Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
The Mavs have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but they say they won’t quit on the season. In that case, neither will we. We’ve got about one more week before most of our regular columns here at The Two Man Game go into offseason hiatus, so let’s make it count.
Week 24 (@Nuggets, @Kings, @Blazers, Suns)
1) The Matrix
The 2012-13 Mavs have a handful of younger players whose grit and tenacity are sometimes easy to question. Meanwhile, they have a few older players for whom those traits are indisputable and unwavering. Shawn Marion is one of those guys in the latter category, and this week was the quintessential example. With the Mavs’ playoff hopes dwindling further and further, the Matrix rose to the occasion. After a respectable 10-point night in Denver, he produced 25 points against Sacramento, 20 against Portland, and 22 against Phoenix. It was the first time since 2007 that Marion has scored 20-plus points in three consecutive games. Not only that, he scored very efficiently — 34-of-58 (59%) shooting on the week — and contributed 8.5 rebounds per game to boot. I’m not going to say the Mavs have quitters on their roster, because I don’t think that’s true. But I will say this: Shawn Marion is the polar opposite of a quitter.
2) Brandon Wright’s Floor Game
The past several times I’ve written positively about Wright, I’ve done so primarily because of his scoring and offensive efficiency. He scored pretty well this week, but I was more impressed with how he managed to impact each game in a different way. Against Denver, he scored 16 points on 6-of-13 (46%) shooting, pulled down six boards, blocked a shot, and had a steal. He was also a deterrent in the paint, helping force the Nuggets into a ton of missed layups (although some of those misses weren’t fairly attributable to anything the Mavs were doing). He then had one of his typically efficient games in Sacramento, scoring 20 points on 9-of-14 (64%) shooting from the field. His scoring numbers weren’t as high in the final two games of the week, but Wright was still generally efficient and did other things to impact the game. He pulled down nine rebounds in Portland and six more against Phoenix. He also had five blocks against the Suns (a career high). For me, Wright is a firm “must re-sign” for the Mavs this offseason. I’m not sure yet if he has priced himself out of what the Mavs will pay, but because they have his Early Bird rights, there is at least a fair chance the Mavs lock him up to a reasonably priced multi-year deal.
3) Ball Movement
With one exception (the Phoenix game), the Mavs as a team shared the ball very well this week. They went into Denver — one of the toughest road environments in the NBA — and dished out 26 assists to just 10 turnovers. Their ball movement against one of the better teams in the league resulted in a very respectable offensive rating of 104.9 (which should have been sufficient to win the game, if not for breakdowns in other phases). To the extent we should be impressed by anything the Mavs do against the hapless Kings, they were even better in Sacramento, notching 30 assists as a team (their seventh-highest total of the season). Finally, the Mavs went into another very tough road environment at the Rose Garden — where they have a recent history of careless, momentum-shifting mistakes with the rock — and tallied 28 dimes to just nine turnovers. Not bad for a team without a starting-caliber point guard.
1) OJ Mayo
It’s been a tumultuous season on the court for Mayo, to say the least, and this week was one of the low points. With the Mavs desperately needing some wins, Mayo failed to play like a legitimate second-option scorer (maybe because he’s not one). He shot just 12-of-37 (32%) on the week, and other than a few fourth-quarter baskets (one of which came in the loss to Phoenix), he hardly left an impression. In fairness, Mayo did distribute the ball pretty well, averaging six assists per game. Under Rick Carlisle’s tutelage, Mayo has certainly become a much more competent distributor. But that does the Mavs very little good if Mayo meanwhile regresses as a scorer. He needs to do both, or else he probably won’t have a place in Dallas long-term.
2) Point-Guard Defense
It’s nothing new, but opposing point guards worked over the Mavs’ defense this week. The Nuggets’ Andre Miller, who is both older and slower than the giant oak tree in your front lawn, did all the things he normally does against the Mavs. He contributed 22 points on 9-of-15 (60%) shooting and made several plays down the stretch (along with Corey Brewer) to seal Denver’s impressive comeback. The Kings’ Isaiah Thomas had a career game, scoring 29 points on a variety of drives through the lane and earned 12 attempts from the free throw line. To close out the week, the Suns’ Goran Dragic — an available free agent last summer as Dallas spent its cap room on rentals — notched 21 points on 7-of-14 (50%) shooting and a terrific 13 assists. Interestingly, the only starting point guard the Mavs capably defended this week was the best one they played against — the Blazers’ sensational rookie Damian Lillard. As they’ve done all year, the Mavs defense stifled him and held him well below his season averages. So we know they’re capable; unfortunately, they haven’t established that they can do it consistently.
3) The Playoff Streak
I already laid to rest the Mavs’ playoff dream last week. But now that it’s officially over, let’s reflect on what an impressive streak it’s been. Qualifying for the playoffs for 12 straight years is a feat rarely accomplished in the modern NBA. Even the Lakers and Celtics haven’t made the playoffs for 12 consecutive years since the 80s and early 90s. If it weren’t for another team along I-35 having an even longer and more impressive playoff streak during this same time (the Spurs have qualified for the playoffs 16 times in a row), the Mavs’ streak would have garnered even more praise than it has.
Unfortunately, it’s over now. Perhaps they’ll be back in the mix next year, but even if not, it’s been a truly amazing ride. Time to go pop in that 2011 Championship DVD while weeping softly and listening to “Careless Whisper” on repeat.
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.