Tessellating Pieces

Posted by Ian Levy on April 13, 2012 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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There are just under two weeks and seven games left for the Mavericks before the end of the regular season, time enough for a seemingly infinite number of potential outcomes. While a playoff berth is anything but assured (gulp), it seems like Dallas will at least be present in the first round to begin a title defense in the postseason proper. A year ago, the Mavericks finished the regular season by winning four in a row, then systematically built themselves into a seamless juggernaut through a series of progressively more astounding playoff victories.

Although they don’t have the same components that completed last year’s title run, there still exists on this roster all the raw materials to build a similarly potent contraption. Over the last three and a half months, each of Rick Carlisle’s attempts to rebuild this machine have been derailed by injury, inattention, and periods of inexplicable individual futility. However, the nature of the project has changed with the departure of Lamar Odom.

Odom represented a large and potentially powerful piece of the puzzle, and until it was announced that he and the team were parting ways early last week, there was simply no question of his inclusion. Now that he’s out of the way, the slate is cleared and the job can be begun anew. No more accommodations or allowances need be made; Carlisle has 13 days to dabble and experiment, try new looks and new orientations, and decide what this team will look like when the playoffs finally, and hopefully, arrive.

Here are a few chemistry experiments Carlisle might be interested in trying.

TWIN TOWERS

Odom’s absence leaves a void in the Mavs’ front court, and judging from the two games since, Brandan Wright will be helping to fill that space. On Thursday night against the Warriors, Wright spent most of his playing time strictly as a center and backup to Brendan Haywood. He played admirably in this role crashing the glass, scored on found possessions, and did his best against the wily David Lee. However, on Tuesday night, we had the opportunity to see a few minutes of Wright on the court alongside Ian Mahinmi, which to me is a much more tantalizing possibility.

Mahinmi and Wright have alternated this season in playing backup center minutes, lifting fans with the athleticism and effort, before grounding them with their inexperience and lack of awareness. However a Wright/Mahinmi combo offers some the potential to be a devastating combo if deployed in the right situation.

The two have played just 37 minutes together for the entire season, but some very positive things have happened in those minutes. With both on the floor the Mavericks have posted a Defensive Rating of 77.2, holding their opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 35.7 percent. Stretched (and stretched they would be; 37 minutes isn’t much of a sample size) across an entire season, those numbers would be the best in the league by a wide margin. When Wright and Mahinmi are on the floor together, the Mavs have a total rebound percentage of 56.0 percent with an offensive rebound percentage of 37.5 percent –and accomplished all that defensive and rebounding dominance at a pace of 97.7 possessions per 48 minutes.

That said, having both players the floor together presents some serious problems. Offensive spacing would suffer dramatically, and polished post players like Andrew Bynum, Zach Randolph, and both Gasols would eat either Wright or Mahinmi alive. However, against an athletic up-tempo team like the Thunder, Spurs or Clippers, Wright and Mahinmi could help the Mavericks keep pace, disrupt pick-and-rolls, defend the rim against penetration, and control the glass. Games against the Warriors and Trail Blazers might be the time to try this combo out for an extended period of time and see what it might offer for spot duty in the playoffs.

THREE GUARDS

Small-ball lineups featuring multiple ball-handlers have been a staple of Carlisle’s cross-matching rotations the past few seasons. Vince Carter has played plenty of small forward this year, but what I’m really talking about here is some three-man combination of Delonte West, Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois and Jason Terry. The one that intrigues me the most would be the West-Beaubois-Terry grouping — that trio hasn’t played a single minute together this season, and while they present the most potential problems at the defensive end, they also present the most interesting combination at the offensive end.

If the playoffs started today, the Mavericks would be matched up in a series with the Los Angeles Lakers. Even with the addition of Ramon Sessions, the Lakers would have struggled against quick, athletic penetrators. West-Beaubois-Terry would allow the Mavericks to keep the floor spaced, attack from multiple angles, and put pressure on Gasol and Bynum to defend the rim. It could end up being a disaster, but almost every other combination of players has been tried by Carlisle this season. With seven games left, it might be worth giving this one a look to see if there’s anything there.

