The Difference: Golden State Warriors 111, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by James Herbert on March 11, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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.

  • There aren’t a lot of positives to take from a loss like this, except for the fact that it’s probably not all that representative of anything. The reality: the Mavs are now the third team this season to lose all three games of a back-to-back-to-back. At 23-20, they’ve dropped eight of ten and would occupy the West’s final playoff spot if the season ended today. Fortunately, the season doesn’t end today. This brutal stretch of nine games in 12 nights is over and I’m closer to the Mark Cuban “these losses are meaningless” school of thought than the “Dallas is a disaster” stance that clean-shaven Sam Mitchell took on NBA TV Friday night. Brendan Haywood will be back soon, Delonte West after that, and we’ll look for incremental improvements over the next month or so.
  • Oh, Jason Kidd will be back soon, too. He was a late scratch. No need to play the soon-to-be 39-year-old on three straight nights. This meant we were treated to a starting backcourt of Jason Terry and Dominique Jones, with Rodrigue Beaubois and Vince Carter theoretically adding scoring punch off the bench. For JET, it was his first start since last January. For Jones, it was the first of his career. Also, this was Terry’s 1000th career regular season game.
  • For the second night in a row, Dallas looked old and slow and fell behind early to a non-playoff team. The Warriors scored the first six points of the game and Rick Carlisle took his first timeout with 6:31 left in the first, down 11-5. The Mavs’ legs were dragging from the opening tip, while the Warriors, who hadn’t played since Wednesday, were full of energy, even if it wasn’t always channeled correctly. The Mavs started the first quarter shooting 2-13 and finished it 6-22.
  • That energy I talked about? Much of it came from Ekpe Udoh, who was running and jumping and contesting shots all over the place. Early in the first, he challenged a Dirk Nowitzki jumper, then blocked Ian Mahinmi’s follow attempt. He blocked a Nowitzki shot a few possessions later. He should become a Serge Ibaka-like league-wide fan favorite as soon as the Warriors are relevant.
  • The first quarter wasn’t all one-sided and it wasn’t just the Mavericks being sloppy — both teams had six turnovers in the opening frame. After that timeout with 6:31 left, Rodrigue Beaubois and Lamar Odom checked in. Both immediately hit threes and tied the game at 11. But in the last 3:31, Golden State went on a 13-2 run. For the rest of the game, Dallas was playing catch-up.

Read more of this article »

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, New York Knicks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 7, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-03-07 at 11.06.06 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas96.099.043.137.521.314.6
New York88.541.727.428.016.7

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

  • Execution is always a matter of great importance, but from opening tip this game came to be defined by the Mavs’ energy. Dallas came out of the gates with an insistence on beating New York in transition on offense and curtailing fast break opportunities on defense, perhaps best showcased by Ian Mahinmi (nine points, six rebounds, three steals, two blocks) flying back and forth across the court (for a block in transition, for a soaring rebound, for a gliding dunk, etc.). As Dallas’ energy waned, New York’s defense picked up and capitalized. The Mavs’ most successful stretches of basketball were dictated by their energy and assertiveness, and though those things were indicative in small differences in approach (Shawn Marion being more aggressive as a fast-break ball-handler, Rodrigue Beaubois looking to get to the rim, Jason Kidd not being gun-shy) than consistent, over-arching tropes, they were still very evident nonetheless.
  • It’s in that vein that I do have praise for Lamar Odom, in spite of a miserable shooting night and an otherwise neutral stat line. If nothing else, Odom played hard — and considering where he and his mind have been in the last few weeks, I think that’s an acceptable step. It doesn’t make 1-of-9 shooting okay, but under the circumstances the bigger issue is Odom’s commitment to the team and to the game. He has the talent to produce more, and if he’s engaged, he will.
  • Shawn Marion and the Mavs’ collective defense did a great job against Carmelo Anthony. It felt as though Anthony was actually getting to his favorite spots on the floor with some ease, but once at the rim or in his pet zones, rarely did he put up a shot attempt without a hand in his face. This was particularly true inside, where the Mavs’ interior defenders swarmed Anthony as early as possible. He was blocked from behind, forced to contort, and ultimately, held to six points on 12 shot attempts. Some of that is the natural process of the Knicks’ offense feeling itself out, but the Mavs did an outstanding job of capitalizing on some of the disarray and made Anthony a non-factor.

