February has been kinder to the Dallas Mavericks than any other month this season. While they don’t appear to be playoff-bound, the Mavericks are finally playing playoff-quality team basketball. This month has seen Dallas soundly conquer the postseason-worthy Golden State Warriors, comfortably take care of business against lottery-bound opponents and keep it close in tough losses to the Thunder, Lakers and Hawks. A roster full of veterans and one-year signings hoping to become permanent fixtures in Dallas has summoned a sense of urgency that few other lottery teams can muster.
This determination, combined with improved team defense, a more cohesive roster and Dirk Nowitzki’s return to dominance, has produced a visibly-improved Mavericks squad. The most compelling factor in the recent reversal, however, has come from a far less visible element: the quelling of the turnover woes that haunted Dallas throughout much of their season.
According to data from Basketball-Reference.com, the Mavericks have posted fewer turnovers than their opponent in their past six contests and are -17 overall in the turnover category over the past month. Their season average of 14.0 turnovers per game entering February, a consistent trouble spot in close losses, has been reduced to an impressive 11.4 a night. This improvement has led the Mavericks to become proud owners of the NBA’s fifth lowest turnover percentage, the only advanced measurement on either side of the ball where Dallas currently rates above 14th in the league.
Dallas management will carefully review the roster at season’s end to try to assemble a team that can reproduce the recent run of quality play in order to maximize Dirk’s last few productive years as a Maverick. If Dallas wants to return to being a contender it should seriously consider how to make the kinds of roster moves that can replicate the team’s newly developed responsibility with the basketball.
Today is the day. The trade deadline is finally here. At 2 pm central standard time, the wheeling and dealing will pretty much be over. The Mavericks are in a tough spot as they try to balance their run for the playoffs this year and continue their process of transitioning into the future. With viable trade assets in Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Chris Kaman, anything is possible. Dallas could be looking for players that can boost their playoff chances this year, they could look to accommodate other teams and acquire nice pieces in return or they could unload everything and work with a relatively clean slate going into the offseason.
The most recent report came from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com suggesting that the Mavericks have made Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Brandan Wright available for draft picks, according to sources. Some have joked that the Mavericks would be willing to take a third-round draft pick for either Roddy or Jones (there are only two rounds in the NBA draft). Picks are quite valuable in today’s new NBA as rookie-deal players are all the rage. The Mavericks would be interested in obtaining those picks, but they won’t do anything to compromise their cap room.
As the festivities of All-Star weekend faded away, the trade deadline became the top story for the league. Rumors, like the ones mentioned above, always run rampant as the deadline approaches. Owners and general managers are valuable sources of information, but it’s hard to really figure out if they’re giving you information that is worth running with. The best thing to do is just look around the league and get a feel for where each team is at and determine if there is something in terms of a fit for your team. That’s what we’re going to do here. As the trade deadline inches closer and closer, it’s time to look at every team around the league and see if there’s anything that makes sense for the Mavericks.
As it was mentioned last week, Brandon Jennings has been a player of unique interest in the realm of the Mavericks as the trade deadline approaches. With the help of ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon, the evaluation of Jennings was further enhanced earlier this week. One thing is a given, the young point guard does fit the qualifications of what Mark Cuban and the rest of the front office is looking for in terms of a target as the trade deadline approaches.
Jennings is coming of a 34-point performance in the losing effort to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. He scored 23 points in the second half of the game that ended up going into overtime.
When thinking about Jennings more, I wanted to gather more information. When deciding where to look, I wanted to talk to someone who actually follows the team and would give an honest assessment of him. I spoke with Jeremy Schmidt, the editor of Bucksketball – the Bucks’ affiliate for the TrueHoop Network. With that in mind, there are quite a few things to examine when looking at Jennings. Let’s look at what we found out.
It’s time for another round of Bloom and Doom. For those that missed the first batch of it in December, here you go. January’s batch can be seen here.
In an effort to keep the discussion going, I sought out ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon for his opinion on pressing issues for the Dallas Mavericks. You can view MacMahon’s coverage of the Mavericks at ESPNDallas.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @espn_macmahon. Periodically, we are going to touch base and discuss topics with our own unique point of view.
MacMahon likes to call it like he sees it. That perspective can hover on the other end of the spectrum from my optimistic viewpoint on things. You could say it’s a classic case of good cop, bad cop. Our different perspectives should make for an interesting conversation on hot topics revolving around the Mavs. This round of bloom and doom really hits the crux of it all with the team. Everything is right in MacMahon’s wheelhouse, and the second-to-last question might be the hardest one I’ve had to answer.
The trade deadline is always an interesting time for the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban has always said two things when it comes to that time of the year: the team will always be opportunistic and don’t believe what you hear or read when it comes to them. The team is at a crossroads. The chances of making the playoffs are slim and the team has to do what they can to ensure they don’t waste any more time off of Dirk Nowitzki’s career. The deadline on the 21st is one way they can help build for the futre. How do the Mavericks assess things as the trade deadline approaches? Let’s look at the assets and what could be out there.
