Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears have unearthed the All-Star reserves, with a few surprises.
Dirk Nowitzki’s exclusion was not one of them. His selection was never even debatable. But the Western Conference reserves will be Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol, Deron Williams, and and Zach Randolph. Great picks all the way down the line, and particular kudos to the coaches for picking this crop over Denver’s Chauncey Billups. Billups is a fine player, but this just isn’t his year. Plus, I think there’s a very legitimate argument to be made for Tyreke Evans over Chauncey, anyway…but we’ll save that for another day.
In the East, the reserves will be Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, Gerald Wallace, Al Horford, Paul Pierce, and Derrick Rose. In related news, it really, really sucks to be David Lee right now. He’s doing just about everything humanly possible (ahem, offensively), and still can’t catch a break. Pierce is having an off-year, but his selection was more or less assumed. I just wish we could see Lee and Josh Smith in the game, but no such luck.
Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.
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“It is the direction and not the magnitude which is to be taken into consideration.”
The Dallas Mavericks have the nerve to treat basketball like a game. Some nights, they’ll sprint out to a big lead and take a breather, just because they can. Others, they’ll tie Dirk Nowitzki’s hands behind his back just to see what happens. And when they’re really in a sporting mood, they’ll do both, cough up turnovers at twice their usual rate, and laugh as the mayhem unfolds.
We’ve seen it happen against the Jazz, the Rockets, the Pistons, the Bucks, the Spurs, the Kings, the Sixers, the Suns, the Bobcats, and as of last night, the Hornets. Whereas Chris Paul was once a reminder of everything the Mavericks were not (quick, young, and ruthless), for 48 minutes he was merely a plaything. A plaything that managed 20 points, 16 assists, and five steals, but one still trapped within the confines of the Mavericks’ game.
It’s not as if Dallas had complete control, but perhaps that’s what keeps a veteran team like the Mavs intrigued with the possibilities. Rather than eliminate the suspense by taking care of business, Dallas insists on flaunting their vulnerability. The offense falls off track, the pick and roll defense breaks down, and the rebounding effort disappears. It’s so clever a ruse that even the Mavs themselves are fooled into desperation, a desperation that only fuels the comeback fire of their opponents. What was once a safe victory is now a matter of clutch execution and timing. Dirk Nowitzki unleashes his wrath, as every jab step and pump fake is like an expertly planned chess move. Jason Kidd rules the floor with his precision, placing every pass exactly where it needs to be and playing the angles on defense. And Jason Terry bides his time, licking his chops at the chance to rip a team’s heart out.
These, ladies and gents, are the 2009-’10 Dallas Mavericks. They want you to think you have a chance, and they’re ready to break your spirit.
Aside from the Mavs’ victory-sealing plays and their explosive first quarter, it’s hard to pick out the positives. J.J. Barea (23 points, 10-13 FG) was stunning in his ability to maneuver through traffic and finish over the Hornets’ bigs. It’s obvious to say that without those 23, the Mavs fall way short, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Each of those buckets was crucial to keeping the team above water, and considering no other Mav was performing at anywhere near their typical offensive efficiency, that carries even more weight than usual.
The Maverick collective carried the weight in the first quarter, but when the free-flowing offense began to break down, it became obvious that someone needed to step up and hit baskets. Barea did more than his share. Jason Terry chipped in as well, with a much-needed but very mortal 12 points. Then Josh Howard took over for a few possessions, providing a cool 14 points and 8 rebounds on 50% shooting.
But each of those stretches of solo scoring only helped disguise the fact that the Mavs’ offense was pretty woeful. The final numbers don’t paint an accurate picture, as it took three quarters of sandbagging to bring down the Mavs’ epic start. A brutally efficient 35-point first quarter (and an even more efficient 22-5 run) will work wonders on a stat sheet, even if Dallas followed up such a performance with a sour offense and turnovers of every variety. That’s the real story of what held the Maverick offense to just 94 points despite a 59.4% eFG. Chris Paul and the Hornets get all the credit in the world for playing excellent pressure defense and forcing those turnovers, not to mention converting them into easy points. Howard (5 TOs), Terry (4), and Dampier (4) each racked up surprising totals, and what could have been a solid offensive night was instead a parade of bobbled passes, sloppy drives, and failed communication.
