The Difference: Milwaukee Bucks 103, Dallas Mavericks 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 14, 2010 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2010-12-14 at 1.33.11 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0110.052.026.323.714.4
Milwaukee114.453.016.725.612.2

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.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 102, New Jersey Nets 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 10, 2010 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas91.0112.157.321.316.116.5
New Jersey97.844.227.323.316.5

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.

  • The lead rose and fell, but this one went pretty much according to script; there was a bit of a hiccup in the second act, but that’s just the way these things go. Every team makes a run, and the Nets made theirs, trimming what was once a 21-point lead for the Mavs into a measly five-point difference. That much is expected, but the fourth quarter response is where the Mavs put their signature on this thing. Dallas’ late-game performance may not seem all that special after 11 straight wins cooked up with the same recipe, but the Mavs are managing to win games convincingly even if they don’t put them away all that early.
  • Want more proof that all went according to plan? Dallas shot well from the field, kept their opponent’s eFG% down, kept their turnovers to a reasonable level, but took a hit on the offensive glass. Sound familiar?
  • Dallas’ 31 assists was a season high, and the ball movement was as good as the box score makes it look. J.J. Barea (six points, 13 assists) was fantastic in finding his teammates for open buckets all over the court, and he was aided by a lax New Jersey defense and some proficient shot-making. Jason Kidd added eight assists of his own, and together, Barea and Kidd successfully out-assisted the entire Nets’ squad. It’s also worth noting that I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Mavs find so many open men directly under the basket for uncontested dunks. Smart cutting, sure, but all high fives and subsequent pats on the back should be forwarded to the New Jersey Nets’ locker room.
  • Shawn Marion (18 points, 8-10 FG, six rebounds, four steals, three turnovers) played some tremendous ball. He was cutting hard to the rim on offense, making quick moves off the dribble, and running the break intuitively. There are nights when it all looks so easy for Marion, and this one certainly qualifies. That’s part of the danger in undervaluing Marion; his style makes some pretty difficult plays look far simpler than they are, and yet here he is, as one of the Mavs’ top contributors. Dallas didn’t have to lean on Dirk Nowitzki much at all, and Marion was a big reason for that.
  • Not that Dirk (21 points, 8-10 FG, 10 rebounds, two turnovers) didn’t do his part. Nowitzki just hung around and drew some defensive attention. Then, every once in awhile, he’d drop a jumper here, a jumper there. Eighty-percent shooting. No big deal.
  • Dallas did a much better job of looking for Brendan Haywood (nine points, eight rebounds, one block) around the basket than they do on a typical night. Haywood played well. It’s hard to dissect the causality there, but we know that the Mavs’ big man had more touches and was more active on both ends, a welcome surprise given his play against Golden State on Tuesday.
  • Devin Harris injured his left shoulder on an impressive defensive sequence in the first quarter, and sat most of the game with what was diagnosed as a left shoulder sprain. Don’t think for a second that this win would have been quite as straightforward had Harris been present.
  • Caron Butler (15 points, 7-11 FG, four rebounds, four assists, three turnovers) is routinely grilled (in this space, among others) for each of his inefficient outings, and it’s with that spirit in mind that I offer him some due praise. The Mavs’ offense was largely propelled by their small forwards throughout most of the game, and while neither Marion nor Butler were creating in isolation per se, it was their movement in the half-court offense and lane-running on the break that put them in position to succeed. A lot of credit still goes to Barea and Kidd for finding their teammates, but every assist needs a finish, and Butler was more than happy to provide a few. He’s not efficient every night, but Butler seems to be settling in. In the last seven games, Butler has made 46 of his 88 field goal attempts (52.3% FG). Think that might at least warrant a golf clap?
  • Fouling is still Tyson Chandler’s religion.
  • Speaking of, here’s something I never would have predicted for Chandler, given his status as team savior: Rick Carlisle actually sat TC as much as possible late in the game, instead using Ian Mahinmi for nine minutes. Mahinmi could have played more, too, if not for a few bad fouls, though overall his minutes on the floor were very productive. I’m not sure there’s much playing time to be had on a nightly basis behind Chandler and Haywood, but Mahinmi deserves playing time somewhere.
  • I’m very impressed with Jason Terry’s (15 points, 7-16 FG, two assists, two steals) driving this season. JET doesn’t attack the basket as much as some of the league’s more dynamic guards, but he does have a nice floater and can draw contact well. All of that disappeared when Terry was made a non-factor in last year’s playoffs, and here’s to hoping that his driving instincts don’t again disappear when faced with staunch defense.
  • On a similarly pro-JET note: Rick Carlisle is absolutely right in his assessment of Terry’s improved defense. JET still has his defensive weaknesses, but his effort is unquestionable. You could make a highlight reel of him closing out on the perimeter, and in this game in particular, Terry chased Anthony Morrow — one of the deadliest shooters in the league — off of the three-point line, which forced Morrow into a long two-pointer. The three is one of basketball’s most efficient shots, and the long two it’s least efficient. You do the math.
  • Kris Humphries’ revenge: 16 points, 13 rebounds. Wouldn’t mind having Hump around, but Dallas still wouldn’t be able to give him the minutes he deserves. Also, consider this: Humphries was moved for Eduard Najera, who became part of the trade package that eventually snagged Tyson Chandler. Thanks for that, Hump. The ladies of D/FW still miss you.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Sacramento Kings 103

