You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- The strategic decision to double team Chris Paul late in the fourth quarter (33 points, seven turnovers) stifled Paul at the perfect moment for Dallas. Starting with a jumper over Mike James at the 4:13 mark in the fourth, Paul put on a one-man 6-0 run to pull the Clippers from down 87-90 to up 93-90 in just 79 seconds. By doubling Paul early in the shot clock, Dallas effectively shut down any semblance of offense for Los Angeles. The other Clippers looked unsure what to do offensively and the result was three contested three pointers that would not fall, giving Dallas a chance to get back into the game after Paul’s momentum shifting run.
- In a refreshing return to form, Dallas insisted on going to Dirk Nowtizki (33 points, nine rebounds) in both the fourth quarter and overtime. In those final two periods of basketball Dirk scored 15 points on a mere six shot attempts, getting to the line seven times. The concern over the Dallas guards and their inability to get the ball to Dirk is not an issue that will go away with one game, but seeing Darren Collison actively look to give Dirk the ball when he’s posting up hard is a welcome change.
- While the focus might be on O.J. Mayo’s impressive driving lay up to send the game into over time, his defensive efforts on Chris Paul at the end of the third and during the double teaming sequence of the fourth were fantastic. His length seemed to bother Paul much more than Mike James, Darren Collison, or even Shawn Marion, forcing Paul into a few uncharacteristic bad decisions. Oddly, coach Rick Carlisle gave Shawn Marion the assignment for the final Clipper regulation play (where Paul hit an incredible lay up at a nearly impossible angle), but I would’ve rather seen him stick with what had frustrated Paul in previous possessions.
- While I value Rick Carlisle immensely (see above with his choice to double Paul), he’s been very inflexible at times this season. Against the Clippers, his late game and overtime play calling nearly cost Dallas the game. The decision to run isolation plays for Vince Carter in the final minute of the fourth and the final minute of overtime defy logic, particularly in the overtime when Dirk had been unstoppable. Carter has been brilliant this season, but is at his best on catch and shoot threes and trying to get to the rim against the bench players of an opponent. Carlisle put Vince in situations did not necessarily play to his current strengths, particularly when the Mavericks have another potent final shot taker.
- The Mavericks started the third quarter in frustrating fashion, picking up four team fouls in under two minutes. After putting the Clippers into the bonus with nearly seven and a half minutes left in the quarter, it felt as if the game might get out of hand quickly for Dallas. However, the often foul-prone Mavericks only committed two more fouls the remainder of the period and managed to keep pace with a Clipper offense that is capable to putting up points quickly.
- The ever reliable Shawn Marion (four points, four turnovers) looked out of sync from the opening tip. Though it’s surely not a trend, it was bizarre to see how off Shawn Marion was with his timing. As he’s aged and lost aspects of his athleticism, his game has shifted more towards anticipation and understanding of the game. He misplaced passes on offense, mistimed jumps on rebounds, and was surprisingly ineffective on defense. That the Mavericks won without a strong Marion contribution is fantastic, but I remain shocked at how out of sorts Marion looked against the Clippers.
- Center by committee won out again, with Brandan Wright and Elton Brand chipping in a combined 19 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks . With Dirk both missing games and taking time to round into form, it was a clear challenge for the coaching staff to determine which players work in a given situation with such a limited sample size of data. I remain shocked that a Wright-Nowitzki front court has worked reasonably well defensively. That all of these pieces are coming together at all is a testament to the players and the coaching staff. It’s is also a lesson for fans just how important chemistry is and how long it can take to build.
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.