Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“The attempt and not the deed confounds us.”
What a confusing game.
There are plenty of definite elements in this particular game on which to focus, but no sensible way to make sense of the entire affair from a holistic standpoint. Dirk is brilliant. Caron Butler is painful to watch most of the time, but occasionally looks like a real contributor. Dallas can execute well in the fourth quarter. The Mavs had trouble against a limited Pistons team. Dallas desperately needs more supplementary scoring. The defense is solid, but the offense has stalled.
So, what exactly is it that we’re supposed to take away from last night’s game? Maybe this is a bit of observation bias, but this game seemed to confirm plenty of what we already knew about the Mavs in still unconvincing fashion. It’s not like this was an overwhelming defensive exhibition, after all, nor was it Caron Butler’s worst effort of the season. It’s just another 48 minutes of data to add to the file, flavored with a Dirk Nowitzki shooting exhibition to taste.
There’s nothing remarkable to be found in these four quarters aside from Nowitzki (42 points, 13-23 FG, 12 rebounds, two blocks). Detroit is uniquely disadvantaged in defending Nowitzki due to their crew of regular bigs: Jason Maxiell is too short to contest Dirk’s face-up jumper, Charlie Villanueva is too easy Charlie Villanuevaed, and Ben Wallace is hardly comfortable guarding a player of Nowitzki’s skill set. I suppose the Pistons could have looked to Tayshaun Prince to defend Nowitzki (manning up Nowitzki with a long, pesky defender is a popular concept with most every other NBA team, but Prince didn’t really guard Dirk at all), but would that switch really have deterred Dirk on a night like this?
Nowitzki wasn’t unconscious, as they say. He was very aware. He was logical and calculating. He picked apart the Pistons’ defense with a deliberate plan of attack. Nowitzki didn’t bank on any miracles, only his usual brilliance in even higher volume. This 42-pointer is nothing for Dirk to write home about, even if he was almost two buckets shy of making half of his team’s field goals and two points short of scoring half of his team’s points.
This game is not to be taken too far beyond face value. Rick Carlisle dubbed the affair a “playoff-style game,” and I’m not inclined to agree. The pace was slow, but you don’t play playoff-style games against the Detroit Pistons. The Mavs’ ability to execute in the half-court against this collection of players doesn’t mean much of anything. They won the day, and every tick in the win column is ultimately important as far as seeding goes, but this win isn’t a feather for anyone’s hat.
- Had Caron Butler not had a terrific start to the fourth quarter, I’d be tempted to say that he had no redeeming value in this game whatsoever. That stretch aside, for every solid defensive play he overextended himself on offense, for every sound decision there were a few questionable ones.
- Something odd about Butler: give him the ball on the wing and nothing — not even light — can escape from his immediate vicinity, but give him the ball on the break, and he actually makes some pretty smart passes.
- Fouling is still Tyson Chandler’s religion.
- The Mavs’ turnover woes could be behind them. Over their last three games, Dallas has turned the ball over on just 9.1, 14.3, and 9.7 percent of their possessions.
- Brendan Haywood’s performance (two points, four rebounds, and two blocks) was far from exemplary, but he was the top Mavs center in this one. Haywood did a nice job of holding down the middle of the zone and contesting shots in the paint, and while he may not deserve praise for simply doing his job, it’s been that kind of season for Haywood.
- Dallas should probably focus on their transition defense. There were several cases in which the Mavs were in position to defend the break, but ceded lanes and open looks to the Pistons. It seems like the Mavs’ defenders are committing too late or not at all, and the zone defense could be to blame for some of that; rather than use the transition defensive front as an opportunity to let the defense set up after an initial denial, the Mavs may be trying to set up their zone too early.
- Ian Mahinmi got some second-quarter burn after Chandler and Haywood picked up two fouls apiece. Not much to tell. Mahinmi missed his one post-up attempt (a lefty hook from the middle of the paint), didn’t grab any boards, and played a few minutes of decent zone defense. There aren’t really any available minutes for Mahinmi behind Chandler and Haywood, but I still don’t think playing him alongside either big would be the worst thing in the world. Particularly on nights when Rick Carlisle’s rotation would otherwise turn to Brian Cardinal.
- It’s not possible to justify or defend J.J. Barea’s (0 points, 0-5 FG, one assist, one turnover) play in a game like this one. If he’s not careful, he could risk being completely squeezed out of the rotation altogether upon Rodrigue Beaubois’ return.
- It’s not always called, but Brendan Haywood travels in the post a lot.
- Tayshaun Prince’s (19 points, 9-13 FG, five rebounds) offense really seemed to give Caron Butler trouble. Prince is just so crafty going toward the basket, and his length opened up a number of angles for both layup and pull-up attempts.
- Dirk Nowitzki had five offensive rebounds, including a game-clinching board with 18.1 seconds remaining. Is this real life?
