The Difference: New York Knicks 104, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 20, 2012 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
New York110.653.520.934.116.8

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

  • Let this game be a healthy reminder: Although the Mavs typically perform quite well in crunch time, their closing execution isn’t infallible. Jason Terry (13 points, 5-13 FG, six assists, seven rebounds) can still fall prey to a simple missed jumper. A weird defensive sequence can still result in an uncontested Tyson Chandler (14 points, 5-7 FG, 10 rebounds, three blocks) dunk. A lot goes on in the waning moments of a close game, and though Dallas performs in those situations at a higher level than most, they’re not immune to games like this — games when all the magic flows through the heart and hands of an opponent, leaving none for that final, improbable comeback.
  • Two things stuck out to me in this particularly wonderful performance from Jeremy Lin (28 points, 11-20 FG, 3-6 3FG, 14 assists, four rebounds, five steals, seven turnovers): his range and his poise. I, like many others, saw Lin’s occasional three-point makes as an aberration. Lin, after all, is only shooting 32 percent from three-point range to date, even with some alleged outliers inflating his percentage. But there’s something to be said about his confidence beyond the arc, and on this occasion among several others, his impressive accuracy. Maybe he’s a bit streaky from long range at this point in his career, but he’s still emerged from the bench with a reasonably formed jumper, capable of putting pressure on opposing defenses and offering him a crucial tool to play off of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. But Lin’s poise — in the face of Shawn Marion’s length, in the face of scrambled coverages, in the face of heavy defensive pressure, in the face of a ticking clock — is really and truly remarkable. I don’t think the Mavericks failed as a team defense, largely because Lin didn’t fold under any reasonable amount of defensive pressure. Dallas came in with a strategy, Rick Carlisle altered it on the fly, and it still didn’t pan out. Such can be expected when a team sees a white-hot opponent on the court for (essentially) the first time, and such can certainly be the case with a player as resilient as Lin.
  • Also, as a general footnote on Lin: Don’t sweat the turnovers, at least in terms of Lin’s overall development. Those high turnover marks have a habit of popping up for any aggressive young player, particularly when they’re thrust into a dominant offensive role. Pace, position, and ball dominance all play a big role in bringing Lin’s turnover marks to a swell, even though — on a per-possession basis — his overall turnover marks are comparable to that of Rajon Rondo, Ricky Rubio, and Andre Miller. Curbing those turnovers would do a lot for the Knicks’ offense as a whole, but it’s really not much of an issue so long as Lin remains productive overall.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 113, New York Knicks 97

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 3, 2011 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
New York100.045.519.310.28.2

