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 could easily be called “The Brandan Wright Game” (23 points on 11 for 16 shooting, eight rebounds). Though his best offensive game as a Maverick was exciting to watch, I remain impressed by his growth as a help defender and rebounder. Early in the season he would challenge anything within 15 feet of the bucket, often leaving his man for the offensive rebound. Wright’s much more selective in his challenges as of late, and it has helped improved the Maverick’s rebounding ability. His on ball defense has improved as well. In the fourth quarter, Wright made a brilliant strip/steal of Jeff Green on a fast break attempt that he passed to Darren Collison as he was falling out of bounds. Collison drove the length of the floor for a pull up jumper. That strip/steal is not a play Brandan Wright makes at the start of the season.
- Considering how hard I’ve been on the shot selection of Mike James this year, I feel it’s important to note that this may have been his best game as a facilitator of the offense. Though he recorded only six assists (and one turnover) in his 25 minutes, he drove the lane looking to pass instead of shoot and many Mavericks, particularly Vince Carter, couldn’t seem to convert the nice set ups provided by James. Hopefully, the pass-first Mike James is here to stay for the remainder of the season.
- Though Coach Rick Carlisle downplayed Dirk Nowitzki’s small number of shot attempts over the last three games, the Dallas announcers made it a point of discussion throughout the first half. Though it’s good that something as basic as shots doesn’t become an issue in the locker room, the Maverick players seemed to respond to the rumblings, looking to actually get their best player the ball. Dirk had 11 field goal attempts in the first half and finished with 22 points and seven rebounds.
- The Vince Carter circus was in full effect against the Celtics, as he took and made a few shots that only a player of his talent can make. Arguably, his best play was a miss in the fourth quarter. Carter drove from the right side, faded towards the middle of the lane and in an attempt to draw contact he threw the ball up on the rim. It took a number of bounces and came off the left side of the rim. None of the Celtics bothered to box Brandan Wright out, who swooped in from the left side of the base line, caught the ball as it was coming down and emphatically dunked the ball as three Boston defenders looked on in frustration.
- Though it feels silly to point this out every time it happens, some instances are so egregious they must be discussed. On the final Maverick possession of the third quarter, Darren Collison and Dirk ran a high screen and roll with Collison driving left. Collison stopped just past the elbow for a great shot fake, which got his man up in the air and pulled Dirk’s man in his direction. At this point, Dirk was at the top of the key with no one within five feet of him. Collison has to see him and pass him the ball. Instead, he missed a long jumper. That play is why Darren Collison will not be a starting point guard in the NBA. You have to know where your best player is and what his strengths are at all times.
- In July of 2009 I remember being thrilled at the signing of Shawn Marion (the best free agent signing of the Dirk Nowitzki era). I also remember thinking that there was no way he’d be effective or worth his salary by 2013-2014. Now? Outside of Dirk’s he is the second most important Maverick. Against the Celtics, he put up 11 points and 13 rebounds, five of them offensive. Dallas went 5-3 in his absence, yet one can reasonably wonder how his presence would have changed the two close losses to the Spurs and Thunder. Is he worth $10 million next season? I’m glad I don’t have to assign a monetary value to his contributions because they’ve been nearly priceless the last four years.
- Watching Avery Bradley play man to man defense is incredible. I’d like to think that every basketball player can be taught to play defense in this fashion but the truth is what Bradley does is a gift. Watching his feet and the angles he takes on ball handlers, it’s clear Bradley is operating on a different defensive plane.
- Marion’s return meant at least one Maverick would be seeing less floor time. That ended up being Jae Crowder, who had played admirable basketball over the last eight games. That said, Crowder would be best served by being locked in a room all summer with game tape of Shawn Marion and early career Josh Howard. Crowder is an athletic specimen who is also pretty good at basketball. Unfortunately, he doesn’t use his athletic gifts near enough on the offensive end, often content to stand and shoot. Shawn Marion’s simple baseline cut and dunk off of a Mike James pass in the first quarter is a prime example of a basic basketball play that Crowder could make if he learned to better move without the basketball.
- On Thursday, Andy Tobolowsky at Mavs Moneyball wrote “AAC welcomes home one of its best, one of its brightest. The hero, the personality. The only guy who never knew, no matter the circumstances, that the game, the Mavericks, the dream of a ring were over years ago. Jason Terry, the only one of us who turned out to be right.” As the season has marched on, one thing that’s occasionally missing from the Mavericks seems to be confidence. Too often, Dallas tightens up when the game gets close late. Terry gave the Mavericks, and all of us, the belief that they could and would come through in any situation.
- Elton Brand received his first “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” of the season against the Celtics. As TMG’s own Bryan Gutierrez notes, Carlisle is not above sending a message to his players, as he’s done time and again with literally the entire team. Brand’s had a rough go as of late, and this is hopefully just Carlisle’s way of letting Brand know he demands more. Expect Brand to respond well the next time he gets an opportunity.
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.