YINSANITY

I realize this suggestion may cause me to get laughed off the internet, but I think Odom’s departure may also make room for Yi Jianlian to make a meaningful contribution in the playoffs. Yi is best known for the disparity between his production against chairs and his production against NBA players, but he does have a few legitimate basketball skills; he’s a solid rebounder, can move the ball on offense, and most importantly: is a consistent shooter. Although he’s shooting just 38.0 percent on the season, Yi is averaging 1.03 points per possession on spot-up possessions. Looking again at that potential Lakers matchup, it would be nice to be able to keep Gasol away from the rim, and open space for the second unit when Dirk is on the bench. He’s certainly a liability defensively, but no more than Peja Stojakavic was last season, as he was busy shredding the Lakers from the perimeter.

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows and HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The Difference: Portland Trail Blazers 99, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 7, 2012 under Recaps, xOther | 4 Comments to Read

Mountains

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot 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.

  • One game removed from one of their best team performances of the season, the Mavericks turned in one of their worst. As disappointing as the final minutes of this game were, the far more significant failing came in the third quarter. The Mavericks played their worst 12 minutes of the season, and turned a 12-point lead into an eight-point deficit. In every basketball sense, the seemingly unending third quarter was a complete and total disaster. Ball movement was nonexistent, the effectiveness of the Mavericks’ pick-and-roll was completely neutralized, and the Mavericks’ interior defense was porous, if present at all. It was the best possible representation of this team’s seasonal inconsistency from game-to-game and quarter-to-quarter — two strong opening quarters fully erased by 12 minutes of uninspired, directionless play. The Mavericks played three fairly strong quarters on Thursday night, but it didn’t matter. Of course, Raymond Felton’s sudden offensive explosion (30 points, 12-18 FG, seven rebounds, six assists) didn’t help the Mavericks’ chances, but a good portion of his success stemmed from gifted wide-open jumpers and easy layups. The Mavericks fought back impressively from the unlikely Felton-led third quarter charge once the fourth quarter began, as they are wont to do, and forced overtime. After minutes of neutral overtime play, the game remained tied in the final seconds.
  • And so we arrive at the final two possessions of the game. The first possession, however, was hardly a possession at all. It was tragically brief. It began with a Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, 9-16 FG, 14 rebounds) rebound, and ended almost instantly with a pass sailing out of bounds. Dirk’s attempted pass to a streaking Shawn Marion (6-11 FG, 12 points, 11 rebounds) can’t be faulted on a decision-making level. It was the right play, and one that would have given the Mavericks a two-point lead if executed correctly. Unfortunately, the pass missed its mark by a good margin, and the Blazers were given a final possession in a tie game. On that climactic possession, the Mavericks played beautiful defense, until only 3.7 seconds remained. Jason Terry (7-14 FG, 18 points) began the possession fronting LaMarcus Aldridge (11-24 FG, 25 points, 12 rebounds) in conjunction with Brendan Haywood (1-5 FG, two points, six rebounds), but Aldridge was able to break free when Terry turned to chase a sprinting Nicolas Batum (3-9 FG, six points, nine rebounds, five assists). This left Haywood solely covering Aldridge, meaning a star post player was now in impeccable, isolated post position as the final few seconds ticked down to zero. I don’t tend to like the idea of Haywood covering Aldridge, as Haywood’s simply not quick enough to cover the sudden, instant movements of a power forward like Aldridge. Aldridge used that speed disparity to his advantage, along with a sneakily placed forearm push, and created enough space for an open jumper. The final shot fell as the buzzer sounded, and the Mavericks were dealt their 25th loss to a thoroughly scattered, average Blazers’ team.

