The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 109, Los Angeles Clippers 102

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 27, 2013 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Clipper

Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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 strategic decision to double team Chris Paul late in the fourth quarter (33 points, seven turnovers) stifled Paul at the perfect moment for Dallas. Starting with a jumper over Mike James at the 4:13 mark in the fourth, Paul put on a one-man 6-0 run to pull the Clippers from down 87-90 to up 93-90 in just 79 seconds. By doubling Paul early in the shot clock, Dallas effectively shut down any semblance of offense for Los Angeles. The other Clippers looked unsure what to do offensively and the result was three contested three pointers that would not fall, giving Dallas a chance to get back into the game after Paul’s momentum shifting run.
  • In a refreshing return to form, Dallas insisted on going to Dirk Nowtizki (33 points, nine rebounds) in both the fourth quarter and overtime. In those final two periods of basketball Dirk scored 15 points on a mere six shot attempts, getting to the line seven times. The concern over the Dallas guards and their inability to get the ball to Dirk is not an issue that will go away with one game, but seeing Darren Collison actively look to give Dirk the ball when he’s posting up hard is a welcome change.
  • While the focus might be on O.J. Mayo’s impressive driving lay up to send the game into over time, his defensive efforts on Chris Paul at the end of the third and during the double teaming sequence of the fourth were fantastic. His length seemed to bother Paul much more than Mike James, Darren Collison, or even Shawn Marion, forcing Paul into a few uncharacteristic bad decisions. Oddly, coach Rick Carlisle gave Shawn Marion the assignment for the final Clipper regulation play (where Paul hit an incredible lay up at a nearly impossible angle), but I would’ve rather seen him stick with what had frustrated Paul in previous possessions.
  • While I value Rick Carlisle immensely (see above with his choice to double Paul), he’s been very inflexible at times this season. Against the Clippers, his late game and overtime play calling nearly cost Dallas the game.  The decision to run isolation plays for Vince Carter in the final minute of the fourth and the final minute of overtime defy logic, particularly in the overtime when Dirk had been unstoppable. Carter has been brilliant this season, but is at his best on catch and shoot threes and trying to get to the rim against the bench players of an opponent. Carlisle put Vince in situations did not necessarily play to his current strengths, particularly when the Mavericks have another potent final shot taker.
  • The Mavericks started the third quarter in frustrating fashion, picking up four team fouls in under two minutes. After putting the Clippers into the bonus with nearly seven and a half minutes left in the quarter, it felt as if the game might get out of hand quickly for Dallas. However, the often foul-prone Mavericks only committed two more fouls the remainder of the period and managed to keep pace with a Clipper offense that is capable to putting up points quickly.
  • The ever reliable Shawn Marion (four points, four turnovers) looked out of sync from the opening tip. Though it’s surely not a trend, it was bizarre to see how off Shawn Marion was with his timing. As he’s aged and lost aspects of his athleticism, his game has shifted more towards anticipation and understanding of the game. He misplaced passes on offense, mistimed jumps on rebounds, and was surprisingly ineffective on defense. That the Mavericks won without a strong Marion contribution is fantastic, but I remain shocked at how out of sorts Marion looked against the Clippers.
  • Center by committee won out again, with Brandan Wright and Elton Brand chipping in a combined 19 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks . With Dirk both missing games and taking time to round into form, it was a clear challenge for the coaching staff to determine which players work in a given situation with such a limited sample size of data. I remain shocked that a Wright-Nowitzki front court has worked reasonably well defensively. That all of these pieces are coming together at all is a testament to the players and the coaching staff. It’s is also a lesson for fans just how important chemistry is and how long it can take to build.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

Dallas Mavericks 90, Los Angeles Clippers 112

Posted by Connor Huchton on December 6, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Silbury Hill

