Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- I did not even remotely anticipate having to tell Mavs fans to take deep breaths for all of the best reasons after the first three games in this series, but here we are. Inhale. Exhale. Never underestimate the heart of a chicken before it hatches in the cart before the horse, and all that. Dallas is in a great, great place — a greater place than one could possibly have imagined coming into this series — but just for the sake of finality, let’s see what happens in the remainder of this series before we start looking forward to who the Mavs may potentially meet in later rounds. Celebrate the first three wins and praise the Mavs for this incredible accomplishment, but be patient and be mindful of the opponent at hand. Dallas has certainly been the better team in this series, but L.A. isn’t quite finished yet.
- It’s adorable to watch the entire country appreciate Dirk Nowitzki (32 points, 12-19 FG, 4-5 3FG, nine rebounds) as if he were a great novelty rather than an established wonder. Yes, he’s that good. Yes, pretty much all the time. It’s terrific that Dirk’s public narrative is being rewritten with every big shot and every heady play, but really, it never should have come to that. The degree of diametric star-praising and star-targeting that goes on by NBA analysts is absurd. There is room for shades of gray; every Maverick loss isn’t an indictment of Nowitzki’s heart or toughness or ability, just as every win isn’t necessarily an affirmation (though due to just how fantastic Dirk is, this is largely the case). There’s plenty more nuance to the game than the goings on in the superstar strata, and while I’d be the first to tell you that Nowitzki is a truly phenomenal player, I’d also be the first to remind that playoff success is inherently a team accomplishment. We use rings and playoff wins to gauge the careers of individual players against each other, but the Mavericks’ shortcomings over the years have not been part and parcel to Dirk’s. He’s had some bad games now and again. Perhaps he struggled in this series or that. Yet overall, Nowitzki is one of the top playoff performers of the modern era and of all time, and while I’m happy to see the narrative turn, the root of the problem that bizarrely diminished the postseason repute of one of the game’s top performers still exists. Think for yourselves and evaluate for yourselves — stories from the ether are great, but the best antidote for over-the-top narrative exaggeration is our own capacity to reason.
- From ESPN Stats and Information: “Dirk Nowitzki finished with 32 points on 12-for-19 shooting from the floor as he notched his 10th straight playoff game with 20 or more points. Nowitzki feasted on Pau Gasol offensively as 27 of his 32 points came while being guarded by Gasol. This is not a huge surprise as Nowitzki is 19-of-25 from the floor for 45 points against Gasol this series.” On the flip side, Nowitzki has done a tremendous job of defending Gasol in this series. Dirk held a clear matchup advantage, but I had assumed there would naturally be a little more give to balance Dirk’s take. Hasn’t been the case so far, and as much as we can blame Gasol’s complacency on offense and whatnot, Nowitzki has been there, denying post position, battling on the back-down, challenging everything, and finishing the play with a box out.
- L.A. benefited from a great performance by Andrew Bynum, a more efficient night from Kobe, and Lamar Odom’s best showing in the series thus far — and still lost by a 7.3 efficiency differential. The Laker offense performed well — perhaps even well enough to win — but no one in this series can even attempt to guard Dirk Nowitzki effectively, nor defend the Mavs on the whole. Dallas has executed relentlessly on offense in this series. All of the blown pick-and-roll coverage, the inability to cover the corner man after a swing pass, the confusion in rotation? That’s all coming because the Mavs are pressing precisely the right buttons to make the Laker defense squirm. Dallas has the personnel and the ball movement necessary to really create problems for L.A.’s D, independent of the Lakers’ effort or execution. Dallas’ offense is just rolling right now because the ball-handlers continue to make smart decisions and those moving off the ball are cutting hard. The Lakers are a step behind, rotating late and getting stuck in coverage, and frankly incapable of keeping up with the extra pass at this point. That final swing, kick-out, or dump-down is what has broken the Lakers’ backs in this series, and it should offer Rick Carlisle such sweet relief to see his team working and working and working through every possession while the opponents share looks of exasperation.
- Peja Stojakovic (15 points, 5-11 FG, 3-7 3FG) is everything the Mavs had hoped he would be, and while his outside shooting was great, his defense was just as important. Stojakovic refused to be exploited; whether guarding Kobe off the dribble or Odom in the post, he did a terrific job of challenging shots to the best of his ability. Had Peja’s defense not held, today could look very different for both teams; Shawn Marion (two points, 1-7 FG, eight rebounds) wasn’t exactly on the top of his game, and Stojakovic was able to act as a key cog in Dallas’ perimeter attack because his defense allowed him to stay on the floor. Peja nailed so many big shots in this game, but he was only able to because of the big stops he earned on the other.