Connor Huchton is a contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm, an editor of Rufus On Fire, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Connor on Twitter: @ConnorHuchton.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, Memphis Grizzlies 85

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 4, 2012 under Recaps, xOther | 11 Comments to Read

rocks and clouds

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot 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.

  • It’s difficult to predict which Mavericks’ team will show up on any given night this season. The vacillation between an encouraging 2011-2012 Mavericks’ win and poorly played loss is both significant and frequent. Tonight’s game fell in the former category, as the Mavericks played arguably one of their most complete games of the season. No Maverick player’s performance stood out as particularly fantastic, but almost every player provided what was needed, and assumed their role to the fullest. Dirk Nowitzki (10-18 FG, 23 points, 10 rebounds) was in fine form from the onset, Shawn Marion (7-11 FG, 16 points, seven rebounds) scored and defended Rudy Gay (4-12 FG, eight points) with typical ease, and Jason Terry (6-14 FG, 15 points) gave the Mavericks a much needed scoring spark during times of stagnant offensive movement. The Mavericks’ defense gave the team the boost it has all season, frustrating both Marc Gasol (3-13 FG, 10 points) and Zach Randolph (2-6 FG, four points) to no end, but the difference in this game came when the Mavericks finally found an offensive rhythm late in the second and fourth quarters.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (3-7 FG, 8 points, five assists) had a nice little bounce-back game, if an unspectacular one. Rick Carlisle called on Beaubois to finish out the fourth quarter after a strong stretch of play, and Beaubois met the challenge. Carlisle’s decision to keep Beaubois in the game late is further evidence of Carlisle’s trust in Beaubois and situational rotations, as Delonte West (6-7 FG, 14 points, two assists) had scored efficiently during his time on the court. Beaubois was hustling terrifically, passing well, and giving Mike Conley quite a bit trouble defensively, and the result was a sustained Mavericks’ run in the closing minutes.
  • Marc Gasol (seven assists) had quite the no-look pass at the top of the key to a cutting teammate. I don’t remember who scored the basket, but I do remember thinking, “Cool pass, Marc Gasol. Cool pass.”
  • Ian Mahinmi’s ten rebounds in 24 minutes were absolutely essential to the win. When Mahinmi checked into the game, the Grizzlies second-chance opportunities almost immediately lessened.
  • The Grizzlies scored only 34 points in the second half, a poor offensive showing that the efforts of Mahinmi, Beaubois, and Marion were largely responsible for producing.
  • Tony Allen was a defensive stalwart in the first half, as he frequently is, and made perimeter ball movement difficult for the Mavericks. Late in the game, Lionel Hollins was faced with making a difficult choice between O.J. Mayo (6-10 FG, 17 points), who was having an excellent offensive night, and Allen, whose defense was paramount to the Grizzlies’ early success. Mayo earned the majority of late minutes, and while he can hardly be blamed for the loss, it’s interesting to ponder how the game would have gone if Allen had remained on the court. (Update: As pointed out in the comments, Tony Allen left the game with a lip injury in the fourth quarter.)
  • The Mavericks’ center rotation continues to vary from game to game, as Brendan Haywood (2-4 FG, five points, five rebounds) and Ian Mahinmi earned almost the entirety of minutes. (Brandan Wright did check into the game for two minutes.) It appears fit and matchup will determine who is more likely to get minutes between Wright and Mahinmi going forward. Considering both players are quality backup centers, it’s a nice luxury for the Mavericks to have.
  • Beaubois had one of the best saves I’ve seen this season, as he vaulted towards the scoring table late in the fourth quarter and threw the ball back to a waiting Jason Terry. The highlight only vaunted in quality after the play finished with a Shawn Marion dunk.
  • The Mavericks shot 50% from the field for the game, but only 26.7% from three. Given how rare it is that the Mavericks will shoot at such a high percentage without a barrage of threes falling, the numerous looks for the Mavericks’ at-the-rim and in the paint (especially in the fourth quarter) only add to the encouraging signs that can be taken from this game.
  • Shawn Marion dribbling the ball up the court is always an adventure, isn’t it?