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 5, 2010 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

    TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
    Dallas92.0114.153.331.616.212.0
    Sacramento112.054.814.516.712.0

    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.

  • Last night we witnessed something spectacular, and oddly enough, it happened almost completely independent of the Mavericks’ performance. Dallas was present for the first 12 minutes of this game, but they may as well not have been; Sacramento put on a supernatural shooting display in the first quarter, a phenomenal happening given both the magnitude of the Kings’ explosion and how typically miserable the Kings are on every other day of the season. They currently rank 29th in the league in offensive efficiency, but after Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, and Donté Greene modified the limits of reason for their benefit, Sacramento scored at a rate of 160.9 points per 100 possessions. Unfathomable. Poor defense certainly played a role, but the Kings had reached a higher state of existence. Evans had a visible aura. Cousins was enlightened, swapping his usually questionable decision-making and fouling for efficient scoring and tough offensive rebounding. Greene clicked from inside and out, as his game finally centered itself.It’s pretty amazing that the Mavs were able to weather such a significant run at all, much less come sneak away with a victory. I know the Kings are still the Kings (and that the Kings who are still the Kings happen to be kings of abject failure this season), but this is a quality win.
  • Dallas was just relentless. After a spirited win against the Jazz on Friday night, it would have been relatively simple for the Mavs to call it a night after enduring that kind of first quarter resistance on the second night of a back-to-back. They endured, and once Sacramento’s offense came back down to earth (though it never quite regressed to the mean; overall, Dallas’ defensive performance was still very much subpar), the better team found themselves in position to make this thing a game. The threes weren’t falling (Jason Kidd’s shooting was particularly hideous), but the Mavs drove, worked inside against a soft Kings defense, and got to the free throw line. Sacramento (11) may have doubled the Dallas (5) in three-point makes, but the Mavs were similarly dominant over their opponents in terms of free throw makes. Dallas finished with 24 made free throws in their 29 attempts, good for a 31.6 free throw rate — far above their season average. Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 11-15 FG, five rebounds, five assists) was indomitable, but he wasn’t forced to be a go-to scorer (Jason Terry contributed 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting, and the Mavs’ late-game offense didn’t need too many Dirk isolations). The Dallas offense just clicked throughout, and though it would never come close to matching the brilliance of Sacramento’s first quarter, sustained offensive effort and execution came out just two points better than the Kings’ peaks and valleys.Plus, for all of the defense’s troubles throughout the game, the Mavs really locked down in the fourth. They allowed just four points in the game’s final 5:24 seconds, and Tyson Chandler’s (10 points, seven rebounds) interior defense was particularly impressive down the stretch.Check out this beauty:

    Rick Carlisle won’t be asking for seconds of an outing like this one, but Dallas got away with a win. We’ve seen Dallas beat good teams and bad, and both convincingly. Games like this happen, and though it would have been nice to see the Mavs play better defensively, take the W and move on.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 93, Utah Jazz 81

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 4, 2010 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas88.0105.756.69.28.814.8
Utah92.041.227.026.115.9

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.

  • If there was any doubt: the Dallas Mavericks are now the hottest team in the league. It won’t last forever, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. I’m not sure how much long-term value can be derived from an early season surge, but stepping to the top of the hill –without a key rotation player, mind you –means quite a bit for this team and its fans. It’s a winning streak, but more importantly, it’s hard validation and a thumbs up toward the Dallas mission statement.
  • The Utah Jazz are a terrific team, and the fact that the Mavs bested them through a systematic defensive approach is far more important than Dallas’ active streak. The number of consecutive wins continues to grow, but chances to go to work against a quality opponent like the Jazz are far more telling than an n-game trend.
  • Dallas’ second-half defense was nothing short of tremendous. The paint was treated as sacred ground, and each layup or Jazzian interior pass was an active defiling of all that the Mavs held dear. Penetrators were swarmed, jumpers were challenged, and Utah’s possessions were attacked at their weakest points. An active zone front made cross-court passes a nightmare. Deron Williams was denied the ball whenever possible. It was a damn near surreal vision of defensive elements sliding into place and combining in ways I wasn’t sure were possible, and the typically smooth Jazz offense looked positively flummoxed.
  • Tyson Chandler, brilliant though he may be, sure knows how to take himself out of a game with foolish fouls. Chandler picked up his second whistle at the 8:40-mark of the first quarter with a completely unnecessary shove while setting a screen, a pesky internal mechanism for keeping the Maverick center grounded. He only saw the court for 17 minutes while dodging foul calls and trying to establish his rhythm, but the early hook did Tyson no favors. It almost feels uncomfortable typing this due to how he’s played this season, but Chandler’s influence was negligible.
  • Jason Terry (12 points, five assists, five steals, three turnovers) gave the Mavs an early and much-needed spark. Dallas has a habit of going away from Dirk as much as possible in the first quarter (a strategy which makes sense for a number of reasons), and when the supporting cast came out just a bit cold, JET was brought in to dial things up. From the moment he came into the game, Terry was in motion. He started by cutting to the basket for a layup. On his next possession, JET attacked the basket again to draw a foul. Soon after, he grabbed a defensive rebound and fed Jason Kidd for a bucket, only to get a steal and trigger another fast break at next opportunity. JET didn’t keep up that offensive pace for the entire evening, but he was active and effective all night, even if his point total underwhelmed.
  • Caron Butler is shooting 42.3% from three so far this season, which is far more comforting than Butler’s career mark (31.5%). Ground control to Major Caron: commencing countdown, engines on. Enjoy your travels through the shooting percentage atmosphere, and for the Mavs’ sake I hope your shot never comes back down.
  • At times, I’ve feared that the zone defense may become too reliable a crutch for the Mavs, and their man-to-man defense would struggle as a result. It sure seemed that way in the first half, as Dallas struggled to defend in man sets and saw their defensive effectiveness jump upon implementing the zone. However, the Mavs were fantastic in utilizing both approaches in the second half, which is a testament to the Mavs’ keen defensive awareness and excellent instruction by Rick Carlisle and his staff.
  • Brendan Haywood (four points, six rebounds, two blocks) had 28 minutes of burn thanks to Chandler’s foul trouble, but wasn’t all that impressive. His defense was nice, but the Mavss were pretty thoroughly out-rebounded, and that’s Haywood’s domain. Don’t let the raw box score, which says the Mavs were only out-rebounded by six, fool you; this game was incredibly slow, and as far as rebounding rate is concerned, the Jazz fared far better on the glass.
  • Deron Williams is incredible when running an offense, but he’s also so strong playing off the ball, too. Is there any other playmaker in the league that moves within the offense without the ball better than Deron?
  • Speaking of: an 8.8 offensive rebounding rate? Are you kidding me? The Mavs have been a poor offensive rebounding team all season, but that weak of an offensive rebounding presence is even impressive for them. It takes work to dodge offensive boards so frequently.
  • I didn’t really anticipate the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki being even more efficient with his shot than he has in past years, but Dirk’s shooting percentages are just stupid good this season. Nowitzki shot 12-of-18 in this one for 26 points (with each of those 21 makes seemingly more improbable than the last), but that kind of shooting performance isn’t even notable. That’s how fantastic Dirk’s touch has been this year. .619 true shooting percentage. .566 effective field goal percentage. Both career highs. Damn. Just…damn.
  • Butler (16 points, 6-12 FG, 2-2 3FG), again, played well overall. See what happens when he’s not forcing the issue in isolation (particularly in a game with so few possessions to be squandered)? This is either a real evolution in Caron’s decision-making or perhaps just a better understanding of his role on the team, but this is where Butler needs to be: helpfully contributing without letting a more intrusive style of play deter the Mavs’ offensive success.