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

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

  • It’s difficult to say 22 things about a game as disheartening as Thursday night’s debacle, but I’ll do my best.
  • The Clippers executed a perfect storm of exposing the Mavericks’ weaknesses. The Mavericks failed noticeably in the following areas: perimeter defense, three-point shooting, rebounding, turnover control, and any sense of cohesion systemically on the defensive end. So, pretty much everything.
  • The Mavericks even squandered an unlikely effort from Derek Fisher (15 points), who was the only Maverick other than Vince Carter (16 points, seven rebounds) who appeared comfortable with his jumper. Oh, what a journey it’s been over the last few weeks.
  • O.J. Mayo’s recent shooting struggles continued, but his inevitable regression shouldn’t worry the team too greatly. This was always bound to happen, and Mayo couldn’t carry the team forever. As long as he continues to make threes at a reasonable rate, he’ll remain the team’s most productive player.
  • What should worry the Mavericks is how thoroughly inconsistent and unsure Darren Collison’s (8 points, 2-5 FG, two assists, five turnovers) recent play has been. Collison is still the Mavericks’ best point guard option and has enough talent to maintain a competent offense, but he seems to have lost some sense of confidence in recent weeks, compounded with a lack of aggression that has submarined his production.
  • With Collison playing as he did, Fisher deserved every minute he played tonight.
  • Jae Crowder is being asked to do far too much for a second-rounder in his rookie season, as was apparent tonight. Crowder has earned a spot in the rotation, but he’s not able to sustain success from game to game, especially when thrust into a starter’s role.
  • 13 Mavericks played tonight, which usually indicates a blowout of some kind. This wasn’t the good kind.
  • How many analytic statements is that now?
  • As poorly as he’s played this season, I’m of the belief that Rodrigue Beaubois, who played four minutes tonight, might as well get an opportunity to run the team, however briefly. Until Dirk Nowitzki returns in ____ weeks, this team lacks identity. Beaubois has enough talent to give taking a chance with minute allocation some credence, and the offense simply isn’t flowing under the direction of any other Mavericks’ point guard.
  • The ease with which Chris Paul (14 points, 13 assists) navigated through the key doomed the Mavericks from the very beginning. Very few Clippers’ baskets could be classified as ‘tough’, and Blake Griffin’s double-double (19 points, 13 rebounds) was recorded all to easily at the rim.
  • Though point guard defense isn’t overly consequential in the grand scheme of the game, it can hold a significant impact when the defensive efforts at the position are terrific or the opposite. The latter is too often true with the Mavericks’ personnel – Fisher and Collison aren’t quite Rondo and Paul in that respect.
  • I’d like to see Chris Kaman receive more opportunities in the post on nights like tonight, when little else is working, but that also requires better perimeter passing than the Mavericks showcased.
  • 123-149. That’s the record of Mavericks’ opponents this season, and an 8-10 record against that level of competition might be the most discouraging statistic of all.
  • Of course, things were not always so morbid. But winning four of the last thirteen games can certainly make one forget the 4-1 streak that preceded it.
  •  It’s interesting how much better the Mavericks have been with Derek Fisher on the floor in limited minutes thus far. According to 82games.com, the Mavericks are 23.7 points better per 48 minutes with Fisher playing.
  • Of course, further research reveals that the area where the Mavericks are significantly better with Fisher on the floor is the defensive end. Though it’s possible Derek Fisher is leading a defensive revolution, it’s highly unlikely.
  • His impact was minimal tonight in 12 minutes of playing time, but Brandan Wright likely deserves a stronger presence in the rotation. The Mavericks are simply better with him on the court – he’s part of the Mavericks’ best heavily-played lineup (Collison-Mayo-Marion-Brand-Wright), and he often outproduces his competition, though his defensive issues remain.
  • But paired with a player like Brand, who can counteract some of Wright’s deficiencies, Wright’s production is well worth its possible defensive price.
  • The Mavericks play the Suns and Kings in two of their next three games, so a couple of necessary winning performances are on the essential horizon.
  • And we made it to 22 statements. Thanks for reading.

