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 Mavs’ 105.3 points per 100 possessions wasn’t an outstanding mark, but Dallas actually executed rather effectively on offense. The turnovers were a bit high, but the patience, pressure, and ensuing high-percentage looks were there. Quality looks were had around the basket and on uncontested jumpers, but something hiccuped during the transition between the notion and actualization of the Mavs’ shots. Dallas missed their first eight field goal attempts, and though they had more productive offensive sequences, that early stretch encapsulated the game nicely. Ian Mahinmi (11 points, 4-6 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) was the only Maverick to shoot more than 50% from the field, but don’t mistake Dallas’ inability to score for an inability to execute. Do, however, take that as an indicator of Mahinmi’s effectiveness. He leapfrogged Brendan Haywood (DNP-CD) in the rotation, and stayed in the game with his constant activity. Mahinmi even went to work in the low post on a pair of possessions, where he showed surprising polish. It’s getting more and more difficult for Rick Carlisle to keep Mahinmi off the floor, which makes Haywood’s situation rather bleak and the team’s cap situation even bleaker.
I’m not sure what it is in Ramon Sessions’ (19 points, 6-12 FG, 13 assists, six rebounds) game that makes him so capable of attacking the Mavs’ defense, but in two games this season he’s seemed shockingly effective against this particular competition. Sessions is good. He’s a starting-caliber player, if surrounded with the right pieces. Yet against the Mavs he looks the part of a legitimate franchise cornerstone. Sessions essentially duplicated the 19-12-7 line he put up the last time these two teams met, and fault rests up and down the roster. Neither Jason Kidd nor J.J. Barea seemed able to hang with him, and once Sessions got past the initial defender his path to the basket often went undeterred. Dallas struggled defensively in many regards (J.J. Hickson went hog wild with 26 points on 18 shots, Antawn Jamison had it far too easy scoring inside, and Christian Eyenga somehow managed 15 points despite being a Jamario Moon’s Jamario Moon), but several of their failings are summed up nicely by Sessions’ simple, unbothered, straight-line path to the rim.
Dirk Nowitzki (12 points, 5-11 FG, six rebounds, five turnovers) injured his right wrist in the second quarter, and looked understandably hesitant to act as the Mavs’ primary shot-taker. It doesn’t appear to be serious, but should Nowitzki look to take a step back offensively until his shooting motion is relatively pain-free, the rest of the Mavs will need to be a bit more accurate. Mahinmi, Shawn Marion (17 points, 5-15 FG, 10 rebounds, seven offensive), and Tyson Chandler (10 points, 11 rebounds, four offensive) were able to salvage a ton of those misses on Monday night with offensive boards, and the bench created enough scoring to avoid what could have been a hugely embarrassing lost. Peja Stojakovic can also hopefully be a bit more helpful in the scoring column as Dallas moves forward; his Maverick debut came with some inevitable rust, but Stojakovic moved well and found open looks. Now he — and the rest of his new teammates — just have to make them.
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
Nothing like playing against the Cavaliers’ defense to get the offense going sans Nowitzki, Butler, and Beaubois. Dallas did their part to execute, but there’s no question that playing against a defense without shot-blockers or capable defensive bigs did wonders for the Mavs’ inside game. Lots of productive cutting, driving, and ball movement, which generated good looks both inside and out. The offense was simple, but that’s fine against the Cavs, especially without Anderson Varejao in the lineup. It wasn’t a dominant offensive performance — and those expecting anything of the sort in the Mavs’ current circumstances best be scanned for brain damage — but Dallas held modest advantages in each of the four factors.
The defense was another story. A win is a win is a win is a win, but the back line of the zone was sloppy, and the pick-and-roll coverage was generally a mess. Defensive breakdowns are inevitable, but the frequency of open Cleveland dunks and layups in their half-court offense was pretty depressing. Definitely not one of the Mavs’ finer defensive performances, and I’m not sure injuries provide a valid excuse.
A possible caveat, though: because of Nowitzki and Butler’s injuries, plenty of Mavs are playing out of position in the zone. Those that had been manning the top of the zone are now on the wing in some cases, and while the principles are the same, the execution is different. Even those changes shouldn’t have resulted in so many open looks at the rim, but it’s something to consider.
