There have been a lot of positive remarks about the questions and answers series that has started during the offseason. I think people are just thirsty for Mavs information or debate, but we’ll continue running with the series. If you ever have questions you want tossed into future a batch, you can always send them through Twitter or through the comments section.
This batch provides a good mixture of looking back, looking ahead and evaluating who the true gambles are this offseason with free agency. If Dirk and Carlisle were your kids and you had to pick one as your favorite, who would you pick? Wait, parents don’t have to pick a favorite child? Oh, that’s good to know for the future. Anyways, a variation of that topic is brought up.
For now, here are 10 more questions and answers about the Mavs.
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 coalescence of poor fortune dawns swiftly and without warning in the world of regression to the mean and jumper reliance, and the Mavericks faced down that unfortunate coalescence in unending quantity on Thursday night.
Offensive success never neared commonality over the course of a close, slow-paced second half, but things swiftly took an awful turn for the irritating in the third quarter, when the offense of Dallas achieved impressive stagnancy.
The acceptable, if not well taken, looks which led the Mavericks to a 41-point first half dissipated instantly in the first few minutes of the third quarter as the Pacers paced out to a double-digit lead.
Why and how are the question words which spring to mind, and part of the answer lies in a second-half opening lineup which just didn’t work against a stalwart Indiana defense.
That lineup included Chris Kaman (0-1 FG, four minutes, -11) and Mike James (0-4 FG, four assists, 20 minutes, -22), each of whom appeared equal parts listless in their respective outings.
Kaman, appearing in the game for the first time, couldn’t defend Hibbert and couldn’t find an inkling of offensive rhythm.
James, who played less than usual in the first half, struggled to find space in the swiftly shifting Indiana defense and rarely escaped the perimeter.
The lineup struggled along with them and failed to find Dirk Nowitzki (10-20 FG, 21 points, seven rebounds) early in possessions, and soon the Pacers were on their way to a 17-point lead and firm dominance.
It’s a worth noting how poorly the Mavericks’ style matches that of the strongly defensive Pacers.
The Pacers simply have to much capability in the realm of size and post presence for the Mavericks to outwit.
The Mavericks have no answer for the Roy Hibberts (5-10 FG, 16 points, 11 rebounds) and even the Tyler Hansbroughs of the basketball world – those who are weighty rebounders and energetic post defenders.
Dallas relied on mid-range jumpers to save their hopes because of the Pacers’ prevalent defensive size, and failed for the most part in that region.
And on the other end, Paul George (10-17 FG, 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists) scored at will.
In this I felt the Mavericks were less at fault. George is a great, versatile player, and he made many thoroughly tough looks.
The Mavericks may have been better served to place Shawn Marion (4-7 FG, eight points, four rebounds) on George instead of Vince Carter (5-13 FG, 14 points) and company, but tonight felt like a night when there was little the Mavericks could have done to hinder George, no matter who acted as his defensive foil.
No Maverick made more than half their field goals, and Dirk’s 10 of 20 makes was the only output in that realm.
Ian Mahinmi (4-8 FG, nine points, seven rebounds) played fairly well in his return to Dallas.
His return offered a reminder that his presence would be very welcome on a team that lacks for size and reliable defensive centers.
The Mavericks did a pretty poor job of finding ways to get three-point shooters open throughout Thursday’s game.
Dallas made four of 14 three-point attempts, and few of those attempts could or should be classified as ‘clean looks’ .
When Anthony Morrow (2-4 FG, 0-1 3PT, four points, 11 minutes) entered the game, I had some hope that he’d be use to run off screens and take threes, the skill that’s defined his entire career.
Instead, the offense continued its jumbled ways and Morrow looked lost within the team’s movement.
The Mavericks’ playoff chances decreased considerably with this loss, but with the aid of the Bucks’ victory against the Lakers, some hope remains.
It seems somewhat trite to describe Saturday’s game against the Bulls as a ‘must-win’, as such a description will be used for pretty much every remaining Dallas’ game, but with the Jazz holding the tiebreaker between the two teams, every game lost counts considerably.
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
The Mavs’ level of play this week was all over the map. From game to game, quarter to quarter, and even timeout to timeout, the Mavs showcased the level of frightening inconsistency we’ve seen pretty much all year. Really, the week was a perfectly framed microcosm of the basic “hot/cold” concept behind this weekly Thermodynamics column. They were hot. Then they were cold. Then they were hot again — unless they were still cold.