The Difference: Los Angeles Clippers 94, Dallas Mavericks 75

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 3, 2012 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2012-04-03 at 8.29.31 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

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

  • Jason Kidd missed Monday’s game — and is sidelined for the next three, as I understand it — with a groin strain. That’s a bummer, but it’s a valuable opportunity for Delonte West to quickly work himself back into game shape. It’s a trial by fire (or by burn?), sure, but getting a fully effective West back into the regular rotation is a top priority at this point. Dallas needs his shot creation, shooting, and defense badly, and although West was brilliant on Friday against Orlando, Monday was perhaps a more accurate reflection of his game.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois struggled even more mightily. Rick Carlisle seems fully prepared to take the bad with the good when it comes to Beaubois, but it’s these kinds of performances that will likely change his mind. Beaubois’ overdribbling was a big problem, and on a night when Dallas was already struggling to establish consistent ball movement, having the ball lodged on one side of the floor as Beaubois looked to break his man down was pretty painful. Also: in the first quarter, Beaubois threw one of the worst swing passes I’ve ever seen, missing a wide open Jason Terry by a good five feet.
  • At no point did this particular game look good for the Mavs. Even their more adequate runs were laced with turnovers and defensive lapses, and their very occasional buckets weren’t really created as a result of any kind of offensive process. It’s good to know that Dallas can still put up 75 points with every bit of beneficial offensive structure burned to the ground, but I don’t suspect they’ll win many games with offensive execution so lackluster and defensive effort so wanting.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 96, Los Angeles Clippers 92

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 14, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-14 at 10.42.28 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas91.0105.548.125.329.611.1
Los Angeles101.151.433.828.231.5

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 didn’t play terrific D, but packing the paint and trapping Chris Paul made the league’s top offense very beatable. The Clippers — simplistic though their offense may be at times — are so incredibly effective if Paul is given any kind of access to the paint, so the Mavs walled it off (in part by assigning Shawn Marion to cover Paul) and lived with the results. Caron Butler and Mo Williams hit a combined eight three-pointers as a result, but the Mavs were able to prevent the more foundational play actions that would have set up a rhythm for the Clips’ inside-out offense. Defense against an elite offense is always going to involve some give and take, and though there were some breakdowns and plenty of surrendered perimeter jumpers, the Mavs were able to minimize Paul’s impact and keep things contained in the paint.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 107, Los Angeles Clippers 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 9, 2011 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Screen shot 2011-04-09 at 4.52.28 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas96.0111.552.920.035.717.7
Los Angeles100.053.918.425.021.9