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

  • Not every game goes according to the script, but this one went just right. The team that plays good defense played good defense, and the team that regularly fails to rotate and exposes a hollow interior did so splendidly. Most teams — even those at the bottom of the rankings in defensive efficiency — don’t give up quite as many wide open looks as the Knicks do. It’s just part of a run-of-the-mill Knick game these days. Part of their charm, I suppose. They certainly have their games where they really dig in defensively, but on the whole this is what you get with New York post-Felton’s drop-off. They’re good, but push the right buttons on D and they’re imminently beatable.
  • Dallas went to work on the offensive glass, grabbing 25.6% of the available boards on that end. Typically these things even out for Dallas; they’re a poor defensive rebounding team, and even on their better offensive rebounding nights, allow their opponents to break even on the glass. Not so on Wednesday, as New York posted a lowly 10.2 offensive rebounding percentage.
  • If you look at the offensive rebounding distribution, you’ll find that while Tyson Chandler had three offensive boards, you’ll find that the rest of the Mavs stepped up to grab a board here and there: DeShawn Stevenson had two, and Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, and Shawn Marion each grabbed an offensive rebound of their own. This is a bit misleading; Tyson Chandler was a tap-out machine on the offensive end, and had the opportunity to swat a mess of loose balls toward open teammates. Credit to the rest of the Mavs for hustling and not giving up on those opportunities, but it was Chandler that really created them.
  • Dirk Nowitzki finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds, but his 10-of-16 shooting is the far more notable mark. One would expect Dirk to capitalize on a cast of undersized defenders, but that’s a level of efficiency we really haven’t seen out of Nowitzki since he rushed back from injury. There should be no mistaken declarations that Nowitzki is “BACK!”, but he’s inching closer, looking more and more himself by the day.
  • Brian Cardinal again started for Dallas, and made but a single field goal in his 10 minutes of play. Not terrific, but this wasn’t his game; Cardinal isn’t on the team so he can hustle up and down the court to keep pace with New York. Cardinal was replaced to start the second half, and that turned out to be a pretty smooth move by Rick Carlisle.
  • Shawne Williams blocked one of Dirk Nowitzki’s jumpers solely for the irony.
  • I’m pretty sure Brendan Haywood airballed a baseline hook from the low right block. Foul or deflection aside, I’m not even sure how that happens.
  • Barea (22 points, 7-12 FG, 3-4 3FG, three rebounds, three assists, three turnovers) was a monster. This is the second 3-of-4 shooting night Barea has had from beyond the arc in about a week, but it’s his ability to get deep into the paint and generate points that keys his value. The Mavs’ defense acted as a catalyst for their periodic runs, but Barea was just as influential. He energized and produced like none of his teammates could, and is as much a reason why Dallas won as anyone else.
  • One more note about Barea: even on his lesser nights, Barea forces the action. Cardinal is a fairly passive offensive player; he doesn’t put pressure on the defense in any meaningful way, and tries to limit his defensive assignment rather than hound them. Barea drives and explores the paint, and on defense he tries to draw offensive fouls constantly. That means something, and in this particular game, it meant quite a bit.
  • Wilson Chandler’s absence was a pretty big deal. Amar’e Stoudemire (21 points, 10-20 FG, five rebounds, four assists) and Danilo Gallinari (27 points, 7-14 FG, six rebounds) were the only Knicks who could score with any frequency, and Chandler can create a bit for himself and bank on spot-up/slashing opportunities. Toney Douglas did what he could to act as a stopgap, but the trickle down from Chandler’s absence was pretty damning.
  • Felton’s (11 points, 9-14 FG, nine assists) fall back to Earth is as much his fault as it is the basketball gods’. He takes some really horrible shot attempts, and though that habit was bearable when he was making a ton of those questionable jumpers early in the season, his tendency to launch long, pull-up twos has bitten these team quite a few times in recent weeks.
  • The lulls in the Mavs’ offense were of their own fault. Believe it or not, there is comfort in that; when given the choice between a team like the Knicks halting the Mavs in their sets or Dallas simply blustering their execution, I think most would prefer the means that allows the Mavs to maintain their agency.
  • What more could I possibly add about Tyson Chandler (15 points, 6-9 FG, 11 rebounds)? He’s become this season’s constant. He’s been fantastic over the last seven games in particular, during which he’s been exactly the kind of crutch the team has needed him to be.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 18, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Art Garcia profiled the ’05-’06 Mavs in spectacular fashion for Among Garcia’s collection of quotes and anecdotes from that season was those Mavs’ little-known team motto: “Know when to party.”
  • This is a fantastic highlight mix of last season, complete with very high quality video. Questionable music choice, though…but then again, you’re asking this guy.
  • Rick Carlisle on the use of advanced stats in basketball (via Steve Aschburner of “Statistical analysis has gone two or three generations and now it’s at an extremely high level. So more teams are using that for everything, from performance of combinations to individual performances, to probability of injuries and everything else you can possibily imagine. It’s unbelievable. At a certain point, it’s making sure you don’t have too much information. In most cases, what you believe in your gut is 80 percent right. There might be another 20 percent where the data will make you say, ‘Hmm, I didn’t realize that.’ Whatever that might be. Sometimes it’s a subtle thing, sometimes it’s pretty severe.”
  • Jason Terry, on the prospect of taking over Rodrigue Beaubois’ (if you can rightfully call it his) starting spot (via Eddie Sefko): “Maybe I’ll just keep it warm. Or maybe I won’t give it back.”
  • Shawn Marion’s value to the Seven Seconds or Less Suns is already well-established among NBA diehards if not the casual basketball fans of the world, but Tom Ziller takes everything a step further in saying that without Marion, playing Amar’e Stoudemire at center would never have worked.
  • Marquis Daniels drains a three from half-court. As is everything with ‘Quis: no big deal.
  • The Mavs could up keeping Steve Novak and Brian Cardinal. Or they could end up keeping neither. News! Either way, I think it’s safe to say that Dee Brown and Adam Haluska are dust in the wind.
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “[DeSagana] Diop has been a punchline the past year. On performance, he deserved it, but let me tell you something: If there’s a better guy in that locker room — and this is the best locker room I’ve covered in 21 NBA seasons — I don’t know who it would be. You don’t think Gana knows people ridicule him? If he became bitter and surly and introverted, who could blame him? But even when he never got a uniform, when he wasn’t activated for the playoff series to give fouls on Dwight Howard, he was gracious and classy.”