- As of right now, Jason Terry is averaging a 21.0 PER for this year’s playoffs, the highest mark of his career. He’s dropping 16.8 points per game (with the sandbagging pace of the Portland series keeping the numbers reasonable) on 49.1 percent shooting. He’s posting his highest playoff true shooting percentage since 2005. It’s not quite right to say that this is the Jason Terry of old, because honestly, this version is better. As fantastic as it is to see JET’s jumper falling again, what has impressed me even more (in both this series and the previous one) has been Terry’s unwillingness to settle. He’s driving to the hoop more often and more effectively than he has at any point during his career, and it’s those baseline drives and runners in the paint that have taken his efficiency to new heights…along with the fact that, yeah, he’s just hitting more shots more often. Bravo on both counts, JET.
I remain utterly convinced that no single factor — not Dirk Nowitzki in all of his clutch glory, not Jason Terry’s offensive contributions, not Corey Brewer’s stint as a difference-maker, or any other — made more of a profound impact on the result of Game 1 than the defensive play of Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood.
Chandler’s negation of Andrew Bynum was a tremendous accomplishment in itself. After all, rebuking a potential double-double does a lot for Dallas’ bottom line, and the efficiency with which Bynum typically operates would have tipped the scales considerably in L.A.’s favor. But more important than any direct impact that Chandler (and Haywood, to give credit where credit’s due) could provide was a subtle nudge.
The Lakers are never lacking in ability. They have production on all fronts, a fully functional defense, leadership, strong coaching, bench production, size, length, the whole shebang. L.A. very much has it all, and their two straight titles did not come by coincidence. Yet along with their considerable ability comes a bit of pride and a bit of laziness, and though it’s difficult for opposing teams to harness those weaknesses against the Lakers on a whim, it’s more than a bit helpful when L.A. does manage to turn against itself. It’s hard to say that the Lakers were their own worst enemy or somesuch in Game 1, but at times, they certainly worked to their own disadvantage. Once Chandler managed to defend Bynum successfully in the post and Gasol floated outward a bit, the Laker guards didn’t make the continued effort to establish an offensive rhythm through the two true conduits of the triangle. Having a post-centered offense requires much more diligence than most understand, and Game 1 was a perfect example of what can happen when a fully capable team shifts away from its very design.
L.A. still competed. They nearly won, too, because frankly, they have the talent to do so. Kobe Bryant played some sensational basketball, and connected on jumper after jumper with Maverick defenders in his face. He also showcased his abilities as a short-term fix when the Lakers needed a long-term solution; Bryant can keep the offense afloat all on his own, but without Bynum and Gasol attacking the interior, drawing fouls, and luring double teams, the Lakers are imminently beatable. Sometimes all it takes is the slightest nudge — a few stops or a few turnovers — to force Bryant and his teammates into a misread. Kobe becomes a bit too focal in the Laker offense, the player movement begins to stagnate, and the activity on the offensive glass comes to a halt. It’s as much Bryant’s fault as it is any other Laker’s, but L.A.’s occasional stagnation is a real, recurring problem. In Game 1, that problem was triggered by Tyson Chandler’s defense.
The Lakers will return tonight with attempts to run their offense as usual, and things will almost certainly be different than they were in Game 1. Still, L.A. remains vulnerable to the very same nudge. Perhaps Chandler can repeat his performance and lock down the low post. Maybe the Mavs will continue to release off of Ron Artest at times, and attempt to disrupt the Laker offense through him. Maybe Shawn Marion can force Bryant into not only missing, but taking tough shots that throw the Lakers out of their desired rhythm.
Then again, perhaps even with a successful push from the triangle, Kobe will bounce back to drop 40 and completely demolish everything that the Mavs could even hope to accomplish. All remain possibilities, but none should change the priority of testing the Lakers’ patience.
Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
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 lines that separate outcomes — and naturally, the perception, reaction, and emotion that accompany them — are so very, very thin. It’s appropriate to say that Dallas “stole” or “escaped with” Game 1. There was so much potential for success and failure in that 48 minutes; the bounce of a ball and the sound of a whistle swayed the very existence of two entire basketball teams, two entire franchises, two entire fan bases. It’s after games like these that we’re compelled to look at singular plays to determine where things went right and where they went wrong, but the slim margin of victory gives even more of a reason than ever to look for that which brought sustained success. Don’t over-analyze Dirk Nowitzki’s drawn foul to give Dallas their go-ahead points, but the way he maneuvered in space throughout the game to create passing lanes and shooting angles. Don’t get too excited about Jason Kidd’s defensive disruption in the clutch, but embrace the strong interior defense that somehow made Andrew Bynum a non-factor. The Mavs didn’t win Game 1 because they hit big shots or made big stops. They won because of consistent execution. They won because of patience. They won because even when the passes were errant and the shots were drawing iron, they continued to run their sets and cut hard and work toward quality shots. They won because Kobe Bryant, while brilliant, attempted 29 shots without attempting a single layup or dunk. Every play matters, but strings of plays simply matter more. Those trends in play that matter more than any single element of the game ever could, even though the inherent anxiety of an endgame situation lends it a bloated importance.