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

  • Wins against the Clippers may be all but assumed, but don’t take this one for granted; Dallas needed a W pretty badly for both the sake of their collective psyche and their place in the standings, and bounced back from a poor defensive performance in the first quarter to win this one outright. Dallas forced a ton of turnovers, which acted as a catalyst for their transition game. The Mavs rounded into form once they got out on the break, as the influx of easy fast break buckets relieved enough pressure on their half court offense to keep it stable. It’s wonderful to see the defense power the offense again, and the Mavs — though unlikely to create turnovers at this rate in the postseason — will need to establish a similar level of offensive/defensive flow. The success of one end should carry into the other, provided that the effort and execution are there.
  • Sub-plot of the game: Jason Terry had some kind of “tirade”/“heated exchange”/fit at the beginning of the second quarter, apparently aimed at J.J. Barea. The confrontation wasn’t exactly spotlighted on the broadcast, but Terry was certainly frustrated, and Barea’s slightly off-target pass to a curling Terry — an exchange which resulted in a turnover and a fast break layup for Los Angeles — apparently made him boil over. The team intends to deal with the matter internally, but I’m sure it’ll be hinted at in the coming weeks, particularly if Terry’s frustrations continue into the postseason. For now, it’s nothing more than an asterisk; Terry didn’t play after his outburst, but he’ll be back soon enough, likely in good (enough) spirits.
  • More relevant sub-plot of the game: Corey Brewer (20 points, 8-16 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, four steals, one huge block to prevent a fast break layup) did it big — again. The case is certainly mounting for Brewer to have a spot on the Mavs’ playoff roster, though his inclusion would likely mean that one of DeShawn Stevenson or Brian Cardinal would be left out. Normally that would be a tough call to make, but Brewer has been playing tremendously well over the last two games. His breakout game against the Nuggets seemed slightly fluky; Brewer just isn’t going to convert his jumpers at that reliable of a rate every night. That doesn’t devalue his defense or hustle, but expecting such a high point total from primarily perimeter looks is a bit questionable. That said, Brewer’s performance on Friday was a bit more in line with his skill set, even if it exceeded expectation. He slashed to the bucket, finished fast breaks, and cut backdoor. These are the kinds of things that Brewer can do nightly, independent of whether his jumper is actually falling, and it’s one reason I saw him succeeding in a Marion-esque capacity for the Mavs.
  • All of which ignores Brewer’s incredible defensive effort. He’s endeared himself to his teammates rather quickly, in no small part due to the fact that Brewer is going hard at all times, looking at every element during a possession as a chance to make a play. Henry Abbott wrote the following concerning Brewer over a month ago, and I’ve had the sentence bouncing around my head during every minute that Brewer’s been on the floor over the last two games:”Once you clue in to the guy, it’s glaringly obvious that no one on the court is defending like him.”
  • One last note for BrewerFest 2011: the guy is an unexpectedly smooth playmaker. He can’t run an offense, and if you give him the ball at the top of the key and tell him to go to work, your possession could end in shambles. But swing the ball to him on the weak side against a stilted defense, and Brewer seems to not only know exactly how to drive in order to maximize his potential to score, but also to set up for a little bounce pass or drop-off to an open big man. Brewer’s four assists were a huge help to the Mavs last night.
  • Dallas did some incredible work on the offensive glass. Posting an effective field goal percentage of 52.9 percent doesn’t leave all that many caroms, but the Mavs did a terrific job of scrapping for rebounds and keeping loose balls alive. I lied about the finality of my last Brewer praise: He was the leader in terms of offensive rebounding effort and collection, but Shawn Marion (13 points, 5-10 FG, 10 rebounds, four offensive boards, four assists) was also huge in that regard, as was Tyson Chandler — who wasn’t credited with many offensive boards but tapped quite a few out to the Maverick guards. The height of the Mavs’ rebounding dominance was in the third quarter, when the Clippers were only able to collect five boards for the entire 12 minutes.
  • Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points on 16 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, and notched seven assists. Nothing to see here, folks, just one of the best players in basketball, looking about as brilliant as one could expect.
  • It was mentioned briefly above, but the Mavs’ first quarter defense was fairly horrendous. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have a way of making opponents pay for their slow rotations on the back line, and the Clips exploited the Mavs to the tune of 35 points (on 15-of-23 shooting) in the first frame. Dallas then went on to hold L.A. to 61 points over the final three quarters while forcing 18 turnovers along the way.