Butler’s absence ushered Jason Terry (18 points, 8-14 FG, four assists) back into the starting lineup, where Shawn Marion (22 points, 11-16 FG, five rebounds) also stood in for Nowitzki. Kidd-Terry-Stevenson-Marion-Chandler is a very weird offensive lineup, but JET found his jumper at the bottom of his travel bag, DeShawn Stevenson (21 points, 6-13 FG, 5-12 3FG, four assists, three rebounds) was absolutely tremendous from deep but was far more than a spot-up shooter, and Marion moved well in the Mavs’ half-court offense and on the initial and secondary break. Toss in double-digit scoring efforts from Jason Kidd (10 points, 3-13 FG, eight assists, four rebounds, four turnovers) and Tyson Chandler (14 points, 6-6 FG, 14 rebounds, three turnovers), and you have a one-game, completely unsustainable blueprint for makeshift success.
Mavs fans should already be quite aware of Antawn Jamison’s (35 points, 14-22 FG, 3-6 3FG, 10 reobunds) scoring savvy, but games like this one bring Jamison’s creativity around the basket to the forefront, if only for a moment. Jamison has been pegged as a “stretch 4,” but I’m not quite sure why; he’s an interior player with range, not a Rashard Lewis or Troy Murphy-like talent that works from the outside in. Reducing Jamison to a perimeter threat erases the dimensions of the game in which he’s been the most successful, and as he showed against the Mavs, Jamison is still plenty capable of piling up points with an array of flips, hooks, counters, and tips.
Dominique Jones (nine points, 2-10 FG, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks) was recalled from the Legends after Butler’s injury status became grave, and played 21 minutes as a creator/scorer. Rick Carlisle actually ran a decent amount of the offense through Jones, who proved himself a capable drive-and-kick player if nothing else. His vision isn’t transcendent, but Jones is unselfish and capable of making all kinds of passes. Jones still struggles to finish after getting to the rim — odd considering how strong of a finisher he was in college and at Summer League — but that limitation seems nothing more than a temporary hurdle. Jones will be a quality driver/slasher in time, and for now, he’s showing the quickness to get around his man, the vision and willingness to make smart plays, and a veteran knack for drawing contact.
Marion scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 15 second-half minutes. Those buckets weren’t exactly tide-altering (though the final margin was less than impressive, the Mavs’ offense kept them in control throughout), but valuable nonetheless, particularly with such talented scorers riding the inactive list.
None of us should expect Rick Carlisle’s rotation to be constant given his current personnel, so take the significance of Brendan Haywood’s return to semi-prominence with a grain of salt. Haywood could end up glued to the bench again by midweek, but for now, he’s playing right behind Tyson Chandler once more.
Sneakily absurd performance of the night: Ramon Sessions finished with 19 points (9-13 FG), 12 assists, and seven rebounds. Sessions benefited from the confused Dallas defense on more than a few occasions, and got up for a couple of dunks. Still, the full volume of Sessions’ production escaped me, and the fact that he nearly registered a pretty impressive triple double seems crazy, even if it shouldn’t.
No Game Is an Island has taken a brief break, but it’s back. Check back on game days for a more detailed look on the Mavs’ opponent du jour. No match-up breakdowns here; No Game Is an Island focuses on the macro or the micro to an extreme, giving you a bit of perspective on just about anything but the individual game itself.
The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Washington Wizards as we knew them have been completely destroyed. Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson, as you well know, are in Dallas, and former Mav Antawn Jamison is now a Cleveland Cavalier. But while those former Wizards are at least happy to have some separation from the mess in D.C., other talented players from around the league weren’t so fortunate. Enter Troy Murphy:
Antawn has the bigger name and the bigger game, but does that really make him so much more of a sympathetic figure than Murphy? The Arenas-Crittenton debacle was an obvious embarrassment for every member of the Wizards organization, but at the very least, it presented a scapegoat. Washington’s plan won’t work, and it’s all Gilbert’s fault. The team won’t make the playoffs again as presently constructed, and it’s all Gilbert’s fault. Grunfeld has to trade away all of the team’s best players immediately to plan for the future, and it’s all Gilbert’s fault. But in a lot of ways, Gil is the red herring; the Wizards were already 10-20 before the gun story ran wild, and that’s not only on Arenas, but also Grunfeld, Flip, Antawn, Caron, Brendan, et al. But Washington has Gil as the goat of all goats, which doesn’t make the situation any less tragic but does make the excuses all kinds of convenient.
