Dallas Mavericks 93, Portland Trailblazers 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 12, 2009 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
-Leonardo da Vinci

The Mavs are going to win the NBA title this year.

Okay, not really, but back-to-back road wins over solid Western Conference teams is a welcome contrast to the Mavs’ recent road woes.  They walked into the Rose Garden, took everything they wanted on the offensive end, put together a solid defensive performance, and showed tremendous testicular fortitude as they vanquished the Blazers (who the Mavs have beaten all three times this season) and what remained of their inner demons.

Part of me wants to cheapen this win.  The voice in my head is telling me “Well pffft, any team can win if they make their jumpshots and play half-decent defense.”  This is entirely true, and the Mavs haven’t had much trouble winning when they actually do those two things.  Unfortunately, the defense tends to come and go with the shooting.  But you know what?  This one counts, and it counts big.  The Mavs weren’t killing the Blazers’ playoff chances like they did to the Suns the night before, but they also implode when faced with adversity and low expectations.  Myself and countless others hoped for a win in Portland, but generally resigned ourselves to the fact that the Mavs might go out and lay an egg.  It was the second night of a back-to-back, they played an awfully good Portland team that has been ridiculously good at home lately, and when the Blazers offered some resistance in the second half, the Mavs had every reason to fold.  They were on tired legs, and again, no one was scoring outside of Dirk and Terry.  But they stood their ground, and as a team the Mavs came up huge.  Dirk and and JET took and made all the big shots, but the impact of players like Erick Dampier, Antoine Wright, and whoever invented the zone defense cannot be discounted.

So much of what the Mavs were able to accomplish in this game hinged on their play in the first and third quarters, which have been the most troublesome all season.  They started things off well, and though they were down one at the end of the first, it was evident that this was the Mavs’ game.  The Blazers made their runs and had their chances, but it was a Maverick world and they were just temporarily leasing in it.  The third quarter, in which the Mavs typically implode on their way to a double-digit loss, instead had the Mavs standing their ground against a Blazer resurgence.  The storm was weathered, the Mavs bounced back, and the day was won.  Huzzah!

Dirk, you got it goin’ on.

The Blazers don’t have anyone that matches up well with Dirk.  LaMarcus Aldridge would seem to be a good choice in theory, but somewhere between ‘good, tall defender with reasonably quick feet’  and ‘actually keeping Dirk from doing whatever he wants’, Aldridge falters.  To be honest, I’m not even sure I can put a finger on it.  Even the plays where Aldridge does a commendable job at making Dirk’s life difficult, Nowitzki just launches an awkward, off-balance jumper (for Dirk, is there any other kind?) over LaMarcus’ outstretched arms.  Dirk didn’t quite match his production in Phoenix, but was every bit as brilliant with 29 points (13-24 FG), 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and just 2 turnovers.  But take a look at that picture up top, and it tells you all you need to know: any time Dirk does his awesome reverse-popped-jersey-tug thing, something’s going very, very right.  Up 2 with just a minute to play, Dirk hit a tough jumper with Aldridge in his face.  Travis Outlaw made a layup down the middle of the broken zone, and Dirk iced the game with a foot-on-the-three-point-line jumper off the dish from Jason Terry.

Just for fun, take a look at Dirk’s shot chart from games against Portland this season (via NBA.com):

Yeah.  I know.

Jason Terry (24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers) was nearly as fantastic, and was in full effect.  The Chris Paul-Tyson Chandler pick-and-roll may be terrifying in its own regard, but on nights like these I would hate to be an opposing fan watching Dirk and Terry go to work.

No recap of this game would be complete without mention of the zone.  According to the Blazers’ broadcast team, Brandon Roy was “chugging Pepto” on the bench during several breaks in the action, and it showed.  Without Roy’s usual assertiveness and penetration, the Blazers looked like a much more athletic, taller version of my intramural basketball team.  Nate McMillan is a great coach, but he did not have the Blazers ready to face the zone.  The Mavs went to it consistently in the second and fourth, and Portland just couldn’t get good looks.

Today, I was planning on writing a piece about the growing marginalization of Erick Dampier.  Brandon Bass and James Singleton seemed on the up-and-up, and Ryan Hollins’ outburst against the Suns only made things worse for Damp.  Then Dampier reminded me why we keep him around with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and a block, most of which was much more emphatic than I could put into type.  The Blazers were focused on stopping the Mavs’ shooters and repeatedly forgot about Dampier in the middle.  Four offensive rebounds and a handful of dunks later, I’m well aware of what Dampier can offer.

Jason Kidd, in typical Kidd fashion, finished with 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and just 7 points.  That’s nice production, but his night wasn’t anything to write home about.  A good night from Kidd, a decent job on Brandon Roy during the man-to-man stretches, and a near disaster averted when Antoine Wright corrected a Kidd mistake when Travis Outlaw managed to poke away Kidd’s dribble in crunch time.

