The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 91, Phoenix Suns 83

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 28, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-03-28 at 3.50.06 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0101.144.020.232.016.7
Phoenix92.243.117.527.916.7

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The prevailing storyline of this game should be — and is, for the most part — centered around the Mavs’ defense. Dallas’ first quarter D was embarrassing, and particularly so on pick-and-rolls and in transition, which just so happen to be the most elemental aspects of the Phoenix Suns’ offense. Rodrigue Beaubois had quite possibly his worst defensive showing of the season, and his blunders in defending the pick-and-roll were enough to erase the memory of him bothering Monta Ellis. Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki were hardly excused from blame though, and honestly it’s hard not to fault any Maverick on the floor. The Suns shot 13-of-23 (13-of-19 if you exclude their three point attempts) for the frame, and Steve Nash had seven assists in that quarter alone. Dallas turned it around, though. They put a lot more pressure on Nash as the game wore on, and actually rotated effectively beginning with the start of the second quarter. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Mavs’ D was in top form. The ball was taken out of Nash’s hands, and each attempt by Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Aaron Brooks, or Vince Carter to create was met with a strong defensive front. The Mavs will still have plenty to talk about in the film room, but overall the defensive turnaround was pretty astounding.
  • Related reading: Sebastian Pruiti’s breakdown of the Mavs’ pick-and-roll defense on NBA Playbook.
  • If only the offense were on-point. Although both Nowitzki and Jason Terry hit some big shots in the fourth, the Mavs struggled on offense to a truly ridiculous degree. Dallas alternated fits of turnovers with well-executed sequences ending in errant shots. The only savior? Offensive rebounding. The Mavs grabbed a rebound on over 32 percent of their misses, which when paired with their trips to the line and occasional makes, came up with just enough points to top the Suns. It’s only natural that when the defense starts functioning again the offense loses its luster.
  • One more saving grace: Jason Kidd. The Mavs may not need Kidd to be a scorer nightly, but when he’s committing turnovers and not really setting up his teammates, they do need him to do something. On Sunday, that something was scoring (and timely scoring at that, as Kidd made two huge catch-and-shoot threes last in the fourth) and defense. There’s no magic number of assists or points, but Kidd has to find ways to be productive when he’s struggling in other areas.
  • See what happens when Tyson Chandler can stay on the floor for 38 minutes? He had a sub-par first quarter, but ended up with 16 points and 18 boards, all while anchoring Dallas’ defense through the final three quarters. Chandler’s more than occasional foul trouble is a pretty big problem for the Mavs, and if they had to worry about his availability in addition to their other issues, it’s likely that Dallas would have lost this one. Brendan Haywood played reasonably well in his limited court time (he had four rebounds in a block in seven minutes), but Chandler is just in a different class.
  • As good as Chandler was, Marcin Gortat (20 points, 8-13 FG, 15 rebounds, four turnovers) had himself a game. Of course, most of his damage came off of pick-and-roll action in the first quarter; Gortat dropped 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the opening frame. From that point on, Gortat attempted just four field goals and committed four turnovers, which really speaks to the defensive work the Mavs did on Nash in the final 36. Limiting Nash’s options cuts off access to finishers and perimeter shooters, and though Gortat had a nice array of open layups and dunks in the first quarter, Dallas saw an end to that with ball pressure and sharper rotations.
  • J.J. Barea had a strange night. No Mav could match his dribble penetration, and Barea typically found a quality shot attempt for himself or a teammate at the end of his drives. Yet he ended up shooting 3-of-13 from the field, even though nearly all of his attempts were within reason. His five assists are nice, but that shooting percentage doesn’t quite do Barea’s play justice. It was just one of those nights where the shots — jumpers, layups, runners, everything — weren’t falling for him, even though his decision-making was sound.
  • I have no idea how Josh Childress ever fell out of the Suns’ rotation. It’s not just a nice, tidy 12-point, three-rebound, two-assist, two-block showing in this game, either. Childress is a player any team would be lucky to have, and though his unconventional offensive game makes him more difficult to fully utilize than a typical three-point marksman, slasher, or post-up threat, his combination of skills, smarts, and defensive ability make him a terrific addition.

