Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Until this month, we’d gone most of the season without being able to celebrate undefeated weeks by the Mavs. Now, all of the sudden, we’ve been bestowed that privilege. This week was surely the most impressive, as the Mavs went 3-0 against a decently tough schedule.
Let’s hit the highs and lows of the week.
Week 22 (Celtics, Jazz, Clippers)
1) Dirk Nowitzki
A vintage week from Dirk, as he averaged 24.0 points per game on a cumulative 27-of-49 (55%) shooting along with seven rebounds per game. He was particularly effective in crunch time against the Clippers, dropping 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and overtime alone. Nowitzki’s season-long efficiency numbers are finally starting to approach his usual, otherworldly levels; as of today, his true-shooting percentage is 56.2% (well below his monstrous 61.2% during the 2010-2011 championship season, but otherwise comparable to most recent seasons). His effective field-goal percentage is 51.2%, which is higher than any of the last six seasons other than 2010-2011.
Some of that can be attributed to the fact that Nowitzki has posted an amazingly low usage rate — just 23.8%, by far his lowest in nine seasons — though it can also be difficult for a high-volume scorer to find such consistent accuracy when they don’t touch the ball early and often. Dirk defies that trend, though the Mavs still need to work to get him the ball regularly (which they were much better at this week than last).
2) The Home Crowd
The Mavs’ fanbase showed this week why it’s one of the best in the country. First, the AAC crowd gave Jason Terry a truly deserved standing ovation in his return to Dallas. The moment was cut a bit short by the officials hurriedly working to get the ball inbounded, but nonetheless, it was a terrific welcoming from the MFFL faithful. The crowd then brought a much-needed dose of energy to Sunday evening’s early tilt against the Utah Jazz, ultimately spurring the Mavs on to a fairly convincing win. Finally, in the week’s finale, Mavs fans were treated to likely the best and most exciting game of the season. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the game in person, but the energy in the building was palpable via the ESPN broadcast alone. The fourth quarter and overtime had the feel of a legitimate playoff game, and I found beautifully humorous the crowd’s almost inhumanly fast reaction time on booing Lamar Odom immediately as he touched the ball. Well done, folks. Well done.
3) The Playoff Race
Several times in calendar year 2013, I’ve been on the verge of declaring the Mavs’ playoff dream dead. I’ve been reluctant to pull the trigger, though, because I know as well as any of you that sports are a fickle mistress. Things can change in the drop of a hat. And, well, they have; the Mavs are now firmly in the mix for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot. Without crunching numbers, I’d handicap their chances to make the dance at a solid 25%. That’s not too far off from the objective statistics—Hollinger’s playoff odds, for instance, have the Mavs at 19.6%. Considering that these figures were in the low single-digits just two or three weeks ago, what the Mavs have done of late is truly impressive. If they can win next Tuesday against the Lakers in Los Angeles, well, let me just put it this way: game on.
1) Vince Carter
It wasn’t an awful week for Carter, but he suffered a pretty serious downswing from his previous several weeks. He scored 19 points against the Celtics, but shot only 6-of-17 (35%) in doing so. Against Utah, he went just 3-of-8 (38%) from the field, but did manage to contribute 15 points by getting to the line eight times and converting each attempt. His performance against the Clippers could fairly be described as “spastic” — he hit some nice threes in the first half, but shot just 3-of-9 (33%) on the game, and committed a few absolutely brutal turnovers in crunch time. As much as I like Carter, I can’t say I quite understand the infatuation with putting the ball in his hands nearly every crunch-time possession (were it just half or so of those possessions, I would be much more amenable). Even when Carter has a mismatch, Nowitzki is usually a better option. These complaints aside, though, Carter was hardly a huge leak for the Mavs this week. As mentioned above, he was aggressive and got to the free throw line enough to counterbalance his poor shooting nights. And, for whatever little it’s worth, he actually had the team’s highest single-game plus-minus in all three games (+23, +24, and +13, respectively). In the end, call it a wash for VC.
2) The Young Guns
Aside from OJ Mayo — and in particular, his terrific baseline layup to tie the Clippers game at the end of regulation — it was a pretty uninspiring week from the Mavs’ younger contingent. Rookie Jae Crowder averaged nearly 15 minutes per game, but made just two shots all week and pulled down just three rebounds. Darren Collison continued his topsy-turvy season, shooting between decently and poorly all three games, and turning the ball over too frequently overall. Bernard James barely played, but it’s hard to complain about that much when the Mavs won every game without his services. Frankly, I’m not surprised that the veterans are carrying this thing to the finish line. These games for the Mavs are effectively pseudo-playoff games, and a successful Rick Carlisle team will almost always rest on a foundation of veteran savvy, not youthful talent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — most of the time.
It’s a full-fledged Thermodynamics tradition now. When the Mavs have an undefeated week of at least three games (I don’t intend to celebrate 2-0 stretches too feverishly), I’ll drop the third “cold” item. Granted, this is me slipping out of analytical mode and into fandom, but given that I’m not a professional journalist, I feel entirely comfortable doing that. Cheers until next week.
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.