The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 93, Los Angeles Clippers 99

Posted by Kirk Henderson on January 10, 2013 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

WindingRoad

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.

  • At halftime, Dallas had four more offensive rebounds than the Clippers, gathering eight to the Clipper’s four. In the third quarter alone, the Mavericks gave up eight, and three more in the final quarter. Two of those three came on one possession for the Clippers with around a minute left and the Clippers up 97-93. Caron Butler moved Carter underneath the rim and took the rebound away from he and Dirk Nowitzki for the first rebound. For the second, Butler got the rebound because Carter made no effort to box him out. Carter’s been a solid rebounder this year, but this sequence is indicative of the Maverick inability to close games.
  • With 2:19 left in the third quarter, Dallas held a 75-65 lead. At the 10:42 mark in the fourth, the Clippers had tied the game 76-76. Then, by the 6:45 mark in the fourth the Clippers had taken a 90-83 lead. In just over seven and a half minutes, the Clippers managed a seventeen point swing on a 25 to eight run.
  • This loss is maddening, mainly because for most of the game, Dallas did all the right things against the Clippers. They packed the paint to prevent any “Lob City” style dunks. The defense forced Blake Griffin (15 points, 13 rebounds) into a number of tough shots and also into committing six turnovers. Darren Collison (22 points, six assists) punished LA’s lackadaisical attempt at transition defense. And this is all with Dirk, Mayo, and Kaman shooting a combined 15 of 40 from the field. But when Chris Paul (19 points, 16 assists) decided to assert himself when Dallas went up by 10 in the third, the feeling of the game changed immediately.
  • The shot select of Chris Kaman (nine points, four rebounds) is frustrating to watch. He took twelve shots tonight, including seven jumpers of the 12 to 17 foot variety. He hit two of those jumpers. He’s at his best when he attacks the rim through his crafty post play. For some reason, he has the green light to shoot far too many mid-range or fade away jump shots and it’s really doing the team a disservice. Kaman has such good moves, but doesn’t use them nearly enough.
  • Carlisle’s in a rough spot with his crunch time line ups. In the final minutes tonight he finally went with the Dirk-Brand combination I’ve been hoping for, with Collison, Mayo, and Carter rounding out the starting five. The trouble spot in particular is the small forward position. On the one hand, Marion gives Dallas superb defense, excellent movement without the ball, and a certain “je ne sais quoi”. On the other hand, Carter brings outside shooting, pick and roll ball handling, and the ability to take and make tough shots. Tonight, Carlisle opted to go with Carter. It did not work out.
  • To a certain degree, Dallas fans (myself included) have been spoiled by great point guard play for a long time. Jason Kidd, the great Steve Nash, followed by the solid Devin Harris, then Jason Kidd again. Darren Collison has had his ups and downs but one thing he’s not fantastic at is pin point passing. In the second quarter, he threw a truly aweful ally-oop pass to Shawn Marion who was wide open and was unable to catch and convert due to the low quality of the pass. I hate to pick nits in a game where Collison was really excellent, but in games that come down to detail execution, the little things can really add up.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

 

On The Ground Floor

Posted by Ian Levy on January 24, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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

Every NBA offense begins with the same purpose – put the ball in the basket, preferably repeatedly and in a manner that’s not too straining. The pieces and approaches that are chosen to strive for that goal take an infinite number of forms. Through 18 games, the Mavericks’ offensive form has shape-shifted through a variety of ghastly and ghoulish looks.

This season, the Mavericks have scored 100.3 points per 100 possessions — the league’s 22nd most efficient offense. That’s a drop of 9.4 points per 100 possessions from last season, when they scored 109.7 points per 100 and registered the eighth most efficient offense in the league. The offense has regressed, significantly, in almost every area:

2011-20122010-2011
eFG%47.3%52.5%
TO%14.4%13.6%
ORB%23.6%24.1%
FT/FGA0.2240.222

Taking a look at the four factors, we see a team that’s getting to the line at roughly the same rate (still way below the league average), while shooting less accurately, turning the ball over more often and recovering fewer of their own missed shots. The fact that they’ve been able to start the season by winning 11 of 18 games is a testament to how much defensive compensation they’ve done.