Making Sense of the Nonsense

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 12, 2010 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

Jason Kidd was chosen to replace Kobe Bryant in the All-Star game, but the pick was hardly a popular one. Some pointed to his lack of scoring, some his underwhelming defense, and others were aghast at the mere concept of “Jason Kidd, All-Star.” There are definitely candidates out there that could have given Kidd a run for his money (if not overtake him outright), but regardless of your preferred dish (I’ll have the Tyreke), Kidd will be the guy. But how? Why? What criteria could possibly exist that would have Kidd as next-in-line when our better judgment says otherwise?

1. Quality – Jason Kidd is the top remaining player (or at least guard) left unselected in the Western Conference.

For the record, Jason Kidd had the best WARP of any West guard not on the roster. Would you rather Baron Davis? Manu Ginobili?” [Ed. Note: WARP is "wins above replacement player"]
-Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus (@kpelton)

If I were given the reins, I would have essentially narrowed it down to four players: Kidd, Tyreke Evans, Carlos Boozer, Nene. From there, it’s almost a matter of preference.

In Evans, you have a dominant scoring guard that can electrify in the All-Star tradition. In Boozer, you have a rock-steady big putting up impressive numbers for a rising Utah team. In Nene, you have a very versatile center that can run the floor, throw it down with authority, and do just about everything in between.

But if you’re looking for a guard, especially a point guard, Kidd may be the sound pick. Kevin Pelton uses two pretty innovative metrics to break down the lot of remaining Western Conference point guards here, and the numbers are kind to Kidd — especially “pass rating.” Kidd is not an ideal All-Star candidate, but that’s okay. Pelton wraps his analysis wonderfully by providing this explanation:

Ultimately, I think the veteran point guard would be my pick, but at the very least this analysis seems to show that Kidd’s selection is hardly the travesty it’s been made out as in some circles. Yes, as at best the fifth-best point guard in the conference, Kidd doesn’t really belong in the All-Star Game. Given the circumstances, however, I think the NBA did the best it could.

2. Convenience – Jason Kidd is the top remaining player left unselected that can actually make it to the All-Star Game.

New trend for 2010: selecting all stars based on who can get to host city.”
-John Hollinger, ESPN.com (@johnhollinger)

Admittedly, this was the first thought that popped into my head. Dallas is having record snowfall, and the entirety of the Northeast is covered in a white blanket that’s ten feet thick and shuts down cities…much less airplanes. Plauyers from all over the country are having a hard time landing at D/FW, so it makes sense to choose a guy that the league knows can make it to Dallas safely and on-time. Oh hey, Jason Kidd plays in Dallas, doesn’t he? How delightfully convenient!

But then I saw this tweet from Marc Stein (@STEIN_LINE_HQ) “Take note: Kidd [was] already in PHX for his All-Star break. Now scheduled to return to Dallas on Friday.”

So Kidd is flying in to Dallas just like everyone else, and was probably farther away than point guard alternatives Russell Westbrook and Aaron Brooks. So let’s toss this one out, shall we?

3. Host Bias – Jason Kidd is the top remaining player left unselected on the Dallas Mavericks.

The Jason Kidd emergency selection in the West made enough sense with its hometown angle, considering, with the latest weather developments, that already being in Dallas is emerging as a prime selection criteria. Heck, if Kidd couldn’t make it, the next call was going to J.J. Barea.”
-Ira Winderman, ProBasketballTalk

Take a guess: since 1990, how many times has the host city had just one All-Star?

Once. The 1997 ASG in Cleveland featured Terrell Brandon as the sole representative of the Cavs. But in every other year (excepting the lockout season and the ASG in Las Vegas), the host was either star-less (no All-Stars) or blessed with two All-Stars. Chalk it up to wonky coincidence if you’d like, but the host city had one All-Stars in far more cases than one, and based on the data, 1997 seems more like an outlier.

I’d be shocked if this was the sole criteria in naming Kidd an All-Star, but I’d also be shocked if it didn’t tip the scales in his favor.

Houston Rockets 97, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 1, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas97.096.946.326.817.411.3
Houston100.050.012.224.416.5

“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.
-Robert Fulgham

I’m going to miss these Mavs-Rockets games. No opponent has been a more compelling foil for the Mavs all season. In the first two games, the Mavs flipped the script on huge second quarter runs, turning the game’s momentum on a dime and completely demoralizing the Rox. In the last two, Dallas and Houston have battled for 48 minutes (or more) only to see the Rockets edge out the Mavs by way of just a few more successful possessions. All four contests were particularly noteworthy for a variety of reasons, regardless of whether the final margin was three or 31.