Murphy has no one to hide behind. After all, whose fault is it that the Pacers are an awful 19-36, a full game behind the Wizards? Is it Danny Granger’s fault for refusing to diversify his game and regressing in his most valuable attribute? Is it Jim O’Brien’s fault for coaching a horrid offense? Is it Larry Bird for piecing together a mismatched, underwhelming roster? Or Mike Dunleavy for the way his body refuses to cooperate? Washington at least had the blessing (or maybe just the illusion) of certainty, whereas things in Indiana are so muddled they’re almost indistinguishable. With over $60 million in guaranteed salary for next season, little in the way of trade bait, and no prospects waiting to take the leap, Murphy is stuck in his own private hell.
The three players most commonly linked to the Mavs are all wings: Kevin Martin, Andre Iguodala, and Caron Butler. The Mavs’ interest is said to flow in that order, meaning that acquiring Butler may very well be a back-up plan. It’s definitely an option, but hardly the option.
As my ESPN.com colleague Chad Ford wrote Thursday, Washington’s preference is moving Butler ahead of team statesman Antawn Jamison, who has been chased hard by Cleveland since last season and with particular vigor since the Cavs lost out to Charlotte in the trade race to acquire Stephen Jackson.
On the surface, a Jamison-to-Cleveland trade would seem somewhat irrelevant to the Mavs; a team in the opposite conference would get stronger by preying off of another team in the opposite conference, with none of the Mavs’ rumored targets directly compromised. But consider this: Cleveland is supposedly aggressively pursuing Antawn Jamison via trade, while the Mavs supposedly have something of a Josh Howard-Caron Butler swap on the back-burner. Though Washington may prefer to move Butler, they may not be in a position to move both Butler and Jamison. Trading away all of the talent opens up quite the can of worms, and the Wiz will have a rough go of it drawing season ticket holders and free agents alike if there are no ballers of note left in D.C. by summer.
If Jamison is indeed item 1-A on the Cavs’ agenda, it could put the Mavs in a tough spot: either Dallas strives for a possibly more attainable target in Butler (remember, Sacramento is still unwilling to move Kevin Martin and Andre Iguodala likely has Samuel Dalembert tied to his ankle as a salary anchor), or could miss out entirely if the Mavs’ other plans fall through and Cleveland scores Jamison. It’s a bit premature for the Mavs to jump on a deal for Butler, but there’s definite reason for the decision-makers in Dallas to have their ear to the ground for tremors out of Cleveland.
“The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you’re playing by somebody else’s rules, while quietly playing by your own.”
You could easily look at all of the Mavs’ close wins this season and determine that they’re not getting the job done. There’s little separation on the scoreboard, and for a quality team against inferior opponents, that’s simply unacceptable.
On some level, I agree; the Mavs should certainly be winning games more decisively. They have the talent necessary to build up a big lead and rest their starters in the fourth quarter, but seem to much prefer slugging out a game in the final seconds. Great for drama, not so much for the point differential.
But I will say this: the Mavs have plenty of clutch experience this season. This team knows how to execute and win with the game on the line. Think that might make a difference in the playoffs?
Last night’s game was only the latest of the Maverick nail-biters, as Dallas surrendered consecutive three-pointers to the Wiz in the final 30 seconds. A safe seven-point lead had dwindled to just one, and then the unthinkable happened: Dirk Nowitzki committed a turnover with the game on the line. It’s one of the few blemishes on Dirk’s clutch resume, and it put Washington in control of the game with just six seconds remaining. They inbounded to Caron Butler in isolation, who measure the situation as he approached the three-point line. He attacked driving left, bumped to create contact, hung in the air, and was smothered by Shawn Marion.