Connor Huchton is a contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm, an editor of Rufus On Fire, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Connor on Twitter: @ConnorHuchton.

The Difference: Miami Heat 106, Dallas Mavericks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 30, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas93.091.448.116.715.415.2
Miami114.051.933.832.412.4

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 margin of this game exploded in a hurry; Dallas trailed by just seven points with about four and a half minutes remaining, but a combination of Miami’s starters and deep reserves finished the night on a 16-2 run. This loss — the second “blowout” by the hand of the Heat this season — certainly looks bad on face, the final verdict and sheer number of bullets in this post are incredibly misleading. The Mavs certainly had their second-half difficulties, but their late-game petering isn’t of monumental concern. They’ll be healthier, they’ll play better, and most importantly, they’ll largely keep these kinds of winnable games within reach. The fact that something not at all dissimilar happened at the tail end of the Mavs’ loss to the Spurs last week does offer the slightest reason for pause, but there’s no reason to believe that Dallas’ latest fourth-quarter troubles are suggestive of any legitimate trend.
  • Odd though it may seem, this still appears to be a specific matchup that the Mavericks are capable of winning — even if they would be considered extreme underdogs in a single-game event or a presumptuously hypothetical seven-game series. I highly doubt that we’ll have to weigh Dallas’ playoff odds against any Eastern Conference opponents this season, but it’s easy to see this game going very differently if only for a stronger second half from Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, three assist, three turnovers). It’s certainly not a good sign that the Mavs are struggling so much on the offensive end, but so long as we’re basking in hypotheticals, I don’t think the on-paper Mavericks would necessarily be doomed.
  • Miami won this game by plugging away; their second half possessions were interwoven sequences of driving and passing from every angle imaginable, pressuring the defense repeatedly until it gave way at a particularly vulnerable point. LeBron James (19 points, 8-16 FG, nine rebounds, five assists) and Dwyane Wade (16 points, 5-11 FG, five assists, three rebounds) deserve a lot of credit for their refusal to settle, and the entire offense followed the lead of their shot creation. Those who somehow doubt Miami’s half-court potency need only to watch tape from this game; James and Wade were creating shots in a consistent stream, and Dallas’ defense was stretched to its limits.

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Shifty

Posted by Ian Levy on March 29, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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When you see measures of a team’s pace, it’s almost always listed as a single number – the average number of possessions a team uses per game. The addition of pace into the statistical lexicon was a monumental step forward, but discussions on the subject still lack oodles of nuance. The Mavericks are averaging 91.7 possessions per game this season, but those 91.7 possessions are not consumed in an equal distribution across 48 minutes. The game speeds up and slows down, alternately racing and lulling through to its conclusion.

Looking at pace only in the context of average possessions used per game leaves a lot of information by the wayside. For example, a team might play two games, using 90 possessions in each, for a pace factor of 90. Another team might play two games, using 70 possessions in the first and 110 in the second, also arriving at a pace factor of 90. Those two pace factors, although numerically identical, are far different in terms of functional significance. These fluctuations in pace don’t just happen across single games, but also across sections of games; teams will play at different speeds based on situations or the personnel that’s on the floor, all of which is muddled in a single pace factor.

Last season I tried to dissect pace in two slightly more defined ways. During the playoff series against the Thunder I looked at pace in smaller chunks of time, and found that the Mavericks seemed to struggle as the game got faster. I also looked at how the Mavericks pace changed when different lineups were on the floor.

What I was curious to look at next was how much the Mavericks’ pace fluctuated in settling on their average, and how that compared to the rest of the league. The tool I used to illustrate this change is variance, a numeric expression of how much a data-set varies from the average. For this analysis I looked at the ten most played lineups for each NBA team and calculated the variance for those ten lineups from the team’s average. The higher the variance, the more change there was in pace from unit to unit, the smaller the variance, the more consistent their pace was.