As far as losses go, I don’t see anything revolutionary or catastrophic about the Mavs’ final L of 2009. Dirk Nowitzki (11 points, 3-12 FG, seven rebounds, three turnovers) had a pretty terrible offensive game, and though the rest of the Mavs provided ample support (including 46 bench points), Dallas simply couldn’t overcome such a woeful shooting night from the undisputed leader. Dirk didn’t have to make every shot for the Mavs to stay competitive, but he couldn’t make any shot when the game was very much up for grabs. A few long misses on Dirk jumpers segued perfectly into Houston’s transition offense, which exposed the Mavs’ real troubles. Though the Mavs would often stop or stall the Rockets’ primary break, there was entirely too much damage done on the secondary offensive wave. Trailing three point shooters and late cutters put significant pressure on the defense, and though the trailers and cutters themselves didn’t always convert opportunities into points, they did force the Mavs to scramble in order to compensate. It was a non-issue when the Mavs were playing small ball (Kidd-Terry-Howard-Marion-Gooden), because that lineup switched on every screen and rotated onto every shooter. But with a more traditional lineup, the Mavs were often out of position to contest the Rockets’ threes or their entry passes.

In a game where Dirk’s offense isn’t clicking, that makes all the difference. Add in a poor performance on the defensive glass, and the shortcomings compound into a loss. Not exactly a perfect storm, but the Mavs’ woes on the defensive end were notable enough that the Rockets were able to seal the game late on a pair of 3-pointers from Aaron Brooks (who was sensational; 30 points, 6-12 3FG, four rebounds, four assists) and Shane Battier (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists). It’s never a good thing to see an opposing player go off like that, particularly one in the mold of previous Maverick-killers. But Brooks had one of those nights, and the bizarre decision from Rick Carlisle to shift to the zone defense only made matters worse for the Mavs on the perimeter. There are essentially three things which break down the zone defense: long-range shooters, mid-range shooters that can make smart passes, and offensive rebounds. The Rockets boast plenty of the former, the second is practically Luis Scola’s epithet, and Houston is 8th in the league in offensive rebounding rate. Brooks’ quickness and activity creates a certain illusion, but using a zone defense against the Rockets plays right into their hand. That team is simply too smart and too skilled in all the right ways for a zone to work, and it gave Houston a boost when the Mavs had them on the ropes.

But that decision wasn’t symptomatic of some greater fault that lies within Rick Carlisle, just as the Mavs’ sub-par defense wasn’t symptomatic of anything other than the realities of an 82 game season. There will be nights where some things don’t quite come together and there will be nights where nothing comes together. The key is to make sense of them and deal with them accordingly, understand what went wrong, and move on. There is entirely too much going on in the regular season to get bent out of shape over a three point loss to the Rockets that very nearly went into overtime. Last night’s game wasn’t the ideal way to usher in the new year, but 2010 is here and the Mavs face the Lakers on Sunday. Hit the film room, gents.

Closing thoughts:

  • Shawn Marion (16 points, 8-12 FG, nine rebounds, a steal and a block) and Jason Terry (20 points, 7-12 FG, four assists, two steals) were excellent. Marion started the game brilliantly and Terry more or less closed it, with both taking advantage of Houston’s lack of shot-blocking inside. Marion went to work with his usual runners and post-ups, but he also had great success simply cutting to the open spot around the rim for easy finishes. Plus, Marion showed his defensive versatility in his ability to defend both Trevor Ariza and Carl Landry. Terry used perimeter picks and his pure speed to drive around his defender, resulting in six of JET’s 12 attempts coming at the rim. Terry was legitimately looking to finish his layups, rather than driving into the lane simply as a means of getting to the free throw line. It showed, as JET converted five of his six attempts deep into the paint.