So Dirk scored 10 points (on 4-11 shooting, no less), the offense failed to compensate, and the Mavs still won. When finely tuned, the Dallas defense is absolutely smothering, and though it may not have seemed that way when Darius Songaila (12 points in 11 minute, 6-6 FG) went hog wild in the fourth quarter, it’s literally what won the game for Dallas. Dirk and Kidd’s performance in the clutch (they were responsible for 16 of the Mavs’ 23 in the final frame, and nine of the last 11) may have put the Mavs over the top for good, but they’re not even in a position to do so without a pretty impressive defensive effort. It wasn’t always consistent, but it was good enough.
- For the first time I can remember, Dirk Nowitzki (-4) and Jason Terry (-1) both finished with net negatives for the evening in terms of +/- . The Maverick high (and game high) was Shawn Marion’s +15, despite Marion’s limited box score contributions (10 points, just 2 rebounds) otherwise. Gotta love his D.
- Drew Gooden must have done something to get on Rick Carlisle’s bad side, because he played just seven minutes last night. Kris Humphries even played eight, despite falling out of the rotation as of late. Rodrigue Beaubois, Quinton Ross, Tim Thomas, and James Singleton all received DNP-CDs.
- After scoring the game’s first basket, the Hornets never led. The Mavs built up a 21-point lead, and managed to tread water the rest of the way (especially in the second half, where they were outscored by just two despite their limited offense.)
- The Mavs didn’t commit a single foul in the first. They also didn’t shoot a single free throw in the second or third.
- Despite his turnovers, Erick Dampier is still looking good. It wasn’t a big statistical night for Damp, but his moves are as quick as ever and his defense is game-changing.
- The clincher for the Mavs was a beautiful inbounds play that had three Mavs in the backcourt, Jason Kidd on the trigger, and Dirk Nowitzki in the front court covered by James Posey. Dirk pushed off a bit to create a little space, juked left and went right, and ended up with the ball directly in his hands for a layup attempt with just 20 seconds left. The Mavs’ two point advantage at that point was boosted to a much safer four, and though it’s likely that Dallas could have secured two on the inevitable free throws (remember, only 20 seconds remaining), the Mavs’ last encounter with the Hornets taught them not to take those makes for granted.
- Speaking of, Jason Terry got another chance to ice the game, with the Mavs up two yet again with 12 seconds remaining. Last time around, JET left the door open for Peja Stojakovic to hit a big 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. This time around, Terry calmly walked to the line and buried any chance the Hornets had of a comeback.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to J.J. Barea. An argument could be made for Jason Kidd and his heady play, but this was one of the best scoring nights of Barea’s young career. It’s nice to have a back-up point guard step in to run your offense, but J.J. succeeded in an entirely different role last night. As the placeholder at shooting guard until Josh Howard is healthier, it’s Barea’s prerogative to attack, attack, attack, and he was both fearless and emphatic in that regard last night. Plus, Barea played some terrific defense on Chris Paul in the first quarter, holding him to just four points on 2-5 shooting with one turnover for the opening frame. It’s Barea’s time to shine, so it would be cruel of me not to give J.J. his due.
The first all-star balloting returns are in, and there’s plenty of good news for the Mavs. Here are the Western Conference tallies by position:
|Steve Nash||272, 135
|Chris Paul||248, 049
|Jason Kidd ||207, 247
|Jason Terry||131, 422
Vote counts via NBA.com.
Shawn Marion actually ranks 7th among forwards, not that it matters all that much. But the strong showings by Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry are indicative of not only the Mavs’ solid start, but the nice voting bump given to players of the hometown team. Not that Dirk and Kidd don’t deserve their respective places in the polls, but the precedent just isn’t there to expect such fan support for Terry or Marion.