We Can Leave Your Friends Behind

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 2, 2010 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

Credit to the FOX Sports Southwest team for catching Caron in this particularly groovy act.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 100, Minnesota Timberwolves 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

    TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
    Dallas97.0103.147.120.723.914.4
    Minnesota88.741.522.022.017.5

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

  • The Mavs are a much better team than the Timberwolves, which unfortunately doesn’t make for compelling theater. There’s not much of a story for anyone to push in Dallas doing what’s expected of them; the Mavs kept their turnovers down, they didn’t make it easy for the Wolves by sending them to the line, and they blanketed a team that’s already limited offensively in so many ways. This is the way things are supposed to be in lesser teams, and while that may not impress the NBA world at large, I supposed there’s something of note in the Mavs handily putting away the opponents that aren’t on their level. Golf clap for an expected win, a pat on the back for seven straight victories, and let’s move right along.
  • For perhaps the first time all season, both Mavs centers were clicking. Tyson Chandler set the season-high in rebounding for Dallas this season with 18 boards, and added nine points (2-3 FG) for the hell of it. Brendan Haywood (seven points, 10 rebounds) was forced to sub for Chandler early thanks to a few unfortunate whistles, and though Haywood had a few decisions worthy of a good head scratch (at the 3:43 mark in the first, he abandoned his box out to chase a block against the already covered Kevin Love, and in doing so allowed Darko Milicic to slam home an uncontested put-back), he did a fine job in his 21 minutes.
  • There’s an interesting difference in the way we do and should evaluate the shooting of Jason Terry and Caron Butler. JET had a nice showing, but also drained a pair of step-back three-pointers that would have induced eye rolls had they come off of Butler’s fingers. It’s not just because Terry is a better shooter — which he certainly is — but that we know that Terry knows better. JET moves brilliantly without the ball. He seeks spot-up opportunities or smart pull-ups out of the pick-and-roll. He isn’t one to attempt doomed iso possessions repetitively, as he’ll willingly give up the ball because he understands that if open, it will find him. Essentially, those attempts, whether made or missed, are atypical rather than part of a depressing pattern.
  • To his credit, Butler had a nice night. He only contributed 10 points, but did so on eight shots while only committing two turnovers. It’s also worth noting that both of those turnovers came while trying to attack the basket, which sure beats the alternative.
  • DeShawn Stevenson had a surprisingly versatile third quarter. He hit a three, drew a shooting foul, attacked the basket, and threw two lobs to Tyson Chandler. One of those lobs resulted in Michael Beasley fouling Chandler, and the other went a little something like this:
  • Dallas actually shot better from three-point range (41.7%) than they did from two-point range (41.3%). Shawn Marion had gone 1-for-10 from three so far this season, but made two of his four attempts in this one. J.J. Barea is still struggling from distance (1-4 3FG), but still boosted his humbling three-point shooting percentage to 16.7%.
  • Jason Terry shot 50% from the field for the first time in seven games. Welcome back, JET.
  • Shawn Marion (16 points, eight rebounds) continues to thrive, though this night was a bit more inefficient than usual. He still had 16 points on 14 shots, but completed just 35.7% of his field goal attepts. One thing I’m loving about Marion this season: he’s far more decisive than he was last year. There’s no hesitation in his moves, and no attempt to turn each catch into some kind of dribbling diagnostic. He catches and goes, getting right by slower defenders like Kevin Love and catching some of his quicker opponents off-guard with his first step. It makes a world of difference.
  • Jason Kidd shot 2-of-11 from the field. He had four assists to just three turnovers. He shot 20% from three-point range, and contributed only five points. So naturally, because he’s Jason Kidd, he had a +14 raw plus/minus.
  • Terry is so good at tight-roping the baseline after foregoing a look from the corner. He doesn’t have the passing savvy to thread the needle to a cutter, but he regularly attacks that baseline to either find Dirk spotting up on the opposite wing or a three-point shooter open at the top of the key. On a related note: JET notched seven assists and just one turnover.
  • Brian Cardinal hit a pair of three-pointers in the third quarter, the second of which sparked this celebration from Dirk Nowitzki:

    Cardinal is already referred to as “The Custodian” and “The Janitor.” Is Dirk adding “The Truck Driver” to the list? “The Train Conductor?”

  • The down side to Dominique Jones’ D-League assignment? His absence in games like this one. I’m not sure how much garbage time minutes really facilitate his development, but it’s a nice blowout draw to see him out there even in a game that’s already been decided.
  • Dirk Nowitzki finished with 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting, and the Mavs win by 14. Even with the Wolves in the building, that’s a nice touch.
  • Aside from Wesley Johnson (2-3 FG) and Kosta Koufos (1-1 FG), every Timberwolves player hit less than half of their field goal attempts.

View from the Clipboard: Elemental Surprise

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 30, 2010 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

Over the last few games, Rick Carlisle has unveiled an interesting choice for go-to offense to commence each game: a set designed to open up Tyson Chandler for an elbow jumper.

The primary play action itself is nothing new, but the result itself is worth noting. There are obviously multiple options available to the Mavs in this particular continuity set, but the one they’ve ended up settling for — a mid-range jumper from the floor’s least likely shooting candidate — is worth noting.

By my count, the Mavs have run the set to open the game on at least three occasions in the past two weeks, and Chandler’s shot is smoother than one might think. He hasn’t made all of his looks, but the visual image of Chandler popping a set shot from the elbow is far cleaner than the concept itself.

I had a chance to ask Chandler about the set after the Mavs’ win over the Heat on Saturday. “Well, I don’t wanna give away our scout,” Chandler said. He grinned widely. “But we can throw it out there every now and then until I make some guys into believers.” Judging by the laugh Chandler let out during his response, he may have to turn himself into a believer, too.

