Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
When you write a weekly hot-cold basketball column and the team you write about has an atrocious week, it’s sometimes difficult to find much positive or “hot” to discuss. But that’s why they pay us the big bucks here at The Two Man Game. (Note: That “big bucks” thing I said just now? A lie.)
Despite the Mavs’ 0-3 week, which was anything but ordinary, we’re going to do our ordinary thing here at Thermodynamics. Three hot, three cold. Hopefully it’ll be marginally less painful than watching the Mavs’ play of late.
Week 5 (Lakers, @76ers, @Bulls)
1) Vince Carter’s Three Ball
For a guy who often plays the role of shot-chucker, Carter had a nicely efficient week from long range. He shot 4-of-7 (57%) against the Lakeshow, 3-of-5 (60%) against the 76ers, and 2-of-4 (50%) against the Bulls. His three-point production against the 76ers was especially welcome. For one, that was the Mavs’ only close game this week, so it was the only one where his shots had any real impact. And also, Carter hit the biggest shot of the game when he drained a deep three with 1:24 left to ignite a last-ditch Mavs rally. Carter’s three-point percentage on the season is up to a respectable 40%, good for 41st in the league among qualifying guards. If he can hover around there for the remainder of the year–rather than dipping back down into the mid-30s–it will significantly boost the Mavs’ often-troubled offense.
2) Shawn Marion’s Two Ball
The Matrix had a solid week on offense, particularly from two-point range (which, frankly, is the only range from which he should ever be shooting). Marion shot 15-of-25 (60%) from two this week, highlighted by a terrific 7-of-10 (70%) performance last night in Chicago. He showed his typical offensive versaility, mixing layups and tip-ins with a nice array of mid-range floaters off the dribble. It doesn’t always look pretty–in fact, it rarely does–but Marion sent a message this week that he can be a fairly productive scorer on a team desperately seeking its offensive identity.
3) Brandan Wright’s Bench Seat
Earlier this week, The Two Man Game guest columnist Jonathan Tjarks wrote a terrific piece on Rick Carlisle’s handling of Troy Murphy and Brandan Wright. I won’t repeat Jonathan’s reasoned and thorough analysis, but I completely agree with him that Murphy has essentially no business playing power forward in front of Wright. Unfortunately, coach doesn’t agree. Wright started against the Lakers and scored six quick points, but ended up playing fewer minutes than Murphy, who contributed a whopping zero points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. What’s more, that Lakers start was the last time Wright would play this week. He didn’t log a single minute against the 76ers or the Bulls, while Murphy averaged almost 14 minutes in those two games. Wright has serious weaknesses to his game–defense and rebounding, to name a couple. But Murphy has those same weaknesses and, unlike Wright, really doesn’t do anything else well. With the Mavs adding veteran guard Derek Fisher just last night, it’s possible that Murphy will be cut later today to make room. Or maybe they’ll cut Wright, and this whole discussion becomes moot.
1) Team Offense…and Defense
As a team, the Mavs were exceptionally poor on both sides of the court this week. On offense, they averaged 88 PPG, shot 39% from the field, and had just 1.5 assists per turnover. They committed six turnovers in a row–no, that’s not a typo–in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia, allowing the 76ers to build a double-digit lead in a game the Mavs could have won. They shot 21% in the third quarter at Chicago, when they had a chance to at least make a game of it. They ran offensive sets aimlessly and without purpose, almost as if they were waiting for Dirk Nowitzki to run onto the court at any moment, suit and pocket square in tow. And on defense? Things weren’t any better. They allowed the Lakers to shoot 68% in the first quarter and 62% in the first half, effectively ending the game before the Mavs could even enjoy their halftime Capri Suns and orange slices. They repeatedly fouled the 76ers, gifting them 32 FTAs (16 in the second quarter alone) in a two-point loss. They let the Bulls, the league’s 24th-best offense, work them over for 101 points (seven above their season average) on 49% shooting. And this is just a quick summary.
When the same item ends up on the cold list nearly every week, I start to wonder whether I should continue to include it. Maybe I’ll eventually get bored of writing about the Mavs’ rebounding woes, but it was so bad this week, it almost feels a little fresh. Against the Lakers, the Mavs were crushed 61-39 on the boards (at home, in front of a packed arena). They fared better in Philadelphia, losing the rebounding battle 40-37. Yet they still managed to concede eight rebounds to Kwame Brown, who averages less than three per game and is also a terrible professional basketball player. Finally, in an occurrence that’s become fairly routine, the Mavs failed to compete on the boards against the Bulls. The Bulls notched 44 rebounds to the Mavs’ 30, which perhaps isn’t so bad against a Bulls team that once outrebounded the Mavs 59-34 in Dallas during the 2010-2011 championship season. More problematically, several of the Bulls’ 10 offensive rebounds came when a single Bulls player outworked multiple Mavs who were in position to secure the ball.
3) OJ Mayo
After three straight appearances on the hot list, Mayo finally cooled off this week. A Thermodynamics curse, perhaps? If so, I’ll try the opposite approach by putting every single Mavs player on the cold list each week to elicit better on-court results. In any event, Mayo certainly had his worst week as a Maverick. He started the week shooting 5-of-15 (33%) against the Lakers, including an 0-of-5 performance from deep. He then shot 4-of-10 (40%) Tuesday night in Philadelphia and missed a crucial free throw with two seconds left in the game when the Mavs had a chance to tie. Last night in Chicago, he went 2-of-9 (22%) from the floor and failed to impact the game. He carried a negative plus-minus in every game this week (bottoming out at -30 against the Lakers), but it’s hard to hold that against him when the entire team played poorly in all three games. Here’s to improvement next week, both by Mayo and the team at large.
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.