The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 111, Orlando Magic 96

Posted by Kirk Henderson on February 21, 2013 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Rabbit in Hat

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.

  • With 2:03 in the third quarter and Dallas down 79-73, Darren Collison took a three point shot which rebounded badly off of the front of the rim. Vince Carter made an attempt at a tip out and Shawn Marion and J.J. Redick chased the rebound past half court. Marion saved the ball from going out, slapping it towards an open O.J. Mayo. Oddly, Mayo did not react to the ball bouncing towards him. Jameer Nelson hustled and beat Mayo to the ball and passed to a cutting Redick for a lay in. Somehow, Mayo recovered defensively and blocked Redick’s lay up attempt. Mayo grabbed the rebound, drove the length of the floor and found Carter for an ally-oop dunk. This play, and the following Carter three pointer, brought the momentum back to Dallas in a game they could not afford to lose.
  • I rewound and watched this particular sequence five times. As delightful as the end result was, that Mayo was even beaten to the ball by Nelson is inexcusable. Mayo was closer, but made no attempt to get the ball. The Maverick announcing crew made no mention of this initial lack of effort and I wonder if they would have had Redick converted the lay in. Though the narrative will be “O.J Mayo’s effort saved the day” and it did, apparently Dirk pointed out post game that Mayo should’ve gotten to the ball before Nelson. In a way, it felt like the O.J. Mayo experience in a nutshell: unbelievable poor decision making followed by a high light reel play.
  • Vince Carter had a season high assist night, dishing eight out in a mere 26 minutes and only posting one turnover. His best assist occurred in the fourth quarter: Carter stole an outlet after an Orlando rebound and whipped a behind the back pass to Shawn Marion for a dunk.
  • The Mavericks have the league’s worst point differential in the first six minutes of a game this season. An emphasis on getting off to a good start was an apparent sticking point during all star break practices. The Mavericks answered the call, outscoring Orlando 22-14 in the first six plus minutes and scored 51 points in the first 15 minutes of game action.
  • On Tuesday, Grantland’s Zach Lowe mentioned Darren Collison’s atrocious defense, saying Collison is “lost on defense, prone to confusion and especially to veering way off course negotiating picks. Point guard defense matters, and Collison’s is a big net negative.” Early in the season it felt as if the main Maverick problem was the lack of a solid rim protector (and because I pine for Tyson Chandler). As the season has progressed it’s become glaringly obvious that the Maverick back court would have a hard time staying in front of a bolted down park bench. Orlando is not a good basketball team and that the Mavericks had trouble stopping their penetration all night long is really concerning.
  • Elton Brand (17 points on 6 of 9 shooting) showed his value repeatedly against the Magic. His shot making abilities bolster the Dallas offense, particularly on nights when the Big German’s shot won’t fall. At the end of the first quarter, he scored on three straight possessions: a face up jumper from the left block, a driving lay up after facing up on the same block, and a fall away jumper from the free throw line. His lift may be limited, but in the right situations he can carve up a defense.
  • For some reason, I felt Chris Kaman looked like a giant substitute history teacher with his bench wardrobe. Get well soon, Mr. Kaman.
  • During the week long break, I spent a fair amount of time watching Dirk Nowitzki highlights from the 2011 title run.  To call him a different player now is a mild understatement. The level of explosive strength in his legs simply isn’t there in his moves this season. That’s an obvious side effect of his knee surgery, but it’s also been two seasons without a training camp for Nowitzki. Dirk hasn’t been ready to play in a way that he’d be satisfied with since the summer of 2011. It’s clear in the way he’s shooting, and while he looked better before the all star break, a 4 for 13 shooting night for 12 points is not a the kind of game Dallas can get from Dirk if they expect to make any sort of run for the final playoff spot.
  • Mike James (12 points, four assists) received back up point guard minutes and his numbers were solid. I think we’d all prefer Roddy Beaubois at this point, mainly because decent statistical nights like this one seem to bolster the confidence Jones has in himself. Prior to the game against Orlando, Jones was shooting a dreadful 26.9% from the field.
  • Case and point with Collison’s defense happened with 3:29 in the first quarter. Jameer Nelson saw Collison open himself up defensively as he anticipated a high screen.  Nelson simply drove to the basket, right past a bewildered Collison. Shawn Marion had to leave his man and rotate to the driving Nelson, who passed to a wide open DeQuan Jones for a dunk.
  • The rare jump shot from Brandan Wright (eight points, eight rebounds) is something to see. He jumps very high and when he took and made one in the forth quarter on the right baseline, the ball nearly went out of the TV camera’s range, so high was his shot arc.
  • One of the simplest defensive principles when trying to stop fast break is this: you must make the ball handler make a decision. With five minutes in the first, Shawn Marion grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. He was facing a three on two with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo on the wings. Oddly, the two Magic defenders stuck with Mayo and Collison, never forcing Marion to do so much as alter his direction. Marion drove the length of the floor and finished with a monstrous dunk.
  • Dirk has been reduced to a jump shooter this season. His shots tonight all came within the flow of the Dallas offense, but the offense doesn’t seem to end up with Dirk getting the ball, back to the basket, in his former sweet spots. It’s unclear to me whether this is by design, a matter of the Dallas guards being unable to make entry passes, or if Dirk isn’t working for the ball the way he used to. Against the Magic, Dirk did not take a single shot closer than 12 feet from the rim.
  • Watching J.J. Redick move without the ball is entertaining. There wasn’t a single Maverick assigned to him tonight that had much success at all in staying in front of him. His career numbers compared to O.J. Mayo are not that different, but Mayo could learn a thing or two from Redick about how to get the most out of his talent.
  • This recap seems overly negative for a game Dallas won by 15. It was a close game from the 2nd quarter until the 5 minute mark of the fourth, when Carter hit a three to push the Dallas lead up to seven points. Within three and a half minutes the lead ballooned up to 18 points. This late game 14-0 run masked a number of problems which aren’t going away for the Mavericks.