- It’s safe to say that neither team has played its best game, but the Mavs developed an incredible offensive rhythm. The overall ball movement was spectacular; ball-handlers were only bottled late into the shot clock on a few occasions, and the otherwise crisp passing got the ball into the hands of a well-positioned scorer. The stagnation that leads to a completely Dirk-reliant offense was nowhere to be found, and while Nowitzki’s 28 points provided the foundation for Dallas’ offensive success, the Mavs’ flow didn’t rely on him to create every time down the floor. The Lakers had defensive breakdowns, but credit the Mavs for instigating them; those kinds of flaws are only evident if the offensive team creates situations to exploit them, and Dallas’ passing forced L.A. to adjust in ways that — on this night, anyway — they simply weren’t able. That the Mavs shot .450 from beyond the arc against one of the best three-point percentage defenses in the league isn’t indicative of some aberration, merely the fact that the Mavs worked to create open shot attempts and made an effort to establish their three-point shooters. The Lakers didn’t cover well, and nearly got away with it. Stay frosty. Dirk Nowitzki was unguardable, Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood played fantastic defense in the post, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry were engaged offensively, Corey Brewer played meaningful minutes, Jason Kidd made the right plays — and the Mavs won by a single bucket. A lot went right for Dallas in Game 1, which makes me curious to see how they function in the coming games when things aren’t going so smoothly. The Mavs weathered runs on Monday night, but I’m interested in seeing how they weather entire games; the micro-level in-game adjustments are fascinating, but only inevitable loss will bring an accurate measure of this team’s constitution and adaptability.
Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. He’ll be bringing his intelligent brand of — mostly quantitative — analysis here on a weekly basis. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.
The first task has been completed. Despite faltering for a few days, the Mavericks were able to regain focus and close out the Trail Blazers on the road in Portland.
In the end, the promise of the Blazers’ versatility fizzled. Only two of the 11 Blazers’ lineups that played more than 5 minutes finished the series with a positive Net Rating. One was The Longs, which never appeared again together after Game 2. The other was the Miller-Roy-Matthews-Wallace-Aldridge configuration. That lineup consistently hurt Dallas, but for some reason only saw 18 minutes of floor time over the course of the entire series.
The Mavericks can now turn their attention to what should be an epic duel with the Los Angeles Lakers. As has been pointed out literally everywhere (even NPR might be in on this one) this is the first playoff meeting between the Lakers and Mavericks since 1988. Two of the decade’s defining players, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant, will finally square off when the stakes are the highest.
The Mavericks have tasted playoff success for the first time in years, and confidence will be high after dispatching a solid Trailblazers team in fairly convincing fashion. Still, the Lakers will be favored, as well they should be; L.A. took two out of three from Dallas in the regular season, winning the most recent pair of games by a combined 33 points.
Areas for Concern
At The Point Forward, Zach Lowe highlighted some of the heading into this series. At the top of his list: How does Dallas handle Kobe Bryant? Lowe is right that Kobe creates some problems for the Mavs; the only player in the rotation even remotely equipped to handle Kobe is Shawn Marion, and that matchup is still less than ideal. As Lowe points out, the answer may be finding some minutes for Corey Brewer, a solution which creates another set of problems at the offensive end.
I know this is sacrilege in some circles, but from a Maverick perspective, Kobe should perhaps invoke less fear than Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Going back to 2008, the Lakers are 50-23 in the playoffs, for a win percentage of 0.648. Over that same stretch, Kobe has attempted 25 or more shots in a game 23 times. The Lakers are 14-9 in those games, for a win percentage of 0.608. He shot 44.4% from the field and 34.7% on three-pointers in those games — good but not great numbers. The Lakers are at their best, and Kobe at his most efficient, when the offense is balanced. I would be fine with Kobe in hero-mode, taking 35 shots a game. But if the big men are involved, engaged and energetic on offense, opening the floor for Kobe and the rest of the perimeter players, things could get ugly for the Mavericks.
The value of Tyson Chandler on both ends of the floor as has been discussed in some detail in this space, and suffice it to say that Chandler’s defense and rebounding will be crucial to keeping Gasol, Bynum and Odom from running roughshod in the paint. In the regular season, opposing centers averaged 5.6 personal fouls per 48 minutes against the Lakers, as they tried desperately to stymie Gasol and Bynum. Chandler’s average was just 4.1 against the Lakers, a very promising sign. However, his longest streak of 30+ minute games this season was just five. He will probably need to replicate that in this series for the Mavericks to have a chance.
