Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 23, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Guess who declared for the Korean Basketball League draft? If you guessed Samaki Walker, you’re a deeply disturbed individual. And totally right.
  • David Thorpe ranked the top rookies that played in Summer League, and Dominique Jones came in at #10 (Insider): “Jones is super competitive on both sides of the ball and capable of putting up points in bunches. Possessing a great frame for a combo guard, he has every chance to be this year’s Marcus Thornton — ready to play from day one and having the confidence to play in the fourth quarter.”
  • Kevin Arnovitz got SUMMER LEAGUE LEGEND Jeremy Lin on the phone for a few to get his reactions to the post-Vegas whirlwind. Among other things, Lin reminisced about his game against John Wall and the Wizards Summer League team: “Roddy [Beaubois] was hurt so I got a chance to get a little more playing time in the first half, which helped a lot because I got a chance to get comfortable. Going into the fourth quarter, we were down. I wanted something to happen. I was just, like, playing. It just felt like it was college again. I was just, like, out there. It felt very, very comfortable and very relaxed. It was such a natural feeling. It wasn’t like that with most of the other games. In those other games, it was more like, “Wow, this is a job interview. I have to perform well.” I had that kind of pressure. But in the Washington game, going against John Wall in the fourth quarter, trying to come back, I was just playing off instincts. It was the best quarter I had in summer league at the best possible time. If the Dallas Mavericks weren’t scheduled to play the Washington Wizards, I might not be in the NBA.”
  • Ancient news by this point, but Caron Butler is the “sole proprietor if six Burger King restaurants around the country.”
  • Antoine Wright will be playing in Sacramento next season. He’s not a great offensive fit next to Tyreke Evans, but I still like Wright as a defender, as does Tom Ziller.
  • Mike Prada ranked the league’s 30 GMs, and put Donnie Nelson in the 10th slot: “Ultimately, Nelson hits a lot of singles and doubles, and that’s not a bad thing for a team that is willing to spend and will therefore never have or need cap flexibility.”
  • “He doesn’t owe you anything. He is not a representative for every Asian-American kid. He is just Jeremy Lin.”
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com, from Team USA training camp in Las Vegas: “Tyson Chandler is wearing the Zoom LeBron III, personalized to protect his toe.” Chandler seems more and more likely to make Team USA’s final cut, even after early reports indicated that he came into camp out of shape.
  • Reminiscing on Summer League, and more specifically, the match-up between Omar Samhan and JaVale McGee.
  • Could Jeremy Lin already have a shoe endorsement deal?

Don’t Spare the Fireworks

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 1, 2009 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

Henry Abbott has the latest of his chat with Mavs’ stat man Wayne Winston up on TrueHoop, with a particularly Mavs-relevant portion that caught my eye:

Kidd can’t guard a fast guard. They go right by him like he’s standing still. They always did. Against Chris Paul … Jason Kidd might as well be standing still on defense.

But the interesting thing: Devin Harris can nail Tony Parker. But Steve Nash can beat Devin Harris. But Parker can beat Nash.

It’s not transitive. We can show that. That’s really interesting. That shouldn’t be. But it is. There are probably a lot of other things like that.

If coaches see other examples of things like that, we can back them up with data. Del Harris really got to like us, I think, because a lot of times our numbers confirmed what he thought. It’s hard to argue with the numbers when you’ve got a full amount of data on it.

Last year [Maverick assistant] Terry Stotts did a really great job asking us questions. Before the Spurs series, they asked us about Antoine Wright.  He’s not on the team anymore, thank god. OK, he had a bad rating in our system. But the fascinating thing was, when he played small forward, he was good. When he played shooting guard, he was terrible. So we can break that down. I can find every combination where he was small forward and he was good. Every combination where he was shooting guard he was terrible.

Against the Spurs, they used him as a small forward and he was great. Every time he played for Howard at small forward, they killed the Spurs.

Things like this … I needed the coach to ask me the question because I would have never thought of it. You don’t just throw the numbers at the coach, because, I mean, 500,000 numbers! But if the coach understands what he’s doing, and says “I think Antoine Wright can play small forward can you tell me if that’s true?” That’s how you use the stuff.

The bit about Kidd is spot-on. The rumors of Jason’s decline are greatly exaggerated, as we see a Chris Paul or a Tony Parker dismantle him and assume he’s done for. But in reality, Kidd plays well against most every other point guard in the league. Maybe not “Best PG in the League” well these days, but well enough for the Mavs to boast a solid outfit around his talents.

