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.
- This game was a demonstration of how incredibly simple basketball can be at times; although intense basketball observers attempt to break the game down into dozens of very complicated, interrelated factors, Dallas was ultimately bested by effort, the extra pass, and the open three-pointer. And now, I will proceed to give you 16 more bullet points that are by no means arbitrary, but nonetheless seem rather silly in a game like this one.
- Manu Ginobili — as a defender — was two or three steps ahead of Rodrigue Beaubois for this entire game. It’s not uncommon to see a young playmaker be stifled by an older, craftier defender, but Ginobili’s ability to peg and deflect Beaubois’ moves was downright uncanny. It’s to Beaubois’ credit that he still managed to notch 10 points and five assists, but even that passable stat line doesn’t convey just how thoroughly marked Beaubois was throughout this particular game.
- It was certainly noteworthy that even with Shawn Marion’s return to the lineup — and after expressing some concern about Rodrigue Beaubois’ minutes inflating as a product of being in the starting lineup — Rick Carlisle elected to keep Beaubois in the opening set. Lineup variants involving Marion, Beaubois, Jason Kidd, and Dirk Nowitzki haven’t really played enough minutes together this season to be judged for their merits, but matchups depending, this could be a very sensible starting five (save Ian Mahinmi’s substitution for an injured Brendan Haywood) going forward.
- Dirk Nowitzki had an absolutely horrific game, in which he provided little impact aside from his willingness to seek out contact and put up shots. It was weary legs, it was San Antonio’s active, dynamic defense, and it was a stark contrast just to highlight Nowitzki’s usual efficiency, but most importantly from a game-specific context: it was an outright disaster. There’s simply no other way to look at his 5-of-21 shooting mark, his inability to make an impact on the defensive end, and his noncommittal work on the boards. I’m not saying Nowitzki wasn’t trying, but next to the exemplary effort that the Spurs put forth, it sure seemed like it at times.
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Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“The future is plump with promise.”
The Mavs finally raised the opening night curtain, and if anyone claims to have predicted that grand of a reveal, they’re lying. Dallas didn’t just play out their first game of the season. They put on a show. There was sleight of hand. There were pyrotechnics. There was brilliant execution throughout, barring one rather tragic stretch bridging the first and second quarters. If that first 48 minutes was any indication, this season promises to be far more fantastic than anticipated.
Dallas started the night with a 16-0 run, and though every point of that advantage was squandered by the midway point of the second quarter, it was but a simple demonstration of what this team is capable of. Not ‘capable of,’ in some distant sense, either, like when discussing adolescent potential or a purely hypothetical call to action. The Mavs were capable of being a great team as of this afternoon, and for this game against the Charlotte Bobcats (I know, I know), they became one. The cynic would rightfully ask if this kind of production is sustainable. I don’t know. No one does. But the Mavs looked damn impressive last night, didn’t they?
Offensively, this was the best we’ve seen the Mavs in some time. Their already impressive efficiency (111 points per 100 possessions) would be off the charts if not for a late first quarter slip-up, in which a lineup of J.J. Barea, Dominique Jones, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, and Brendan Haywood allowed the Bobcats to go on a pretty brutal run. Up to that point, Butler had been getting to the rim fairly effectively. A few clanged jumpers and a handful of Barea turnovers later, Charlotte had erased the Mavs’ early lead and started to forge one of their own. A line switch brought a reversal in fortune, and from that point on, Carlisle didn’t make the same mistake. Clearly a bench unit isn’t the way to go, nor is running any lineup where Butler is expected to create offense without significant help.
When any other lineup was on the floor, the Mavs paced their offense to a rather beautiful rhythm. Everyone shared the ball. Everyone (even Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Terry) cut to the basked and worked toward open space. The sets were almost completely devoid of isolation play, and Jason Kidd (12 points, 2-3 3FG, 18 assists, three steals, just one measly turnover) was generating some obscenely good looks for his teammates. I’ve previously mentioned the impact that Kidd can have on players like Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler, all perfectly useful players but ones lacking in shot creation. This game was an excellent case study in the other primary impact of Kidd’s playmaking: generating wide open looks for the team’s most efficient offensive weapons. It’s by Kidd’s hand that Nowitzki (28 points, 11-13 FG, 13 rebounds) and Terry (22 points, 10-15 FG, six assists, four steals) were able to have such tremendous nights, and the three engineered a stable, replicable brand of pass-happy offense.