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
Even a thorough scrubbing of the Mavs’ Friday night game against the Milwaukee Bucks would reveal few — if any — notable flaws. Dallas started fast, repeled Milwaukee’s advances, and finished strong. They played a dominant game on both ends of the court, and rested weary legs in anticipation of Saturday’s date with the Sacramento Kings. They left absolutely no doubt of the game’s verdict, a welcome occurrence in a season where doubt has become a recurring theme.
Vince Carter had his highest-scoring game in a Maverick uniform by way of a remarkably aggressive first-quarter performance. He had two nice dunks — both in the half-court offense, mind you — in the first five minutes of the game. Carter has brought an assertive scoring approach to each of his games as a Mav, but this quick start was notable if only because his performance was so efficient and so emphatic.
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.
12 it is. The streak had to stop somewhere, and unfortunately it folded along with an early 20-point Dallas lead. The Mavs should have had this win squared away, but the inevitable Bucks run was far more damaging than anyone could have anticipated. Dallas’ offense came and went, but it was the defensive concessions in the third quarter that marked the Mavs’ fate. Despite being the worst offensive team in the league, the Bucks shot 61.1% (including 75% from three) and attempted 11 free throws in the third, putting up 32 and completely tilting the game in the process. Brandon Jennings’ 10 points and three assists in the third led the Bucks, but Chris Douglas-Roberts’ seven points (on 2-2 FG and 3-4 FT) were just as instrumental. Both players made incredible plays, but their success was allowed by a defense that failed to protect the paint, fouled too often, and ceded the three-point line.
Andrew Bogut (21 points, 10-12 FG, 14 rebounds, two blocks) was absolutely tremendous, and he brutalized the Mavs’ interior defense. Neither Tyson Chandler nor Brendan Haywood could effectively defend or box out Bogut, and yet the Bucks center’s offensive impact still paled in comparison to his defensive influence. Bogut only recorded two blocks, but he seemingly altered every attempt in the paint. He made the drives of Jason Terry and J.J. Barea particularly uncomfortable, but his defense was more far-reaching than merely challenging layups. Hands down the best player on the floor.
That would mark one of the first times during the Mavs’ win streak that such an honor wasn’t bestowed on Dirk Nowitzki (30 points, 12-24 FG, 3-6 3FG, seven rebounds). Dirk was his typically magnificent self, but even Nowitzki’s terrific offensive night and nice defensive effort stood dwarfed by Bogut’s two-way dominance. It seems silly to ask more of Dirk than the 30 points on 50% shooting he so skillfully offered, but that’s what Dallas needed. Those four points needed to come from somewhere, and while Caron Butler (4-11 FG), Jason Terry (3-8 FG), and Brendan Haywood (0-4 FT, after Scott Skiles opted to intentionally foul Haywood in the fourth) provide easy scapegoats, Nowitzki has conditioned us to expect the improbable. This is the first time in six games that Nowitzki shot only 50% from the field. In four of those six contests he shot at least 66.7%. Dirk has been on an unearthly tear, but was unfortunately mortal on just a few too many attempts tonight.
The ball movement in this one should be a point of pride for the Mavs, as they totaled 28 assists on 37 field goals. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and J.J. Barea all had some inspired finds, and though the offense peaked in the first quarter, all three ball-handlers continued to work for optimal shot attempts. There were faulty judgment calls all around, but the positives of Dallas’ passing far outweighed any potential negatives. Turnovers can be costly — and they occasionally were, such as Bogut’s steal and go-ahead dunk with 5:37 remaining in the fourth quarter — but the Mavs’ offense performed at a respectable level in spite of their miscues.
“Out of need springs desire, and out of desire springs the energy and the will to win.”
For the first 46 minutes, the Mavs were executing brilliantly on offense and, well, letting the Bucks execute brilliantly on offense as well. Dirk Nowitzki (28 points on 25 shots, eight rebounds, five assists) and Jason Terry (21 points, 8-15 FG, 4-6 3FG, four assists) made beautiful music together throughout, and their play was clearly reminiscent of the simpler times of ’08-’09. But despite the throwback quality of Terry’s shooting, the Maverick offense was anything but the isolation-heavy sets of a year ago; the Mavs notched an impressive 31 assists on 41 field goals.
But the Bucks kept pace. Though the Mavs were able to build a slight lead and reap the benefits of some breathing room, there was never any clear separation. Blame Andrew Bogut, who missed just one of his 14 attempts from the field en route to a 32-point, nine-rebound performance. Or blame the exceedingly slippery Carlos Delfino (22 points, 4-5 3FG, six rebounds, five assists) who somehow seemed to be the open man on any particular offensive set.
