You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Though his box score was not particularly impressive, the play of Chris Kaman (eight points, four rebounds) has set the tone for two straight games. Against the Nets he opened both halves with driving lay ups which seemed to catch their defense off guard. Prior to missing games with a concussion, Kaman had gone to his jump shot a bit too frequently, often at the expense of the flow of the Dallas offense. Though he still missed three long jumpers against the Nets, they were taken later in the shot clock and were not contested particularly hard.
- The clash of play styles was obvious from the opening tip. A glance at the box score wouldn’t reveal this, but the Mavericks pushed the tempo on Brooklyn at every opportunity and the Nets seemed unsure how to cope. This became particularly apparent in the third quarter and the early part of the fourth as the Dallas lead ballooned to 20 points. The remaining influence of former coach Avery Johnson was clearly apparent, as the Nets ran an oddly methodical offense that bogged down into one on one match ups which Brooklyn could not exploit.
- Easily the most entertaining match up of the game was Elton Brand (eight points, two steals, two blocks) against Andray Blatche (eight points, three assists). For some reason, they started barking at one another early and Brand managed to surprise Blatche early in the second with a catch and shoot from the post and a lay in after a botched steal attempt. Not to be out done, Blatche went back at Brand, using his superior size and athleticism for a driving lay in. It’s taken me nearly a whole season to figure out how Brand gets off a quality look against a larger defender, particularly out of face up situations. He’s always been a bit undersized for his position and has been robbed of most of his vertical leap due to an Achilles injury. When he gets the ball in the post or off of a pick and role, he nearly always sizes up his opponent before rising to shoot. He rarely seems to get blocked mainly because of the length of his arms combined with a slight fade. It seems as if defenders cannot accurately determine where his point of release is. Brand can make a living with that specific shot against second unit defenses for at least two or three more seasons.
- It was strange to see the Nets not force feed the ball to Brook Lopez (19 points, nine rebounds), particularly in the third where he did not take a single shot attempt. His confidence and skill from the low block is rare in the modern NBA. He’s much stronger and more patient than a casual fan would give him credit for and really has the chance to be a special player if the Nets run an offense more attuned to getting him the ball. Against Dallas, they attempted point guard cross screens which did not work with regularity because it was clear what was coming.
- When playing in a fast paced offense, turnovers are going to happen. But with Darren Collison (nine points, four turnovers), so many of his turnovers are the kind that he shouldn’t be making at this point in his career. After a Lopez put back basket, Collison attempted to pass ahead to O.J. Mayo. Carlisle has urged the Mavericks to push even off of a made basket, so this was normal. That Collison was unable to see Deron Williams, who stepped in front of the pass for the steal, is maddening. Later in the third, he had a terrible turnover on the screen and roll, attempting to loop a pass over Lopez. Defending after a live ball turnover is exceptionally challenging because the defense has to scramble to get back. The majority of both Collison and O.J. Mayo’s turnovers during the recently losing streak were of the live ball variety.
- Though Dallas native Deron Williams (24 points) a had turnover plagued evening with seven, his strengths are so readily apparent. He gets to the rim almost at will, particularly when going right. The sort of strength he uses to get off shots is rare in guards, let alone those who handle the ball so well. It often looks like he’s going half speed, but if he were to run a more up tempo offense or if the Nets went to the high screen and roll with Lopez more often, the Nets might have a terrifying offense.
- The Nets had no answer for Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, eight rebounds), who hit a variety of tough shots over nearly any Nets defender. He finally hit his patented wrong foot fall away over Kris Humphries in he second quarter. Dirk’s attempted this shot (usually off of a spin) three or four times in the last week and while it’s been impossible to stop in years past, Dirk’s leg strength hasn’t been there for him until recently. I hope it becomes a staple in the remaining games.
- I’ve highly enjoyed the defensive play of Jae Crowder during the last week’s worth of games. Starting Sunday against the Lakers, he defended Kobe as well as anyone this season (that Kobe made a variety of insane shots is besides the point). He continued with decent defense against J.J. Redick, though Redick is the kind of player who causes any NBA rookie fits simply because he is constantly moving and knows how to use his strengths against opposing players. Against the Grizzlies he helped frustrate Mike Conley into a 2 of 13 shooting performance and against the Nets he made a key strip of C.J. Watson as the Nets were attempting to stage a comeback. Early in the season, Carlisle opted to try him on the various small forwards of the NBA and the size he encountered at the position caused him a variety of problems. He’s been much more effective against smaller or weaker guards who can’t deal with his physicality and quick hands. I still think he can turn into a fine defender against NBA small forwards, but asking a rookie to deal with Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony isn’t the easiest of tasks.
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.