Thermodynamics: Week 9

Posted by Travis Wimberly on December 28, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

[Ed. note: All statistics in this post do not reflect Thursday night's game against the Thunder — which will be accounted for in next week's column.]

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

Here’s a picture representing the Mavs’ performance this week.

Here’s another one.

And another.

Ok, last one.

Just kidding, one more.

The Mavs had a truly awful week — perhaps  their worst in years. They went 0-3, had an average point differential of -21 (which easily could have been worse), and weren’t remotely competitive in two of their three outings.

On the other hand, the schedule was incredibly tough, and it’s not as though one bad week means it’s time to disband the team and ship off all non-essential personnel to Siberia. See, that’s called silver lining. And you’re about to see even more of it as I attempt to somehow glean three hot performances from this week.

Week 9 (Heat, @Grizzlies, @Spurs)

FIRE

1) Dirk’s Recovery

Horrifying as it was, the Mavs’ 2.5-hour beatdown at the hands of the Spurs wasn’t a wholly awful experience. A bit before the game in San Antonio, the Mavs revealed that Dirk Nowitzki would be making a surprise return from knee surgery. Dirk’s return wasn’t enough to prevent the Mavs from being run out of the Spurs’ glorified metal barn gym, but it was still a welcome sight. And Dirk actually performed fairly well in limited minutes off the bench: 8 points on 3-of-4 (75%) shooting and 6 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. As Dirk gets back into game shape, the Mavs will start looking like a much different team than they have for the past two months. Maybe it will be enough to make a late playoff push, maybe it won’t. Either way, the big German is back. Praise deity.

2) Darren Collison

Like I said before, this week’s hot list will be an exercise in looking beyond the box score. Mavs guard Darren Collison was hardly terrific, and he actually missed most of the Memphis game with an unspecified illness. But compared to the team at large, Collison actually absolved himself fairly well this week. He averaged just 8.67 points per game but shot a cumulative 10-of-18 (56%) and had a 2:1 assist-turnover ratio. Further, Collison managed to produce pretty well despite a constantly shifting role in the rotation, starting at PG the first two games and then coming off the bench to spell surprise starter Dominique Jones in the third. Collison still isn’t performing consistently to his potential — potential we saw realized in the first few games of this season — but with the Mavs suddenly waiving Derek Fisher, Collison will have yet another chance to show that he’s a long-term piece at PG.

3) My Seat in San Antonio

On Sunday night, I hopped in the car with several friends and rode down to San Antonio for the Mavs-Spurs game. Two of those friends are dedicated Spurs fans (although one likes this team even more than the Spurs). Needless to say, my MFFL compatriots and I didn’t walk out of the AT&T Center with many bragging rights. We had a good time, but I spent most of the game planted firmly in my seat.  My opportunities to stand and cheer were few and far between (although—and I can neither confirm nor deny this—a friend and I may have given the Mavs an extended standing ovation for finally cracking the 60-point barrier late in the third quarter). Such is the nature of a road game in which the opponent makes six thousand threes.

ICE

1) OJ Mayo

Mavs fans have spent much of this season singing the praises of OJ Mayo. And those praises have certainly been well-deserved. But unfortunately, when the Mavs have needed him most of late, Mayo has failed to deliver against quality competition. Mayo shot 3-of-14 (21%) against Miami, 3-of-11 (27%) in his return to Memphis, and 3-of-8 (38%) in San Antonio. He averaged 4.0 APG, but also averaged just as many turnovers. Over the past ten days, Mayo has dropped from eighth to fifteen among the league’s top scorers. In theory, Dirk’s return makes Mayo’s scoring less important, but with the other problems across the Mavs’ roster, both guys need to score efficiently for the Mavs to have any chance of turning this season around.  Fortunately, Mayo has the talent and, by all accounts, the work ethic to make that happen. Let’s hope he does.

2) Team Defense

Here are some numbers to chew on: 110.3, 50.0%, 115.7. That’s opponent’s PPG, opponent’s FG%, and opponent’s ORtg for this week. Across the board, the Mavs had an exceptionally bad week on the defensive end. They didn’t defend the paint, where the Heat netted 50 points. They didn’t control the defensive glass, where the Grizzlies pulled down 17 rebounds. And they certainly didn’t defend the three-point line, where the Spurs shot 20-of-30 (67%) for a team record in threes made. On the season, the Mavs now rank 29th in opponent’s PPG (102.5), 21st in DRtg (106.6), and 15th in opponent’s FG% (45%). It’s been years since the Mavs were nearly so ineffective on defense, and those squads were Don Nelson groups that counterbalanced their defensive deficiencies with terrific offense. After the “game” in San Antonio, Rick Carlisle stressed selflessness, trust, and communication. Starting Thursday in Oklahoma City, we’ll see whether his message got across.

3) Everything Else

Let’s just use this spot as a catch-all. If it’s not listed above, pretty much everything else about the Mavs this week was either subpar or terrible (with maybe an exception or two, like Bernard James’s performance against the Heat). If you can name it, it was probably poor. Shooting? Poor. Rebounding? Poor. Turnovers? Poor. Defense? See above. Let’s just wash our hands of this week and move on to the next one. Even if the Mavs go winless again, it’s hard to imagine they won’t improve from last week’s showing in some form or fashion.

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.