How Dallas shoots from beyond the arc is also going to play a significant role in determining the outcome of this series. The Mavericks made 36.5% of their three-pointers in the regular season, and shot 38.0% in their six games against the Trail Blazers. In their three games against the Lakers they shot just 32.4%. They made 11 of 18 from the corners, but went 11 of 50 from everywhere else behind the three-point line. They don’t need to hit 15 a game , but when left open, DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakavic, Jason Terry and J.J. Barea have to knock down open threes.
Reasons for Optimism
The worst kept secret in the NBA is that the Lakers are vulnerable defensively at the point guard position. The table below shows the individual statistics the Lakers have allowed their opponents, broken down by position.
Lakers' Opponent Production by Position
Point guards score more and more efficiently against the Lakers than any other position. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the Mavericks. Like everyone else, the Mavericks’ point guards were very effective against the Lakers in the regular season. Barea and Kidd posted an eFG% of 60.7% in the three regular season matchups. However, they combined for just 18.4 points per game because they averaged only 14 field goal attempts per contest. The Mavericks point guards are not aggressive scorers by nature, but if they can find some aspect of that assertion deep within themselves, they can take advantage of a rather large hole in the Lakers’ defensive front.
Rodrigue Beaubois played two games against the Lakers this season, and struggled mightily — going 3 of 15 from the field with 2 assists and 2 turnovers in just under 30 minutes of play. Recovering from a sprained foot, Beaubois missed all six games against in the first round, but is nearing a return to game action. He may not be 100%, and Rick Carlisle seems pretty confident with his guard rotation as is, so minutes may be scarce at first. Still, if Beaubois is healthy, he has the potential to create serious problems for L.A.; the Lakers simply can’t defend his speed and athleticism on a one-on-one basis.
Finally, if the Mavericks can keep the games close, they’ll always have a chance to steal one at the end with their crunch-time execution. According to 82games.com, Chandler, Marion and Terry all shoot 50.0% or better from the field in clutch situations. Kidd and Nowitzki shoot a modest 45.8% each in the clutch. Dallas played 27 games this season that were decided by 5 points or less, and won 18 of them (a win percentage of 0.667). Dallas has found ways to pull out close games all season, and while they’d prefer not to rely on their closing ability, but it’s not a bad fall-back plan.
Johnny Ludden, Yahoo Sports: In a lot of ways, Nowitzki is not unlike David Robinson before Tim Duncan joined his side. Robinson waded through the same torrent of criticism each year the Spurs went out early in the playoffs. Many times, it should have been an indictment on the supporting cast around him rather than his own shortcomings. The soft label has never really fit Nowitzki, no matter how many times someone tries to hang it on him. He plays tough. He plays clutch. This series offered more evidence. In three of the Mavs’ four victories, Nowitzki scored 18, 14 and 14 points in the fourth quarters. On Thursday, the Blazers’ Chris Johnson raked Nowitzki across the face, a flagrant foul that left Nowitzki sprawled on his back. After a few moments, Nowitzki picked himself, made both free throws then promptly stuck a step-back jump shot. The next time down the floor, he drove for a reverse layup. ‘Toughness doesn’t always mean throwing a punch back,” Chandler said. “It means getting up and going at ‘em even tougher. … Dirk got up. Instead of getting in some dumb altercation, he said, ‘All right, I’m going to punish you.’’”
Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: “As the Mavericks were leaving the court after ending Portland’s season, some of the Blazer fans were understandably yelling at them. But the message wasn’t one of anger. ‘They were great,’ Dirk Nowitzki said of the fans. ‘When we won and were walking off the court, a lot of them were yelling ‘go beat LA.” The Mavericks will give that their best shot, of course, but they understand that it will not be easy. They went 1-2 against the Lakers in the regular season and everybody knows that beating the two-time defending champions is going to be a huge challenge.”
The Brothers Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: “Zone Defense. The Mavs play a ton of it, and with a great deal of success and, unlike many other squads, a great deal of pride. Rick Carlisle has used it to take advantage of their frontcourt length and protect his smaller lineup, too, all with positive results. Dallas finished the season just behind the Lakers in defensive efficiency (102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions), and while they don’t dominate in any particular statistical category, the Mavs are a top 10 bunch in opponent’s field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throws allowed, and defensive rebounding percentage. The Lakers, a mediocre jump shooting team often too easily seduced into taking them, will need to show discipline offensively in attacking it.”
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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Dallas had a tough time converting the good shot attempts they snuck by L.A.’s defense, and certainly didn’t help their chances with a handful of cringe-worthy defensive breakdowns. Yet at every turn the Mavs stayed within a competitive range. The Mavs could certainly do far worse than stay with the best team in the league step-for-step, even if the scoreboard was less than favorable by the final buzzer. The effort was there and the execution was solid, but the Mavs aren’t going to win many games against this good of an opponent when their top four guards shoot a combined 11-of-34 from the field. The Lakers played some excellent D, but they weren’t responsible for Rodrigue Beaubois’ missed jumpers, Jason Terry’s blown opportunities, or Jason Kidd’s unfruitful three-point attempts. This was a very winnable game for the Mavs, and their proximity to victory stands for reasons more legitimate than their slim scoring deficit.