- Jason Terry (16 points, 7-17 FG, four assists) was slow to start, but he eventually gave the Mavs — and by the Mavs, I mean Dirk — enough points to squeak out a win. JET had a rough first half (he made just one of his first seven field goal attempts), but his nine points in the game’s final 8:40 were a nice rebound.
Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”
Better late than never, right?
Oh, I was talking about the Mavs getting a quality win. What are you talking about?
Right. Well, it is past six already and I accidentally closed the notepad window that was keeping my game notes cosy. The perils of modern technology.
I’ll keep this brief: the Mavs finally showed up. Another relatively pedestrian effort from Dirk was balanced by a swarming defense, aggressive play from Jason Kidd and Josh Howard, and superb bench play. The Mavs ruled the paint on both ends, and the combination of J.J. Barea, Brandon Bass, and James Singleton (all bench players, notably) grabbed as many rebounds as the entire Bucks squad. That, my friends, is awesome.
Charlie Villanueva’s first quarter explosion (18 points on ridiculous shooting) at Dirk’s expense was just about the only thing Milwaukee had going until a run early in the fourth quarter that trimmed the lead to 11. Credit to the Mavs for keeping their foot on the Bucks’ throat throughout, and to Brandon Bass and James Singleton for locking down on C-Nuv.
Josh Howard had a game to remember, for a variety of reasons. He shot 10-16 overall, including 4-6 from deep. He recorded 7 rebounds, 5 steals, and 3 blocks. However, Josh also turned the ball over four times, and two of his six misses were airballs. And they weren’t even close. Josh was clearly feeling it and that confidence opened up the rest of his game (if Josh continues to attack the basket and cut hard down the lane like he did last night, I would have to seriously re-evaluate this team’s potential), but how does a guy who is that dialed-in suddenly throw up two whiffs on perfectly makeable shots?
A quality win won on the glass and on the defensive end. Is it too much to ask to bring that kind of effort just 24 hours earlier?
Gerald Green Watch: 5 points on 1-2 shooting in 4 minutes of garbage time. He also ran like a gazelle to stop a free layup for Keith Bogans. Free Gerald Green! The gazelle with sublime dunks and three-point range!
All in all, as it happens oh so often in this league, the team with the better looking jerseys won.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Josh Howard, who really brought it, yo. I’ve already told you his stats, but the real prize came with Josh’s renewed efforts to get into the lane, and to completely abuse his defender in the post. He didn’t fade, he didn’t blink, and he made me fall asleep with a smile on my face.
- Five Magazine continues their extended interview with Dirk, this time focusing on the German national team.
- If it makes you feel any better, Tony Parker and the Spurettes have another victim: the Portland Trailblazers. Parker had 39 points (on 63% shooting), 9 assists, and 5 rebounds. One hell of a wounded tiger.
- Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News addresses Shawne Williams peculiar disappearance from the Mavericks’ bench: “Williams has been in Memphis for the last month or so, ostensibly to let a foot problem heal. But owner Mark Cuban said Wednesday: ‘We’re helping him work through some issues.’ According to the Mavericks’ players’ log, the 6-9 forward has not been with the team for ‘personal reasons’ since Jan. 23. But he’s also battled the same foot problem Jerry Stackhouse had for more than three months.” Carlisle notes that these aren’t the same kind of “personal issues” that have made Williams an off-the-court bother in the past.
- I’m glad to see the Mavs get some love from The X’s and O’s of Basketball, one of my favorite basketball blogs on the internet. Watch the clips and see how the Mavs dealt with Milwaukee’s double teams, then contrast them with what we saw against San Antonio. The fact that the Mavs are doing the right things against the double is important, but seeing improvement after they ‘learned their lesson’ the night before is even moreso.
- The Mavs TV ratings are down a whopping 25% for the season, and they rank 16th in the NBA in that regard. It’s funny how a closing window and a public sense of dismay (despite a perfectly respectable record) affect the economic side of things. (via DMN Mavs Blog)
- The Mavs outscored the Bucks 46-28 in the paint last night. Huzzah! Doesn’t it feel good to be on the winning side of that stat for once?
- The Mavericks apparently have a go-to squad when the going gets tough. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: Based on Wednesday’s evidence, maybe they do. When they started out lifelessly against Milwaukee, coach Rick Carlisle went to this foursome: Josh Howard, James Singleton, Jason Kidd and Antoine Wright. When Dirk Nowitzki was struggling, Brandon Bass joined them. It was a group that triggered a 16-0 run to put the Mavericks ahead, 23-15, and set the tone for the rest of the night. They brought energy, of course. But they also seemed to match the Bucks’ physicality. ‘That’s what Coach calls us, the nasty-defense guys,’ Singleton said. ‘When we come in, we have to play a little faster and be a little more physical.’”