Jason Terry's FGA Breakdown

At Rim<10 ft.10-15 ft.16-23 ft.Threes
2009-2010 Avg.2.01.21.24.24.8
12-31-09 vs. HOU6.00.02.01.03.0
  • A rough night for J.J. Barea (four points, 1-6 FG, four rebounds, three assists), which makes sense considering I spent yesterday singing his praises. Sheesh, you try to do a guy a favor…
  • Neither Dirk Nowitzki, nor Jason Terry, nor Josh Howard, nor J.J. Barea scored in the first quarter. The Mavs trailed 17-24 at the end of the frame.
  • Drew Gooden (10 points, eight rebounds, a steal and a block) could very well be on his way another roll, as he completely outplayed Erick Dampier (three points, five rebounds, a steal and a block). Damp had previously had some success against the Rox (8.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks in the first three games against Houston), but could only manage to stay on the floor for about 17 minutes last night. That said, it wasn’t a very productive night from the center position as a whole. Dampier really struggled offensively (0-3 at the rim), and though Gooden contributed on that end, he struggled defensively.
  • Shane Battier reacted pretty dramatically to an out of bounds call (and to his credit, he was pushed in the back by Dirk) with 44 seconds remaining, and he was assessed a technical foul with the Rockets ahead by four. That’s a pretty huge call late in the game, and though the Mavs weren’t able to capitalize on it (though Jason Kidd had a good look at a game-tying 3-pointer), I’m still a bit surprised it was even called.
  • It’s odd that the Mavs had a pretty significant advantage in terms of free throw rate, but still coughed up the game. Especially considering that Dirk only got to the line for four attempts, which is a bit more than half of his season average.
  • Carl Landry (15 points, including nine of the Rockets’ final 15) and Luis Scola (12 points, 6-12 FG, 13 rebounds) did their jobs. Nothing to see here, just a couple of pros getting done what needs to get done. Move along, sir, move along.

Shot distribution data courtesy of HoopData.com.

Houston Rockets 116, Dallas Mavericks 108

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 19, 2009 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

There’s such a thin line between winning and losing.
-John R. Tunis

Sometimes a game flows like the scripted word, with a rhythm, climax, and resolution that unfold seamlessly. All is right in the world as the good guys win and the bad guys falter, with no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who was the victor. Heroes are born, legends are written, and everything fits neatly into archetypal form.

But others are written like a biting satire. They make mockery of everything we think to be true, and rely on that defiance and a departure from the expected to prove some kind of point. There may be heroes, but winning the day is hardly an assumption.

From a Maverick perspective, the game would certainly be described as the latter.

After just ten minutes of play, a collision between Dirk Nowitzki and Carl Landry left Dirk with a deep laceration on his arm and Landry minus three teeth (according to Marc Stein, pieces of two of those teeth were actually in Nowitzki’s arm). Neither returned, and the game’s narrative structure had set a prime opportunity for the Mavs to prove their Rocketsesque mettle; Dallas would have to win without their primary scorer, their undisputed best player, and their leader. The cast of characters included: Jason Kidd (the wise sage), Jason Terry (the sidekick with an iron will), Josh Howard (the returning hero), Erick Dampier (the rock, the guide), Shawn Marion (the unwavering defender), J.J. Barea (the seemingly overmatched hero), and Tim Thomas (the rogue with a heart of gold). The stage was set for an epic tale of loss and redemption and triumph in the face of adversity.

And though the game lacked any kind of rhythm or pacing whatsoever, it seemed bound for the fairytale ending. With the Mavs trailing by four points with just over a minute remaining, Shawn Marion stripped Trevor Ariza on what looked to be an easy bucket for the Rockets. After running the floor in transition, Marion was left wide open by the scrambling Houston defense, and Jason Kidd rewarded his efforts with a feed for an easy bucket. And once Aaron Brooks missed one free throw to plant hope in the Maverick huddle, Rick Carlisle drew up a doozie of a play. After some misdirection by Jason Kidd and Jason Terry and a nice shot fake, Tim Thomas was left with a wide open look from the corner. Nothing but net, and the Mavs had one shot to make a defensive play and send the game into overtime.

Shawn Marion, who had been terrific on defense all night, demanded the assignment of guarding the red-hot Aaron Brooks. According to Kidd, Marion insisted that with his height and length he could bother Brooks on the drive or on the shot, and he couldn’t have been more right. Brooks passed up a shot attempt with a taller defender in front of him, and Marion forced him into an out-of-control dive toward the basket that ended with Shawn standing triumphant and a Rockets turnover with .4 seconds to play. The stage for the miracle had been set, but Jason Kidd’s lob was a bit off the mark, and Shawn Marion’s alley-oop layup attempt a bit short as a result.