- This is the second game in a row where Shawn Marion (25 points, 11-20 FG, 12 rebounds, seven offensive rebounds, two blocks) has been the best player in a Maverick uniform. On Thursday, Marion did a phenomenal job of defending Carmelo Anthony (who shot 5-of-15 on the night) while dropping 22 and 8, and Marion followed up that performance by reprising his role as a defensive virtuoso (against Kobe Bryant, who finished 6-of-20 from the field) and thoroughly dominating the offensive glass. Dallas went to Marion in the post repeatedly against Bryant, Ron Artest, and others, and Marion was able to score from the block regardless of opponent. On the occasions when the initial hook didn’t fall, Marion followed his shot for a tip-in. Marion shot 20 field goal attempts on the night, and on 15 of those attempts he either made the shot or followed it up with an offensive board. Just incredible work.
- Unfortunately, Marion’s efforts were countered and then some by the work of the Lakers’ frontline, primarily due to a stellar game from Andrew Bynum (22 points, 9-12 FG, 15 rebounds). He may not be the most consistent interior threat, but Bynum thrived as both a primary post option (against sizable opposition in Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood, no less) and on mop-up duty. Pau Gasol (18 points, 6-14 FG, five rebounds) offered some nice support inside with his usual array of sweeping hooks, and Ron Artest (12 points, 5-8 FG, eight rebounds) added rebounding and efficient low-volume scoring. L.A. won this thing in the paint, and Bynum’s ridiculous effectiveness was the primary reason why.
- All of which diminishes the impact of Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 10-19 FG, 10 rebounds, six assists), perhaps unfairly. Nowitzki played a fantastic game, but Marion was more impressive and Bynum more dominant, which puts Dallas’ star in the odd position of being the other big playing effective ball. Still, Nowitzki’s all-around offensive game was, as usual, something to behold. He dropped his trademarked mid-range fadeaways, but also acted as a drive-and-kick player at times; twice Nowitzki drove past smaller defenders and passed out to an open three-point shooter after drawing in the defense, and both of those sequences ended with a make from a corner shooter. Nowitzki was outmatched at times defensively when forced to cover Bynum on a switch, but it’s hard to argue with elite offensive production at such an efficient clip.
- It’s certainly worth noting that Kobe Bryant suffered a hell of an ankle sprain around the two-minute mark in the third quarter. Bryant was stripped by Marion as he launched upward for a jumper, and came down very awkwardly — and painfully — on his left ankle upon returning to the floor. Bryant called a timeout and left for the locker room, clearly hobbled. He would later return, but it was a heavy moment; according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Bryant initially worried that his ankle injury was a season-ender and said he was “scared s***-less.” That didn’t stop Bryant from making some critical plays for the Lakers in the fourth quarter, but if the swelling doesn’t come down it could significantly limit him in the coming weeks.
- Gatorade’s “Replay” gives teams that participated in controversial games a chance at a redo. Dwyane Wade (along with Dwight Howard) served as a a coach for the event, which pitted two Chicago schools against each other for a rematch of a hotly contested game from a decade ago. Steve Aschburner of NBA.com had a chance to catch up with Wade on the possibility of replaying one of his more controversial finishes:
“NBA.com: Have you ever had a game that you wanted to replay?
DW: Every game I’ve lost.
NBA.com: But you’ve contributed to some that other people would like to replay, too.
DW: Yeah, I’m sure. So it’s a wash [laughing].
NBA.com: So it’s OK with you if the Dallas Mavericks want to replay Game 5 of the 2006 Finals in 2016?
DW: Uh, that would have to be something I’d have to think about.”
- If you have any doubts about how much the Mavs value Rodrigue Beaubois, read through Jeff Caplan’s piece on ESPN Dallas regarding Beaubois’ recovery from injury. When you’ve got the GM running errands for you, you’re in a good place.
- Team USA’s success this summer had nothing to do with NCAA-instructed fundamentals, and players like Tyson Chandler (who jumped straight into the league out of high school) stand testament to that. Chandler may have not been a pivotal piece of the gold medal squad, but up and down the roster there is very little college experience, even though the good ol’ principles of fundamental, palatable college basketball were once touted as the solution to the national team’s shortcomings.
- Rick Carlisle on the Mavs’ depth and flexibility this season (via Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com): “We feel like we have great flexibility with the club. You know, one of the reasons you have training camp is to compete for those positions, compete for minutes. And again, I just think that our ability to use different lineups, use different combinations, is going to be a big key for us. We’re going to be able to go 10-, 12-deep. I have no question about that.”