One play hardly a win makes, but Marion and the Mavs are finishers in the truest sense. They may not always start the game strongly (although they had a perfectly respectable first quarter Wednesday night), but they close it with authority. Nowitzki is brutally effective in late-game situations, Jason Terry is one of the league leaders in fourth quarter scoring despite his disappointing performance overall, and the Mavs’ team defense has generally been superb in finishing games. It may not be enough to win by 20 every night, but it’s enough to win on most of them. Considering the pretty intense schedule the Mavs have had so far and the quality of opponents in the Western Conference, winning by a slim margin isn’t quite the sign of weakness it used to be.
The Mavs were certainly not without flaws in their win over the Wiz, but when the most glaring is simply the inability to build up a huge lead? I’ll take it. The offense performed well behind another terrific night from Dirk (28 points, 11-19 FG, five rebounds, three turnovers) and the welcome contributions of Jason Terry (21 points, 9-16 FG, one turnover). JET jumped into the starting lineup for just the second time all season, and he responded beautifully with eight of the Mavs’ 25 first quarter points. Starting Josh Howard has its perks (as does starting J.J. Barea), but it may be time for the Mavs to jump-start Terry’s offensive game with early shots. Despite his talents and his reputation, JET doesn’t play with blinders on. He’s likely to put up points early, but he’ll do so without handcuffing the rest of the offense. That’s the biggest difference between the offensive games of Jason Terry and Josh Howard right now, and though Josh missed the game due to illness, the notion of starting Terry is something the Mavs ought to explore.
On a night-in and night-out basis, those two should be the givens on offense. They should be putting up 20+, and the contributions of the rest of the Mavs provide the fudge, the whipped cream, and the cherry on top. On Wednesday it was Shawn Marion (12 points, 6-12 FG, 12 rebounds, two blocks) and Drew Gooden (14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks) who provided the trimmings, and they did so in a very efficient manner. Marion and Gooden combined for seven offensive rebounds, which is the ideal for them to provide on the offensive end. Marion can create a little off the dribble or in the post, but his primary offensive strengths come in moving without the ball and securing extra possessions for the Mavs off of rebounds. Drew is a bit more skilled in terms of shot-creation, but Dirk, Terry, and Kidd (in terms of setting up plays) remain superior options. If Gooden secures the offensive rebound and throws up an errant baby hook, it’s essentially a no-loss scenario; the Mavs could technically have scored on the additional possession they created, but Drew still had the opportunity to score based on an opportunity he seized by himself. That means he’s using up less of the possessions in the structured offense, but still contributing on the scoreboard. Tremendous.
The Mavs’ defense wasn’t especially notable, except for their inability to cover Randy Foye (26 points, 9-14 FG, three assists, three turnovers). If you’ll recall, Foye dropped 19 on the Mavs on opening night, and was a bonafide difference-maker with his scoring alone. There’s apparently something about Foye’s game that’s slippery enough to elude Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, and co., and he’s taken full advantage of that fact this season. But other than that? Antawn Jamison had just seven points on 2-10 shooting with four turnovers. Caron Butler turned in a modest 20, while shooting 7-20 from the field. And though Brendan Haywood (13 points, 18 rebounds) and Earl Boykins (11 points, three assists) stepped up to fill the void, it wasn’t quite enough. This was by no means a marquee defensive performance, but the Mavs did force the Wizards’ best players into tough nights, and sealed the game by shutting down Caron Butler.
Jason Kidd only scored six points (2-10 FG), but contributed plenty to the offense as evidenced by his gaudy 15 assists…which matched the the Wizards’ team total. Kidd has topped 15 assists in the last two games, and he’s averaging 12.6 dimes over his last five. Bravo, good chap.
Even when the Wizards took a slight edge on the scoreboard in the closing minutes, the Mavs always seemed to have the game in control. They were the aggressors, and their primary scorers had established themselves as go-to guys. When in doubt, just get the ball to Dirk or JET. But the Wizards? Not having Butler or Jamison in rhythm, if only as a last resort, hurt their offense.
Matt Carroll logged a few minutes in the second quarter, and played about how you would expect. It’s tough to go into a situation like that and contribute; despite all the drills and practices, nothing can really prepare you for an NBA game except for other NBA games. Quinton Ross also played 15 minutes (and wasn’t all that impressive defensively), and James Singleton logged eight.