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 27, 2010 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

Phoenix Suns 112, Dallas Mavericks 106

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 29, 2010 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by P.A. Molumby/NBAE via Getty Images.

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To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.
-Edward R. Murrow

For the purposes of this recap, the fact that the Mavericks lost is almost certainly a good thing.

I find it a bit difficult to rail on a team for winning. The explicit goal of playing in the NBA is to win games, and though there are millions of ways to accomplish that feat, the end result reads the same in the standings. All wins are obviously not created equal, but in a game where the Mavs are the victors, their weaknesses and limitations are easily disguised. The shoddy defense, the offensive impotence, the poor rebounding, the lack of consistent execution — all shoved into boxes in the corner of the garage, covered with a sheet, and forgotten.

Until a night like tonight. The defense we’ve come to expect from the Mavs’ strong start has been nonexistent in their last two contests, and any offensive momentum the Mavs have built in the past week was exhausted in the first three quarters against the Phoenix Suns. By the time the fourth came around, Dallas’ offense could do little other than sputter.

I have no intention of denying the Suns their due. They were relentless in their activity and ball movement, and were a huge part of the Mavs’ offensive collapse in the final quarter. They held the Mavs to just 16 points in the fourth on 6-21 shooting. Grant Hill (seven points, five rebounds) played terrific defense on Dirk (19 points, 5-11 FG, five rebounds) throughout, but of course he didn’t do it alone. The Suns’ ability to deny Dirk the ball late in the fourth quarter was absolutely tremendous, and that’s a team-wide effort. That’s Channing Frye cheating over a bit to help in the post. That’s Jared Dudley denying a pass. That’s Steve Nash (yes, that Steve Nash) making the entry pass just a little bit more difficult. This is how you phase your opponent’s best player out of the game, and the result speaks for itself.

Of course it didn’t exactly help matters that Phoenix was getting to the basket at will. The Suns had 22 attempts at the rim compared to the Mavs’ 12, mostly due to poor rotations in the paint; Erick Dampier’s (12 points, four rebounds) minutes and mobility were limited and Drew Gooden (eight points, three rebounds) looked suspiciously like Drew Gooden. And on the perimeter? The Mavs were lost, doubling Amar’e Stoudemire (22 points, one rebound, five turnovers) in the post at the wrong moments and scrambling to account for Steve Nash (19 points, 11 assists). The mayhem left plenty of shooters open from behind the arc, where the Suns’ collection of marksmen nailed nine of their 15 attempts. 38 of Phoenix’s 73 attempts came from highly efficient spots on the floor, and they added 31 free throw attempts just for the hell of it. That’s three very efficient ways of scoring for the Suns, contributing a total of 82 points on 51 estimated possessions.

Needless to say, that’s not exactly championship caliber defense. And the offense that scored just eight points in the final seven minutes? Well, that’s not even quasi-contender quality. The Mavs are past the point where they “need to figure these things out,” and on to “they really should have figured these things out by now.” Things should be getting easier on the offensive end, and the defensive game plan should be second nature. That hasn’t happened. And though it seems like centuries between now and the playoffs, the post-All-Star stretch will fly by. The Mavs are far from a lost cause, but if they’re to peak at the right time, they should probably get started with their marked improvement relatively soon.