- Caron Butler could be all over the place, positionally speaking.
- Rick Carlisle, in evaluating his seasons as the Mavericks’ coach and what the team needs to do this season to be more successful (via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News): “‘[The last two seasons are] both failures,’ [Carlisle] said. ‘One we got to the second round so maybe it’s viewed as more successful. But we were a better team this past year. We just got beat in the first round. Our mission is to stay the course and keep working on the things we have to work on – defense and getting better at home. That’s the difference between ultimate success and perceived shades of success.”
- Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA thinks the Mavs have the best shot of challenging the Lakers in the West: “With Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler (who looked like a new man at times during Team USA’s gold medal run), the Mavericks have the size to compete with the Lakers’ length in Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Add in the fact that this might be Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki’s last real shot at a championship and consider that Kobe’s buddy, Caron Butler, will get the benefit of a full training camp under Rick Carlisle’s system and you have a seven-game series battle on your hands.”
- Carlisle appreciates Tyson Chandler’s ability to run the floor.
- A little love for Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and Steve Nash in the pantheon of Arizona athletes.
- Brendan Haywood on the delicate balance between aggressive defense and avoiding foul trouble in tonight’s match-up with Andrew Bynum and the Lakers (via Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News): “It’s tough matching up with Big Drew down there because he’s talented, he’s skilled, he’s athletic and he’s a load down there when they give him the ball,” Haywood said. “On the offensive end, I just try to be in constant motion, don’t let him rest. Quick duck-ins, post-ups, go to the offensive glass every play, working the baseline and trying to get open, not letting him just key on Dirk’s post-up, things of that nature. I have to be smart, but I can’t play scared. I can’t take a silly foul early on, because they’re too big for our back-ups. But at the same time, I can’t just give up layups and inside position because that’ll hurt us, as well.”
- 48 Minutes of Hell recently started up a Spurs podcast, and I joined Graydon Gordian and Andrew McNeil on the most recent episode with to discuss the Mavs latest moves, Mavs-Spurs, how Dallas matches up with L.A., and NBA players participating in international competition.
- This isn’t the first time that Dwayne Jones’ stay in the NBA was short-lived or over before it began, and Ridiculous Upside’s Scott Schroeder is a bit baffled as to why.
- If somehow you haven’t heard, EA Sports is releasing a new version of NBA Jam for the Wii that will reboot the series with current players while staying true to the style of the original. I tell you this not only because it looks to be awesome (and it will be), but because EA is selecting the three-man rosters for every team through online voting. They’ve cycled through teams over the last few months, and finally come to the Mavs. So go here, and vote between Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry, Marion, Butler, and Haywood for who you’d like to see represent the Mavs in the new Jam.
- A very happy birthday to Rodrigue Beaubois, who turns 22 today. ‘Day’ is a vestigial mode of time measurement based on solar cycles. It’s not applicable…I didn’t get you anything.
- Looking back at Caron Butler, the Wizard, in 2009-2010.
- Kevin Pelton’s SCHOENE projection system isn’t kind in predicting Dirk Nowitzki’s statistical production in 2010-2011 and beyond; it ranks him below Manu Ginobili, Joe Johnson, David Lee, and Rudy Gay (not to mention the obvious: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) among the 2010 free agent class in terms of three-year production. Pelton qualifies the projections: “SCHOENE is also especially pessimistic about the group of Carlos Boozer, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce (who is fairly unlikely to opt out of the last year of his contract and become a free agent). Boozer and Nowitzki are similar in that their projections for 2010-11 are pretty solid, but things go downhill quickly from there. In these cases, I’m somewhat less inclined to believe the projections. It should be noted, though, that Nowitzki has taken a clear step back the last couple of seasons, in large part because he is no longer a contributor on the glass. As recently as three years ago, Nowitzki was grabbing 14.7 percent of all available rebounds. This year, that’s down to 11.6 percent. The gradual drop can’t entirely be blamed on the Mavericks adding Shawn Marion to compete for rebounds with Nowitzki.”
- Via Mavs’ play-by-play man Mark Followill (@MFollowill), Dallas has only signed four players to a 10-day contract over the last decade: Charlie Bell, Mamadou N’Diaye, Kevin Willis, and now, Von Wafer.
- Caron Butler on playing alongside Kobe Bryant in 2004-2005 (via Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News): “I say that’s the best thing that ever could have happened for me personally for my career. To play alongside a guy like that, see his preparation, see what it takes to get to that level, that’s why I was able to be so good in Washington because I took everything I learned from him under his wing.”
- For those still keeping tabs on such things, Kris Humphries has come back down to Earth.
- The bright side of Josh Howard’s injury? The Wizards won’t be tempted to pick up his option for next season.