Read more of this article »

The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 6, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-03-06 at 10.21.05 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.098.948.211.922.516.3
Oklahoma City103.343.443.434.116.1

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

  • The closing moments of Monday night’s game offered a disturbing bit of possibility — Jason Terry may no longer be the player who simply does well in clutch situations, but one who demands that the ball go through him. Dallas’ final two offensive possessions were relatively basic high pick-and-roll sets involving Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, and on both occasions JET refused to hit an open Nowitzki on the three-point line (where Nowitzki had only made four of his six attempts on the night) in the name of calling his own number. If Terry were in a position where he had a lane or a step on his defender, that’s a perfectly acceptable decision. Yet in this particular game neither was the case; Terry didn’t necessarily break the play(s), but he sure as hell hijacked it.

Read more of this article »

The Difference: Memphis Grizzlies 96, Dallas Mavericks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 1, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-29 at 11.55.47 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas95.089.546.817.719.517.4
Memphis101.150.023.825.716.1

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

  • Dirk Nowitzki left this game early in the second quarter with what appears to be a minor injury to his lower back (all indications point to Nowitzki being available on Friday), and from there things went pretty much as expected. Dallas can get by without Dirk on the floor for stretches — a few minutes here, a few minutes there — but runs into a huge, huge problem when teams are able to tweak their approach toward the Mavs’ teetering, Dirk-less offense. Nowitzki is such a prolific and efficient shot creator that the offense can operate according to plan just by having him available, but remove him as a factor and opponents quickly realize how putting pressure on Jason Terry can make the Mavs squirm.
  • Plus: Memphis is a team that understands how to operate without their best player in the lineup. Dallas is not, if only because their construction is fundamentally different. It’s not that Zach Randolph isn’t important; he’s every bit as significant, just not as pivotal.
  • As mentioned above, Terry (18 points, 7-15 FG, five assists) — and to a lesser extent, Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 7-16 FG, three assists, four turnovers) — had the unenviable task of trying to keep the offense afloat. He did what he could, but it doesn’t take much digging into the tape to determine that JET isn’t the kind of player who can function as the primary creator of an offense. He still managed to hit some tough shots and did a good job of trying to get to the rim, but every step he took was shaded by a Grizzly, and Memphis’ guards did a terrific job of funneling him into help. Beaubois wasn’t quite as successful, particularly once the Grizzlies’ defense locked down in the second half. Beaubois was forced to be the Mavs’ primary reset option, but ultimately wasn’t much of a threat out of the pick and roll. The timing and vision just wasn’t there for Beaubois to actually hit the roll man, and the Grizzlies deserve a lot of credit for cutting off passing lanes, hedging on those screens, and forcing Beaubois to retreat.

Read more of this article »

The Difference: New Jersey Nets 93, Dallas Mavericks 92

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 29, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-29 at 1.30.22 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas97.094.940.431.529.311.4
New Jersey95.948.216.727.317.4