  • Mo Williams (29 points, 10-18 FG, 5-9 3FG, five rebounds, six assists, seven turnovers) scored quite well, but he was making everything. He worked his way into good looks from short and mid-range, but also took some of his pet pull-up three pointers (the Chauncey Billups special) when bringing the ball up court. The Mavs certainly could have closed out better on Williams and not doubled Blake Griffin quite so often in the post (Tyson Chandler is a pretty formidable interior defender, and the help wasn’t exactly all that helpful), but the Clipper guard was hitting easy and difficult looks alike. It was just his night, and if I’m Rick Carlisle, I’d be far more pleased with Eric Gordon’s (11 points, 4-12 FG, six assists, five turnovers, four steals) relative invisibility than Williams’ outburst.
  • The problem isn’t that Rodrigue Beaubois is incapable of playing point guard, but that he apparently doesn’t feel comfortable being an aggressive scorer when asked to fill in for Jason Kidd. Skill-wise, he’s a competent replacement, yet you don’t see the same drives or even shot attempts in general from Beaubois when he’s a “point guard.” I can appreciate that he wants to facilitate the play of his teammates, but Beaubois isn’t precise enough with his passing to impact a game the way Kidd does. His greatest impact will come through scoring for the conceivable future, and that potential to create offense for himself will open up opportunities for his teammates.
  • Peja Stojakovic (10 points, 4-7 FG, 2-5 3FG) and J.J. Barea (15 points, 4-13 FG, four rebounds, five assists, six turnovers) performed well in supporting roles. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, both offered their designated contributions on offense — three-point shooting and dribble penetration, respectively — without hurting the team’s defensive concept. That’s all one could reasonably ask.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 1, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • If you’re interested, you can enter a contest to win a date with Shawn Marion via Facebook and Twitter. You’re interested. (via Jeff Weiss, Trey Kerby)
  • Shawn Bradley is on Twitter. (via ShamSports)
  • Dirk Nowitzki might have some bad news about Rodrigue Beaubois’ timetable for return. It’s a guess, but it’s a guess from a guy who’s pretty plugged in, no?
  • Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “A strategic switch was flipped very early in the Mavs’ 99-83 win Sunday afternoon at the Clippers. It’s not the sort of thing the coaching staff will be able to take much credit for, because who is going to ballyhoo a strategic admission to failure? The original plan: Dirk was going to guard “second-year’’ rookie Blake Griffin, the double-double machine. If Nowitzki could survive that, the logic went, the domino effect would allow Dallas to win matchups at the other positions, including Tyson Chandler guarding the dangerous Chris Kaman. Dirk guarding Griffin? It lasted two possessions. The UberMan can do a lot of things, and because Griffin is an untested commodity, there was no way to know for certain whether he can do this. Now we know. After a blow-by and after a rag-dolling, now we know. He can’t. So Rick Carlisle flipped the switch. Quickly and smartly.”
  • Nick Fazekas will be the No. 1 pick in tonight’s D-League draft. Don’t laugh too hard, we may see him back in the NBA pretty soon. Matt Hubert of D-League Digest has the Texas Legends slated to select Tennessee’s Chris Lofton with the No. 4 pick in his mock draft.
  • Kurt Helin credited the Clippers’ poor shooting numbers to user error rather than the Dallas defense at ProBasketballTalk: “The Clippers just missed everything — they started the game 3-17, but they were outworking the Mavericks on the boards and stayed close. In the second half they just kept missing, with the team’s starters shooting 30 percent for the game. Give the Mavericks a little credit for their defense, but the Clips were just cold.”
  • Whut.
  • Tony Parker will be a Spur for the foreseeable future, until trade do they part.
  • Dirk Nowitzki takes a shot at a teammate (via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News): “We talked about making it a priority that our defensive field-goal percentage has to get better. We all know that’s what wins in this league. If you play defense consistent, you give yourself a chance every night. We’ve been working hard at it. Even Jet [Jason Terry] is trying to chase guys, which I haven’t seen in seven years.”
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas prodded Rick Carlisle about the Mavs’ shot distribution: “Caron Butler has led the Mavs in shots attempted in the first two games. That isn’t by design. ‘If he’s open, he should shoot,’ coach Rick Carlisle said. ‘But I don’t expect him to be our leading shot-taker. He’s going to be one of our top three or four obviously and be in the top three most likely. But, look, this is two games out of 82. Come back in two weeks and see where we are.’”