- Howard’s history certainly makes him a nice fit in the greater context of the Wizards franchise over the last season.
Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“They’re certainly not the protagonists.”
Each Maverick game this season has been but another installment in the team’s plotline. There are ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and hopefully, a terrific climax following the rising action late in the playoffs.
But tonight didn’t feel like a Maverick game. Dallas was merely the backdrop of the latest Laker adventure, with the Mavs thrown out of the spotlight in favor of the night’s true protagonists. They showed resolve. They showed savvy. They fought nobly in the face of adversity, displayed teamwork and fellowship, and prevailed. The Mavs were simply the extras in the background while the celebration ensued, a footnote in the epic being written to log the exploits of the reigning champs.
From the very beginning, it seemed as if Dallas was fighting an uphill battle. The Lakers found plenty of early success by jumping on the back of Andrew Bynum (22 points, 8-11 FG, 11 rebounds). Erick Dampier’s (five points, four rebounds, two turnovers) return was supposed to provide a defensive counter to Bynum’s inside presence, but to no avail. Damp couldn’t slow down Bynum, much less stop him, and the interior D went from bad to worse when Dampier picked up two early fouls. Drew Gooden (eight points, five rebounds) is an able big against second units and small lineups, but against a gifted conventional center like Bynum, he could offer little in the way of resistance. The center rotation couldn’t even balance their poor defense with a bit of offense, leaving the rest of the Mavs to counter Bynum’s efficient night.
The defensive problems hardly stopped there. Ron Artest (16 points, 5-5 FG, 11 rebounds) was a bull inside, exploiting Josh Howard in the post with decisive moves and superior size. But perhaps the biggest slap of all came with the Mavs inability to get stops against the Lakers’ reserves; how is that a team of starters for a would-be contender fails to gain ground against a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Luke Walton, Josh Powell, and Andrew Bynum? That’s one starter (albeit on this night, a terribly effective one) with two rotation players and two deep reserves, and yet stops were a rarity and easy buckets were nowhere to be found. That is not the kind of team that the Mavs are supposed to struggle against, and though the Lakers’ margin of victory is relatively small, that stretch is surely representative of a larger deficit. The Mavs are struggling.
Kobe Bryant (10 points, two rebounds, one assist) was a virtual non-factor in the first half, as back spasms rendered him an observer on the court. The ball stayed out of his hands, and the Mavs failed to attack him when in the half-court offense. Bryant was matched up Marion, and while Shawn does not have an expansive offensive repertoire, would posting up Bryant be too much to ask? It’s hard for players with hurt backs to guard mobile opponents, but it’s also difficult for them to establish a base, bump, and contest down low. That should have been the Mavs’ primary directive early in the game, but Marion was hardly a factor in Dallas’ first quarter offense.
By the second half, Kobe seemed to be more comfortable. Maybe it was the considerable rest (he didn’t play at all in the second quarter, giving him thirteen minutes of rest in addition to halftime) afforded him by the Laker bench, or perhaps a change in approach by L.A.’s training staff. Or perhaps a recovery of some supernatural nature, a divine right given to the heroes of our story so that they may rise above. Bryant didn’t do much of the heavy lifting, but he managed to suck the air out of American Airlines Center with a go-ahead jumper with 29 seconds remaining. Dirk had just hit the biggest shot of the night to tie the game 95-all, but we should have known that the Mavs were simply setting the stage for their opponents’ victory. Josh Howard later had a chance to send the game to overtime on an open three-pointer, but leather hit nothing but rim. And instead of thinking that the Mavs fell short, all I could think was that the Lakers held on. From the opening tip on, this was their game. It was their story, and they played like it.
- Dirk Nowitzki (30 points, 11-22 FG, 16 rebounds, two assists) and Jason Kidd (11 points, 3-8 3FG, seven rebounds, 11 assists) were sensational. But Kidd’s timely threes and Dirk’s heroics couldn’t overcome the Mavs’ defensive shortcomings. It was one of those nights where Dirk reminds you of just how fantastic of a player he is, and fittingly so, because Nowitzki notched his 20,000th career point. He’s 38th on the all-time scoring list, and while it’s easy to say that the Dallas Mavericks have never seen another player or scorer like him, I’d venture as far as to say that the NBA hasn’t, either. Dirk is a truly unique talent, a revolutionary, a franchise savior, and one of the best to ever play the game.
- Jason Terry (seven points, 2-12 FG, three assists) didn’t offer much support, and the offense stalled because of it. Terry is so crucial to the offensive game plan, and when he’s not providing a scoring punch from the bench (especially on a night where Josh Howard moved into the starting lineup), he doesn’t offer much at all. That’s painful considering just how close the Mavs were to a victory, and when considering that the Lakers’ bench outscored the Mavs’ bench by ten points (31-21).
