Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
If you’re anything like me, this week for the Mavs didn’t “feel” very good. They got rocked by the Thunder (a team they have consistently played very close in years past, even when the Thunder are much more talented), which left a dark underscore on an otherwise successful week. And objectively speaking, it was a successful week: when you’re the 2012-2013 Mavs and you’re several games below .500, a 2-1 week is success. Relatively speaking, anyway.
1) Shawn Marion
Since Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup, people have suggested that it’s very difficult for him, less than two years removed from an NBA title, to suddenly be surrounded by this current cast of Mavericks. That’s probably true. But if that’s true of Dirk, it’s also undoubtedly true of Shawn Marion, the other remaining rotation player from the Mavs’ 2011 title team. If Marion is carrying that disappointment, though, he’s not showing it on the court. Every night, the man affectionately known as The Matrix is playing his tail off for the blue and white, and his numbers this week show it. He started the week by dropping a double-double in his former stomping grounds in Phoenix (12 points, 11 rebounds); in Oklahoma City, he contributed 23 points on 10-of-14 (71%) shooting and also blocked two shots; finally, against Portland last night, he notched yet another double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), his 11th of the season. And of course, all those stats accompany Marion’s usual, well-above-average individual defense. Glasses up to the Matrix — a true pro’s pro.
2) Vince Carter
For obvious reasons, I don’t have quite the same sentiment for Vince Carter as I do for Marion. Still, many of the things I said above about Marion also apply to VC. His shot selection still drives me batty, but between his leadership, his unwavering effort, and his ability the create his own shot, VC has become an integral piece of this Mavs roster. His performance this week showed exactly why the Mavs have been (and will remain) hesitant to trade him. He scored 17 points on 5-of-10 (50%) shooting Phoenix, including seven in the decisive fourth quarter. He sat out the Oklahoma City game with an illness, but he returned for the Portland game and came out swinging: 17 points, 7-of-15 (47%) shooting, 3-of-6 (50%) from three-point range, three rebounds, and three assists. Other than his still-too-quick trigger finger on long-range shots, I very much like what Carter has brought to the table of late.
3) Fourth Quarters
Over three games this week, the Mavs won the fourth quarter by an average of almost eight points. Now, in fairness, one of those fourth-quarter “wins” came solely because the Thunder were beating the Mavs by so much, the entire last frame was garbage time. But even in the Mavs’ two competitive games, they were the superior team late. They outscored Phoenix 35-24 in the fourth. In doing so, they shot 50% in the quarter, won the rebounding battle 12-5, dished out seven assists, and turned the ball over just once. That last point is probably the most significant, given the Mavs’ penchant this year for hilarious turnover antics. Against Portland last night, the Mavs took the final frame 25-17. They didn’t shoot especially well (just 42% in the fourth), but they held the Blazers to an abysmal 30%, won the rebounding battle 13 to 12, and dished out seven more assists to just two turnovers. In doing so, the Mavs beat a Blazers team that has been among the best in the league at winning close games. Quite the role reversal from a week ago at the Rose Garden, no?
1) Mike James
This week, Mike James shot 1-of-11 (9%) and had almost as many turnovers as assists.
That’s all I’m going to say. Next item.
2) Backcourt Defense
Opposing guards had a veritable field day against the Mavs this week. Here are some selected statlines. Goran Dragic: 19 points, 7-of-14 (50%) shooting, nine assists, eight boards. Jared Dudley: 17 points, 7-of-12 (58%) shooting. Shannon Brown: 20 points, 7-of-11 (64%) shooting. Russell Westbrook: 24 points, 8-of-16 (50%) shooting, seven assists. Kevin Martin: 17 points, 7-of-12 (58%) shooting, a whopping +31 raw plus-minus. Wesley Matthews: 21 points, 7-of-16 (44%) shooting, 5-of-12 (42%) from deep. Damian Lillard also would have made this list after his 15-point first half last night, but the Mavs essentially took him out of the game after halftime, so let’s give credit where it’s due. Also, these stats should come with the caveat that some opponents are going to score in every NBA game, so we can’t necessarily be too despondent when opposing guards score between 20 and 30 points and shoot fairly well. Those caveats aside, though, the backcourt defense needs to be better than it was this week. As usual, time to hit the film room.
3) The Standings
With this item, I don’t just mean that the Mavs’ place in the standings is “cold” — I mean that it’s frozen. (Are you glad I didn’t use the improper phrase “literally frozen” there, as is so very tempting?) About a week ago, the Mavs were 11th in the West standings and five games back from the eighth-place Rockets. Where are the Mavs now? In the exact same position — 11th place, five games back from the eighth-place Rockets. Despite going 2-1 on the week, the Mavs effectively failed to gain any ground in the playoff race. And in fact, they are slightly worse off than a week ago–a recent Lakers surge (well, a “surge” by the Lakers’ 2013 standards) has given them a two-game buffer over the Mavs.
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.