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The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 104, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 24, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-Play Shot Chart Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

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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The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 109, Dallas Mavericks 93

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 22, 2012 under Recaps | 12 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.092.645.121.08.711.7
San Antonio110.654.012.528.613.8

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 basketball gods had seemingly arranged a game for Andrew Bynum to dominate, and yet just about every Laker but Bynum (nine points, 4-5 FG, seven rebounds) dominated. Some credit goes to the Mavs for throwing an extra defender Bynum’s way quickly, but this was no defensive victory; as much as I would love to shower praise on Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright (who, to be clear, did play effective defense), Bynum’s lack of shot attempts was purely a product of the Lakers’ otherwise dominant offense. It certainly didn’t seem as if L.A. was too focused on establishing Bynum on the block via re-post — and it didn’t matter a bit, as the Lakers’ off-ball movement ended up deciding the game.
  • In Shawn Marion and Delonte West’s absence, Jason Kidd was forced to take primary on-ball responsibility against Kobe Bryant (30 points, 11-18 FG, five rebounds, four assists, four turnovers). He honestly did what he could; there have been games this season where Kidd’s defensive effort is fleeting, but this was not one of them. He bodied Bryant when he could, tried to deny him the ball as much as possible, and yet few of his efforts produced favorable defensive outcomes. There were many instances in which Kidd played textbook defense only to be bested by Kobe being Kobe — a demonstration of dominance that at once must be both maddening and shrug worthy. Bryant worked hard to free himself up for quality shot attempts, and though not all of his shots were carefully chosen, it was hard to fault this particular process (particularly when juxtaposed with Bryant’s occasional ball-dominating ways).
  • Both teams started this game with a ridiculous, extended rally of mid-range jumpers. The Mavericks merely failed to adapt once those shots stopped falling, and as for the Lakers — well, I’m not sure those shots ever did. It was just jumper after jumper after jumper, largely produced through quality play action.
  • Jason Terry (23 points, 8-14 FG, 3-6 3FG, zero turnovers) is a masterful practitioner of the pick and roll, and though his ball-handling judgment has been questionable in recent weeks, his approach was perfectly on-point on Wednesday. Los Angeles trapped Terry fairly hard in pick-and-roll situations, but he managed to play his way out of and around them. JET walked the line of aggressive scoring and steady playmaking with perfect balance, a fact betrayed by Terry’s misleading goose egg in the assist column. Don’t be fooled; Terry did an excellent job of messing up his teammates, even if some unfortunate misses robbed him of any box score glory.

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Instead of the Cross

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 21, 2012 under Previews | Read the First Comment

But [tonight's game] has the chance to be something very different and a fair bit more violent. Andrew Bynum is set to take on a Mavs team missing Brendan Haywood due to a nagging right knee injury, and should be expectedly dominant against the much lankier Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright. That tandem of reserve bigs has been great for Dallas this season, but both players lack not only Haywood’s sophistication as a post defender, but also his sheer size. Mahinmi and Wright may be cut from a thinner, more athletic mold, but it’s hard to imagine their quickness doing all that much good against a deep catch from the methodical Bynum, who has thus far been able to overpower just about any interior defender unlucky enough to be pitted against him this season.

The two times Dallas and L.A. met this year, Haywood was able to hold Bynum to averages of 18 points (on 60-percent shooting) and 15 rebounds. What — specifically — that omen holds for Mahinmi and  Wright we can’t rightly know, but their exciting and flawed substitution for Haywood surely makes for one hell of an albatross.