Tracy McGrady, who hasn’t played a NBA game since the early 1800s, is the big surprise. And the good news is that supposing the voters come to their senses (as they typically do by the second or third returns), Jason Kidd has a legit shot at a reserve spot. Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul figure to be the starters when all is said and done, and Steve Nash is well-deserving of a reserve selection. But aside from those three, which guard is more deserving than Kidd? The other elite guards of the West have struggled in one way or another, and though there’s a solid list of candidates (Ginobili, Williams, Roy, Parker), there’s no clear front-runner. Kidd’s Dallas affiliation would also win him a bit of favor as a reserve selection, as the coaches tend to do the hometown players a solid (a la David West in New Orleans). If that’s the case, it would be the first time the Mavs have had two players in the All-Star Game since 2007, when Josh Howard was chosen by the coaches.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
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“There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that lost by not trying.”
I’m torn. On one hand, there is no more painful way to lose a game than at the free throw line. They are theoretically gimme points that a player must simply reach out and take, and yet they seemed anything but as four crucial free throws clanged off the rim during the last minute of the fourth quarter. But then on the other hand, it’s hard to discount the Mavs’ effort. They were right there. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Jason Kidd had pretty bad games offensively, and the Mavs were right there, with the ball in their hands and the game in the balance. It may not mean all that much when considering the final score, but that’s something.
I know moral victories don’t mean much for squads that fancy themselves to be in the championship hunt, but this one comes close. I know that sounds odd for a game that was choked away via missed free throws, but it still rings true. The Mavs were tired and Dirk-less, they were coming off a draining win against Utah and they still had to find a way to guard Chris Paul. I’m not all that surprised that they lost, or that they fought valiantly only to fall short.
I’ll keep this brief: Jason Terry (35 points, 12-18 FG, 4-8 3FG, 3 assists) is the reason why the Mavs were even in the game last night, and his arrival (when paired with Dirk’s outburst the night prior) should inspire confidence in the Mavs’ offense once again. That ship will inevitably turn around, and one can only hope that a return to offensive prominence doesn’t coincide with a disinterest in defense or a disregard for the attacking mentality that has brought the Mavs three wins thus far.
I’ll keep this brief, so let’s shift into single sentence/semi-cryptic mode. Chris Paul rocks my, yours, and just about everyone else’s socks. Dirk’s numbers were lower than they should be because New Orleans, unlike Utah, actually threw some double teams his way. Jason Kidd can shoot again, but he shouldn’t attempt a layup for the rest of the year. Shawn Marion looked like a guy who hasn’t played basketball in months, and must have gotten a hand transplant from Kwame Brown. I am in the process of creating a homemade medal for Erick Dampier, who kept the Mavs afloat with his offensive rebounding and put-backs. Rodrigue Beaubois can play a little basketball if given the opportunity. Peja Stokajovic hit one field goal in the entire game, and it was a game-tying three that sent the game into overtime. Four missed free throws, one tough loss, and let’s move on.
- The Mavs are treated to back-t0-back games against Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Oh, joy.
- Drew Gooden has had a pretty rough start with the Mavs, and it could be a bit rougher if these allegations are true. If so, not cool. A source from the Mavs is denying that Drew was actually involved, but it’s worth noting that the team does have incentive to do just that. Regardless, the NBA seems to be trying to get to the bottom of things with their own investigation. I wouldn’t be upset if this was the last I heard of this situation.
- Erick Dampier talks about his contributions to the team, including a trip down 2006-’07 memory lane (via Mike Fisher of DB.com): “I hear the talk, but I’ve been through all of this before. …The talk…it’s really not a big deal to me. In (2006-07) they decided I should come off the bench and we started the season winless…then I became the starter again and we ended the season with the best record in the NBA. …I think that means something. …People who have played basketball, people who know basketball, they know what I contribute here,” Damp says. “Some people just want to watch the games to see who scores 40 points. But that’s not all basketball is about. There are a lot of things that go into winning a basketball game, and I help my team do those things. Basketball people know this.’’
Photo by AP Photo/Bill Haber.
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If the ‘new’ Mavs were birthed in the explosion that was the game against the Phoenix Suns, they met their first significant roadblock against the Hornets Sunday afternoon. For what it’s worth, they came up a bit short.