Erick Dampier threw down two alley-oop dunks from Jason Kidd with authority. Don’t worry, clips are on their way.
The Mavs are moving the ball beautifully right now. It’s not just Kidd, either — the team totaled 27 assists on 39 field goals.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Shawn Marion. The double-double is huge, but the game-saving block is even better. Shawn had another tough assignment in Caron Butler, but forced Butler into some bad shots throughout the night, and took any hope the Wizards had for a comeback win and stomped on it as time expired.
I’m a bit lost as to the criteria used, though. If it’s the out-and-out best players (talent and production-wise) to play for the Mavs in the 2000s, Jason Kidd seems slighted. If it’s based on production in a Maverick uniform this decade, Jason Terry may not be getting the respect he deserves. And if it’s based on…well, whatever metric puts Nick Van Exel (who make no mistake is one of my personal favorites in team history) ahead of Jason Kidd, Devin Harris, and Erick Dampier, then that explains that. This just seems like an exercise where you need to take talent, production, and Maverick tenure all into account, and with that in mind the order seems a bit scrambled.
It’s not an easy list to compile. We can all agree that Dirk stands at the top of the list, with Steve Nash a perfectly acceptable second fiddle. But where do you go from there? Michael Finley is the best scorer of the bunch, Jason Terry kept the Mavs afloat sans Nash and has a Finals appearance under his belt, and Jason Kidd is probably the best of the remaining crop despite his short tenure. After that, you’ve got some combination of Josh Howard, Devin Harris, and Erick Dampier, three Mavs that were absolutely instrumental to the team’s success during the most successful stretch this decade, and each contributing in unique ways that only sometimes show up on the stat sheet (scoring balance, change-of-pace potential, interior defense). Only then do I get to Jerry Stackhouse and Nick Van Exel, but with DeSagana Diop, Antawn Jamison, and MARQUIS DANIELS getting some consideration.
Sound off in the comments, because I’m curious to hear everyone’s take on this. What’s the best way to go about ranking the decade’s Mavs? And given those criteria, who’veyagot?
First, a programming note: Rather than sweetly serenade you during the week leading up to the regular season opener, I’ve decided to completely blitz all of my readers with a pretty substantial multi-part preview leading up to Tuesday’s launch date. So clear your schedules on Monday and Tuesday, because we’ve got an appointment to get PUMPED UP.
SI.com released their scouting reports for every NBA team, and I’m honestly shocked with how accurately the Mavs are portrayed. I see no devil in the details, just understanding and experience with the Mavs’ personnel. Kudos, SI.
The replacement refs, as one of their final acts in office, called takesies backsies on a Drew Gooden ejection.
The panel of ESPN experts have released their predictions for the NBA’s regular season awards. Rick Carlisle received 3 votes (which puts him in a tie with Flip Saunders and Phil Jackson for the most votes) for Coach of the Year, Shawn Marion netted a mention for Most Improved, and Jason Terry, somewhat inexplicably, only received a single vote for the Sixth Man Award. Look, I love Marquis Daniels. But I can’t even begin to explain how Daniels topped Terry in votes.
First of all, if you’ve got $10 to spare, I’d definitely recommend picking up (or really, loading down) a copy of Basketball Prospectus 2009-2010. It’s well worth the dough for over 350 pages of statistical projections and detailed analysis, and in particular, Will Carroll’s feature piece on microfracture surgery. In the interest of full disclosure, I did contribute a blurb for the Mavs section. That said, Kevin Pelton, Bradford Doolittle, and all the contributors have put together a fine, fine book, and I’d consider any NBA fan’s preseason preparation to be incomplete without it.
Second, Kyle Weidie from Truth About It was kind enough to do a Q&A swap with me in anticipation of tonight’s game against the Wiz. You can see my answers to Kyle’s Mavs-centric questions here, and here are Kyle’s answers to my queries:
Rob Mahoney: Who should get the start at shooting guard for Washington?