- Lamar Odom did exactly what the situation called for – he drove to the basket (nine attempts at the rim), set up his teammates (four assists) and hit his open jumpshots (four of five from 16-23 feet). With Kobe stepping into a minor offensive role, somebody needed to use up shots. To Lamar’s credit, he certainly wasn’t passive, and although his 9-20 shooting and three turnovers aren’t terrific in regard to efficiency, it was exactly what the Lakers needed on this night.
- Early in the game, the Mavs made the decision to put Josh Howard on Ron Artest and Shawn Marion on Kobe Bryant. I don’t meant to beat a dead horse here, but the way that Artest was bullying Josh inside made me wonder if Marion couldn’t do a little better job of standing his ground. Shawn is bigger than Josh and a more adept defender in the post, and putting Josh on Kobe would create more transition situations where Kobe is forced to guard Josh. Even if you don’t buy into the idea of Marion being able to punish Kobe in the post, Howard could at least provide offensive pressure on an ailing Bryant.
- Two crucial plays that Rick Carlisle highlighted in his press conference took place at the end of the second and third quarters. To close the second, Ron Artest had a look at a running three-pointer, but Dirk Nowitzki mistimed his jump and ended up fouling with .2 seconds on the clock. Ron sank all three free throws, and what could have been a one-point deficit at halftime was four. Then, to close the third, the Mavs gave up an uncontested three to Jordan Farmar, pushing a two-point deficit to five. Both were pretty glaring mental mistakes, worsened by the fact that the clock was working against the Lakers in those situations, and yet they still found ways to get points.
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Life, death and rebirth are inevitable.”
So yeah. That happened.
Last night’s contest was an oh so pleasant reminder that the NBA will break you. There are simply too many games, too many hungry opponents, and too many talented players out there for a team to go through the season without being thoroughly humbled. Luckily for the Mavs, they have 82 (82+, if you count preseason) tries to get this thing right before the playoffs begin, and they’ll likely need every one of the remaining contests to tune up.
I think it’s safe to say that losing by 35 points to the Lakers is an aberration. Los Angeles is undoubtedly the class of the West and one of the best squads in the league, but to be so completely and utterly embarrassed requires a very special level of futility. So special a level that we haven’t seen anything close from the Mavs all season, and hopefully won’t again. This game was absolutely a statement for the Lakers, but the Mavs have the benefit of moving on, trying to forget, and preparing for next week’s rematch.
The Mavs just weren’t ready for the Lakers, physically or mentally. They failed to play their game, L.A.’s game, or anything resembling any type of game. And as such, they allowed the Lakers to post 137.9 points/100 possessions, which is beyond gaudy. The Lakers’ effective field goal percentage was a blistering 72%. Dallas’ offensive impotence in the first quarter gave the game an air of desperation from the very beginning, and every defensive gamble (I’ve never seen the Mavs make so many attempts at steals in the backcourt) and quick three-point attempt only added fuel to L.A.’s fire. They didn’t need Ron Artest (despite the remarkable season he’s had thus far), and they didn’t even need Pau Gasol (ditto), really. Andrew Bynum (19 points, 8-8 FG, four assists) went to work on the low block against the undersized Mavs (get well soon, Damp), Kobe Bryant (15 points, eight assists, four turnovers) and Lamar Odom (15 points, 15 rebounds, six assists) facilitated the offense to perfection, and the full cast and crew of Lakers’ role players took turns pummeling the nonexistent Maverick defense. Jordan Farmar (24 points, 6-8 3FG) had a marvelous game, and laughed in the face of the Mavs’ zone defense.
But what choice did Dallas have? With Bynum in full effect on the block, the Mavs had to adjust, and with Erick Dampier out of the lineup, they had few options. So the Lakers dumped it inside, and Bynum went to work. When the Mavs came with help, he kicked it out. It was sequence after sequence of brutal simplicity. The Mavs have the talent to theoretically hang with almost any team in the league, but without Erick Dampier in the middle, they looked absolutely hopeless. L.A. outsized and outclassed the Dallas last night, and there is absolutely no getting around that.
One can only hope that the next time these teams meet (which is the 13th, by the way), the Mavs perform at a respectable level. Hopefully the Lakers won’t be allowed to waltz down the lane for uncontested dunks and layups. Hopefully the Mavs will be able to make a damn jumpshot to save their lives, or at least execute some semblance of an offensive game plan. Hopefully the Mavs can show a little heart and a little pride, and prove that they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the Lakers. Hopefully all of these things will happen because we know that the Mavs are capable of them. Dallas is better than this. The defense is better than this. And hopefully nine days from now, they can prove it.
It’s still January, and though the Mavs’ point differential may be wrecked beyond repair, there’s no reason to panic over a game that is clearly an outlier in terms of effort and performance. Kudos to L.A. for the whoopin’, but the Mavs were a no-show.