But in most cases, overtime periods carry only false hope for short-handed teams. With Dirk nowhere in sight, the Mavs certainly qualify, and what had been a tremendous run by the remaining Mavs quickly spiraled into an emotional explosion. Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry continued to run their offense with confidence, and the Mavs provided themselves no opportunity for catharsis by missing jumper after jumper. Ultimately, the game’s defining sequence featured the Mavs down six with a minute to play, and a bit of hope as Erick Dampier began to elevate for a dunk attempt. But rather than rise and finish with a momentum-shifting slam, Dampier was pulled down by the shoulders by Aaron Brooks, who made no play on the ball whatsoever. Brooks was assessed a flagrant one, and in the ensuing video replay aftermath, the officiating crew also assessed a technical foul to Erick Dampier. It was Damp’s second tech of the night, and despite the fact that the elbow is virtually invisible on video, it warranted Damp’s automatic ejection. From then on, finishing the game was a mere formality.

It was a bizarre sequence, and according to Mark Cuban, one that doesn’t follow the letter of the rulebook (only flagrant two fouls are eligible for video review, and Brooks was assessed a flagrant one). But such a sequence only illustrated the value of a single basket in a close game. Regardless of who was right and who was wrong in their assessment of whatever it is that happened on that play, the Mavs had wasted two and a half quarters worth of opportunities. With no Dirk Nowitzki to balance the offense and no cohesion to the team defense, the Mavs looked beyond helpless. Kyle Lowry (a career high 26 points, 10 assists, and a career high-tying five steals) and Aaron Brooks (23 points, six assists) were simply too proficient, and with both on the court, the Mavs lacked the speed to combat their penetration into the lane and separation for jumpers. Meanwhile, Jason Terry struggled from the field (6-15 FG) and didn’t have command of his usual basketball savvy. Josh Howard started the game terribly before finally getting his act together in time to help the Mavs mount a run. And though Erick Dampier’s work on the glass and on defense was, frankly, game-changing (three blocked shots, seven offensive rebounds, and 14 total rebounds), his reinforcements (Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries) failed to defend or produce in any meaningful way. After Dirk left the game, the odds were not stacked in the Mavs’ favor, and until the final run of the fourth quarter, the responded with lethargic D and sloppy offensive execution.

The finale was poignant and demonstrative. It was a sign to the Mavs that coasting isn’t acceptable, and that refusing to play to your potential will only end in heartbreak. Dallas’ efforts were all for naught, and though Dirk’s absence provides a convenient scapegoat, the message here makes no mention of fighting valiantly. Rather, the point is this: Although the Mavs have come so far in terms of their defense and clutch execution, this is still a work in progress. This is still a team that has plenty to learn from a game that has plenty to teach, and regardless of just how high you’ve climbed, every game has the potential to be a humbling experience.

  • J.J. Barea was instrumental in keeping this game competitive. He finished with 23 points on 8-15 shooting, with his couple of turnovers balanced by some pretty timely shots.
  • The Mavs and the Rockets shot an identical 8 of 20 from three, but you would have never guessed it based on their impact. Each Maverick long ball was powerful, but the Rockets’ makes were of monumental importance. Brooks’ final shooting numbers (8 for 20 from the field) may not be sterling, but that man is a master of the momentum-killing three-pointer.
  • Jason Kidd didn’t have a great defensive night, but he does so many things for the Mavs when he’s on the court. His work out of the post against Brooks gave the Mavs a fighting chance in overtime, and though the Dallas offense was anything but smooth, Kidd still contributed with 11 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, and two blocks.
  • The Rockets killed the Mavs with their ability to quickly shift into the transition game, and only when the Mavs began to counter the fast break did they make any headway whatsoever.
  • Kyle Lowry was sensational. Seriously.
  • The Mavs tried their hand at some zone, with mixed results. It seemed to at least slow down the Rockets, but the Mavs surrendered too many offensive rebounds because of the lack of box-out accountability. On top of that, David Andersen (16 points) and Luis Scola (19 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) have the range to be zone busters, and Lowry and Brooks were able to lure away chunks of the zone to leave jumpers open for the taking.
  • Emotions were running high as the Mavs put pressure on the Rox late in this one. A tech for Jason Kidd and David Andersen for a little scuffle, two Ts on Erick Dampier (one for the alleged elbow, and another for Damp breaking his usually stoic demeanor to argue a non-call), two Ts on Rick Carlisle, and one T to the talkative Josh Howard.
  • Shawn Marion really put the shackles on Kevin Durant the other night, but this may have been an even more impressive defensive performance. He wasn’t quite as consistent, but he made huge defensive plays with the game hanging in the balance.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is considered questionable for Sunday due to the deep lacerations in his elbow, and Carl Landry will see a surgeon tomorrow.