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The Difference: Miami Heat 105, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 25, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas100.094.043.328.018.217.0
Miami105.051.332.139.522.0

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

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The Official The Two Man Game Official Dallas Mavericks Official Season Preview for the Official 2011-2012 NBA Season

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 23, 2011 under Commentary, Previews | 3 Comments to Read

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The excruciating introduction to the regular season is finally over: the defending NBA champs are set to take the court again in short order, both for their own benefit and our considerable entertainment. If nothing else, this year promises all kinds of intrigue; the Mavs have lost some notable players, but in their place have added a star, some capable veterans, and a few interesting projects. Donnie Nelson has infused his team with youth and flexibility while maintaining a promising financial outlook, and though Rick Carlisle will have a seemingly infinite number of possibilities and lineups to sort through and fully comprehend, we have the pleasure of watching an expert chemist at work.

The Mavs a truly bizarre roster, but if anyone can optimize the rotation, it’s Carlisle. We may not know exactly what Rick has in mind in terms of terms of minutes distribution or even the starting lineup, but he’ll tinker throughout the season and adjust according to fit and performance. Then, the playoffs will come and he’ll continue to tweak and alter the rotation as he sees fit. There will never be a depth chart with fully dried ink, but the regular season should give us all a fairly good idea of the roles in which Carlisle prefers to see certain players, and the frequency with which certain lineups. It’s all fluid, but the freedom of matchup movement is the very mechanism that has elevated Carlisle close to the top of his profession. He finds and exploits mismatches, and this roster may give him more mismatch potential than any he’s ever coached.

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Reinventing the Checkbook

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 9, 2011 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Fans and analysts have done their best to read the tea leaves containing the Mavs’ off-season plans, but implicit in that process is a lot of assumption. We know that Dallas doesn’t want to sign Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler to the kinds of deals they’re able to secure elsewhere. We know that J.J. Barea was only offered a short-term, and that it wasn’t to his liking. We know that the Mavs are likely to pursue free agents on one-year contracts almost exclusively. From all of these facts — and the reports they stem from — we can try to piece together the team’s strategy, but there will always be bits of logic and nuance missing from our formulations.

Well, prepare to have the blanks filled in. On Thursday, Mark Cuban articulated Dallas’ general strategy in a must-read post by Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:

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The Butterfly Effects, Pt. II: Remaining Chains

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 29, 2011 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

With the unofficial, metaphorical ink on the tentative CBA structure beginning to dry, we’ll take to look at how the new agreement impacts the Dallas Mavericks teams of today and tomorrow.

The NBA’s owners entered collective bargaining with several specific goals in mind. Among them: to limit the flexibility of taxpaying teams as much as possible, creating a systemic conflict between high payrolls and roster freedom. As a part of that objective, the new agreement includes a completely remodeled set of salary cap exceptions that reward teams for staying under the tax line, and restrict the free agent involvement of spend-happy clubs like the Mavericks. Dallas will likely be a luxury taxpayer again next season; so the franchise has been for the last six-plus years, and so they may be for the next several. Such is the price of keeping this particular contending core in place. Mark Cuban will be mindful of the wrath of the repeater tax, but that likely won’t stop him from keeping his team in tax territory for the first two seasons of the new collective bargaining agreement, during which he’ll only face a $1-for-$1 luxury tax penalty akin to that of the previous CBA. Cuban has shown a willingness to foot the bill on that tax, but would be understandably reluctant to pay according to the exorbitant demands of the more demanding luxury tax rules that will become active for the 2013-2014 season. But the Mavs’ taxpaying status will still affect their offseason plans on a more immediate timeline. According to a memo detailing the tentative agreement between the players and owners (via SI.com), taxpaying teams will no longer have access to the league’s mid-level exception (a salary cap exception used to sign free agents for up to around $5 million per season); instead, they’ll be forced to make do with the “taxpayer mid-level exception,” a provision that allows for the signing of a free agent to a deal up to three years in length (rather than four) starting at a mere $3 million. Read more of this article »

The Butterfly Effects, Pt. I: Tax the Street

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 28, 2011 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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With the unofficial, metaphorical ink on the tentative CBA structure beginning to dry, we’ll take to look at how the new agreement impacts the Dallas Mavericks teams of today and tomorrow.