As Dampier’s play increased, James Singleton and Ryan Hollins faded to the background; neither logged a single second of action.  Not that Brandon Bass (10 points, 4 rebounds) helped.  Carlisle went shallow with the rotation, only playing Terry, Bass, and Devean George off the bench.  Devean George once again proved that he’s still Devean George, and that he’s always willing to foul players attacking the basket — but only when it’s too late and they actually make their attempts.

Barea started again in place of Josh Howard, and had his moments.  Unfortunately, most of what he did well on the court was countered by his overaggressiveness.  It comes with the territory with J.J., and he wouldn’t be where he is now if he wasn’t aggressive.  Still, a little more control now and again couldn’t hurt, and he’d be much more useful in his role if he took off his blinders once in awhile.

Closing Thoughts:

  • The Mavs had just one turnover, and shot 51.% from the field in the first half.  Wicked awesome.
  • Joel Przybilla had just about my favorite play in all of basketball: he went up for a block attempt on Jason Terry (I think), and instead of swatting the shot, just grabbed it out of the air.  Terry’s runner may have already been tipped, but still.
  • J.J. Barea injured what appeared to be his left elbow, Devean George left the game with a knee injury, and the Blazers Nicolas Batum left the game with a shoulder strain.
  • The Blazers had won 12 consecutive home games before last night.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Terry.  As usual, Dirk probably deserves it, but in the name of spreading the love around, I’m throwing this one JET’s way.  Terry had an excellent offensive night and was the ideal counterpart for Dirk.  Bonus points for not forcing the issue on what would be the Mavs’ last field goal of the game, a good shot fake as the clock dwindled that opened up Dirk for a great look.  Jason Terry, I raise my glass to you.

No Game Is an Island: Jumpshooting Is the New Jumpshooting

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 4, 2009 under Previews | 4 Comments to Read

The Portland Trailblazers visit the Dallas Mavericks
7:30 CST

How many jump shots does a jump shooting team have to jump shoot to define a jump shooting team as a jump shooting team?

It’s a valid question.  And one that everyone should be asking themselves about the Blazers.  Take a hard look up and down that roster.  There’s a boatload of talent and promise galore, but you might also notice one small caveat: there isn’t a lot in the way of interior scoring.  Greg Oden has his nights, and by “his nights” I mean the ones where he looks less like an animatronic T-Rex.  Joel Przybilla is probably the best backup center in the game, but his offensive game is generally limited to putbacks and bunnies.  But where a lot of public knowledge steers into the wrong is with LaMarcus Aldridge.  In theory, a long, strong, 6’11” beast would be a killer pivot man.  Don’t call him ‘soft,’ but Aldridge’s game is definitely of the face-up variety.  He lingers in midrange, excelling in the supposed ‘lost art’ of the game (how that was ever considered a legitimate criticism of the league is beyond me).  Dirk is 2nd in the league in 2-point jumpshot attempts percentage (it’s exactly what it sounds like: what percentage of a player’s attempts are 2-point jumpers) at 71%.  LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t far behind, at #11 with 64%.  Travis Outlaw and Brandon Roy, Portland’s other top shooters in terms of attempts, don’t share Aldridge’s lust for le jumpehr, but that doesn’t mean they are devoid of jumpshooting passion in their own rights.

So what separates the 2nd best offensive outfit in the league from the 9th?  You’ve got a jumpshooting power forwards, offensively animatronic centers, and small forwards that have fallen in love with their shot…what exactly is missing from the equation that places the Mavs on one side and the Blazers on the other?  The obvious difference lies at the guard positions.  Jason Kidd gets the upper hand against Steve Blake, Sergio Rodriguez, and Jerryd Bayless, but Brandon Roy absolutely puts the Mavs 2 guard rotation to shame.  Jason Kidd does things to help his team, but Brandon Roy is the team.  If you want the basic element that limits the Mavs to this day and will eventually thrust the Blazers into championship contention, it’s scoring in the post.  Interior scoring isn’t some mythical fourth quarter beast that a contender make, though.  Rather, it’s the horse that you mount to get you through the rough stretches.  Lucky for Portland, they have the third best post-up guard in the game.  Kobe.  Wade.  Roy.  That’s it.  Meanwhile, the Mavs are twiddling their thumbs with Antoine Wright.  It could be worse, but it’s not exactly the same.

Does Dirk’s way work?  I think it can.  Doesn’t hurt that he’s a unique beast.  Is Roy’s way easier, even if it means lacking a true scoring big man?  We’ll see.

Oh, and in the name of shameless self-promotion: I answered a few questions for the crew at Bust a Bucket for today’s game.  Take a looksie if you dare.