- Another game, another struggle for Dirk. His troubles carried over to the defensive side of the ball in the first quarter, as Charlie Villaneuva got hot, hot, hot with his jumper. Some of Charlie V’s attempts were definitely heat checks, but that didn’t stop him from racking up 18 points in the first quarter. Alex Boeder of BrewHoop continues to shell out the praise for Villaneuva’s explosion: “New Nowitzki? At first sight, a 31 year-old German with blonde locks might not make you immediately declare ‘Charlie Villanueva!’ But a closer basketball-look reveals similarity. Power forwards, both of them, and height and weight are close. Their offensive arsenals, distinguished by a most deadly outside shot, bear a certain resemblance. They also share an underrated ability to rebound and are labeled as soft defenders. Lots of differences, make no mistake. And early on, there was a big difference between the two power forwards, as CV poured in a quick 18 points before the former MVP etched his first point on the score card.” It’s hard to argue against the fact that Villanueva out-shot Dirk on this particular night, but those are some big shoes to fill.
- John Hollinger takes his sword, and playfully prods one of the gaping holes in the Mavs’ armor: “That continues a trend that’s been apparent since Terry went out. Since losing him early in the Chicago game, Dallas has played five games against quick point guards and two games against a team with no point guard (Sacramento); in the two Sacramento games he had the same huge plus-minus he’s had all season, but in the others it wasn’t pretty: Kidd was a minus-nine in an OT win over Chicago (facing off against Derrick Rose), minus-nine in a home loss to Boston (Rajon Rondo), plus-21 in a 15-point win over New Jersey (Devin Harris), minus-11 in a loss to Houston (Aaron Brooks), and minus-19 against Parker last night. That’s minus-27 in five games in which the Mavs as a whole were minus-15. While this hardly constitutes damning evidence — game-to-game plus-minus data is extremely variable and thus requires large samples to reach scientifically valid conclusions — I believe in this case the numbers on Kidd underscore a larger point.”
Photo from AP Photo/Morry Gash via ESPN.
Box Score — Shot Chart — Play-By-Play — GameFlow
“There is no greater sorrow than to be mindful of the happy time in misery.”
Well, that sucked. The Mavs could do no right in their 133-99 humbling by the shooting hand of the Milwaukee Bucks, an outing in which the Mavs’ offense came up as lame as its defense. If you name a classic defensive blunder, it’s likely that the Mavs committed it in this one; the gambles were fruitless, the close-outs on shooters were awful, and the rotations were either sloppy or nonexistent. Milwaukee simply ran a relay race last night, with the baton passing from Ramon Sessions (perfect 7-7 from the field) to Richard Jefferson (near triple-double) to Charlie Villanueva (32 and 10) to Michael Redd (27 points on 16 shots). Not only could the Mavs not keep pace overall, but were virtually beaten at every position. This game is certainly Exhibit A1 in the case against the Mavs’ defense.
But the Mavs’ complete failure to do anything that could be classified as defense was exaggerated by their equally inept effort on the offensive end. Shot after shot rimmed out, and layup after layup met iron or the open palm of an anxious Bucks’ defender. Dallas finished with a 36.6% mark on the night, with the normally reliable Jason Terry being the primary culprit at 3-13. This team only goes as far as Terry and Nowitzki allow it to go, and if both aren’t clicking at the right times, the Mavs typically lose. It’s a simple formula that’s only hedged by an outrageous game from Jason Kidd or a night where Howard throws the team on his back for stretches. Dallas’ shots just weren’t falling, and despite an impressive march to the foul line (39 attempts, 17.5 more than their season average), nobody on this side of Dirk could meaningfully affect the scoreboard in an efficient manner.
Don’t even get me started on Erick Dampier’s no-show against a team he was supposed to dominate.
Josh Howard’s play on the offensive end (for the first half, at least) was one of the few bright spots we can take away from this disaster. He didn’t settle for the typical crossover/pull-up jumper combo on the isolation, and it really showed when Howard erupted for 16 early. That said, he faded fast, scoring just 3 in the second half. It’s worth noting that Dirk put up 30 points, but scoring 30 in a 33-point loss is a bit like winning “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”
For once we saw the Mavericks show up in the first quarter and show the other team who, exactly, is boss. But the early lead wasn’t enough to withstand a Buck blitzkrieg: Milwaukee posted runs of 21-8, 18-8, 19-2, and 25-4. These are your 2008-2009 Dallas Mavericks, folks: failing to show up for games left and right, champions of the ‘Great Disappearing Defense,’ and finding ways to piss away leads against teams they should be beating handily.
Terry also tweaked the wrist on his non-shooting hand, but the injury didn’t seem to be major. Give your thanks to the basketball gods.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT:
The Gold Star of the Night goes to any Mavs fan that could stomach watching this game from beginning to end. All I know is that by the time 48 minutes expired, I had a shattered sense of optimism, a splitting headache, and the taste of vomit in my mouth. I can’t imagine Rick Carlisle felt much better.