While James Dolan’s luxury tax spending in the mid-2000s would put any other overspending owner to shame, Mark Cuban has shown an impressive tolerance for substantial tax payments so long as the Mavericks are competitive. And, in case you hadn’t heard, Dallas has been competitive for quite some time; 11-straight 50-win seasons has not only put the twinkle in Cuban’s eye, but also the dent in his wallet.

That long-term investment finally paid off with a championship this past June, but the new, more punitive luxury tax could bring hell to Cuban’s finances if he the Mavs continue on their usual spending course. Here’s an excerpt from the league’s official memo outlining the terms of the recent agreement, as release by SI.com:

Beginning in year 3, Tax rates for teams with team salary above Tax level are as follows:

Incremental Team Salary Above Tax LevelTax Rate
$0-$5M$1.50-for-$1
$5M-$10M$1.75-for-$1
$10M-$15M$2.50-for-$1
$15M-$20M$3.25-for-$1

  • Tax rates increase by $0.50 for each additional $5M above the Tax level (e.g., for team salary $20M-25M above the Tax level, the Tax rate is $3.75-for-$1).
  • Tax rates for teams that are taxpayers in at least 4 out of any 5 seasons (starting in 2011-12) increase by $1 at each increment (e.g., for team salary $5M-$10M above the Tax level, the Tax rate for a repeat taxpayer is $2.75-for-$1 instead of $1.75-for-$1).

All of this luxury tax adjustment has been made in the hopes that the variation in spending between teams will be mitigated. Cuban himself has been a proponent of just such a position in the past; as much as out-spending the competition has been one of the Mavs’ distinct advantages, Cuban himself is naturally less than enthused about shelling out extra money for luxury tax payments. A high payroll is one thing, but a high payroll that creates further financial obligations via the tax is another one entirely.

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Waking Up

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 8, 2011 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

Over at ProBasketballTalk, we’re looking at every NBA team’s post-lockout plan of attack. I wrote on what we should expect from the Mavs once a new collective bargaining agreement is finally in place, with the spotlight fixed firmly on free agency:

When the lockout ends, the Mavericks need to… Choose one of the following paths: (1) re-sign Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, and possibly J.J. Barea in order to maintain their current competitive core, (2) re-sign either Chandler or Butler while covering for the other’s loss with positional depth, or (3) let both Chandler and Butler walk while bracing for a bit of a drop-off. Dallas’ off-season — in whatever form the lockout allows — leans heavily on free agency and the decisions made by all parties within it.

Losing Butler would be a shame, but losing Chandler would legitimately move the franchise down a peg in terms of their immediate competitive worth. Brendan Haywood is a good, starting-caliber center (regardless of what his 2010-2011 production would have you believe), but Chandler is a talent who can elevate a team’s collective defense while augmenting their offensive flow. Players like that don’t come around often, and as the Mavs will find out shortly, they don’t come cheap.

Check out the full post over at PBT, complete with the obligatory call for more minutes for the young guys, the slightest championship gloating, and more rumination on Caron Butler’s value.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 24, 2011 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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Regardless of the specific events that will unfold in the coming months, Rudy Fernandez’s Mavericks future was always to be dictated on his terms. Dallas would offer him a system that suited his strengths and the opportunity to play alongside other talented players who could make it easier to find that open three or spring backdoor for an alley-oop. Fernandez would play a season, and then free agency would offer him an out. He could take it or choose to stay with the Mavs, but regardless of his actual choice, the power would be his within a year’s time.

The lockout has apparently sped up that process, as Fernandez has reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with Real Madrid, one that would essentially guarantee that Fernandez will leave the Mavs at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season. Reports vary as to whether the deal is indeed set in stone, but in a way the consummation of an actual contract is somewhat arbitrary; it appears Fernandez will be gone from Dallas one way or another at season’s end, whether on this reported deal or another one. The will to leave exists irrelevant of whether a handshake has been made or a name signed on the dotted line. Fernandez may end up playing games for the Mavs this season, but in effect, he’s already gone.