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

  • It almost seems unfair to distill a loss like this down to a simple explanation, but bare with me: The Mavs played poorly, and the Nets played less poorly. There was no collapse; Dallas’ execution was a bit spotty, and the offensive sequences that did go as planned too often ended with a botched open look. Brendan Haywood played decent but flawed defense, as he too frequently surrendered deep post position or a baseline lane to a focused Brook Lopez. Dirk Nowitzki was efficient, but not dominant. Jason Kidd generally did not play well. The Mavs made big plays to put themselves in a position to win, but stellar defense by Kris Humphries and DeShawn Stevenson prevented Dallas from making the biggest one. Vince Carter was a complete non-factor, and with Delonte West and Lamar Odom already out of the lineup, that absent production was killer. Neither Jason Terry nor Rodrigue Beaubois could provide dependable, consistent offense, if only because the former missed open shots and the latter was a pinch too aggressive. The defense had occasional breakdowns, but for the most part was simply inept by half. All of these things happened, and none of it really matters. Every game matters in a sense, but the holistic outcome of this particular outing is simply nullified against the weight of the entire season. It’s a one-point loss against a crummy team, and a counter swing of the pendulum that typically brings the Mavs their greatest successes. It’s worth a moment’s consideration, surely, but this isn’t at all a game — nor a result — worth dwelling on. (That said, one specific factor is becoming an all too frequent issue. As Marion has been tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player virtually regardless of any positional considerations, his offensive efficiency has hit rock bottom. The man willingly admits that defending the likes of Deron Williams [and Chris Paul, and Ty Lawson, and Ricky Rubio, and...] takes a lot out of him, and yet Carlisle continues to look to Marion for defensive strength even as his offense takes a corresponding hit. Marion is a two-way player, but extending him so far in one direction necessarily pulls him away from the other.)

The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 96, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 23, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-23 at 2.04.16 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas88.0103.444.417.839.611.0
Los Angeles109.151.340.837.015.9

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

  • The Mavs are undoubtedly disappointed in their collective inability to capitalize on the opportunities presented them, but ultimately, this was a pretty commendable effort. Lamar Odom, Delonte West, and Rodrigue Beaubois were out of the lineup, leaving Brian Cardinal (three points, 1-4 FG) and Yi Jianlian (four points, 2-3 FG) to play significant minutes. Pau Gasol played solid defense on Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-22 FG, 12 rebounds), and prevented him from dominating offensively. Dallas shot .250 from beyond the arc, and .400 from the field overall. Yet both teams were deadlocked virtually every step of the way in the second half, a literalization of the seeding battle between Western Conference teams. The Mavs and Lakers are both talented teams capable of making the Western Conference Finals, and the same could be said of about half a dozen other clubs. It’s all going to come down to minor differences in record and the random resulting matchups, much like this particular game was ultimately determined by a thin margin and specific matchup advantages.
  • Even in a season of spectacular defensive performances, this may be Shawn Marion’s showpiece. Kobe Bryant (15 points, 4-15 FG, four assists, five rebounds, seven turnovers) is among the toughest covers in the league, but Marion blanketed him step for step, forced him into tough, contested shots, and goaded Bryant into taking long three-pointers born of frustration. You can’t ask for better primary defense on an opponent’s top offensive player, and though Gasol (24 points, 11-18 FG, nine rebounds, four assists, five turnovers) and Andrew Bynum (19 points, 6-10 FG, 14 rebounds, three assists) were able to make up for Kobe’s shackles with highly efficient interior play, Marion’s defense alone gave the Mavs a legitimate chance to win this game. (On a related note: No Maverick needs the All-Star break more than Shawn Marion. I wish him a long weekend of nonexistent mornings, catnaps, and time away from the court.)

Read more of this article »

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 89, Boston Celtics 73

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 21, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-21 at 11.19.18 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.096.744.415.725.09.5
Boston79.343.914.911.417.7

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 Celtics’ availability issues started out crippling and ended up comical; if it weren’t bad enough that Rajon Rondo (suspended), Kevin Garnett (personal reasons), and Brandon Bass (knee) were nixed from the game at the start, Jermaine O’Neal (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (groin) left in the third quarter and did not return. That left the Celtics reeling with all kinds of crazy lineup combinations, and completely incapable of mounting a comeback run using their typical offensive and defensive alignments.
  • Then again, considering how O’Neal and Wilcox plodded through their pick-and-roll recoveries on Dirk Nowitzki, maybe a delayed absence was for the best from Boston’s perspective. Nowitzki was focused from opening tip and quick to fire, but each of his ball screens secured him an ocean of open space. A make is virtually guaranteed for any competent NBA shooter who is able to catch, square up, and fire off a jumper without even the slightest hint of duress; under those same conditions, a shooter as as accurate and highly utilized as Nowitzki apparently rattles off 26 points in 30 minutes. Without having Garnett around to at least attempt to check Dirk, Boston was fairly helpless.
  • Dominique Jones, making dreams come true:

Read more of this article »

The Difference: New York Knicks 104, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 20, 2012 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-20 at 10.33.03 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.0103.251.921.035.017.7
New York110.653.520.934.116.8

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

  • Let this game be a healthy reminder: Although the Mavs typically perform quite well in crunch time, their closing execution isn’t infallible. Jason Terry (13 points, 5-13 FG, six assists, seven rebounds) can still fall prey to a simple missed jumper. A weird defensive sequence can still result in an uncontested Tyson Chandler (14 points, 5-7 FG, 10 rebounds, three blocks) dunk. A lot goes on in the waning moments of a close game, and though Dallas performs in those situations at a higher level than most, they’re not immune to games like this — games when all the magic flows through the heart and hands of an opponent, leaving none for that final, improbable comeback.
  • Two things stuck out to me in this particularly wonderful performance from Jeremy Lin (28 points, 11-20 FG, 3-6 3FG, 14 assists, four rebounds, five steals, seven turnovers): his range and his poise. I, like many others, saw Lin’s occasional three-point makes as an aberration. Lin, after all, is only shooting 32 percent from three-point range to date, even with some alleged outliers inflating his percentage. But there’s something to be said about his confidence beyond the arc, and on this occasion among several others, his impressive accuracy. Maybe he’s a bit streaky from long range at this point in his career, but he’s still emerged from the bench with a reasonably formed jumper, capable of putting pressure on opposing defenses and offering him a crucial tool to play off of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. But Lin’s poise — in the face of Shawn Marion’s length, in the face of scrambled coverages, in the face of heavy defensive pressure, in the face of a ticking clock — is really and truly remarkable. I don’t think the Mavericks failed as a team defense, largely because Lin didn’t fold under any reasonable amount of defensive pressure. Dallas came in with a strategy, Rick Carlisle altered it on the fly, and it still didn’t pan out. Such can be expected when a team sees a white-hot opponent on the court for (essentially) the first time, and such can certainly be the case with a player as resilient as Lin.
  • Also, as a general footnote on Lin: Don’t sweat the turnovers, at least in terms of Lin’s overall development. Those high turnover marks have a habit of popping up for any aggressive young player, particularly when they’re thrust into a dominant offensive role. Pace, position, and ball dominance all play a big role in bringing Lin’s turnover marks to a swell, even though — on a per-possession basis — his overall turnover marks are comparable to that of Rajon Rondo, Ricky Rubio, and Andre Miller. Curbing those turnovers would do a lot for the Knicks’ offense as a whole, but it’s really not much of an issue so long as Lin remains productive overall.

Read more of this article »

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.

Read more of this article »

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 97, Portland Trail Blazers 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 12, 2012 under xOther | Read the First Comment

Screen shot 2012-02-11 at 11.27.51 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart – Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas105.092.450.022.622.719.9
Portland89.538.719.620.312.5

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

  • There are games so good they’re worthy of extra minutes, and then there was the painful war of attrition between the Mavs and Blazers on this particular Saturday night. Dallas typically pens a loving letter to the game of basketball with each perfectly executed late-game possession, but the final touches of this particular victory were predicated on seeing how many jumpers Raymond Felton (nine points, 4-17 FG, three turnovers) could be tricked into taking and how many tough, pull-up jumpers Delonte West (10 points, 5-11 FG, four assists, four steals, three turnovers) could convert in a row. That ended up working out just fine, but not before both teams missed and fumbled and effectively blew possession after possession. This wasn’t at all an unwatchable game (the Mavs’ first-half offense was actually quite productive, and the Blazers’ pressure D in the second-half kept things pretty interesting), but neither team played well, and the ticking clock turned the entire affair into a pressure cooker. Dallas ultimately ended up managing the chaos a bit better than Portland did, but I have a hard time saying that the Mavs really played significantly better basketball than their opponents.

Read more of this article »