That’s right. Replicable. Kidd won’t pick up 18 dimes a night and Nowitzki won’t average 85% shooting for the year, but the elements that made the Mavericks so successful on both the break and in their half-court offense can be accomplished on a nightly basis. The looks were just that good, and while Charlotte’s defense looked positively flummoxed by a maestro at work, Dallas should be able to accomplish something similar even against more effective defensive fronts. Dallas just needs to keep moving, and extend the beautiful flow that brought them their first victory through the rest of the season. If Mavs fans can be bored with these types of performances by the end of the year, Dallas will be among the league’s true contenders. The design has been detailed, now the Mavs just need to mass produce.
Dallas looked terrific defensively, but that’s almost to be expected against a team like the Bobcats. Take an already depressing offense, replace its starting point guard — a sturdy if unspectacular creator who excels in pick-and-roll situations — with a young, shaky, score-first point man, give them limited time to gel, and you have…this. It didn’t help that Larry Brown benched Stephen Jackson for the game’s final 16 minutes for seemingly arbitrary reasons, but Charlotte’s defensive limitations go far beyond any of Brown’s substitutions. They’ll starve for scoring all season, and though Tyrus Thomas (22 points, 8-15 FG, six rebounds) came out of nowhere to lead the team in that department, the Bobcats aren’t likely to get that kind of contribution consistently. As poorly as Charlotte performed on offense in this game, they actually have the potential to be even worse.
Not that Dallas didn’t have a little something to do with that poor performance. The Mavs forced the ball out of Stephen Jackson’s hands early, and gradually transitioned into a more balanced defensive style that contested just about everything within the arc while causing plenty of turnovers. Charlotte’s effective field goal percentage on shots within 10 feet was just 23.6%, a testament to fine work by Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, and a Maverick defense free to swarm from the perimeter. Dallas gave Boris Diaw, Gerald Wallace, and D.J. Augustin license to shoot from the weak side as they smothered anyone attacking the basket, and the results were very manageable. The same approach clearly wouldn’t work against a team with reliable three-point shooters, but for the Bobcats, it was a perfectly drawn scheme.
This is about as good as it gets for opening night. Let’s just hope it’s not as good as it gets for the entire 2010-2011 season.
- The Mavs have never lost to the Bobcats. The all-time series between the two teams stands at 13-0 after last night.
- It looks like Jason Terry will round out the starting unit after all. No chance Carlisle shuffles the deck after a performance like this one.
- Oddly, Tyson Chandler started rather than Brendan Haywood. I was under the impression that the starting gig was Haywood’s to lose, but apparently that part of the negotiating process was a little less explicit than initially reported. Or the Mavs have completely gone back on their initial promise. One of the two. Either way, Chandler looks to be the starter for now (and deservedly so, based on their performances last night), though it’s hardly set in stone.
- Caron Butler had three turnovers, all traveling violations. Exploding to the basket off the catch is clearly an uncomfortable maneuver for Butler at this juncture.
- Brendan Haywood was largely invisible, in spite of his defensive contributions. The box score (two points, three rebounds) is fair to him. Not exactly a compelling case to overtake Chandler as the starter.
- Seven of Kidd’s 18 assists led to made FGs right at the rim.
- The first bucket of Dominique Jones’ career was a long two-point jumper from the left corner. Huh.
- Dallas was impressive in how quickly they triggered the transition game, and even more impressive in their execution on the break. Kidd ran the show expertly, and once he got the Mavs running, wouldn’t hesitate to wait for trailers on the secondary break. Plenty of NBA guards only know one gear in transition, but Kidd’s patience on the break is remarkable.
- Shawn Marion is trying to shoot more threes this season, but the early returns weren’t pretty. An 0-fer on two attempts last night for Shawn, including an airball.