As such, it’s worth considering whether plugging him into the lineup as a starter (and committing the minutes that usually accompany such a role) is really a venture worthy of the team’s investment. Fernandez would provide a nice complement to the preexisting starting core in theory, but he’d have to be brought up to speed on the fly in what would almost certainly be an abbreviated season. Fernandez is talented, but would the Mavs feel comfortable with him in a prominent, starting role after 50 or so games without the benefit of off-season preparation or, likely, a training camp? Fernandez is a Maverick, and his skills should be utilized by the team to the fullest extent that they can be, but the role that would allow for such maximization remains in question, even if his positional disposition would seem to fill a very convenient SG-shaped hole in the starting five.

Maybe Fernandez as starter was just too easy; acquiring an experienced player that fits a positional need was a sensible move for Dallas, so much so that apparently something had to go wrong. The Mavs, however, are not without their fallback plans, even if the two most promising of which are reliant on free agency. Lockout life places greater value in the familiar, and though it would undoubtedly take some work (and some cash) to retain their wing FAs, the Mavs have all the reason in the world to look inward — as much as non-contracted, soon-to-be-free-agent personnel constitutes “inward” — to solve whatever problems exist with their SG rotation.

Re-signing DeShawn Stevenson remains an option, and one supported by Jason Terry and Donnie Nelson at that. Stevenson isn’t an ideal choice, but he is (1) an incredibly solid perimeter defender who is still somehow underrated despite his efforts on the league’s biggest stage against its biggest stars, (2) already familiar with Dallas’ system on both ends of the floor, and (3) likely to come at a reasonable price. That said, he also acted as a sandbag on the starting lineup during the 2011 postseason, despite his successes; according to BasketballValue, the Kidd-Stevenson-Marion-Nowitzki-Chandler lineup posted an adjusted plus-minus of -5.21 in the postseason. That should make Fernandez a preferred choice even as a mercenary, but there is some virtue in electing to roll with the three-point-shooting devil you know.

But the Mavs also have the benefit of knowing a far superior candidate to fill a chunk of minutes in the backcourt next season, despite the fact that he technically didn’t log a single minute at SG during the 2010-2011 campaign. Caron Butler is a very talented, effective wing player. He knows the Mavericks organization, knows Rick Carlisle’s system, and has shown that he can thrive as a part of both of those institutions. He’s an effective perimeter defender and a versatile offensive weapon. He’s also labeled a small forward, and also not under contract with the Mavs at present. Both of those problems can be remedied if the team wills it so, and if Dallas truly has designs to improve in the coming season, they’ll do just that.

Butler remains the Mavericks’ best opportunity for immediate improvement, and that doesn’t change because of some perceived positional hiccup. It’s true that he didn’t play any time at the 2 de jure, but the positional designations used by 82games.com (and other resources that offer lineup derived positional data) are often restricted to offensive lineups. From that perspective, what exactly did DeShawn Stevenson (or Terry, Beaubois, Sasha Pavlovic, or any other player who suited up for the Mavs at the 2) do last season that Butler could not? As a sold ball-handler, a 43 percent three-point shooter, and an effective slasher, there’s nothing that prevents Butler from fulfilling any offensive role given to him. Add on the fact that the wing positions in the Mavs’ offensive system allow for a wide range of skill sets (J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson both played the 2, Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic both played the 3), and it’s hard to find a logical reason for Butler to be pigeon-holed in one position or another.

As far as defense is concerned, all that’s required is a quick trip through Synergy’s play database to discount any claims of Butler’s positional limitations. Among those that Butler checked effectively: Manu Ginobili, Dwyane Wade, Chauncey Billups, Eric Gordon, Monta Ellis, O.J. Mayo, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo, John Salmons, Jason Richardson, J.J. Redick, Mike Miller, Wesley Matthews, the Mavs’ own Rudy Fernandez, Gary Neal, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefolosha, Richard Hamilton, and Kyle Korver. Saying that 3s defend 3s in today’s NBA is a gross oversimplification; despite never playing a single minute as a 2-guard, Butler still managed to defend all of the aforementioned 2s and 1s as a product of defensive cross-matching and in-game switches. Nowhere are positional designations more arbitrary than on the wings, where pairs of similarly skilled players swing between slotted positions on a whim.

