The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 91, Oklahoma City Thunder 112

Posted by Kirk Henderson on February 5, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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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.

  • I spent most of the game watching and rewatching plays that involved O.J. Mayo (eight points, six assists). His five turnovers were inexcusable. After a rough stretch in December and a horrible game against Miami to start the year, Mayo seemed to get his turnovers under control. Over this road trip, however, he managed to turn the ball over just under four times a game. He started this game with a turnover when he didn’t see Kevin Durant in the passing lane on the game’s second possession. His final turnover occurred when he lost the ball on an out of bounds play. These turnover are due to lack of focus and when Mayo isn’t focused he really hurts the Mavericks.
  • There should be no question why Vince Carter was not traded recently to the Grizzlies during the Memphis-Toronto trade talks. He’s simply too important. Since Dallas does not seem to have a functional back up point guard, his passing ability is necessary to the Dallas bench. That he can get off a shot whenever he chooses is also vital. The offense bogged down with alarming regularity against the Thunder with no one able to get to the rim.
  • Dirk is now 11 for 41 from the field in the three games he’s played against the Thunder. It’s easy to read into this, though. The first game he shot 3 for 11, which was one of his first games back from his surgery. The second game Dirk shot 4 for 19, and still looked to be missing his legs. This third game he was forced to take a number of low percentages looks late in the shot clock because Dallas was having trouble getting any sort of clean look at the basket.
  • Bernard James set a new career high with four blocks to go along with his two points and six rebounds. His timing is really impressive.
  • The quiet dominance of Kevin Durant was on full display against Dallas. 19 points on 11 shots, 10 rebounds, and four assists in only 28 minutes of action. That he’s only 24 is simply unfair.
  • Not to continue to pick on Mayo, but his understanding of team defense is non-existent. In the second quarter he was guarding Kevin Martin (17 points) who was on the weak side wing. Kevin Durant was on the other wing, with the ball. Martin made a simple back cut and Durant found him wide open under the goal for a dunk. Mayo had no idea Martin had cut until it was way too late. A similar play happened a few possessions later when he got caught watching Durant. Thabo Sefolosha slipped behind Mayo and Durant found Sefolosha for a lay up which he missed. Mayo gets caught watching the ball a lot and as a result he’s often late on rotations, particularly when “helping the helper”. Helping the helper means rotating to a teammate’s defensive assignment when that teammate is forced to rotate elsewhere, often due to penetration.
  • In the first two match ups Darren Collison played very well, scoring 32 and 15 points respectively. Midway through the second quarter the Thunder opted to go very small, with Durant playing power forward. Durant switched onto Collison repeatedly during the Dallas high pick and roll action and shut down Collison, blocking his shot aggressivley on one possession. Between this and Russell Westbrook’s challenging defense, Collison stopped probing the lane early and the Dallas offense suffered.
  • Serge Ibaka (12 points, five rebounds) took and made his 8th three of the year. That’s a pretty good indication of how well the Thunder offense was clicking.
  • Mayo’s not the only one who needs a course in defensive awareness. In the second quarter Nick Collison was on the left wing being guarded by Dirk. Jae Crowder was guarding Kevin Durant, who was close to the left corner a few feet away. For some reason Crowder decided to leave Durant briefly  acting as if he was going to trap Nick Collison with Dirk. This was a really, really poor decision as Durant recognized what Crowder was thinking and cut to the basket. Collison threw a simple bounce pass between Dirk and Crowder which Durant caught and dunked it with a foul from Wright. It’s usually a good idea to not leave a MVP candidate wide open for a cut on the baseline.
  • Additionally, there was no way Brandan Wright was going to be able to block Durant as he slashed, mainly due to him being Durant, but also due to the angle Durant took to the basket. Wright has to be smarter than this. Either be in place earlier to challenge the shot better (unlikely since Wright seemed as surprised as everyone else that Durant was left open to cut) or just let the dunk go.
  • It’s interesting to watch how Darren Collison plays with contact. Against the Suns, he went into a zone late, scoring often in the fourth quarter, including one shot where he absorbed contact to finish a touch jumper. Against the Thunder he seemed to shy away from it and he missed three of his four attempts in the lane. One instance in third stands out: a posted up Dirk found a cutting Collison, who actively avoided contact in the paint and blew the layup/jump shot attempt.
  • Coach Carlisle opted to go with Mike James (two points, two turnovers) first when looking for back up point guard minutes. I cannot understand why. Mike James may offer value in a mentoring role, but I don’t see the downside of playing Roddy Beaubois (seven points, two assists). Carlisle tried James, then Dominique Jones (fifteen points) and finally gave Roddy a shot in the fourth.
  • The wealth of riches that is the Thunder bench borders on absurd. Reggie Jackson and Eric Maynor are excellent back up point options. Former number two over all pick Hasheem Thabeet is effective in limited minutes. Perry Jones was initially projected as a number one over all pick. Jeremy Lamb, who isn’t even with the team at the moment, has lottery level talent, should he ever develop. Daniel Orton, a former University of Kentucky player with John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, isn’t even able to get on the floor.
  • Dallas has an 8-19 record on the road. With 34 games yet to play this season, Dallas still has two extended road trips. Starting with the last game in February, the Mavericks play seven of eight on the road. They also have a four game during their last ten regular season games.
  • Watching how Westbrook attacks the rim is at once exhilarating and terrifying. His shot chart shows that he made it a point to get to the rim against Dallas, taking 10 of his 16 shots at the rim.
  • Outside of Bernard James, the main bright spot for Dallas was Shawn Marion’s 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting. He had everything working from the opening tip and even managed to hit a wing three, his third of the season. Strangely,  he’s hit all three of these shots in 2013 after not making any during the 2012 portion of the season.
  • The shot selection of Jae Crowder continues to confuse. Against the Thunder he shot 3 for 11, which is a little below his usual road field goal percentage of 31%. Eight of his 11 shots were well outside the paint, mostly in the 15 to 18 foot range. Beyond 10 feet, Crowder is shooting 33% for the year. I didn’t follow Crowder in college, but the stats-based community was excited to see him land in Dallas. I cannot imagine the role of jump shooting wing was the vision for him.
  • Strange that Dahntay Jones only saw eight minutes of action, all of it in garbage time. I assume Carlisle thought Crowder’s strength might have made a difference on Durant, but I would have liked to seen Jones get a crack at defending Durant. Jones comes with the added bonus that he doesn’t take as many maddening shots as Crowder does.
  • Part of why Brandan Wright (four points, seven rebounds) is a marginal player on the Dallas bench is his inability to set screens consistently in the pick and roll. Its not that he doesn’t want to, but his frame is so slight he does not provide any sort of obstacle when the Dallas opponent has athletic defenders. This was illistrated in the second quarter when O.J. Mayo and Wright tried to run a pick and roll three or four times. The Thunder hedge man was able to deter Mayo and the man guarding Mayo was able to step over Wright’s screen in no time. Finally, Mayo picked up his dribble and made an errant pass which Kevin Martin picked off.
  • There was technical assessed to Kendrick Perkins (seven points, seven rebounds) in the second quarter. Play had stopped due to a Dirk foul on Russell Westbrook. Perkins made a point to seek out and body up to Jae Crowder, who had apparently talked a little trash to Perkins after hitting a shot on the ensuing possession. Crowder talking trash was stupid itself, but for Perkins to decide it warranted him playing the tough guy and getting a technical foul is silly. Oklahoma City was up 25 at that point. I do understand not taking guff, but that was poor judgement.
  • Oddly enough, Dallas still has a 19.3% chance of making the playoffs this year according to the Hollinger Playoff Odds predictor.

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