The Bucks shot very well from the field, and based on the Mavs’ inability to stop Bogut down low or get a man to stick with Delfino, a win would require just making one more basket than Milwaukee. Or, literally, making a few more baskets and coasting on offense to a one-point victory. In the final two minutes, the Mavs didn’t score a single point. In a rare display of mortality, Dirk turned the ball over with the game on the line. Compound that turnover with the two Maverick misses in the final few, and a game of impressive offense suddenly boils down to a few defensive possessions. On most nights, no problem. But given what Bogut and Delfino were able to accomplish against the Mavs’ D — not to mention the potential impact of a guy like Brandon Jennings — the fact that Dallas escaped with a win seems an improbability. Milwaukee had just scored six straight, all but erasing Dallas’ seven-point lead and bringing the game to a “do or die” sequence with 27 seconds remaining.
Dirk Nowitzki definitely didn’t “do,” as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute channeled him into help defense and the subsequent turnover. But the Mavs found a way to avoid that unenviable demise by doing just enough to ensure a victory. Their last defensive sequence isn’t quite worthy of gilding for display in the halls of the AAC, but in the game’s final three seconds, the Mavs bothered Carlos Delfino just enough to survive.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two back-to-back impressive offensive displays from the Mavs. Does not compute.
Erick Dampier (two points, 11 rebounds, a block, a turnover) played despite sitting out Sunday with his left knee injury. It wasn’t pretty. He was a non-factor on offense, and wasn’t anywhere near his usual defensive impact. Bogut had a field day against Damp (and for that matter, Drew Gooden, and anyone else who tried to guard him) with a few notable exceptions: late in the game, when the Bucks desperately needed points, Damp bodied up Bogut, forced him out of the lane, and prevented him from even taking a shot. It doesn’t quite make up for the fact that the Aussie was putting on a hook shot clinic, but the defensive accomplishments in this game were purely relative.
Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, 3-6 FG, 2-2 3FG, two rebounds, two assists) continues to impress, though he was again moved off the ball upon Jason Kidd’s return. But oddly enough, the Mavs were startlingly effective fielding a lineup of J.J. Barea at the point and Beaubois at shooting guard. It’s an interesting look if the Mavs are in need of a short-term shakeup, as the speed of that backcourt could be absolutely brutal against some slower guards.
Josh Howard (13 points, 4-7 FG, three rebounds) was a bit nondescript, but did make a bit of an impact by driving to the basket. It really is that simple with Josh; if he stops taking bad shots and looks to get to the rim rather than throw up contested jumpers, it will not only help the team but open up the rest of his game. Josh’s jumpshot was always predicated on his ability to drive, and when you take away that foundation, he’s too easy to defend.
Roddy made a 25-footer without any hesitation, but his long shot was completely upstaged by Carlos Delfino’s. On a busted offensive set with 27 seconds left and the Bucks down four, Delfino nailed a 31-footer with the shot clock on his back.
The natural chemistry between Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings is a little strange and totally excellent.
Jason Terry’s impact cannot be overstated. He really may be all the difference between middling offensive efficiency and a top ten mark, which is all the more reason to be optimistic about times like this. Terry has only really looked like himself in a handfull of games all season, and last night’s contest was definitely one of them.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is one of the best defenders in the league. Not just in defending Dirk, but overall. The only shame is that at this point, he’s a bit of an offensive liability. Mbah a Moute really just needs one offensive move — a steady mid-range jumper, the corner three, SOMETHING — to make him impossible to take off the floor. The fact that this guy made it all the way to the second round is a travesty.
Shawn Marion (12 points, 5-8 FG, five rebounds) is much improved as a finisher. Chalk it up to familiarity with Jason Kidd’s passing or simply Marion settling in, but he’s worlds more effective offensively than he was to start the season.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points while shooting a decent percentage. In other news, the world continues to turn.
THE GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Terry. Dirk faced a lot of double coverage early and had to grapple with Mbah a Moute late, so it was up to JET to carry the offense for stretches. He certainly answered, putting up nine points in the fourth frame and hopefully securing his position as the starting 2. The Mavs start and finish better with JET in the lineup, and until Howard can figure things out (and maybe even beyond then), the job should be Terry’s to lose.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on that final Mavs’ possession (via Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel): “I tried to deny [Dirk] the ball, but he [Kidd] threw it high and he [Nowitzki] caught it…I was trying to make him drive, but he shot that fadeaway. It was a tough shot.”
Brandon Jennings, on his perhaps ill-advised three with Beaubois in his face (via the wonderful Holly MacKenzie from SLAM Online): “I wanted the ball at the last second. I didn’t know Ersan’s man had doubled me. When I looked back at the tape I saw he was wide open for the jump shot. It’s something I’m going to learn from. It’s a long season.”
Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “This is on the Mavs. This was a decisive performance that, even if it ended with the Mavericks taking the loss, tells us that we can’t bank on the “Dallas’ core is on the other side of 30, and they played last night” warning shot. This isn’t to say the team won’t drag during some four-game-in-five-night endeavor before the All-Star break — every team does — but we do know for sure that these Mavericks have the mettle to work through those tired legs.”
If last season’s Mavs had one defining flaw, it would be their lack of a team identity. They struggled all season long to define who they were as a team, and with no team-wide, implicit understanding of their collective on-court personality, the 2008-’09 Mavs faltered when faced with a legitimate challenge.
The 2009-’10 season to date has played out a bit differently. One might claim that the Mavs have developed a strong defensive identity, and though you probably wouldn’t know it from watching the second half of last night’s game, they wouldn’t be wrong. One might claim that the Mavs have developed a resilient identity, working tirelessly toward wins despite their shortcomings. But I see something different. Through eleven games, the Mavs have forged a completely new identity from the regular season fires. Your Dallas Mavericks, ladies and gentlemen, are heartbreakers.
Just ask the Milwaukee Bucks, who fought and fought and probably deserved to win. Or ask the Houston Rockets, who ran out to a big lead against a more talented Mavs team. Or ask the Utah Jazz, who…well, you know. These aren’t just big wins or comeback wins. The Mavs are trivializing the spirit of their opponents’ hard work and execution by showing that this team will always be there, ready to break some hearts and play the villain. These Mavs may not have many characteristics that make them inherently hate-able, but if you win enough games that have gone to the wire, opposing teams (and their fans) will not only feel deflated, but resentful.
The Mavs’ long lost offense turned out to be the mechanism that silenced the Milwaukee crowd. Though the Mavs’ O stalled significantly in the second half (37 second half points vs. 66 first half points), it was more of a return to earth than a genuine struggle. The hot shooting in the first half had to stop at some point, and Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Ridnour, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute took full advantage of the sudden cold streak. An 18-point Maverick lead was wiped out completely, and a team whose defense had struggled all game long was now left with cold shooters to contest the oozing confidence of Brandon Jennings.
Let’s take a minute to properly appreciate what Jennings did. He exploded for 13 points in the fourth quarter, and they could not have been bigger in terms of magnitude. These were game-tying buckets, go-ahead buckets, and momentum-shifting buckets, many of which could have gone down as the final scene if not for some Maverick heroics. Jennings simply ran around or shot over every Maverick not named Rodrigue Beaubois, and Carlisle’s shift to a zone in the fourth quarter seemed to be an admission of that. It didn’t help much at all, as Jennings (25 points on 8-22 FG, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) and Ilyasova (19 points, 4-7 3FG, 12 rebounds) were well in rhythm on the threes and mid-range jumpers.
But each time the Bucks made a big shot, the Mavs made an even bigger one. Dirk Nowitzki was especially effective down the stretch, but the Mavs would have been lost (and would have lost) without the clutch contributions of Jason Terry and Drew Gooden. Gooden’s contributions on the night won’t be forgotten (22 points, 14 rebounds), but his tip-in of a missed Nowitzki layup was absolutely tremendous, tying the game with 27 seconds remaining in overtime, and setting up Dirk’s game-winning jumper.
At times, it almost seemed as if the Mavs were trying to lose. Jason Kidd had his best passing game of the season to the tune of 17 assists, but very nearly gave away the game with an unforced turnover near the end of the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki had an excellent night, but committed a horrible loose ball foul that sent the Bucks to the line with the game tied and just 37 seconds to play. Rick Carlisle refused to put Rodrigue Beaubois into the game in the fourth, despite the fact that Brandon Jennings was just 2-11 from the floor while Roddy was in the game. But all of those figures found redemption in the game’s final sequence: Beaubois partially blocked (or at least heavily contested) a Jennings 3, Carlisle draws up a game-winning inbounds play executed perfectly with a pristine pass from Kidd and a sweet jumper from Dirk at the final horn.
Rodrigue Beaubois (12 points, 5-9 FG) needs to be on the floor more, and needs to be on the floor when it matters most. His performance wasn’t flawless, but he really does change the game with his speed and in this game, with his defensive ability. I respect J.J. Barea’s defense more than most, but he was a liability on the court. He couldn’t stop Jennings, and J.J.’s trips into the lane often ended with an awkward floater or a blocked attempt.
Shawn Marion missed the entire second half with an ankle sprain, Erick Dampier was still not with the team (although he seems to be feeling better), and Josh Howard was still out with injury. This was a big win for the Mavs regardless, but even bigger considering the Mavs’ injuries.
I feel sorry for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. He played that last shot about as well as anyone could, but Dirk still got a pretty good look and an even better bounce.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to…Rodrigue Beaubois? Drew Gooden? I’m tempted, but this one just seemed too obvious.