Worse things have happened. The numbers didn’t turn up in the Mavs’ favor, but the game was definitely acted as an extension of the new Mavs rather than a reversion to the old ways. When you win, you don’t always demonstrate progress, and when you progress, you don’t always win. The Mavs were within three points with a minute and a half to play, but James Posey made a smart pass on an out of control drive to set up Peja Stojakovic in the corner for a three (he was 1-7 on threes prior to the shot). It turned out well for New Orleans, kept the Mavs at arm’s length, and essentially sealed the game. I’m disappointed that the ball didn’t bounce the other way, but that doesn’t mean I’m at all displeased with the Mavs’ effort or overall performance.
No one wants to hear excuses at this point, but when your team isn’t in that upper echelon, they come with the territory. On the road, on the second game of a home-and-home in which the Mavs won the first game, on a night where nobody but Dirk was hitting whatsoever, with Chris Paul and David West both going insane offensively…and yet the game was very winnable. There were small leads both ways throughout the game, but both squads clawed back and forth for almost the entire game. Maybe you’d like to dig deeper and analyze why the Mavs didn’t gut it out, but I would think the 13-point difference in field goal percentage (42.5% for the Mavs, 55.6% for the Hornets) would make that painfully obvious. The Mavs matched the Hornets point-for-point in the paint (both teams ended with 40), but Dallas went 11 for 27 from midrange and 6 for 22 from three. Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, and Jason Terry combined to go 18 for 43. Enough said.
Chris Paul was every bit the dynamo that he was in the last contest, totalling 31 points, 17 assists, and 9 rebounds, not to mention 2 steals and a few three pointers. David West followed his ‘good, not great’ game on Friday with a ‘great, not just good’ night: 31 points (14-21 FG) and 6 boards. They abused the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop, they abused the Mavs’ one on one defenders, and Chris Paul created for West and others out of the trap. Chris Paul already has his way with the defense, but when he and West are hitting practically everything they throw towards the rim, it’s going to take an inspired offensive effort from the Mavs to hang with them.
That there was: the Mavs had another excellent offensive rebounding night. What they lacked in that old-fashioned ability to put the ball in the damn basket, they made up for in positioning, timing, and craftiness. Kidd, Howard, Erick Dampier (who had 12 rebounds overall) and Brandon Bass created all kind of second looks for the Mavs, ultimately netting 18 second chance points for the good guys and posting an impressive 29.2% in offensive rebounding percentage. If you want a real reason (other than Dirk, who finished with 29 and 14) why the Mavs were able to hang around despite a miserable shooting night, look no further than the offensive rebounding column of your box score.
- The first quarter was awful. The Mavs scored 13 points and made just 5 shots in 23 attempts. Brandon Bass even missed a dunk.
- Bass had an otherwise commendable night, though. He played tough in the paint, finished strong at the rim, and scored 13 points on 6-9 shooting. He was the primary reason that Erick Dampier couldn’t get off the bench in the fourth quarter.
- Again, Chris Paul goes to the bench to start the second quarter, and the Mavs go on a 9-0 run until his return. That’s gotta suck.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki, who carried the Mavs’ offense in the second and third quarters. He only had 4 points in the fourth quarter, but Dirk’s full arsenal was on display with David West, James Posey, and others playing the victim.
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Photo by AP Photo/Donna McWilliam.
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“I’m in my prime. There’s no goal too far, no mountain too high.”
Maybe this game didn’t have all the glitz of the last two victories, but a seemingly pedestrian eight-point win over the Hornets speaks volumes more about how far the Mavs have come than most blowouts ever could. The flash didn’t manifest itself in a gaudy final margin, but it was every bit as present in the beautiful fast breaks, the offensive rebounds, and the trips to the free throw line. Yes, I do realize that I just described free throw attempts as ‘flashy,’ and no, I’m not taking it back.