Dallas Mavericks 99, Los Angeles Clippers 83

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 1.33.16 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas94.0105.351.326.019.514.9
Los Angeles88.336.628.031.317.0

Wise are they who have learned these truths: Trouble is temporary. Time is tonic. Tribulation is a test tube.
-William Arthur Ward

Defense wins championships. It also wins regular season games against the Clippers.

There were fleeting moments in which the Halloween Dallas Mavericks resembled the same team we saw lose to the Grizzlies just two days prior, but for the most part, they took advantage of their matchup with the Clippers by running the damn show. This L.A. squad is talented, but not all that successful in many regards. Dallas made that awfully apparent in their systematic dismantling of the Clips on Sunday, their second impressive all-around victory to date. The Mavs’ schedule hasn’t thrown them any particularly tough outs just yet, but the team defense has been commendable enough to look past the relative standing of Dallas’ opponents. Right now, this team is performing well against the opponents the NBA schedule-makers have put before them, and that’s all anyone could ask of them.

The Mavericks’ defense is elite right now. Their struggles in other areas are puzzling, but their overall defensive effectiveness has been a rather pleasant surprise. I’m not sure how much you can take away from that effectiveness given, again, the opponents that have been on the Mavs’ slate thus far, but it’s certainly to Dallas’ credit that opponents like Charlotte and Memphis are no longer having huge offensive nights at the Mavericks’ expense. We’ll learn a lot about the sustainability of this remarkable defensive success over the next three games (a home-and-home with Denver, followed by a game against Boston), but defensive rebounding aside, Dallas has shown up in just about every defensive regard. They’re forcing opponents to play to their weaknesses (like giving the Clippers license to shoot from distance, for example), swarming anyone who gets into the paint, and attacking the passing lanes whenever possible. This Mavericks team looks to have the makings of a pretty tough defensive outfit, and that evolution goes far beyond anything that Tyson Chandler brings to the roster.

Chandler helps, of course. But the Mavs’ improved defense has relied just as much on Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and even Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki, and Caron Butler. Great defenses often have a keynote talent, but for Dallas it’s been a team-wide effort that’s led to such resounding success.

The Clippers scored 88.3 points per 100 possessions. Think about that. Don’t even look at the differential, or the offensive rebounds for now. Just that 88.3 mark, and what it could mean. Validation or refutation is coming, but one way or another, this was a tremendous defensive showing.

The Clips’ effective field goal percentage was a pitiful 36.6%, and none of their top five shot-takers hit more than 33.3% of their field goals. There’s no statistical smokescreen there, just impressive, preventative defense. Oppressive at times, purely reactive at others, but limiting in almost every regard. The Mavs used their fouls wisely, played their opponents expertly, and contested almost everything. The open looks L.A. was able to create were the product of either calculated risks (Baron Davis threes, etc.), busted plays leading to busted coverage, or second chance efforts. The initial defensive action was strong all night, but once the Mavs flocked to defend any and every Clipper who made his way into the paint, they too often exposed their soft rebounding on the weak side. Chris Kaman, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Craig Smith capitalized, as each of those Clipper bigs grabbed 3+ offensive rebounds. That could stand to change. But the initial effort that created rebounding opportunities through errant looks in the first place? Rick Carlisle could probably stand to get used to that.

We all could. Maverick fans, NBA fans, basketball fans, and casual Dallasites alike. This could be a rather fantastic team if they continue defending like this, and it should be fun to watch the Mavs try to live up for the precedent they’ve set for themselves. Dallas is 2-1, but the defensive aptitude they’ve shown thus far means more than any record ever could.

Final thoughts:

  • Last week, Jason Kidd stressed the potential impact of the Tyson Chandler alley-oop, a statement which I downplayed. I may have been wrong. Chris Kaman and Blake Griffin aren’t exactly premier rim protectors, but the Chandler oop made several appearances on Sunday, including one on an unexpected lob pass from Caron Butler. The Butler-Chandler oop almost looked like a design play, so keep an eye out for it in the future.
  • Blake Griffin is such an impressive passer. His vision, willingness to pass, and anticipation are all so impressive, especially for a rookie big. Saying that Griffin’s going to be special is very much implied at this point, but I’ll add that he’s going to be a very special passer, and perhaps already is.
  • Caron Butler did a much better job of attacking the rim, and he was rewarded with 10 free throw attempts. It’s fine for Butler to only shoot 40% from the field when he’s putting up 17 points on 10 shots, but when he goes shot-hunting with a less efficient approach? That’s when he hurts the Mavs’ offense more than he helps. The spot-up jumpers are fine. The drives to the rim are great. Everything else — the jab-steps, the crossovers, the step-backs — he should do without.
  • Fouling is Tyson Chandler’s religion, but in this outing he was only a part-time practitioner.
  • The Mavs really improved their box-outs in the second half, after the Clips hit the offensive boards particularly hard in the first half. Considering the effort on the defensive glass was one of the more glaring problems in the Mavs’ first-half performance, it’s nice to see that kind of adjustment from Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, and Brendan Haywood.
  • Baron Davis can be an infuriating player to watch for a variety of reasons, but some of his feeds are just phenomenal. Davis threaded a majestic bounce pass through several Mavs defenders to a cutting Craig Smith at the 6:13 mark in the second quarter, and if you watch it at just the right angle, it might change your life.
  • Every basketball fan should love Eric Bledsoe.
  • Some weird first-half free throw shooting for Dallas, who shot 7-of-15 from the line as a team in the first 24 minutes: Marion was 0-2, Terry was 0-2, Nowitzki was 1-3, Butler was 4-6, and Chandler was 2-2. Spooky.
  • Haywood was fantastic. He was a no-nonsense finisher good for a few free dunks, far and away the Mavs’ leading offensive rebounder (he had four OREBs for the day), and chipped in 10 points and three blocks. He ran the break very well, helped maintain balance when Dallas shifted to more bench-centric units, and even drew an offensive foul. Just a terrific showing from Haywood, who outplayed Chandler for the first time this season.
  • Jason Kidd hit a 66-footer. No big deal.
  • Jason Terry’s shot selection has been a bit odd. He’s not shooting a poor percentage, but a few attempts stick out to me in particular over the course of the first three games. For some reason, JET has taken to occasionally pulling up for a long (the longest, really) two-pointer while tucked away behind a high screen. If he makes it, cool. It’s still the least efficient shot in basketball, and though Terry doesn’t have a hand in his face per se, it’s still a shot the Mavs should work to avoid.
  • Shawn Marion’s defense was fantastic yet again (he forced a one-man 24-second violation around the 9:45 mark in the fourth quarter), but his offensive contributions (12 points, 6-11 FG) were welcome. He also had a gorgeous assist to set up Brendan Haywood for a dunk after luring a last-ditch-effort Griffin off his feet.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: There are a lot of solid options and no clear-cut favorites for Gold Star honors, so I’ll go with Brendan Haywood. His defense was fantastic both on the low block and against penetration, and I’m not sure we’ve ever seen Haywood so active on the offensive glass. He was working hard to create extra opportunities and crushing home every one he got in his mitts. That’s refrigerator material to me.