No Game Is an Island: Pleasant Surprises

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 18, 2009 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

The Mavs have pleasantly surprised. Although it might be easy to dig up a Maverick die-hard who had faith in Dallas’ ability to develop a top-notch defense, I think you’d be hard pressed top back that argument with warrant and logic. Expecting such a prolific defensive display could possibly have labeled you as some kind of maniac, or worse, a homer.

But the Rockets have been a surprise in a completely different way. Whereas underestimating the Dallas defense was natural given the personnel (a supposedly slowing Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion, and the near-liabilities turned competent defenders, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry), the Rockets were underestimated due to a complete oversight of the power of a basketball cooperative. Each player compensates for the weakness of another, and though high-level talent separates Houston from the West’s elite, we all should have expected competence from a batch of skilled, highly-motivated ballplayers:

I don’t know if you heard, but over the Summer, the Houston Rockets essentially swapped Ron Artest for Trevor Ariza. The former is a bit of a wildcard, known for ill-advised 3s, elite perimeter defense, and something about snake eggs. The latter is a superb athlete, a tremendous wing defender, and an emerging shooting threat.

So why is it that the Houston Rockets were so woefully underestimated coming into the season, when the only significant difference between last year’s playoff team and this year’s would-be playoff time is the (occasionally bad) shot creating abilities of Artest?

I…I don’t know. Count me among the many that refused to acknowledge Houston’s potential. I didn’t see where the points were going to come from, even if Ariza is a young, talented player on a perfectly reasonable salary. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t sold on Aaron Brooks’ ability to score consistently, much less run an offense. And I saw some problems among their rotation of bigs, which had fallen to three productive if undersized power forwards in the absence of Yao Ming. Not only is none of that true, but we’ve seen virtually the opposite.

Read my thoughts on the Rockets in their entirety on Hardwood Paroxysm.

Dallas Mavericks 121, Houston Rockets 103

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 11, 2009 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.
-Zig Ziglar

Though it may not bode well for your blood pressure or the items being thrown at your television set, the Mavs are definitely making things interesting. We’re just seven games into the season and they’ve already found just about every possible way to win. They shot the lights out against Toronto, they put up a fine, combined offensive/defensive effort against Los Angeles, Dirk had an impressive one-man show against Utah, and finally, they overcame the 17-point handicap the Mavs gave the Rockets in the first half last night.

That first quarter was brutal. Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola combined for 24 points on 9 of 11 shooting, and the Rockets were picking apart the Mavs’ D with timely offensive boards and sharp interior passing. Say what you will about the talent level of this Houston team, but they’re smart players with good instincts, and their basketball savvy was more than evident during the opening quarter surge. It took a few minutes for them to get into rhythm, but once Brooks started triggering the fast break, the Mavs looked done. Dallas was caught in a bit of a dilemma: hitting the offensive boards would likely translate to more possessions against an undersized Houston squad, but doing so would allow Brooks to jog, skip, or crab walk his way to a free fast break layup. It’s a tough call, and the Mavs clearly deliberated between both options in the first half, before somehow opting to do both in the second.

Something just clicked. After a 10-4 second quarter run, the Rockets managed just one other run of note: a quick 5-0 burst in the fourth, when the game had more or less been decided. The Mavs, on the other hand, rode their momentum going into halftime, and haven’t bothered to disembark since. They rattled off the following runs without answer from the Rockets: 12-3, 10-1, 8-0, 12-4, 8-3. That’s how days are won and dreams are made, kids.

The defense was just as impressive after the internal trigger. The Rockets shot just 11 for 36 in the second half, as virtually every offensive threat was neutralized. Aaron Brooks’ speed was negated by Kidd’s defense, which guided Brooks directly into the help D. Trevor Ariza (9 points, 3-10 FG, 5 rebounds) was completely bottled by Shawn Marion. Luis Scola, Carl Landry, and David Andersen were cut off from smooth interior feeds, instead being forced to take long jumpers or create for themselves by backing down the Mavs’ interior defenders. Dallas was suddenly able to both secure offensive rebounds and halt Houston’s fast break opportunities, leaving the Rox in a bit of a rut.

Jason Terry (24 points, 7-8 FG, 1-1 3FG, 9-9 FT, 3 assists) was absolutely brilliant. He looked and played like a man with a mission, as JET clearly had redemption on the line in his own personal game against the ghost of free throws past. You can’t ask for a better scoring night off the bench.