Kyle Weidie: Well, he’s probably one of the least popular choices in D.C. these days (outside of anything the Redskins do), but I’m going to go with DeShawn Stevenson over the other contenders of Nick Young, Randy Foye and Mike Miller. Because of the other options to backup Arenas at the point (Mike James and the currently injured Javaris Crittenton), Foye will have to fill that role coming off the bench. Miller would be my second choice to start, but his diverse talents will be better served with him being a facilitator for the second unit. And with Young, scoring is not a problem … so I’d rather him pack a punch in that area supplanting the efforts of the Big Three (Arenas, Butler, Jamison).
Stevenson, if fully recovered from back surgery this past off-season … and it’s been so far so good with him, fits well with the Big Three. Partially because he’s started alongside those guys before, but mostly because if he doesn’t try to do too much, he can keep lanes open with his ability to knock down spot-up threes, and since he’s probably the Wizards’ best perimeter defender, he can help alleviate concerns in that area from Arenas and Jamison.
RM: I’ve often considered Brendan Haywood to be one of the more underrated centers in the league. If you were creating a comprehensive list of all the centers in the NBA, where would Haywood rank?
KW: I’ve asserted that Haywood is a top five center in the East with the potential of being in the top 10 league wide. Overall, he’s an underrated player and is the key to the Wizards defense, especially since he’s such an intelligent player who knows how to communicate. On the offensive end, Haywood has been rather robotic in the past, but evidently has developed a mid-range jumper this summer, which is available for bigs in Saunders’ offense, and could really open up the floor for his teammates.
In the East, I’m only putting Shaq, Dwight Howard and Al Horford 100% above Haywood. Sure, we could start arguing when you drop names like Tyson Chandler, Kendrick Perkins, Brad Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Andrew Bogut, Brook Lopez, and Andrea Bargnani. But I think Haywood wins out because of a variety of issues that each of those guys face (durability, one-dimensional, inexperienced, not really a center, etc.).
Haywood was coming off a career year before he missed most all of last season with a freak injury to his wrist ligament. This being a contract year for him, he has even more reasons to prove himself. All I’m saying is…. keep an eye on him.
RM: Gilbert Arenas has made it very clear that he intends to be all business this season. Does it hurt the Wizards’ marketability/fun-factor to have a less eccentric Gil?
KW: It may hurt his personal marketability, but as far as the team, winning is that end-all-be-all of cures. Winning is fun, marketable, and will help ease Abe Pollin’s pain of paying the luxury tax. I mean, it’s not like Arenas can’t be funny … he has an upcoming TNT/NBA spot with Rainn Wilson … but so far, he’s been all business on the court and off … and when it comes to dealing with local media (he refuses to talk to any media, actually).
I think a lot of it is with him being out so long, Arenas wants to get his swagger back on the court before he kicks his marketing swagger into gear. But even with being out for the past two seasons, his jersey is still the 15th most popular in Europe and 14th in China. In the end, just like the team, winning will bring Arenas back to relevancy. And as soon as that happens, the folks at adidas will be very happy.
RM: Antawn Jamison remains one of the lone bright spots from the Mavs’ 2003-2004 season, even if he never really had a proper place in Dallas. It’s unmistakable that the 2004 trade that sent Jamison to Washington has significantly affected the fates of both franchises, but given everything that we know, would you be for or against the trade of Devin Harris/Jerry Stackhouse for Jamison?
KW: As great as Devin Harris has turned out to be, I still do the trade 100%. Not only is Jamison a good ‘character’ guy, but without him, the Wizards would not have made that four-year playoff run between ’04 and ’08. Surely other moves would have been made had Grunfeld not made the trade, but Jamison fits well with the current unit of Arenas and Caron Butler. Plus, the guy is still a highly capable rebounder and scorer, with a tricky offensive game that will diminish at a much slower rate than most players his age (he turned 33 in June).
RM: Which non-Dirk Mav do you anticipate will give the Wizards the most trouble?
KW: I’m probably going to give Shawn Marion the nod over Jason Terry. The Wizards got killed on the boards, especially offensive rebounds, against the Grizzlies on Tuesday. Marion is tough to keep track of and hard to block out. On Thursday, Flip Saunders said he was going to let Nick Young come off the bench to chase Terry around … and that will be a very difficult task for the third year player still trying to learn the ropes on D. However, I think not allowing second chance points is more key to the Wizards’ success.
Many thanks to Kyle, and check back with him at Truth About It for more on tonight’s game.