You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- With 3:19 left in the second quarter the Mavericks trailed 44-33. Bryan Gutierrez tweeted “Mavs need some momentum in the worst way”. Dallas went on a 59-33 run to close out the game, leading by as many as 19 at one point, a 30 point swing at its highest.
- Everyone should take a minute to welcome back O.J. Mayo (27 points, five rebounds) from the first few weeks of the season. What changed? Honestly, not much; his outside shot simply began to fall again. After shooting 1-for-10 from range the last three games, Mayo shot 6-for-9 tonight. He still shot an ugly 4-for-12 inside the arc; he takes too many pull up long twos that remind me of Vince Carter from last season. Mayo still has a lot of work to do; his defense is atrocious and his pick and roll game as the primary ball handler is poor for someone of his basketball IQ. Still though, when he’s shooting the ball like that, one has visions of Dirk wheeling, dealing, and kicking to an open Mayo for three.
- A healthy round of applause for Elton Brand (17 points, 12 rebounds) is in order. While its exciting to see Mayo shoot well, seeing Brand hit those 10 to 15 foot jump shots was such a relief. Last season Brand shot a fantastic 45% clip from that section of the floor and was a big reason many were initially so excited to pair him with Dirk who would, in theory, open up the floor for Brand the way he has for so many others. Prior to tonight’s game though, Brand has shot an absurd 23% from that range. Tonight Brand hit three shots in that area and it forced the Detroit defense to close out on him, thus opening the floor for his five makes at the rim.
- Brand’s confidence on offense bled over into his defense; his four blocks helped keep the momentum in favor of the Mavericks. Pairing him with Bernard James (six points, 3 rebounds) was a different look for Dallas in the second quarter. It’s probably a rare sight though, both Brand and James are around 6’9″ and Carlisle was looking to steal minutes while Chris Kaman was in foul trouble.
- The Mavs shot eight free throws, making five, yet managed to win by 15. The power of the three point shot (Dallas went 11-for-25 from downtown) combined with an opponent who had trouble finding the bottom of the net (Detroit shot 34% from the field) can result in some strange statistics. Dallas cannot rely on the deep ball and needs to make a point to get to the line more often.
- The Derek Fisher (two points, three assists) got off to a quiet statistical start. However, he made an impact with a number of decisive passes out of the pick and roll which Dallas had been missing. He seemed to work particularly well with Shawn Marion (seven points, nine rebounds, four assists), who played a fair amount of power forward due to the aforementioned Kaman foul trouble.
- Bringing in Fisher seemed to have an interesting effect on Darren Collison (eight assists, no turnovers) who played angry and played with a purpose. It was his first game since November 16th without a turnover. I expect he takes back the starting role at some point; Carlisle needs to send the message that on this Dallas Mavericks team nothing is given and everything is earned.
- There are still plenty of teaching moments with this squad; halfway into the third Collison took a pull up three pointer early in the shot clock. It rimmed out badly and the Pistons pushed the ball on the break and scored. Carlisle immediately called a time out and loudly yelled “What the heck was that?!” (He did not say heck). Collison was displeased at getting called out so vocally; he seems to grate a bit under Carlisle’s coaching, which is odd given his pedigree.
- It’s really delightful to see Vince Carter (12 points, five assists) thrive the way he has in the Dallas offense this year. All six of his shots were from beyond the arc tonight, and he hit four. This opened up lanes towards the bucket and because Detroit seemed to block every other shot at the rim during half court offensive sets (they had seven for the game), Carter was able to find open Mavs when he drove, and racked up five assists in only 21 minutes of action. This is an ideal Vince Carter game for Dallas.
- Though Dallas shot poorly (40% for the evening), that they assisted 28 of 38 made field goals is fantastic. No player, save Russell Westbrook, can move as fast as the ball. Crisp ball movement is incredibly important for the Mavs to get into a rhythm. Finding the open man instead of settling for long contested jumpers or forced shots at the rim is how Dallas can score points in a hurry even without their offensive centerpiece.
- Chris Kaman (10 points, nine rebounds) might have been in for a big game if it weren’t for some foul trouble. He insisted on taking shots at the rim and not settling for mid range shots in the first quarter. He wasn’t really able to re-establish a rhythm in the second half, but with O.J. Mayo setting the world on fire he didn’t have to.
- Despite the final margin, this game stood a chance of getting out of hand the other direction. The Mavs were down by 11 at one point and the Pistons, particularly Greg Monroe, simply could not buy a basket at the rim. Monroe shot a woeful 4-of-17 from the field and every single shot he took was in the paint. Had a few more of those fallen early, this game could have been a much different story.
- The defensive effort in the third and fourth quarters were lead by Brand and Jae Crowder (four points, three steals). Crowder, in particular, played excellent post defense on Monroe and his defensive energy was a catalyst for the Mavericks dominating the fast break point differential (+22 for Dallas). However, there still needs to be some analysis done on Crowder’s offensive decision making. He was 1-for-8 from the field tonight and his three point shot selection in particular is concerning. He’s mostly open on those shots, but he’s open for a reason. He needs to take the ball to the basket in an attempt to draw contact or hit another open Maverick for a jump shot. The free throw line extended threes are of a particular concern as they rim out so badly when they are off that it often leads to a fast break opportunity for the opposing team.
- Is Brandan Wright in Carlisle’s dog house? Tonight was his third “DNP-Coach’s Decision” in the last four games. Since the overtime loss to the Bobcats, he’s not seen action in four of the last nine games and has only seen 44 minutes of playing time in those five games.
- It’s easy to become frustrated with Dallas, particularly with the way they’ve played in some of the blowout losses. They’ve tried every rotation combination possible. The team has shot the ball horribly at times. Rebounds are a huge issue, as are turnovers. Yet the team is missing it’s best player, is incorporating six to eight new players into the rotation, is playing two second round rookies significant minutes, and is only one game under .500 in the Western conference. Impressive, really.
Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.