Dallas Mavericks 117, Los Angeles Clippers 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 13, 2010 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas91.0128.660.819.322.211.0
Los Angeles103.349.414.527.516.5

Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.
-Epictetus

What exactly do you make of a team doing everything it’s supposed to do? In most cases, a veteran team with 54 wins and (at least) the 3rd seed in a fiercely competitive conference needs not the satisfaction of an April win over the Clippers. This Dallas team is technically in such a position, but they’re hardly the playoff ideal; they haven’t been on a month-long tear, the defense isn’t as proven as you’d like, and there are still questions as to how the Mavs’ center duo will perform against a conference full of capable bigs.

Still, it’s impossible to deny how positively dominant the Mavs have been in their last three games, in which Dallas has demolished a trio of inferior opponents and nearly secured the no. 2 seed in the process. They don’t have a month’s worth of momentum on their side, but the way the Mavs have been able to establish early leads with their starters, maintain the advantage using the reserves, and limit the minutes of the central figures gives plenty of reason for optimism. There’s no question that this team has the talent to rain fire through April, May, and June, it’s just a matter of talent maximization and execution. Neither has been in question for the last week, and the Mavs’ +18.3 point differential over their last four games (+22.3 over their last three) signifies the seriousness of Dallas’ preparation and play. This team is ready to roll.

It certainly didn’t help the Clips’ cause that Baron Davis and Eric Gordon missed the game along with the long-sidelined Blake Griffin. The former are starters for a reason, with Baron acting as resident superstar (though he hardly performed at that level this season) and Gordon a solid supplemental scorer. Instead, the Mavs faced off against the delightfully average stylings of Steve Blake (who actually had a decent night with nine points, 13 assists, and three turnovers), and the useful but wonderfully limited Rasual Butler (10 points, 4-15 FG, three rebounds, three assists). Mavs-Clippers isn’t a particularly fair match-up even when L.A. is functioning at full strength (sans Griffin), but to deny the Clips two of their more productive players while playing against a would-be contender honing in on the playoffs is just cruel.

Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-13 FG, 3-3 3FG, eight rebounds, three assists) was almost mythical in his level of efficiency; his points nearly doubled his shot attempts (13), he scored more than a point a minute (1.11 ppm if we’re being precise), and he finished with just one turnover. Even more impressive was that only one of his nine made field goals (and of his 13 attempts, for that matter) came within fifteen feet of the basket: a converted layup at the 4:09 mark in the first quarter. Come one, come all, to the Dirkus Circus, the greatest show on Earth.