It’s not a complicated set, but here’s a look at the play to free up Chandler:

chandler1

The sequence begins with a sub-free throw line pick by DeShawn Stevenson, which allows Dirk Nowitzki to set up from the left elbow. Jason Kidd dribbles upcourt on the right side of the floor, and stops at the three-point line.

chandler2

Kidd feeds the now-open Dirk Nowitzki, and Stevenson fades into the left corner. Meanwhile, on the right wing, Tyson Chandler sets a baseline screen for Caron Butler, who cuts from the corner opposite Stevenson to the left block.

chandler3

But all of this is just foreplay. After the right side of the floor is cleared, Kidd sets a down-screen for Tyson Chandler, who cuts toward the right elbow. Nowitzki hits him with the pass, Chandler faces up and…well, clang in this particular video example.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Houston Rockets 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 29, 2010 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Screen shot 2010-11-29 at 10.48.00 PM

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

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

  • No back-handed compliments and no caveats: Caron Butler (19 points, 8-16 FG, zero turnovers) played well. Particularly, Butler did a terrific job of cutting and rotating in the half-court offense rather than parking on the wing and waiting for the ball. Such movement not only enables Butler to make a catch in transit on the way to the rim, but it also frees him up to take his favorite mid-range jumpers in a far more palatable setting. Butler is fine as a catch-and-shoot player, or in taking one dribble to step in for a shot. The trouble comes when Caron tries to create off the dribble in isolation, and by moving prior to receiving the ball, Butler is protecting himself from…well, himself.
  • Again, love the adjustments as the game went on. Houston was hitting threes and crashing the offensive boards in the first half, but both of those factors were ultimately rectified by the ebb of the Rockets’ shooting and a stronger presence on the defensive glass by the Mavs in the second half.
  • J.J. Barea (11 points, six assists, three rebounds) has looked fantastic driving to the bucket over the last few games, and he’s really using a combination of hesitation moves and patience to his advantage. By displaying a bit more discretion in both his shooting and playmaking, Barea makes the threat of his hesitation that much more potent, which of course further enables him to explode off the dribble and catch opponents off-guard.
  • Houston’s defense on Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 10-16 FG, 10 rebounds, three turnovers, three blocks) ranged from excellent but futile (Luis Scola) to just plain misguided (Jordan Hill). Something tells me that letting Dirk face up and rise from mid-range without any kind of contest isn’t the way to curtail his scoring production.
  • The first quarter saw 10 of the game’s 17 lead changes. Houston led by as many as three, while Dallas was up by as many as four.
  • A tremendous showing for Shawn Marion (14 points, 5-10 FG, 10 rebounds), who is on one of those rolls, only different from all of his previous rolls. Capiche?
  • Luis Scola is pivotal to the Rockets’ Yao-less offense, and Rick Carlisle elected to have the Mavs swarm Scola during the third quarter. Jason Kidd often released for the double team off of Kyle Lowry, a wise decision given Lowry’s limitations as a spot-up shooter. It’s no coincidence that Dallas really started to separate in the third.
  • Six points, nine rebounds, and two blocks for Brendan Haywood, which is firmly in Erick Dampier territory. Still, Haywood looked more active on the glass than he has of late, and though that alone won’t make the Mavs’ brass sleep more soundly at night with Haywood’s massive contract tucked under their pillows, it’s a nice surprise for a night. That’s how far Haywood has fallen; six, nine, and two now qualifies as a pleasant surprise.
  • The Rockets were able to burn the Mavs pretty consistently with backdoor cuts, which should hardly come as any surprise given that Rick Adelman orchestrated Houston’s offense from the sideline. Zone defenses are particulary vulnerable to such cuts, but Dallas didn’t seem to be much more attentive or responsive to the open backdoor when in man-to-man sets, either.
  • The Mavs ultimately gave up a run to make this game seem closer than it was, but it wasn’t your typical late-game lead concession. This one was very much decided when Houston made their final push toward a respectable margin, and while that dings up the Mavs’ final point differential, it’s not in the vein of Dallas’ previous late-game let-ups.