I previewed tonight’s game against Los Angeles over at Bleacher Report’s CourtVision blog. If you’re into that sort of thing, take a gander at the piece in its entirety.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Denver Nuggets 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 20, 2012 under Recaps | 11 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas99.0113.159.517.914.314.1
Denver96.047.024.111.113.1

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

  • Kenneth Faried (nine points, five rebounds) is a good player and an incredibly active defender, but he had the incredible misfortune of being pitted against a most dominant Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 12-19 FG, 11 rebounds, six assists). What, precisely, would you have any defender do against Nowitzki at the top of his game — much less one with relatively limited NBA experience and far less matchup-specific experience? Dirk maneuvered too well to be blanketed, shot too accurately to be stopped, and passed too effectively to be doubled. Faried was damned before he even had a chance to consider his options, as Nowitzki triggered his usual array of fades and jumpers en route to one of his most spectacularly efficient performances of the season.
  • Dallas’ 33 assists were a season high, and the furthest thing from an empty total; the Mavs’ ball movement was the most successful and consistent force in this game, and sustained even during the roughest offensive stretches. The shots didn’t fall, but to the Mavs’ credit, they never abandoned the process. That commitment is more important than any series of makes or misses, wins or losses — it’s the backbone of successful offense, and that the Mavs are relying on a replicable formula to generate points bodes well for their future this season.
  • This particular matchup made for a fascinating watch due to the fact that size was a uniquely irrelevant factor. Nowitzki demands a certain size and length in defensive response, but Dirk aside, both teams were free to play whichever players gave them the greatest chance for success, regardless of the opponent’s configuration or traditional positions. The Mavs largely stayed “conventional,” if you could really term their usual lineups so ridiculously. The Nuggets, on the other hand, toyed with all kinds of combinations, most of which used Denver’s army of wing players in a futile (in retrospect, anyway) effort to get the jump on Dallas. Faried split time with Al Harrington as the only big on the floor for long stretches of the game, and though Denver couldn’t use their wing-heavy lineups to create any in-game leverage, it was still a hell of a sight.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 106, San Antonio Spurs 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 18, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

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

  • What began as a great offensive performance by Dirk Nowitzki (who finished the first half with 19 points) turned into a wonderful overall performance by the Mavs’ offense. Nowitzki (27 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers) was absolutely brilliant in both a one-on-one capacity and as a spot-up shooter, but when San Antonio began to throw hard doubles at Dirk on the catch, he wasted no time in finding open shooters on the weak side. Throwing a pass to a shooter in the opposite corner off of a double team is a bit of a risk, but Nowitzki’s height and experience with this kind of swarming coverage make him uniquely suited for that kind of play. Nowitzki was only able to notch three points in the fourth quarter (when the Spurs made their defensive shift), but Dallas shot 5-of-9 from three-point range to the frame, with many of those makes coming off of double-team exploitation.
  • Another thing that’s abundantly clear: Nowitzki takes his matchup with Stephen Jackson — he of that infamous 2007 playoff letdown — incredibly seriously. Gregg Popovich wasted no time in getting Jackson acclimated, and pitted him against Nowitzki almost immediately, despite the fact that more conventional Nowitzki foes (Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter) were also on the floor. From that moment, Nowitzki’s entire approach shifted; he sought to back down Jackson relentlessly, and noticeably increased the physicality of his pre-shot maneuverings. Jackson did what he could to deny Nowitzki early position and fight him for every inch, but, well, it’s not 2007 anymore.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 8-16 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) will naturally receive praise for the quality of his performance, but in truth this was a nice outing for the entirety of the Mavs’ guard core. Jason Kidd lived up to everything that could possibly be expected of him and more, as he connected on four threes out of five attempts, racked up double-digit assists, and played great help defense to indirectly force a few turnovers. Jason Terry put up 17 points on just 10 shot as a continuation of one of his strongest stretches of the season. Vince Carter, too, put up 10 points on 50 percent shooting, just to complete the picture. The fact that all four of these players were able to positively influence the game is a wonderful sign for the resurrection of the Mavs’ depth, particularly considering how heavily the Mavs were leaning on this group in the absence of both Delonte West and Shawn Marion.

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