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.


  • Matt Hulme

    I agree with most of your assessment. This should not have been a competitive game like it became after the way the Mavs opened it up early on if they’re truly of playoff caliber.

    That said, at this point a win is a win, and it puts us one step closer to that mythical beard-shaving .500 mark.

    While Dirk has not at all looked his old self and his knees are clearly at the moment more fit for someone twenty years his senior, Nowitzki is still a great facilitator, on-ball screener, and pick-and-roll machine (if the guards can ever figure out how to utilize it correctly), and the Mavs’ offense is clearly better with Dirk on the court rather than off. Our starters/bench can operate with great efficiency in stretches without the Big German, but he’s essential now to any hope going forward, even if it’s only at 80% of his abilities.

    On a plus note, for a stretch that keeps on lengthening and keeps on defying the laws of age and gravity, Vinsanity has made an epic resurgence of late, posting a ludicrous offensive efficiency that I’m not sure Carter has ever previously obtained, though obviously at a much lower quantity than his Raptor prime. I hope to see it continue, because now that it’s pretty obvious we’re sticking to the horse we rode in on, Carter’s continued offensive success and unexpectedly infectious attitude in-games might be as important to the Mavs’ 2013 fortunes as Dirk’s continued recovery.

    …Or the Mavs could be punching their lottery ticket a week from now.

    • Rolando Quesada

      I don’t suppose you think Dirk can get back to his 2011 form with proper training? Or has father time begun his descent from elite to “just very very good”?

  • David Hopkins

    Great recap as always. Well done, Kirk. I was at the game last night. I had seats in the lower level, which is a rarity, but I loved it.

    “Dirk pointed out post game that Mayo should’ve gotten to the ball before Nelson.”

    I watched the video of this play about ten times. And I don’t know if Dirk is correct. Nelson was running straight at the ball, while O.J. had to stop, then pivot, and speed up to the ball. Nelson was moving at a faster clip. O.J. slightly hesitated at the last split second to grab the ball. But if he didn’t, they would’ve collided and someone would’ve gotten injured. In that brief moment, it was a game of chicken. O.J. lost, but it was the right move in my opinion. No sense in colliding over the loose ball and having it go loose again in an open court with more Magic player approaching. Mayo recovered, got the ball back, great tip/rebound, and a great play.

    (Can this count for my column this week? I’m just a day away from finishing my Larry Brown story, and then I can return to the world of Two Man Game.)

    • Kirk Henderson

      Im exceptionally anti-Dallas back court at the moment. Its not that they are bad, but neither player is an asset moving forward to me. Neither has gotten any better.

  • Rolando Quesada

    Great read. Sad about Dirk’s fading offensive ability. If he’s not driving and drawing falls, we’re SOL in the short and long term.

  • FromWayDowntown

    I want to point out that Collison is atrociously bad at making entry passes. One of the reasons why Miami was able to uberagressively front Hibbert in last years play-offs was the fact that Collison wasn’t able to entry the pass either quickly or precisely. He can score but nothing else.