Fortunately, all of that makes it especially easy to write this week’s installment.
Week 19 (@Nets, @Rockets, Rockets)
1) OJ Mayo
In the early part of this season, Mayo had pretty much camped out a permanent spot on this “hot” list. Since late December, though, I’ve had exceedingly few occasions to applaud him for a solid week’s worth of games. This week, he finally played consistently enough to earn this spot. He was far from perfect, but you could credibly argue that he had the best week of any Mav. He scored 17 points on 6-of-12 (50%) shooting in Brooklyn, including 3-of-4 (75%) from deep. One of those threes came late in the fourth quarter amidst a big Nets rally, and effectively stemmed the tide long enough for the Mavs to hold on for an impressive road win. Mayo’s performance a few nights later in Houston was a mixed bag; he was terrific offensively, netting 18 points on 6-of-9 (67%) shooting to go with four assists and a steal, but he was a huge part of the Mavs’ pathetically woeful defensive effort. Call that game a wash. A few nights later in Dallas, Mayo played much better against the Rockets — so well, in fact, that Rick Carlisle called it Mayo’s best game of the year. That may be a bit of rhetoric, but it’s not preposterous. Mayo contributed just 13 points in the Rockets rematch, but he was absolutely stellar otherwise: six rebounds, 12 assists, and zero turnovers. Mayo consistently made the right play and was singlehandedly responsible for creating a significant portion of the Mavs’ offense. Especially considering his lackluster performance in recent weeks prior, Mayo shined rather brightly this week.
The Mavericks were expected to be quiet as the deadline came. Despite that theory, it appeared that things might work out to where the Mavericks acquired Beno Udrih if a deal with Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks fell through. The Smith deal never panned out, but Udrih ended up being dealt as part of a six-player deal between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic. As the deadline was winding down, the Mavericks ended up striking a deal with the Atlanta Hawks. The Mavericks swapped veteran wing player Dahntay Jones in exchange for Anthony Morrow. “We want to thank Dahntay for what he brought to us,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
After the deal was announced, Carlisle commented on his new player. “He’s one of the best shooters in the game and you can never too many shooters,” Carlisle said. Morrow, 27, averaged 5.2 points and 1.1 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game in 24 appearances for the Hawks this season. He has had to miss a chunk of this season with a hip injury. For those who haven’t tracked Morrow, he was acquired by Atlanta from Brooklyn as part of a package for Joe Johnson. The Mavericks are interested in Morrow as he’s in the final year of his deal that pays him $4 million.
According to TV play-by-play voice of the Mavericks Mark Followill, the only rookie in NBA history to lead the league in 3-point shooting percentage is Morrow at .467 in 2008-09. Morrow’s career .425 3-point percentage is the 9th highest in league history (minimum 250 3-pointers made).
You know the drill. The Difference is a quick-hitting (or in this case, day after) reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
The lead rose and fell, but this one went pretty much according to script; there was a bit of a hiccup in the second act, but that’s just the way these things go. Every team makes a run, and the Nets made theirs, trimming what was once a 21-point lead for the Mavs into a measly five-point difference. That much is expected, but the fourth quarter response is where the Mavs put their signature on this thing. Dallas’ late-game performance may not seem all that special after 11 straight wins cooked up with the same recipe, but the Mavs are managing to win games convincingly even if they don’t put them away all that early.
Want more proof that all went according to plan? Dallas shot well from the field, kept their opponent’s eFG% down, kept their turnovers to a reasonable level, but took a hit on the offensive glass. Sound familiar?
Dallas’ 31 assists was a season high, and the ball movement was as good as the box score makes it look. J.J. Barea (six points, 13 assists) was fantastic in finding his teammates for open buckets all over the court, and he was aided by a lax New Jersey defense and some proficient shot-making. Jason Kidd added eight assists of his own, and together, Barea and Kidd successfully out-assisted the entire Nets’ squad. It’s also worth noting that I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Mavs find so many open men directly under the basket for uncontested dunks. Smart cutting, sure, but all high fives and subsequent pats on the back should be forwarded to the New Jersey Nets’ locker room.
