiana’s George Hill — a noted Mavs-killer and former San Antonio Spur — scored 15 points on 5-of-7 (71%) shooting and tallied seven assists. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but Hill essentially controlled the game and got the ball wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. The next night in Cleveland, Kyrie Irving notched 26 points on 11-of-21 (52%) shooting, although the Mavs did limit him to just 4-of-11 (36%) shooting in the decisive fourth quarter. Then there was Steph Curry. Golden State’s young star abused the Mavs with 31 points and nine assists. His best work came in the fourth quarter and overtime, when he shot 5-of-8 (63%) from the field, tallied four assists (including the game-winning dime), and repeatedly abused the Mavs’ pick-and-roll defense. The primary culprits were Darren Collison, who couldn’t stay in front of Curry, and the Mavs’ bigs (particularly Chris Kaman), who were ineffective when showing on the high pick-and-roll. Finally, Knicks guard Raymond Felton dropped a double-double against Dallas: 18 points on 8-of-17 (47%) shooting and 11 assists. Like Curry, Felton worked over the Mavs on the pick and roll, often blowing past Collison for uncontested layups and kick-outs.

2) Roddy Beaubois

The enigmatic Beaubois netted a DNP-CD in two of the Mavs’ four games this week. In those two games, Rick Carlisle gave all of the backup point-guard minutes to Dominique Jones, who is often underwhelming but has still outplayed Beaubois by a considerable margin. Clearly, that’s not a great sign for Beaubois. And here’s an even worse sign: in the two games that Beaubois did play, he was nearly useless. He netted just two points in 19 minutes at Indiana, going 0-of-4 from the field and leaving little impression on the game. Against Golden State, he played almost seven minutes — at shooting guard, not point guard — yet managed a goose-egg across the box score: zero field goals, zero free throws, zero points, zero assists, zero rebounds, zero blocks, and zero steals. Carlisle’s rotation will remain fluid, so Beaubois could certainly earn his way back into meaningful playing time. But “earn” is the key word there. Zeros in every column won’t get it done. If Beaubois doesn’t capitalize on the opportunities he’s given, he will increasingly cede whatever place he has left in Carlisle’s rotation.

3) Points in the Paint

When the Mavs shot well this week, they usually did so away from the basket. Just 30 percent of the Mavs’ scoring in the last seven days came from points in the paint (31.5 PPG). Of course, those numbers don’t account for free throws (which often come after fouls in the painted area), but the concern here is that the Mavs will regress to the mean on their longer shots. This is particularly true of OJ Mayo, who can’t possibly continue shooting 57% from deep, and Vince Carter, who scored well this week but had to make some very tough shots to do so. On the flip side, Darren Collison shot 8-of-27 (30%) from over 8-feet this week, so that number is bound to improve.

With their current personnel, the Mavs have the capability to play well in the paint. Kaman has shown a nice array of low-post moves. Brand can be a bruiser underneath. Mayo, Carter, and Collison are each capable of driving to the rim. To be an elite offensive team, the Mavs must continue seeking the right balance between high-percentage paint shots and their longer-range alternatives.

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.