The Difference: Dallas Beats Miami

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 28, 2010 under Recaps | 10 Comments to Read

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

Dallas Mavericks 106, Miami Heat 95

  • The Miami Heat concluded the game with an extended team meeting; James and Wade eventually fielded questions, but not until at least 45 minutes after the game had wrapped. This team is entitled and this team is frustrated.
  • Dallas wins, but the defense doesn’t. We should in no way confuse this victory for some validation of the Mavs’ defensive performance, as this was actually one of their lesser efforts on the season overall. The Heat helped the Mavs along with poor shot selection, and had they not, it would have been interesting to see how the Dallas offense would have really held up under fire. However, Miami’s unfavorable shot chart is far from a one-time problem; LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and their compatriots have a bad habit of batting their eyelashes at Caron Butler-esque shots.
  • The declaration of the total defense’s shortcomings is going to make this next sentence sound a bit odd: Tyson Chandler was the indisputable player of the game. Chandler is playing on the most talented team he’s seen in his entire career, and he’s responding in every way possible. He’s a shot-blocker, but more importantly, he’s a sound positional defender. Chandler is able to change shots without sacrificing his ground and he’s mobile enough to cover the entire paint with ease. Individually, he had a terrific defensive performance. Not flawless, but for all intents and intensive purposes, as damn well close to being so as anyone could reasonably expect. And just for fun, Chandler dropped in 14 points of his own, while wiping our memories clean of Brendan Haywood.
  • Dirk Nowitzki shot 9-of-23 from the field, but would anyone know that based on observation alone? Nowitzki definitely took and missed his fair share of shot attempts, but the eye test didn’t sting quite as badly as 39% shooting does. Nowitzki’s 22 points — as well as his four assists and three steals — were still quite valuable, but this wasn’t the Dirk-and-only-Dirk approach Mavs fans are painfully familiar with.
  • With that in mind, here’s a note from ESPN Stats and Info: “The Mavericks outscored the Heat 95-67 in the 34 minutes and 48 seconds that Nowitzki was on the floor. It was the second straight game in which Nowitzki made such an impact. In a win over Charlotte on Wednesday, Nowitzki was plus-27. The difference is that in that game, three other Dallas starters posted similar plus-minus totals. In Saturday’s win, Nowitzki was significantly better than any of his teammates.”
  • The Heat grabbed the offensive board on 44.4% of their misses in the first quarter, which is a perfectly dreadful number as far as the Mavs are concerned. But how about this: Miami’s final offensive rebounding rate was a palatable 23.3%. That’s a hell of a turnaround over the final three quarters.
  • Miami’s offense was a painful watch for long stretches of this game, and the effect that their union has had on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is inexplicable. James still has stretches where he seems himself, but even at Wade’s most aggressive, he’s a tinted portrait of his former self. Sometimes he floats, sometimes he drives, sometimes he defers, but he’s always affected by some unseen humor. Last season’s Wade was one of the best players on the planet, but this year’s model isn’t worthy of fear, and worthy of respect primarily due to his reputation.
  • J.J. Barea was fantastic. Against San Antonio, we saw Barea at his playmaking finest; he didn’t force shots, and willingly and skilfully set up his teammates with open looks. In tonight’s game, Barea had his eyes locked on the rim. He still picked up two assists, but Barea’s 13 points on seven shots came through a pitch-perfect approach. Barea sliced and diced Miami’s perimeter defenders, and got right to the basket when the Heat bigs were characteristically slow to rotate. Your teammates miss you, Udonis Haslem.
  • Erick Dampier made his first appearance as a member of the Miami Heat, and promptly committed a personal foul. He played eight minutes in total and grabbed one rebound. Regular readers should know that I’m one of Dampier’s few remaining advocates, and that should make my stance on Damp’s addition to the Heat roster somewhat obvious: he’s an obviously beneficial addition for this team, and though he won’t solve all of their problems, he’s a definite upgrade on D and the glass.
  • The Mavs didn’t seem to respect the three-point attempts of any Heat player not named James Jones or Eddie House. The rest were left to do their worst, and while 2-of-10 from three may not be the worst, it’s pretty awful.
  • I touched on this the other night, but it needs to be repeated in light of Shawn Marion’s 14-point, 6-of-12 night: Dallas may not have a second scoring option etched in stone, but they have enough reliable contributors to find help from somewhere. JET has taken a turn for the inefficient (12 points, 3-of-12 shooting, three turnovers), but Marion, Caron Butler (23 points, 9-15 FG, 3-3 3FG, zero turnovers), Barea, and Chandler have all made vital contributions to the scoring column. Dallas can’t expect the roster to click from top to bottom, but all of these guys are can walk and chew bubblegum.