Shawn Marion (18 points, 8-10 FG, six rebounds, four steals, three turnovers) played some tremendous ball. He was cutting hard to the rim on offense, making quick moves off the dribble, and running the break intuitively. There are nights when it all looks so easy for Marion, and this one certainly qualifies. That’s part of the danger in undervaluing Marion; his style makes some pretty difficult plays look far simpler than they are, and yet here he is, as one of the Mavs’ top contributors. Dallas didn’t have to lean on Dirk Nowitzki much at all, and Marion was a big reason for that.
Not that Dirk (21 points, 8-10 FG, 10 rebounds, two turnovers) didn’t do his part. Nowitzki just hung around and drew some defensive attention. Then, every once in awhile, he’d drop a jumper here, a jumper there. Eighty-percent shooting. No big deal.
Dallas did a much better job of looking for Brendan Haywood (nine points, eight rebounds, one block) around the basket than they do on a typical night. Haywood played well. It’s hard to dissect the causality there, but we know that the Mavs’ big man had more touches and was more active on both ends, a welcome surprise given his play against Golden State on Tuesday.
Devin Harris injured his left shoulder on an impressive defensive sequence in the first quarter, and sat most of the game with what was diagnosed as a left shoulder sprain. Don’t think for a second that this win would have been quite as straightforward had Harris been present.
Caron Butler (15 points, 7-11 FG, four rebounds, four assists, three turnovers) is routinely grilled (in this space, among others) for each of his inefficient outings, and it’s with that spirit in mind that I offer him some due praise. The Mavs’ offense was largely propelled by their small forwards throughout most of the game, and while neither Marion nor Butler were creating in isolation per se, it was their movement in the half-court offense and lane-running on the break that put them in position to succeed. A lot of credit still goes to Barea and Kidd for finding their teammates, but every assist needs a finish, and Butler was more than happy to provide a few. He’s not efficient every night, but Butler seems to be settling in. In the last seven games, Butler has made 46 of his 88 field goal attempts (52.3% FG). Think that might at least warrant a golf clap?
Fouling is still Tyson Chandler’s religion.
Speaking of, here’s something I never would have predicted for Chandler, given his status as team savior: Rick Carlisle actually sat TC as much as possible late in the game, instead using Ian Mahinmi for nine minutes. Mahinmi could have played more, too, if not for a few bad fouls, though overall his minutes on the floor were very productive. I’m not sure there’s much playing time to be had on a nightly basis behind Chandler and Haywood, but Mahinmi deserves playing time somewhere.
I’m very impressed with Jason Terry’s (15 points, 7-16 FG, two assists, two steals) driving this season. JET doesn’t attack the basket as much as some of the league’s more dynamic guards, but he does have a nice floater and can draw contact well. All of that disappeared when Terry was made a non-factor in last year’s playoffs, and here’s to hoping that his driving instincts don’t again disappear when faced with staunch defense.
On a similarly pro-JET note: Rick Carlisle is absolutely right in his assessment of Terry’s improved defense. JET still has his defensive weaknesses, but his effort is unquestionable. You could make a highlight reel of him closing out on the perimeter, and in this game in particular, Terry chased Anthony Morrow — one of the deadliest shooters in the league — off of the three-point line, which forced Morrow into a long two-pointer. The three is one of basketball’s most efficient shots, and the long two it’s least efficient. You do the math.
Kris Humphries’ revenge: 16 points, 13 rebounds. Wouldn’t mind having Hump around, but Dallas still wouldn’t be able to give him the minutes he deserves. Also, consider this: Humphries was moved for Eduard Najera, who became part of the trade package that eventually snagged Tyson Chandler. Thanks for that, Hump. The ladies of D/FW still miss you.
The Mavs’ game against the Warriors may seem like ancient history at this point, but there’s still plenty to glean from the loss. Despite all of their defensive improvements, the Mavs have shown two different shades of defensive failure against quick point guards (Monta Ellis, Chris Paul). Though other speedy guards have been contained, Ellis’ performance against the Mavs was a reminder that there’s still plenty of work to be done on the defensive end. In this installment of Moving Pictures, we’ll examine exactly what went wrong against the Warriors, point a few fingers on who’s to blame, and hopefully take away some possible adjustments for the future.
“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret of disappointment.”
