Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Welcome to Thermodynamics: Post All-Star Weekend Edition. What does that mean? It means the Mavs had only one game this week, which renders pretty meaningless a weekly hot-cold column like this one (yeah, okay, this column is always meaningless; I see you, wise guy).
Instead of making this a hot-cold column exclusively about the Mavs-Magic game, let’s also expand into some of the fun off-court shenanigans going on in the world of ball.
Week 17 (Mavs v. Magic, All-Star game, trade deadline)
Vince Carter’s run at the end of the third quarter against Orlando last night caused one of the most intense and sudden momentum shifts you’ll ever see in an NBA game. The Mavs had been lethargic for the entire frame, were already down six points, and looked like they might be on the path toward a home blowout loss. Then OJ Mayo makes a huge hustle play to block a JJ Redick layup, and Carter scored on an alley-oop dunk four seconds later.
Four seconds. That’s all it took. From that point on, the Mavs dominated the game. Carter hit two more threes to end the quarter, and that was pretty much all she wrote. The Mavs dominated the fourth (complete with a totally gratuitous spinning-dance-move-assist-into-celebratory-arm-gesture pass from Carter to Marion), and the Magic walked off the court with a 15-point loss.
Carter also left his mark this week on an event where he wasn’t even present. During Saturday night’s dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, eventual champion Terrence Ross donned Carter’s old Toronto Raptors jersey and threw down a beautiful windmill dunk. Given that the Mavs had no players participating in All-Star festivities for the first time in two decades, it was a nice treat to see a current Mav represented in some capacity (actually, it was two Mavs — Dahntay Jones, live and in the flesh, assisted with one of Jeremy Evans’ dunks as well). And hey, old man Carter can still ball a bit.
2) The Playoff Race
This is it. The all-star break is over, and the Mavs have less than two months to jockey into playoff position. As of this morning, they are 11th in the West and 4.5 games back of the eight-place Rockets. What’s more, they can’t just catch the Rockets; they also have to pass, and stay in front of, both the Lakers and the Blazers. It won’t be easy — at an absolute minimum, the Mavs will need to go 17-12 over their final 29 games (which would put them at a final record of 41-41). And that’s being very generous. So, buckle up. It’s time.
On a one-game sample size, the Mavs offense sure does look elite. This week, it averaged 111 points per game in…well, one game. Seriously though, it may have just been the poor competition, but the offense did look very fluid for large stretches of the game (the entire first and fourth quarters, and the end of the third). The Mavs also finished the evening with 32 assists. Beyond that, the addition of Anthony Morrow via trade yesterday should heat up the Mavs’ bench offense; Morrow was the only rookie in NBA history to lead the league in three-point percentage (46.7% in 2008-2009), and he is one of the league’s most efficient scorers on spot-up jumpers. The farther away, the better (well, to a point…although I would be amused to watch him just heave shots from half court every possession).
1) Defending…without Fouling
I wrote recently that the Mavs are the second-worst team in the league at sending their opponents to the line. That trend continued last night. From the box score alone, it may not seem that bad—just 22 free throws for the Magic. Not great, not terrible. But the Magic are the worst team in the league at getting to the line; they get there just 15.8 times per game. The Magic easily exceeded that average last night, and they did so on the Mavs’ home court. This likely isn’t going to change this season. The Mavs lack for capable perimeter defenders, and they lack a defensive paint anchor (Elton Brand comes closest, but he’s not particularly athletic, and he doesn’t play for half the game), to boot. That’s a recipe for conceding free throws. The Mavs play a lot of quality free-throw shooting teams to close out the season. Watch out; we could be looking at a lot of three-hour games where the opponent heads to the line 35+ times.
2) All-Star Shenanigans
For reasons already mentioned, this was the least interested I’d been in an All-Star Weekend for several years. For a decade-plus, it’s been a treat to watch Dirk Nowitzki go out and play on the same team with other Hall of Famers like Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant — even if the game was meaningless. We didn’t get that this year. We didn’t get trade rumors, like in 2008 when Jason Kidd was dealt to the Mavs. We didn’t get a three-point contest competitor (and winner), like Dirk in 2006. We didn’t get amusing Dirk presser soundbites, like….well, pretty much every year since Dirk has been an all-star. The weekend still carries appeal as the third-biggest basketball event of the year (behind the NBA playoffs and the NCAA men’s tournament), but without a Mavs hook, it’s just not quite the same.
3) Trade Rumors at the Deadline
Yesterday morning, we started to hear winds that the Mavs had interested in then-Buck Beno Udrih. Prior to that, we’d heard loose rumblings linking Dallas to Josh Smith. But beyond those two rumors and the trade for Morrow, we didn’t hear much else. As is usually the case with the Mavs, most of their internal trade discussions never get out into the media. On the one hand, it can be frustrating as a fan, because it creates the illusion that the front office isn’t really doing…anything. But on the other hand, this is exactly how trade negotiations should proceed — secretly, until the last possible moment. In a sensitive arms-length negotiation, any information that gets out into the public sphere is a risk. You risk losing leverage; you risk losing the other party’s confidence and trust; you risk relationships with other potential parties in the future, who may worry that you’re prone to letting sensitive information out where it doesn’t belong. For the most part, the Mavs handle their trades the right way. Still, the silence can be deafening, especially to the impassioned fan.
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.