Plus, I guess all the Antoine Wright bile that pulsed through Mavs Nation wasn’t exclusive to those on the outside.

The Catch

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 9, 2009 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Marion’s move to Dallas didn’t come without a catch: Antoine Wright is now a Toronto Raptor.

Jerry Stackhouse was longer tenured and surely the most celebrated outgoing Mav, but Stack’s journey out of the organization’s favor left a bad taste in my mouth.  I appreciated Stack a bit in all of his tunnel-visioned glory during the Finals run, but his departure has been a long time coming.  Devean George’s slim contributions on the court will no doubt stand eclipsed by that time he single-handedly vetoed the initial Jason Kidd-Devin Harris deal.  Man, that was a real knee-slapper, right guys?

Antoine Wright was never the most talented guy in a Maverick uniform, but he was endearing.  He worked defensively and didn’t dominate the ball offensively, and though he still has plenty of room to improve, he seemed to make significant headway over the course of the 2008-2009 season.  His shot was coming along, his drives to the basket were more assertive, and the defense was still his calling card.  It takes time for skilled defenders to find their place in this league, especially when they’re transitioning from offensive-minded athletic types.  It took Bruce Bowen, one of the toughest perimeter defenders of this generation, seven seasons in the league before he really hit his stride with the Spurs.  The upcoming season will be Wright’s fourth.  I’m as guilty as anyone of treating Wright like a veteran when it came time to dissect his weaknesses, when instead I should’ve been considering his potential and his strengths.

Antoine Wright had far from a flawless season for the Mavs, but his efforts in Dallas are in dire need of some appreciation.  Wright has the capability to be a very solid player in the near future, and though that future likely won’t be in Dallas, I wish him all the best.

Clear to Launch

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Commentary, Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read

The Mavs and Raptors finally agreed to terms on a deal that landed Shawn Marion in Dallas, but not before roping in a third team…and a fourth.  In a bit of creative trade engineering, Toronto and Dallas pulled off a once-in-a-blue-moon four team deal that involves a signed-and-traded Hedo Turkoglu and the Grizzlies’ available cap space.

The deal is awaiting finalization from the league, but the principles of the deal include the following acquisitions:

Dallas:

  • Shawn Marion (five years, ~$39 million)
  • Kris Humphries (two years, $6.40 million, player option for the second season)
  • Greg Buckner ($2,126,914 guaranteed money, expected to be released)

Toronto:

  • Hedo Turkoglu (five years, ~$53 million)
  • Antoine Wright (one year, $1.99 million)
  • Devean George (one year, $1.60 million)

Memphis:

  • Jerry Stackhouse ($2 million guaranteed, expected to be released)
  • Quincy Douby (one year, $855,189)

Orlando:

  • Trade exception worth ~$7 million

From a Mavs-centric perspective, they flipped Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George, Antoine Wright, and cash for Shawn Marion and Kris Humphries.  It’s a trade that undoubtedly makes the Mavs a better team.  How much of a better team is something we’ll have to wait until the season starts to find out…or you can wait a little while to get a thorough analysis of what to expect on this very blog.

The Raptors were actually big winners here, and showed what good can come by doing right by your own free agents (even departing ones).  Marion’s impending departure meant the Raps would be left with no compensation for the loss of a very good player.  Rather than simply wish Shawn the best and tear up as he walked out the door, Bryan Colangelo helped to engineer a hell of a trade with the Mavs that not only helped to fill a need at shooting guard with the acquisition of Antoine Wright, but also gave Toronto an even more valuable asset: their full mid-level exception.

If Toronto had signed Hedo Turkoglu as a free agent as per their initial plans, they would forfeit the right to the mid-level exception by using up their available cap space.  But by having Orlando sign-and-trade Turkoglu instead, the Raptors still have use of their MLE.  A nice maneuver, to say the least.

Things were equally clever from the Mavs’ end, as Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have turned a creative out in Stackhouse’s contract into a four-time All-Star.  With all of the pieces changing hands, this deal was way more complicated than it should have been, and it’s a credit to Mark and Donnie for sticking to it and getting Marion to Dallas.