Reducing Butler (or any player) to a simple positional designation ignores the more specific reasoning underlying NBA compatibilities. Butler could work alongside Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion because their skill sets cover tons of ground without much overlap. The same wouldn’t necessarily be true of any other group of perimeter players, even if their traditional designations dictate it to be so. What matters — as has and will always be the case — are consistent skills and contributions. So long as a team can produce some total amalgamation of necessary skills (requisite shooters, shot creation, rebounding, etc.) and the defense can contort itself into some means of effectiveness, everything else is merely nomenclature for the sake of nomenclature.

Waiting, Willing, Growing

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 22, 2011 under Commentary | 7 Comments to Read

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The Dallas Mavericks have an odd history with the draft, largely due to their needs as a team failing to coincide with their position in the first round. That’s the price paid for being a perennial playoff team always on the brink of contention; Dallas has been very competitive over the last decade or so, but in exchange for that success, they’ve only selected a player earlier than the 21st pick (or acquired a player selected on draft night with a pick higher than No. 21) one time since 2000. It’s tough to find immediate help late in the first round, and though it can certainly be done (Josh Howard and Rodrigue Beaubois are two convenient in-house examples), those success stories will always be the exceptions to the norm.

Beyond the inherent difficulties in finding contributors late in the draft, Dallas has also long been a team without easily rectifiable weaknesses. The Mavericks have never been perfect, but their problems were more complex than mere positional defect; picks in the 20s (or even the late lottery) weren’t likely to produce players better than Devin Harris, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier, or DeSagana Diop with the immediacy needed. The lineup was set, it just hadn’t been quite good enough.

That much has changed with the whole winning the championship thing, but the Mavs, as is the case with any defending champion, still need to find ways to improve. This particular draft is not a sufficient means to achieve that improvement. There are some serviceable players in the bunch (along with a pinch of debatable star power up top), but the 26th pick won’t give Dallas a piece that will amount to anything within the context of their current rotation. So long as free agency isn’t an abject disaster, this 26th pick will be temporarily irrelevant; the Mavs have a chance to draft a player to stash away overseas or to bring along slowly, but the potential for an immediately capable contributor so late in this draft is virtually nonexistent.

Yet Dallas, possibly more than any other champion in NBA history, is ready to improve regardless of any additions to the team. Caron Butler’s return to the court — provided that he re-signs to the Mavs as is expected — is a big reason why; Dallas won the title without their second best scorer and one of their top perimeter defenders playing a single playoff minute, and plugging in his production in place of that of DeShawn Stevenson/Peja Stojakovic should result in a rather significant gain. Beyond Butler, though, Dallas has three capable young players who watched the Mavs’ unbelievable playoff run unfold from their courtside seats. Rodrigue Beaubois remains a prominent piece in the franchise’s future, even if he never could quite find the right gear during his sophomore campaign. Dominique Jones is an effective slasher, a capable ball-handler, and a physical on-ball defender. Corey Brewer is a bundle of energy that simply cannot be contained, and his defensive effort has a funny way of making good things happen for his team, even if his jumper is still a work in progress.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt if Dallas were picking earlier in the draft, but Brewer and Beaubois are studs compared to the talent in this year’s class, while Jones would likely figure in as a late lottery pick. That’s an astounding amount of talent waiting at the kids table, and more versatile as a group than any one particular prospect from this year’s lottery would be.

There’s a lot to celebrate in the wake of winning the NBA title, but Mavs fans have the luxury of not only living in the moment. Sip on that champagne. Rewatch Game 6. Scoop up all of the commemorative memorabilia that your arms can carry. But know that even without the draft, these Dallas Mavericks are in a position to be even better than the team that won the title in 2011.