Somehow it’s only fitting that when the Mavs are on the cusp of elite status, some familiar demons push them down a peg. I couldn’t care less that they were wearing Warriors uniforms, but yet again, quick point guards had their way with the Dallas defense time and time again, and the results were downright depressing.
Nothing in this game quite turned out as it should. That much should have been certain from the opening tip, when the probable turned questionable turned out Shawn Marion found his way to the bench in a suit. That much should have been certain when the normally careful, deliberate Mavs offense was turning the ball over just for fun. That much should have been certain when the impressive Mavs defense suddenly collapsed on itself rather than on penetration, and when I was begging for Dallas to pick up someone, anyone, in transition. What should have been an easy win over an undermanned team turned out an ugly loss to just six players, and if that didn’t keep each and every Maverick up last night with nightmares of Monta Ellis layups, then we have a problem.
The first half was just sloppy basketball on both ends, which you can live with provided the Mavs show some second half intensity. But despite having a deeper roster and more talented personnel, Dallas very much looked the part of the inferior team for the latter half of the game. The offense was completely out of sorts by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, with the Warriors’ maniacal defensive strategy disrupting the Mavs’ flow plenty. It wasn’t as if Radmanovic was playing stellar defense on Dirk, or that the Warrior guards were locking down Terry; Golden State’s team defense (I know, it surprises me to type this as much as it surprises you to read it) just forced turnovers with help, double teams, and some sleight of hand (creating the illusion of a passing lane when there, in fact, was none).
The numbers don’t properly reflect just how out of sorts Dallas was when it mattered most, but Jason Terry’s infuriating turnover with the Mavs down four and just under a minute to play (video forthcoming) epitomized the night spectacularly. JET and Dirk, two machines created for the sole purposes of putting a ball in a hoop with no unexpected hiccups, combined for nine turnovers. Nine. As in, the titular Plan from Outer Space. The thing seven ate. Just to put things in perspective, before last night, Nowitzki and Terry combined to average just 3.2 turnovers per game.
The defense, as I mentioned before, was an abomination and hopefully an aberration. Though the Warriors themselves had plenty of turnovers, they more than made up for them with frequent and effective drives to the basket as well as the sweet outside shooting of Anthony Morrow (6-8 3FG) and Stephen Curry (2-4 3FG). Morrow simply had one of those games where you’re shocked to see any misses at all in the box score, as his confidence level and on-court positioning were pitch perfect. All the while, Monta Ellis had his way with just about every Maverick defender, in particular exploiting J.J. Barea on the left side of the zone defense. The only Mavs player that showed any effectiveness in guarding Ellis was rookie Rodrigue Beaubois, who managed to slow Ellis on a few drives while the Mavs were in man-to-man sets. Otherwise, the perimeter defense was a turnstyle, the rotation D nonexistent, and the interior D simply a means to the end of an Ellis three point play.
This loss isn’t the end of the world, but it should sting like hell. And it’s a shame, too. Dirk Nowitzki had an excellent night scoring the ball (28 points on 9-18 shooting), despite only getting a few touches during the game’s crucial closing stretch (Dirk had just three shot attempts in the fourth, none over the final 4:28). Jason Kidd (13 assists, 10 rebounds) had a spectacular night offensively, even if he had trouble with the quickness of the Warriors defensively. And Drew Gooden (14 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks) again filled in well for the ill Erick Dampier, providing the low post scoring the Mavs have always lacked against Golden State. But it was all for naught, and worse, the momentum the Mavs had been building over the last five games has essentially been shattered.
File this game away as Exhibit A for why Rodrigue Beaubois should be eating into J.J. Barea’s minutes. Though Barea’s +/- on the night isn’t bad at all, he was clearly the weakest point of the Mavs’ D last night, and as such, the entry point for a lot of Golden State’s drives.
I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see more James Singleton, especially considering Quinton Ross missed the entire second half with back issues. The Mavs missed Ross’ D (and Marion’s, and Howard’s, for that matter), and probably could have used Singleton’s energy at either forward spot to ditch the woefully ineffective three guard lineup.
Tim Thomas is playing pretty well. I haven’t seen anything to worry about in terms of his shot selection or defensive intensity, though his mobility is pretty clearly limited by that knee injury. He looks rusty, but he’s still converting from the post and got his first look at a made three last night. Once the real, healthy rotation falls into place, I definitely see a few minutes for Thomas.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night Goes to…I won’t even bother.