Closing thoughts:

  • Jason Terry (21 points, 8-15 FG, five assists) looks to be in an offensive rhythm. One can only hope that this is more than a mirage, and that the productive, efficient JET is here to stay.
  • Josh Howard’s (seven points, 3-10 FG, six rebounds, two turnovers) presence on the court was pretty damning. I so badly want to defend Josh’s play because I think he’s putting in the effort, but his performance is hardly worthy of significant floor time. He’s losing his man on defense, he can’t convert on jumpers or in the lane, and he’s stopping the ball. Rick Carlisle’s in a tough place in managing Howard’s ego, playing time, and trade value, but something has to give.
  • The Mavs looked great working against the zone, as they moved the ball to the open area of the floor, drew in the D, and kicked it out. The Suns tried their hand at zoning up for just two possessions early in the game, and two Jason Kidd jumpers later (one two-pointer and one three-pointer), they were back to man-to-man.
  • Amar’e Stoudemire had a weird game. He grabbed just one rebound in 27 minutes. He sat out the entire fourth quarter. He floated. He scored .0.84 points per minute. He could get moved, and after the game he was all smiles. If you can make any sense of those events, then by all means.
  • Dirk Nowitzki’s last field goal attempt came with 6:15 left in the fourth quarter. Yikes. To steal a line from Hedo Turkoglu on what could have helped Dirk contribute more down the stretch: Ball.
  • I’m convinced that Jared Dudley may be the perfect role player. He works hard, he rebounds, and he completely overcomes his limitations by playing smart defense, limiting his shots to where’s he’s most effective, and moving without the ball.
  • Goran Dragic (13 points, 4-6 FG) isn’t a “completely different player” from last year, but he’s skipped a step in his evolutionary process and become an instant contributor. He was much more of a scorer than a playmaker last night, but Dragic is capable of doing both playing either guard position. He continues to find ways to make himself more and more useful.
  • Obligatory mention to Louis Amundson (12 points, 5-7 FG, two blocks), whose play kept Amar’e off the floor.
  • The Mavs shot .500 from the field, Marion chipped in 15 points and 8 rebounds, Dampier added 12 points, Jason Kidd notched 13 points and six assists and J.J. Barea scored eight points on just five shots to go along with four assists. Combined with Terry’s production, that’s about all you can ask from the supporting cast. Makes you wonder what could have been offensively if the Mavs hadn’t completely fallen apart in the fourth quarter, doesn’t it?
  • Black eye on Shawn Marion’s game: Marion missed a fairly basic look from short range with the Mavs down three and under a minute remaining. Dallas then gives up a layup to Steve Nash (not Marion’s fault), and is forced to go into fouling mode (only kind of Marion’s fault).
  • Just for fun, look at the contrast between this picture from Tuesday and this picture from last night.

Shot distribution data courtesy of HoopData.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 1, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Everything you wanted to know about Stephen Jackson, resident chameleon.
  • A handful of ESPN’s experts think either Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire could end up in Dallas next summer.  Then again, Orlando and San Antonio are listed as other possible destinations, despite the fact that both teams are neck deep in salary after adding significant salary this summer.
  • Tim Kawakami of the Silicon Valley Mercury News on his blog, Talking Points: “…no, I don’t see the Mavericks as a serious destination [for Stephen Jackson] quite yet…Monta Ellis in Dallas? That I can see, if Dallas would send some short-term deals and if the Warriors would be happy taking a major talent hit just to dump Monta’s money. For all the energy the Warriors have placed in telling us that Monta is their centerpiece and all the sweat issued to dispute my reports that he’s unhappy… well, I could very much see Don Nelson working hard to trade Ellis. Nelson has Stephen Curry now. The new toy is always more fun than the old, ornery one.”
  • According to Pro Basketball News’ Tony Mejia, the Mavs have five of the NBA’s top sixty six players.  No, Erick Dampier didn’t sniff the top 100, and couldn’t even make it on to the top 20 at what most consider to be the weakest position in the NBA.
  • Marquis Daniels finally made Boston his official home.

