You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- How a playoff hopeful like Dallas gets blown out by a team like Phoenix, who had lost their previous ten games, is beyond understanding. The final score may not indicate a game which one team dominated, but there were signs early on, like the Mavericks trailing 28-14 after a mere ten minutes of action.
- I believe it’s time to issue a verdict on O.J. Mayo: despite his early season play, I feel that the Dallas Mavericks front office should let him go or use him as an asset in a sign and trade deal. Consider his stat line against the Suns: six points on 2 of 10 shooting, six assists and four turnovers. Compare that to his counter part, former University of Texas product and journeyman P.J. Tucker: 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting, 10 rebounds, one turnover. It would be one thing if Mayo had a bad game, but simply look at his game log; he’s not had a truly game altering performance since the March 3rd victory over the Rockets. To be fair, he often hasn’t hurt the team, but the role of a second option should be that of a catalyst, a player who can spark the team during an off night from the superstar. Mayo has not been that player and I cannot see him developing in that direction.
- The veteran pride of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter is something to behold. The team looked flat and disinterested from the opening tip, yet these three players willed Dallas into the game despite it feeling rather hopeless. The Vince Carter run to end the first and start the second was rather inspiring. He finished a missed Dirk three with a monsterous tip dunk then closed out the quarter with a transition three. He then opened the second with another big three pointer to push Dallas back within four points.
- Watching the Dallas guards get abused by Goran Dragic (21 points, 13 assists) was at once maddening and fascinating Working with a talent-depleted team, Dragic set up his defender perfectly on a number of pick and roll opportunities. Considering how often Dallas guards improperly set up defenders when attempting to use a screen, seeing Dragic lull his defender into complacency before exploding past a pick was exciting to watch. His early penetration resulted in easy baskets for Phoenix which would put the team onto a path for success in the paint throughout the game.
- As the season has wound down Mayo’s seemingly complete aversion to contact has come to light. Against the Suns he took two shots in the paint: a fast break floater from 7 feet over Dragic (when a lay up was possible) and a fourth quarter lay in attempt during his one man fast break. He missed both and looked to avoid contact on both. In the past month, Dallas has played 17 games with Mayo playing every one. He’s averaged .88 free throws attempted per game despite playing an average of 35 minutes and being the primary ball handler for large stretches.
- During the game, Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas tweeted “Jermaine O’Neal just hit a jumper and patted Rick Carlisle on the butt. Carlisle, who coached O’Neal in Indy, didn’t seem amused.” O’Neal finished the game with a strange line; four points on 2 of 12 shooting and six rebounds. However, he punished Dallas on the offensive glass, awarding the Suns two or three extra possessions late in the game as the Mavericks were attempting a comeback. He also managed a whopping six blocks.
- The joy in watching Shawn Marion (22 points, nine rebounds) is challenging to put into perspective. Though Dirk Nowitzki is the engine, Marion may very well be the steering wheel. Without his constant movement on offense, rebounding and energy on defense, the Mavericks could very easily have been 15 games under .500 this season. Though Dirk has the patented shot for Dallas, watching a Marion floater has become a delight. In the first quarter, he kept the Mavericks afloat early with a number of nifty moves including a 12 foot runner from the right elbow that most players would have a problem converting more than one try in ten in a game situation.
- Surely the Maverick front office has grown weary of Darren Collison’s inability to stay in front of stationary objects. Perhaps if he’s willing to be a change of pace back up Dallas should consider re-signing him (his qualifying offer is rather low), but he’s so atrocious defensively that it’s impossible to hide his short comings without a solid paint protector. I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but he runs into each screen like it is his first and his defensive recovery angles are that of someone who is very, very bad at Brick Breaker.
- We can log the Brandan Wright to Jae Crowder back door lay up as one of the few evening bright spots. Dirk set a pick along the left wing three point line for Crowder who cut to the basket. Wright, who held the ball at the top of the key, threw an on point pass to Crowder, who finished despite the Phoenix presence at the rim.
- Wesley Johnson (14 points, three rebounds) shot 54% against Dallas. Some games, a team just runs into the Johnson buzz saw (he’s shooting under 40% in the 2012-2013 season).
- The Mavericks have just four games remaining to rid themselves of their beards. Two of the four games come against playoff bound squads in Denver and Memphis. The other two games are against the New Orleans Hornets, a team which has fought Dallas hard in each of the prior match ups. Dallas faces a real possibility of finishing under .500 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. With the Laker win in Portland, Dallas is officially out of the playoffs.
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.