Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
It wasn’t the worst week of the Mavs’ season, but it was arguably the most excruciating. It started off with a solid win in New Orleans, then slid rapidly from frustrating (against LA) to inexcusable (against Milwaukee) to downright comical (against Memphis).
Let’s hit all those points in a bit more detail as we wrap up the best and worst of the week.
Week 18 (@Hornets, Lakers, Bucks, @Grizzlies)
1) Elton Brand
Brand’s production this week was impressive across the board. He scored well and efficiently, averaging almost 13 points per game on 22-of-40 (55%) cumulative shooting. He pulled down almost nine rebounds per game (despite averaging just 25 minutes and conceding many of his boards to Dirk, discussed next), including an impressive 14-rebound performance against the Bucks. He also defended the post well for most of the week, matching up at various points against Dwight Howard, Larry Sanders, Drew Gooden, and Marc Gasol. Brand didn’t exactly shut any of those guys down (although Howard did have a pretty pitiful game in Dallas), but he worked very hard to make things difficult for them. That segues nicely into the most impressive thing about Brand this week: his effort. Brand played exceptionally hard the vast majority of the time he was on the court. Nowhere was that effort more apparent than against Milwaukee, where Brand repeatedly beat multiple Bucks players (with position, no less) to loose balls and free rebounds. He was a disruptive force in the middle, which is something the Mavs have sorely lacked for most of the year. Sure, Brand’s in a contract year, but the pride with which he plays is palpable. At the right price, I personally would welcome him back next year.
2) Dirk on the Glass
This was arguably the most impressive rebounding week for Dirk in many, many years, and that includes his otherworldly 2011 playoff run. He averaged exactly 11 boards per game, well above his season average of 6.6 (and indeed, well above any season average since 2005-2006). Most notably, he pulled down 13 against a tall Lakers team (the fourth-best rebounding squad in the league), and an eye-popping 20 against the Bucks — his first 20-rebound performance since December 27, 2007. To give these numbers a bit more context, Dirk hadn’t notched 13 or more rebounds twice in one week since the 2009 playoffs against Denver. It’s unfortunate that both of Nowitzki’s monstrous rebounding efforts this week ended in losses, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s that he clearly has enough gas in the tank to keep playing for roughly another 20 or 30 years.
3) First Quarters
A couple weeks ago, Rick Carlisle and other members of the Mavs camp noted the team’s troubling trend of starting games horribly. Since it was so publicly addressed, that hasn’t been an issue. This week, the Mavs started well in all four games, outscoring their opponent in each first quarter by an average of almost eight points. They shot well (59.8% across all four first quarters) and defended well (41% by their opponents). Of course, this is all little consolation given that the Mavs blew those good starts and lost three games this week. And actually, even in the game they won against the Hornets, the Mavs wasted their good start and had to stage a big third-quarter rally to make the game competitive. But hey, on the bright side, if you stopped watching these games after the 12 minutes, you probably think the Mavs are pretty awesome.
1) Starting Backcourt
I don’t want to mince words here, so I won’t. It was an utterly abysmal week for the Mavs’ backcourt. Just atrocious in nearly every sense. On the week, OJ Mayo shot 18-of-47 (38%). His backcourt partner, Darren Collison, was 12-of-39 (31%). Only once in four games did either of them score more than 12 points (Mayo had 18 against the Bucks). In the Mavs’ three losses, they combined for just 26 assists versus 21 turnovers. They were consistently outworked by their backcourt opponents — Kobe Bryant (though many of his 38 points came against Jae Crowder, not Mayo), Steve Nash, Monta Ellis, JJ Redick, and Quincy Pondexter, to name a few. Good times in guard land.
2) Holding Leads
The Mavs led by 5 late in the fourth quarter against the Lakers.
They led by 5 even later in the fourth quarter against the Bucks.
They led by 25 midway through the second quarter against the Grizzlies.
They lost. And the entire 25-point lead was gone by the midway mark of the third quarter.
What else can you say?
3) The Last Sliver of Hope
If you’ve been one of those folks hoping that the Mavs were right on the cusp — that they were about to turn the corner and make a strong charge to the eight-seed and a playoff berth — then this week probably crushed your spirits. Needless to say, at 25-32 and with the Lakers making a late push, it’s not looking good. We’ve all seen stranger things in sports (for any baseball fans out there, the end of the 2011 MLB regular season comes immediately to mind), but it would take a very stark shift in so many phases for this Mavs team to turn things around in the limited time they have. Now, I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom, because it’s not the end of the world. A good draft pick would be fantastic, although I fear the worst given the Mavs’ drafting track record (ok, that was a bit doom and gloomy). Still, it would be pretty strange to watch a playoffs without the blue and white, and I think many fans across the NBA, especially of Western Conference teams, would feel the same way.
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.