Kris Humphries could be an interesting role player for the Mavs, and his presence has to make you question whether Brandon Bass and/or James Singleton really have a place with Dallas next season.  I’m personally big on both players over Humphries, but the Mavs are obligated to cut the check to Kris.  That gives him the edge to not only stay on the roster, but to fulfill a role as a reserve forward.  With Shawn Marion also a shoe-in for minutes at power forward, this could be the nail in the coffin for hopes of Brandon Bass being a Maverick in 2009-2010.  Bass wants the money and the minutes, and though the Mavs may be able to give him a competitive offer, he’ll likely be scrapping for minutes with Dirk, Marcin Gortat (supposing the Magic don’t match the Mavs’ offer), Erick Dampier, Kris Humphries, Shawn Marion, and possibly Ryan Hollins.  That’s a bit of a log-jam, and likely too much of one to generate any kind of intrigue in Bass’ camp.  James Singleton remains a more likely candidate, for no other reason than the commitment (in almost all senses) to him would likely be minimal.

Antoine Wright, Meet Yourself

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 8, 2009 under News, Roster Moves | Be the First to Comment

The Mavs have signed Quinton Ross to a contract, the official terms of which have not been disclosed.

Ross is a good pick-up provided his salary commitment is minimal, which in all likelihood, it is.  He’s essentially an Antoine Wright clone, though he’s probably a little quicker on his feet.  It’s also worth noting that Ross shot the three at a markedly better rate last season (37.5% on 1.3 attempts, vs. Wright’s 30.5% on 2.3 attempts), despite playing for a Grizzlies team that didn’t have the defensive draw of a Dirk Nowitzki or a Jason Terry.  Ross played his best days with the Clippers in their 2005-2006 moment of glory, during which he was a teammate of James Singleton.

Donnie Nelson’s take, as per the press release: “Quinton has been part of the Dallas basketball fabric for many years…We are happy and proud to bring him home [Ed. note: Ross played his high school ball at Kimball and in college at SMU]. His athleticism, defensive versatility and experience will add depth to our backcourt.”

Ladies and Gentleman…

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 17, 2009 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

I present to you Antoine Wright, the second least productive player in the league.  According to Wins Produced, at least.

Dallas Mavericks 119, Denver Nuggets 117

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 12, 2009 under Recaps | 18 Comments to Read

Photo by AP Photo/Matt Slocum.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

Little strokes fell great oaks.
-Benjamin Franklin

Our man Dirk sure knows how to put on a show.

In a game where the anarchy of flagrant and technical fouls ruled, Dirk was able to make order out of chaos.  He was never involved in the game’s numerous entanglements, not once caught fuming with uncontrollable anger or demonstrating anything but the desperation and calculated resolve that makes him such a force.  The result?  Dirk poured in for 19 in the fourth quarter, the importance of which is amplified by the Mavs’ narrow margin of victory.  The Mavs needed every single point to reel in a victory that desperately tried to escape their grasp.  Though this time, no near-foul, heart-breaking shot, or referee could stand in their way.

Plus, how’s this for irony: the Mavs were feeding off of the energy of Antoine Wright wrapping up Carmelo Anthony in the way that he was ‘supposed to’ at the end of Game 3.  After Anthony grabbed an offensive rebound early in the second quarter with the Nuggets nursing a 14-point lead, Antoine Wright wrapped up his arms to foul him on the floor.  For seconds after the whistle blew, Wright refused to let go of Anthony’s arm.  Carmelo wasn’t all too pleased about that, and responded by trying to push AW off, only to maybe possibly kind of catch a bit of Wright’s cheek.  The implications of which were much more significant than a simple technical foul; the Mavs and the crowd were awakened to fight off the surging Nuggs, and a game that seemed destined for a blowout was suddenly altered into a competitive affair.

The Dirk takeover had commenced, and it was really one of those nights.  One of those nights where Dirk’s greatness can hardly be quantified, but also one of those nights where the numbers (44 points on 25 shots, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 16-17 FT) turn out quite beautifully.  Dirk’s attack was as captivating as it was methodical, as he used every trick in his book and then some to lure the Nuggets’ defenders into fouls, including an insatiable desire to score at the rim.  K-Mart, Nene, Melo, whatever; Dirk took advantage of whoever was guarding him, turning every matchup into a problem with his footwork, balance, and silky smooth jumper.  More coming on Dirk in a later post.