- In the second quarter, Marion was defending Wallace on the perimeter, and somehow forced a jump ball while Wallace was in the triple threat. Marion received no statistical credit for the play whatsoever, but it was one moment among many that attest to his defensive savvy.
- Remember, Dirk Nowitzki ended the regular season of last year on a consecutive free throw streak, and he picked up right where he left off with a 6-of-6 night at the line. His streak of consecutive regular season makes now stands at 78. Minnesota’s Michael Williams holds the record for the most consecutive free throws made with 97 (March 24-Nov. 9, 1993).
- Chandler was a bit out of control in the fourth quarter, as he was involved in a series of tie-ups and strange fouls. He and Gerald Wallace both received a technical foul for one of the entanglements. This is pretty much par for the course with Tyson; he’s rather emotive. He also fouls a lot. Put the two together, and he can get himself into trouble.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: There were so many fantastic performances in the NBA last night that somehow Kidd’s 18-assist evening will probably be overlooked. It’s a shame, because it was an exhaustive exhibition of his creative wizardry. He threw a lob to Chandler. He hit teammates streaking up the wings on the break. He fed JET as he curled around a screen. He found Dirk on a backdoor cut. Kidd did it all, and made it look easy. 18 A’s, but it felt like 50.
The Mavs don’t have a very good track record when it comes to finding value late in the draft, though selecting Josh Howard with the final pick in the first round back in 2003. But the stakes have never been higher, with the Mavs’ few young assets weighing their options in free agency and the Mavs’ 2010 pick in the hands of the New Jersey Nets. This one counts big time, and it’s up to the management and the scouting team to find the diamond in the rough.
It’s tough, but hardly impossible. Quality players pass right under the noses of many a team year after year, leaving latent value late in the draft. The Mavs pick at 22, which is just a shade closer to the lottery than to the Mavs’ customary position at the draft’s tail.
Here are the picks at 22 this decade:
2008 – Courtney Lee
2007 – Jared Dudley
2006 – Marcus Williams
2005 – Jarrett Jack
2004 – Viktor Khryapa
2003 – Zoran Planinic
2002 – Casey Jacobsen
2001 – Jeryl Sasser
2000 – Donnell Harvey
Three of those players (Courtney Lee, Jared Dudley, Jarrett Jack) have shown rotation player chops. Lee is the most notable as the starting 2 guard of an impressive Orlando team just one win away from the Finals. In fact, if the Mavs could magically re-draft Lee this year, they’d be in pretty good shape.
Just for fun, here are picks in the late first round (20+) :
Courtney Lee (22)
Nicolas Batum (25)
Wilson Chandler (23)
Rudy Fernandez (24)
Aaron Brooks (26)
Renaldo Balkman (20)
Rajon Rondo (21)
Kyle Lowry (23)
Shannon Brown (25)
Jordan Farmar (26)
Jarrett Jack (20)
Nate Robinson (21)
Francisco Garcia (23)
Jason Maxiell (26)
Linas Kleiza (27)
David Lee (30)
Jameer Nelson (20)
Delonte West (24)
Kevin Martin (26)
Boris Diaw (21)
Travis Outlaw (23)
Kendrick Perkins (27)
Leandro Barbosa (28)
Josh Howard (29)
Tayshaun Prince (23)
Nenad Krstic (24)
John Salmons (26)
Brendan Haywood (20)
Gerald Wallace (25)
Jamaal Tinsley (27)
Tony Parker (28)
Morris Peterson (21)
It’s certainly worth noting that even the 2005 draft, predicted to be a weak draft class among pundits and largely looked at as a failure in comparison to its contemporaries, still produced productive players late in the first round. Blake Griffin is no Tim Duncan and the consolation prizes may have their flaws, but that doesn’t mean true commodities can’t be found late in the first.
Next week I’ll start examining potential picks for the Mavs, starting with those rumored and confirmed to have scheduled workouts with the team. Some of those players seem poised for success on the pro level, and others may not even be top competitors in the D-League. As fans, we can only hope that MGMT not only makes the right decision in assessing the talent of a potential pick, but also in picking talented players to fill holes in the Mavs’ rotation.