The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 113, Minnesota Timberwolves 98

Posted by Kirk Henderson on January 15, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment


Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • This is the second straight opponent the Mavericks have beaten on the second night of a back-to-back. The tired legs of the Minnesota Timberwolves were evident from their shooting (41%), and as the game wore on, the Wolves simply couldn’t keep up with the constant pressure of the Mavericks both offensively and defensively (Dallas forced 15 turnovers). However, the poor shooting created lots of offensive rebounds for the league’s best rebounding team, which was the main reason this game was relatively close in the fourth quarter.
  • Of course, a great way to combat giving up 20 offensive rebounds is to shoot nearly 60% from the field as Dallas did.
  • The ball moves faster via pass than through the dribble, which enabled the Mavericks to keep the Wolves’ defense off-balance all night long with crisp ball movement to the tune of 33 assists on 46 made field goals.
  • The offense of Elton Brand (20 points on 10-for-13 shooting) is no longer hesitant. After posting a shooting percentage in the high 30′s for October and November due to his shot often falling short, Brand has been incredibly consistent. Looking at his shot location against the Wolves, one finds that nearly all of Brand’s makes came from his sweet spots at the 10-to-18 foot mark. Coincidentally, over the 10 previous games, Brand has shot 73% from this range.
  • A particularly brilliant example of ball movement leading to a wide open shot happened in the third quarter. Chris Kaman received the ball from O.J. Mayo on the left side of the floor after a pick and roll. Kaman drove baseline but did not have a decent shot opportunity. He found an open Jae Crowder in the opposite corner and Crowder immediately passed it to an open Darren Collison on the right wing. This forced Crowder’s man to rotate to close out on Collison. Then Collison used a shot fake and took one dribble in before passing it back to an open Crowder for three.
  • The Mavericks finished the game scoring 31 points on fast breaks. Virtually all of this can be attributed to the tempo set by Darren Collison (23 points, nine assists), who pushed at every opportunity. But more impressive than his ability to push and probe were his decisions when passing while on the break. Often, it seems as if Collison gets so far ahead of his teammates on the break his only choice is to take a shot at the rim. Against the Wolves he found a variety of running mates which resulted in easy assists.
  • Brand did get help by way of some great passes tonight, mainly from Collison and Dirk Nowitzki (10 points, six assists). Previously, I’ve been critical of Collison’s ability to consistently make accurate passes. However, in the first quarter Collison made a few “pocket passes” to Brand after a pick and roll which were simply brilliant. Those feeds are incredibly hard to defend against if made correctly, and the threat of Collison’s dribble penetration coupled with an on-target pass meant a wide open jumper for Brand.
  • In pick-up basketball, you often see match ups where a smarter or more talented player simply takes advantage of another on the offensive and defensive end. J.J. Barea (21 points, five assists) was that guy against Roddy Beaubois. One can imagine the practice battles that went on between the two during Barea’s time in Dallas. In the first three minutes and four seconds of the second quarter, Barea hit two threes and a driving lay up on Beaubois. He also drew two fouls, one offensive and one defensive, in a span of two possessions.
  • The ball control of Dallas against the Wolves was particularly impressive through most of the game. Through three quarters, the Mavericks managed to turn the ball over only four times. While they also had five turnovers in the fourth, many of these were mental errors that occurred with little used line ups on the floor.
  • Dirk’s passing has also been a delight to watch. His shooting has been a very un-Dirk-like 42% for the year, but he’s made up for it in his ball movement. Over the last five games Dirk has averaged a little more than four assists per game. Against the Wolves, my favorite Dirk assist involved a Mayo-Dirk pick and roll which saw Dirk catch the ball in the short corner (baseline area between the lane and three point line) and whip a pass to a Chris Kaman as he dove down the lane for a lay-in.
  • The fast break chemistry between Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo (20 points, seven rebounds, eight assists) is exciting to watch. With a little over three minutes remaining in the third, Mayo got the ball from Brand off a Minnesota miss. Collison was further up the floor and ran to the corner, spacing the floor to give Mayo a chance to attack the rim if he wanted. Mayo hit the wide open Collison, which drew the attention of the defense, and Collison gave it back to Mayo and Mayo drilled the open three.
  • Nikola Pekovic (20 points, 12 rebounds) is a top-5 center in the NBA. If anyone has not seen Chris Kaman in person, let me assure you he is a large person. But Pekovic is simply massive. When you add his strength and frame to his really impressive offensive skill set, you get a special player. Most of the Timberwolves team looked tired, but Pek came ready to play and punished the Mavericks. He’s such a good space eater that he gets the Wolves extra possessions because the opposing team has to focus on boxing him out and his teammates find themselves in favorable rebounding match ups.
  • O.J. Mayo nearly racked up a triple double in a rather understated fashion. He took excellent shots, crashed the boards hard, and made great passes. The win over the Wolves marks six straight game where Mayo finished with a single turnover, despite playing an average of 36 minutes per game.
  • The off-ball movement from the Wolves is amazing to watch. Out of a timeout in the first quarter, the Wolves ran a play with Dante Cunningham and Nikola Pekovic at the elbows and the shooting guard and small forward on the wings. After Cunningham stepped out to the top of the key to receive the Ricky Rubio pass, Rubio cut down the lane. Pekovic drifted towards the basket to set a half-hearted screen to free Rubio. While Rubio circled back to the top of the key to receive a hand off and screen from Cunningham, Pekovic had sealed Elton Brand under the bucket. Brand had been forced to hedge slightly to make sure Rubio didn’t get wide open from the Pekovic screen and was thus out of position to play solid post defense. Rubio then made an easy pass to Pekovic from the top of the key for an easy lay in.
  • Vince Carter (10 points, four rebounds) made one of the tougher three-point shots I’ve seen this year. While dribbling away from the basket on the left wing, Carter used a screen to free himself and immediately shifted his body and drilled the shot. I call the shot difficult because when moving at the speed of an NBA player, the ability to be off balance and still get off a solid shot is difficult. Doing so while moving away from the basket is ratchets up the difficultly level immensely.
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.