Erick Dampier deserves a paragraph all to himself, but I’m getting there. Just wait.

Closing thoughts:

  • The Mavs showed no hesitation in using the three guard lineup down the stretch in the fourth. Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, and Jason Terry were all on the floor when this one was carefully put away, giving Josh Howard plenty of time to rest that bum ankle.
  • Erick Dampier. Seriously.
  • Though the three guard look dealt the final blows against the Rockets, it’s worth noting that the starters did most of the heavy lifting for the Mavs. They were responsible for the 22-3 run bridging the second and third quarters…y’know, the run that completely flipped the game on its head.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to, without question, Erick Dampier. JET was spectacular, Kidd was patient, Marion was aggressive, and Dirk was Dirk, but you absolutely cannot argue with the force of nature formerly known as Ericka. He was an absolute monster (14 points, 20 rebounds, 3 blocks, 6-6 FG, 2-2 FT), and made his presence felt with all the contract year might he could muster. Honestly, I don’t care what Damp’s motivations are. If he’s playing for a new deal, that’s just awesome. If he’s having some sort of mid-life crisis, that’s awesome, too. But as long as Damp keeps rockin’ the rim, setting huge picks, and altering the game with defense and rebounding, I have absolutely no objections.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Draft Ranges

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 30, 2009 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

The Mavs don’t have a very good track record when it comes to finding value late in the draft, though selecting Josh Howard with the final pick in the first round back in 2003.  But the stakes have never been higher, with the Mavs’ few young assets weighing their options in free agency and the Mavs’ 2010 pick in the hands of the New Jersey Nets.  This one counts big time, and it’s up to the management and the scouting team to find the diamond in the rough.

It’s tough, but hardly impossible.  Quality players pass right under the noses of many a team year after year, leaving latent value late in the draft.  The Mavs pick at 22, which is just a shade closer to the lottery than to the Mavs’ customary position at the draft’s tail.

Here are the picks at 22 this decade:

2008 – Courtney Lee
2007 – Jared Dudley
2006 – Marcus Williams
2005 – Jarrett Jack
2004 – Viktor Khryapa
2003 – Zoran Planinic
2002 – Casey Jacobsen
2001 – Jeryl Sasser
2000 – Donnell Harvey

Three of those players (Courtney Lee, Jared Dudley, Jarrett Jack) have shown rotation player chops.  Lee is the most notable as the starting 2 guard of an impressive Orlando team just one win away from the Finals.  In fact, if the Mavs could magically re-draft Lee this year, they’d be in pretty good shape.

Just for fun, here are picks in the late first round (20+) :

2008
Courtney Lee (22)
Nicolas Batum (25)

2007
Wilson Chandler (23)
Rudy Fernandez (24)
Aaron Brooks (26)

2006
Renaldo Balkman (20)
Rajon Rondo (21)
Kyle Lowry (23)
Shannon Brown (25)
Jordan Farmar (26)

2005
Jarrett Jack (20)
Nate Robinson (21)
Francisco Garcia (23)
Jason Maxiell (26)
Linas Kleiza (27)
David Lee (30)

2004
Jameer Nelson (20)
Delonte West (24)
Kevin Martin (26)

2003
Boris Diaw (21)
Travis Outlaw (23)
Kendrick Perkins (27)
Leandro Barbosa (28)
Josh Howard (29)

2002
Tayshaun Prince (23)
Nenad Krstic (24)
John Salmons (26)

2001
Brendan Haywood (20)
Gerald Wallace (25)
Jamaal Tinsley (27)
Tony Parker (28)

2000
Morris Peterson (21)

It’s certainly worth noting that even the 2005 draft, predicted to be a weak draft class among pundits and largely looked at as a failure in comparison to its contemporaries, still produced productive players late in the first round.  Blake Griffin is no Tim Duncan and the consolation prizes may have their flaws, but that doesn’t mean true commodities can’t be found late in the first.

Next week I’ll start examining potential picks for the Mavs, starting with those rumored and confirmed to have scheduled workouts with the team.  Some of those players seem poised for success on the pro level, and others may not even be top competitors in the D-League.  As fans, we can only hope that MGMT not only makes the right decision in assessing the talent of a potential pick, but also in picking talented players to fill holes in the Mavs’ rotation.