Carmelo Anthony (41 points on 29 shots, 11 rebounds, 5 steals) provided the perfect foil for Dirk.  Whereas Dirk’s moves were calm, planned, and deliberate, Melo’s game represented the brash improvisation and spontaneity that makes him such an effective scorer.  His pull-up jumpers were exclamation points, and each steal and subsequent fast break dunk a flurry of its own.  Melo’s night was exemplified by his clutch, hard-hitting three pointer with just seconds remaining, a chilling reenactment of his Game 3 shot that pulled a seeminglysafe four-point lead into an ever-vulnerable two-point one.  I’m just glad that this time around, that shot was dangerous and not deadly.  It’s also certainly worth noting that J.R. Smith went absolutely hog wild on huge, game-changing jumpers.  Some of his attempts deserved to go in and other’s didn’t (a certain straight-on bank shot, perhaps?), but Smith bailed the Nuggs out of many a shot clock violation by hitting important shot after important shot.

Though Dirk was undoubtedly the shining star (and the Gold Star, hint-hint), he couldn’t have done it without some help from his friends.  Josh Howard gimped his way to 21 points and 11 rebounds, and though his shot selection in the fourth very nearly cost the Mavs the game, they couldn’t have even been in this game without him.  J.J. Barea (10 points, 5-8 FG) and Brandon Bass (11 points, 4-6 FG) were able to get easy baskets at difficult times, and Jason Terry (12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) made his presence felt in spite of foul trouble.  Roll all of that up into a ball with superior team defense (though you’d never guess it based on Carmelo’s totals), a much more dependable Jason Kidd, and world’s finest Dirk Nowitzki, and you’ve got yourself a win.

Sad team defense is often tough to point out in the box score, but it was clear that in these last two games, the Mavs were much more willing to prevent Denver’s transition attack and contest many (notably not all) of the Nuggets’ attempts in the paint.  Of course that starts with the perimeter guys — Kidd, Howard, Wright, Terry, Barea — but relies on the rotation of bigs like Dampier, Bass, and Dirk to make things work.  This is one area in particular where I thought Dirk Nowitzki excelled, and though his individual defense may not have received any of the spotlight, his effectiveness on that end should not go unnoticed.  He and Bass proved that they can work together as a defensive tandem and still be effective, which means quite a bit for the team’s most efficient offensive frontcourt.

Closing thoughts:

  • Please, please, please, NBA, have some consistency with the flagrant calls.  The Mavs were called for two very iffy flagrants to finish the 2nd quarter, one of which, combined with a technical arguing the play and a Melo bucket, turned a 5-point deficit into a 10-point one at the buzzer.  I remain convinced the fouls on Kleiza and J.R. Smith were just that, fouls.
  • The Birdman didn’t suit up for this one due to some severe stomach cramps.
  • I’d feel bad if I didn’t single out Brandon Bass by name for praise for his defense.  Erick Dampier racked up six fouls in just 23 minutes, so Bass played a huge role in keeping Nene to a very mortal 9 points and 8 rebounds.  Essentially, Nene has been the difference between a nail-biter and a blowout for the Nuggets.  When he’s on his A-game, they can just roll over teams.  But when a physical defender really digs in and gives him trouble, their offense can really struggle.
  • The Mavs won the battle of the offensive boards 9-6 and got the win.  That’s no coincidence.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: Come on.  Seriously?  Do you have to ask?  Dirk Nowitzki.  No-brainer.



Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 11, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Just one more note on the not-so-imaginary foul before we move on, and only because Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com makes a very sound point: “‘Hammering’ can get you a game-losing flagrant. Even ‘wrapping up’ can result in…a shooting foul…is Antoine Wright supposed to guess if the refs: Are in the Kobe Mood – where he can throw a chin-high elbow and have the foul be called on the other guy’s chin? Are in the Dwight Howard Mood – where an elbow earns a one-game suspension? Are in the Ron Artest Mood – where he gets an ejection for going too aggressively for the ball? Are in the Kenyon Martin Mood – where he gets a slap on the wrist for a goal-line tackle? Are in the Derek Fisher Mood – where he gets in immediate ejection for a thrown shoulder? Are in the Rajon Rondo Mood — where he must have to draw blood twice to get truly penalized? Are in the Zaza Pachulia Mood – where he gets an ejection for … talking? That’s too subjective. That’s too arbitrary. Wright cannot be expected to guess at whether Messrs. Wunderlich, Salvatore and Mauer had a bad night’s sleep, are feeling grumpy or…whatever.”
  • Okay, okay, one LAST LAST thing, from Woodie Paige of The Denver Post: “The referees, the source said, were ‘not upset by the league’s announcement, but (they) believe it was the correct noncall in that situation.’ According to the source, one of the referees said: ‘If they think we missed the call, that’s their decision.’”
  • Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News: “All that remains for the Mavs is to show us the depth of their personal pride, because Game 4 is merely a formality. This series is over. No NBA team has rallied from a 3-0 deficit. The Mavs won’t be the first. Don’t forget, Denver has beaten Dallas seven straight times. No, this series wouldn’t have a different feel if the Mavs had won Game 3. Yes, there would’ve been a sliver of hope for the Mavs, but Dallas has never had control of a single game. The Mavs played as hard as they could in Game 3. They attacked the basket, resulting in 49 free throws. They committed just 10 turnovers. They limited Denver to 42 percent shooting. They even dominated the battle of the benches for the first time. Still, the Mavs never led by more than six points. And they made just enough errors to find a creative way to lose.”
  • Rick Carlisle, via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “You’ve got to be honest and study the things you could have done better over the course of the entire game…The two areas we’re going to have to improve on are dribble penetration and second shots. We do better in those areas, then it doesn’t come down to an official’s call or the lack of a call…We talked about the position we’re in and why tomorrow is important. It’s pretty simple at this point. There are some adjustments you can make, but the whole adjustment thing diminishes as you get three or four games into a series. We need to get on the board and go from there.”
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: “During the postgame chaos after Saturday’s Nuggets-Mavericks game, Dallas owner Mark Cuban had a brief but heated confrontation with Lydia Moore, the mother of Denver’s Kenyon Martin, who was seated near the tunnel that leads to the Mavs’ locker room. Cuban said Sunday by e-mail that when he walked off the court, a fan was screaming about the Nuggets being ‘thugs,’ so Cuban said to Martin’s mother: ‘That includes your son.’…Cuban said by e-mail he knew Martin’s mother, because after a previous game that Denver won, she had approached him and made trash-talk-type comments.”
  • Apparently Dirk’s lady friend is guilty of more than we ever thought.

Some Food for Thought

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 10, 2009 under Commentary | 7 Comments to Read

  • Art Garcia of NBA.com: “Wright said he didn’t want to make any extra contact in case Anthony was about to shoot, which would have led to three foul shots. ‘What do you want me to do? Do you want me to Derek Fisher him, just take him out and then I get a flagrant foul late in the game,’ Wright fumed. ‘I can’t blatantly run through the guy. I have to try to make a play on the ball and that’s what I felt like I did. I didn’t want to jeopardize my team in any way by making a foolish foul.’” In the grand scheme of things, Wright is but a peon.  Carmelo is an elite offensive player that tends to do amazing things in the final moments of games.  Call me crazy, but I err on the Wright side of this debate.  If AW is waiting for a whistle and one never comes, he has fractions of a second to react and scramble to contest the shot.  In that scramble, the odds that he gets called for a foul are probably 50-50, despite what actually does or doesn’t happen.  In a perfect world, should Wright have played out the sequence regardless of a whistle?  Sure.  Does that mean we should blame him for it?  Hardly.
  • Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Despite a controversial ending, let there be no Mavs crying, not after missing two free throws (one by Jason Terry, one by Josh Howard) in the final 2:12, among four clanged in the fourth quarter. Or when Dirk Nowitzki, who otherwise was very game, threw up a lame shot with 7.9 seconds left, which was a failure in three areas: No. 1, he missed. No. 2, Dirk didn’t milk the shot clock enough, leaving three critical seconds and 6.5 overall. No. 3, while guarded man-to-man by Kenyon Martin, he didn’t do what he had been doing much of the afternoon. Driving the rim hard, getting to the line.” There are millions of reasons why the Mavs ended up at 105 points, and plenty of those reasons are failures to complete certain tasks.  Yes, Dirk should have milked the clock.  Yes, he should’ve tried to get to the basket.  And yes, the Mavs should’ve made their free throws.  But essentially, the Mavs were penalized for regressing toward the mean.  On the season, the Mavs as a team shot 81.6% on their free throws.  They shot exactly that same percentage in Game 3.  On the season, the Mavs as a team had 49 free throw attempts, which is almost double their regular season average.  Dirk far exceeded his average attempts of 6.7 by shooting 15 free throws.  It’s a pity that those already excellent marks were brought back down to earth by a failure to score in the final minutes, but the numbers would tell you that such a fall was inevitable.  The Mavs had played well enough to endure that slip, but they were hardly afforded the chance to.
  • Via Tim MacMahon of the DMN Mavs Blog: “If I was the league, I wouldn’t say that,” Dirk said Sunday. “I don’t think it makes anybody feel better. We don’t get the last seven seconds back, to kind of play it over again. So more than anything, I think it made it worse.”  Sigh.