The Difference: Dallas Beats San Antonio

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 26, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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

Dallas Mavericks 103, San Antonio Spurs 94

  • Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points and his scoring average will still drop a tick or so. That’s the kind of season (and month; Dirk is putting up 27.1 a night in November) that Nowitzki has had, and yet his overall production — 26 to go along with eight rebounds and five assists — pales in splendor next to Nowitzki’s sterling shooting. Dirk shot 12-of-14 from the field, good for a pedestrian 85.7% from the field.
  • From the essential @mavstats: “Mavs have ended 4 teams’ streaks of 5 wins or more (SA -12, NO – 8, BOS – 5, OKC – 5).”
  • Manu Ginobili finished with 31 points, four assists, and three rebounds, but things could have been much worse. Ginobili went absolutely bonkers in the first quarter, and had he continued on his torrid pace of threes, drives, and step-back jumpers, he would have been carried out of the AT&T Center on the shoulders of giants.
  • Dallas turned the ball over more often than anyone on this side of the fence should like to see, but they balanced those troubles with aggressive defense (that pushed San Antonio to an even higher turnover rate), a higher free throw rate than usual, and a nice boost from offensive rebounds. On most nights the Mavs can’t afford to give up too many turnovers, but by creating possessions and scoring more efficiently, Dallas was able to post a 115.7 offensive efficiency.
  • Tyson Chandler was again tremendous, and his offensive impact has been an unbelievably pleasant surprise. Chandler will never be a back-to-the-basket threat, but as long as his teammates are conscious of his movements and presence around the rim, he’ll continue to pour in the points. On the other end of the center rotation, Brendan Haywood missed this game due to a team-imposed one-game suspension, but Ian Mahinmi did a decent job in his place. Mahinmi showed that he has no business being a second center at this point in his career, but he was reasonably effective in his reserve duties against some pretty tough competition. Three points, four rebounds, and a block wouldn’t cut it for Haywood, but from a guy normally considered a project — in addition to some solid defense — I’d say it warrants a thumbs up.
  • Shawn Marion was tremendous. He can partially be accredited with the the taming of Manu Ginobili in the second half, but it was Marion’s scoring that really boosted the Mavs in the fourth quarter, and cold theoretically boost the Mavs through the season. Dallas still doesn’t have reliable secondary scoring alongside Nowitzki, but between Terry, Marion, Butler, along with bit contributions from Kidd and Chandler, the Dallas has a number of ways to reach the necessary scoring output. More to the point, though: this Marion — just like the early season JET or a dream world Butler — makes Dallas a strong, strong team.
  • J.J. Barea had a fine game. He wasn’t exactly a Spur-killer, but he racked up seven assists without committing a single turnover, which is more than satisfactory.
  • In the second quarter, Jason Terry had one of the worst layup attempts I’ve ever seen in an NBA game. On a fast break opportunity, Terry drew his dribble a half-step too early, forcing him to adjust and stretch past his defender to have his desired look at the rim. JET opted to go with a finger roll finish, and though his touch was soft, it was too soft…and too errant…and too embarrassing. Airballed layup attempts are one of this game’s many wonders.
  • Caron Butler committed four turnovers, all of which came in the first half  as Butler tried to make his move from the wings in half-court sets.