Really, It’s a Cute Idea, But We’re Good

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 25, 2009 under Rumors | 2 Comments to Read

Ben’s Suns Blog is quickly becoming an establishment in the Phoenix Suns blogging community, and rightfully so.  That might be why I was a little surprised when I caught this post, outlining the pros and…well, just pros, of an Amar’e Stoudemire for Dirk Nowitzki swap.

From a Suns perspective, I can see the intrigue.  Dirk could potentially open up the middle for Shaq, provide Nash with an old friend and a new pick-and-roll partner, and give Phoenix another shooter to space the floor.  Still, that kind of thinking obviously ignores the fact that Dirk needs an offense specifically tailored to him in order to be the hyper-efficient beast that we see before us today.  Yes, he can be a very good player in a supporting role in another system.  Just don’t expect the numbers you’re seeing now (or that you’ve seen post-Nash) if you aren’t expecting an overhaul of your entire offensive scheme.  I’m just sayin’.

From the Mavs side of things, I don’t know of a bigger “wolf in sheep’s clothing” trade option.  Dallas would seem to get back a young, hyperathletic, All-Star caliber big man, but what they may in fact get is an under-motivated, defenseless power forward whose primary strengths tend to come and go with his level of focus.  There was a time where Amar’e put the fear of death in my heart.  When he took one step in the paint, my throat would close up, my eyes would go to the back of my head, and I’d speak in tongues.  While he’s still capable of throwing down a mighty fine slammajamma, has the occasional statline that makes you do a double-take, and has an offensive skill-set that’s interesting to say the least, he’s not that player anymore.  He’s just a very good power forward.  Is he better than Dirk?  Hell no.  I have serious doubts about what will come of Amar’e's career when he’s finally able to be “the man,” and that is exactly what he would need to be in Dallas.  I don’t think he has good enough decision-making to be that kind of player nor the ability to create shots independently and consistently, and I don’t think I want the Mavs to be the team that finds that out.  In a trade, why would you give up the player who is unquestionably a harder worker, better scorer, better defender, more efficient with the ball, less temperamental, and outright dominant/a match-up nightmare?  Dirk has the edge in almost all of the significant per minute stats over our good friend Mr. Stoudemire (and holds a similar stranglehold on their head to head match-up).  I can go on and on.  The tiniest of tiny problems, and I mean this is just nit-picking really, is that the entire Mavericks’ offense would sputter, curl up in a ball, and die.  I wish I was exaggerating; that’s how much Dirk means to the way the Mavs play on that end of the court.

A move like this would definitely make the Mavs younger, at least in terms of one player.  But a move for move’s sake?  Nuh-uh.  I want no part of it.  Ben, if you’re out there: don’t take it personally.  The Mavs may have plenty of problems, but this one just doesn’t work from our end.

All-Star Starters Announced Tonight

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 22, 2009 under xOther | 4 Comments to Read

The moment we’ve all been waiting for, in which Dirk Nowitzki is denied yet another shot to start in February’s All-Star Game.  For the longest time it was Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, but now the story has completely changed: the last known poll results placed Dirk at 5th behind Duncan, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Ron Artest.  Yikes.  I’ve got no qualms with Duncan making the game (other than the fact that, y’know, the Spurs are the antithesis of all that is good in the world), and Anthony has had a stellar season for a good Nuggets team.  But seeing Dirk trailing Stoudemire’s self-promoted voting campaign that oozed arrogance while missing out on the charm of the similar campaign a year ago by Chris Bosh…it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Artest plays for the Rockets, so that’s that.

(Addendum: Word is that Stoudemire’s got it.  Oh, but nevermind the fact that he’s been relaxing and putting his feet up on D and somehow actually looks disinterested on offense.  Besides those things, he’s been awesome.)

But at least two prominent voices in the internet basketball world gave Dirk his due; J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones both chose Dirk for one of the two starting forward positions, and Skeets even selected Jason Terry as a reserve.  Respect.

The moral of the story is: don’t hold your breath for tonight’s announcement.  I’m not saying Dirk doesn’t deserve it (hell, I’d pick him), but ze German hardly wins any popularity contests.