Shawn Marion (21 points, 9-12 FG) returned after three games on the sideline, and his strained oblique didn’t hinder him in the slightest. Marion’s ability to run the break was a big reason why the Mavs were able to sprint out to a lead almost immediately, and the Clips were never quite able to recover from the sucker punch of the opening minutes. It’s tough to properly gauge Marion’s defensive ability in a game like this one, but his movement on the whole didn’t seem slow or hesitant.

It’s easy to like where the Mavs are right now, and Wednesday’s game against the Spurs should at the very least provide an interesting test. Should Dallas win against San Antonio, the two teams would be locked into their respective positions and would meet in the first round. That should create a pretty odd dynamic for Wednesday night, in which Gregg Popovich, ever the gamesman, could conceivably choose to rest his veterans in an attempt to fold to the Mavs (San Antonio would likely find Dallas to be a better match-up than Utah). Even if Pop chooses to play Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, and co., both teams would be trying to win the game without tipping their hand too far; the truly effective stratagems would need to be saved for the playoff series, which could leave the Mavs’ final regular season game as a battle of sheer talent and will rather than the precise execution of a more complicated game plan.

Closing thoughts:

  • DeShawn Stevenson could very well have earned a playoff role after his performance in the last few games. His defense against opposing scorers (O.J. Mayo, Tyreke Evans) has been commendable, and last night he balanced his defensive success by looking damn good on his jump shot (11 points, 4-7 FG, 3-4 3FG). Marion will still be the Mavs’ go-to defender for tougher perimeter threats, but having another solid wing defender coming off the bench is quite a luxury. If Stevenson works out as a decent 2-guard alternative, the Mavs would have an absolute glut of talent and versatility at the position, with Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Stevenson, and Rodrigue Beaubois all capable of producing at the off-guard.
  • The Mavs had 37 assists on 45 made field goals, with 22 of those assists coming into the first half. The ball movement was crisp on the break but equally impressive in the half-court, where the Mavs’ point guard trio of Jason Kidd (12 points, 12 assists, four turnovers), J.J. Barea (two points, seven assists, zero turnovers), and Rodrigue Beaubois (11 points, five assists, six rebounds, zero turnovers) easily established the momentum to break the struggling Clippers.
  • Also worth noting: the Mavs interior passing was rather terrific. L.A. ranks third in the league in blocks per game, and the Dallas bigs turned that strength into a weakness. With a slight hesitation and a well-timed pass, the Clips’ help defenders were soaring into the air to block nonexistent shots while various Mavericks exploited the soft underbelly of the Clipper defense. Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood finished with three assists apiece.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois filled in for Caron Butler (strained hip flexor, mostly a precautionary rest) in the starting lineup and had an excellent game. He connected with Kidd on his trademark alley-oop and by the end of the first quarter, Beaubois already had nine points (4-5 FG), four assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
  • Minutes distribution: Dirk – 23, Kidd – 29, Marion – 26, Terry – 21. Love it.
  • DeAndre Jordan (10 points, 13 rebounds) finished with a nice stat line, but the bulk of that production came after the game had already been decided. That doesn’t discount everything he able to accomplish, but it certainly hurts his case that his most effective stretches came against the Mavs’ reserves or after Dallas was already in cruise control. He also looked pretty lost defensively against Dirk Nowitzki, though he can hardly be blamed for that; Dirk isn’t a typical match-up for Jordan, and Nowitzki is a tough cover for even the most accomplished defenders in the league. I’m still very high on DeAndre, though, and I’m very anxious to see what kind of player he’ll become in five years. He and Blake Griffin have the talent to make up a pretty special PF-C tandem.
  • via @mavstats: “#Mavs finish with 27 road wins, most in NBA this season and tied for 3rd most in team history”
  • Six points for Matt Carroll! Boomshakalaka!
  • Programming note: I’m not sure why I stopped offering game-by-game four factors data, but those tables will be included in the recaps just as they were earlier in the season. Enjoy.