Staring Down the Panic Button

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 4, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

Photo by Danny Bollinger.

In Game 1, two critical Mavs sprained an ankle, Jason Kidd had twice as many turnovers as assists, the bench saviors were all wearing home whites, Dirk couldn’t get a helping hand, and the opportunity to take a game under Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups’ feet was lost.

I’m sure there were positives in that 48 minutes somewhere, but the theme for Game 2 is improvement.  Looking over the lists of errors and miscues from Game 1, I can’t help but think that the Mavs are in charge of their own destinies.  It comes down to unveiling a more refined style of play on Tuesday, a display of an offense that doesn’t struggle to finish in transition or toss around careless passes on the perimeter.

Jason Kidd probably can’t play any worse, so at least that’s one minor victory in the bag.  But Jason Terry and J.J. Barea need to do their part as well to ensure that the offense doesn’t come to a grinding halt.  It’s difficult for both JET and J.J. to see over and around traps, but their ability to swing the ball around the perimeter and not get greedy with their playmaking will cut down the team’s turnovers and hopefully open up the shooters.  I was literally frightened whenever the Mavs passed the ball, as if each lazy hand-off or cross-court bounce pass was an open invitation for a Nuggets’ fast break.  That, more than anything, needs to be reconciled if the Mavs want to hang in this series.

Asking for precise execution on something as simple as passing the ball should go without saying, but these Mavs apparently need a reminder every once in awhile.  That reminder is even more crucial given Josh Howard’s injury status.  Josh said that having two wobbly ankles is “like walking on egg shells,” and that if Game 2 were a regular season contest, he’d be watching from the bench.  But it’s not and he won’t be.  Regardless, any time Josh does put in on the court will likely be limited, and the Mavs’ best defensive strategy for Carmelo Anthony (getting him in foul trouble) will be a bit more difficult.  If we’re expecting less scoring from Josh and more from Melo, that could mean serious problems even for a Dallas offense that executes perfectly.  Antoine Wright will have to really dig in, lest Melo explode for a nickel.

Offensively, Jason Terry will need to pick up the slack.  He was shadowed by Anthony Carter, J.R. Smith, Chauncey Billups, and Dahntay Jones during Game 1, and the only reason his shot attempts and point totals don’t look unusually meager is because of some fourth quarter shot hunting.  In the game of basketball, I’m an advocate of doing what works, and ramming that consistent ingredient down your opponents’ throats.  If you have a speedy point guard, drive and kick until the defense changes to counter it.  If you have a reliable low-post threat, feed him the ball until the double-teams come.  And if you have two players who can absolutely ruin defenses with the two man game, give them the ball and spread out.  If the Nuggets continue to switch on screens, Jason Terry needs to realize that there are two options for exploiting the mismatch.  Terry can turn overaggressive shot-blockers against themselves, using the pump fake to lure Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin into foul trouble, which helps out the entire team.  And likewise, force a second defender to help on Dirk, which opens up shots from the perimeter and lanes for slashers.  Make the Nuggets prove that they can stop Dirk before you give them any benefit of the doubt, and make them prove that their defensive strategies are as sound as they claim.

I can foresee Nene being a big problem in this series, particularly with Erick Dampier running gingerly on that sprained ankle.  Around the basket, I trust in Dampier’s size to limit the easy looks.  But off the pick-and-roll, it’s up to Damp to play under the screen and it’s up to the guards to battle through.  Dirk has played way off of Kenyon Martin in similar situations and Chauncey Billups has yet to really exploit that.  Plus, any possession ending with a Nene or Martin jumpshot has to be considered a win for the Dallas defense.  Nene’s still going to be the beast that he is, but at least the defense might be in position to contest his attacks on the rim.

On Sunday, we saw reasons to worry, but nothing to really freak about.  The Mavs are fully capable of stealing Game 2 in Denver and coming home with the series all square.  A lot depends on two gimps, a revival of the league’s Sixth Man, and a healthy bump in basketball IQ, but the playoff Mavs have shown that they’re a bounce-back team.  Kidd, Terry, and Dirk need to take Game 1 personally, and the Mavs on the whole need to realize their offensive potential.  “Must-win” games are a myth, but an 0-2 deficit against Denver would put both teams on tilt.  For the Mavs, that would likely end in more risky plays and more turnovers.  For the Nuggets, an emotional ride would push them towards even more aggressive defense and a parade to the free throw line.  If the Mavs are going to win this series, they’re going to need a statement win, and I see no better place for that than Game 2.