The Mavs’ games in Utah and Phoenix were trips to Fantasy Island. Realistically, you don’t expect to skunk a team without them showing even the slightest signs of life; these are talented teams that should be expected to make a run at some point during every game. Against Phoenix, a team holding their final playoff hopes in their hands, the Mavs punched their way through a mirage, and escaped unscathed. Against Utah, the Mavs punched their way through a formidable foe, unexpectedly paralyzed by forces yet to be determined. But against New Orleans, the Mavs punched and punched, and finally they met some resistance.
The Mavs have had no problem with paper tigers this season, but we’ve seen them stop dead in their tracks when faced with a real cat’s roar. It would’ve shocked no one to see the Mavs falter after a short run of success, against an opponent that certainly has their number. But they didn’t. For once, it wasn’t that easy. For once, the Mavs weren’t the victims of their own stereotype.
This is a team that has pouted all season. When the shots fall, everything is great. When those shots stop falling, the entire team goes with it. The transition defense slows to a halt, the ball movement disappears, and the entire roster’s body language is visibly altered. When the shots stopped falling last night (as they did in the second quarter, when they went over seven minutes without a made field goal), the team coped. The free throw line helped to stop the bleeding, the defense kicked it up slightly, and by the time the offense was righted in the third quarter, the Mavs still nursed a decent lead. Demonstrating an ability to endure the emotional highs and lows of a game is critical of any quality team, and the Mavs showed that ability in spades last night.
It was a game where so much went wrong for the Mavs, there was still so much to appreciate. Josh Howard had another brilliant game (25 points, 11 rebounds). He started things off in usual fashion, scoring 10 of the Mavericks’ first 15 points. Howard really is the weapon the Mavs should have had in last season’s playoffs, but didn’t; the Hornets have no simple way to guard him, as Howard made Rasual Butler and Peja Stojakovic look silly on numerous occasions. New Orleans could put James Posey on Howard, but then lose what is possibly their best defensive option for Dirk. It’s exactly the conundrum that San Antonio faced in the playoffs of 2006. Also: it’s possible that Josh Howard is the only player in the league who starts every game with a “heat check.”
After watching this game, I’m convinced that “letting Chris Paul get his” might be the Mavs best plan of attack, if for no other reason than a lack of alternatives. Give Paul space and try to make him take the jumper, but if all else fails let him try to create for himself on every single play and hope he wears himself out over the course of a game or series. Jason Kidd can’t stay with him, Antoine Wright’s slightly better but still relatively hopeless, and Jason Terry is Jason Terry. If everyone stayed home on the shooters and make Chris Paul score every point, the Mavs wouldn’t need to rely on great offensive nights from their stars to get the win. Or maybe Paul would just go for 100. I’m confident one or the other would happen.
I’m honestly surprised we didn’t see more of Erick Dampier. He played over 28 minutes, but his time on the floor saw marked rises in both offense and defense. He had 12 points (5-5 FG) and 8 rebounds, but those numbers don’t do his activity level or contributions justice. The offense opened up when Damp added the scoring inside, mostly due to Jason Kidd’s awareness and passing ability. Damp was splendid in this one, and it should tell you something that the Hornets’ two significant runs (11-3 to close the 2nd quarter, and 15-1 in the 4th) both came with Dampier on the bench.
Twenty offensive rebounds. Take a second to realize how incredible that is, and then give Josh Howard and Brandon Bass a hearty pat on the back for hauling in 6 misses apiece. The Mavs were able to shoot 40% from the field and still lead throughout, and the offensive rebounding was a huge part of that. A huge ‘E’ for Howard’s efforts to keep the ball alive late in the fourth, when every offensive board meant trimming valuable time off the clock.
The Mavs’ shooters were dominant from outside against Utah and Phoenix, but no-showed (5-24; 20.8%) from three against New Orleans. This is not just a team getting hot and beating teams that are out of their league. This is a team actualizing its potential, maximizing the production of its role players, and proving that it has what it takes to gut out tough games. None of this is substantial enough to guarantee a trend, and Mavs fans have been burned far too many times this season to become true believers on a night’s success in Dallas. We’ve seen three games of real progress…is it too much to ask for about twenty more?
- Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and 8 rebounds, and I don’t even know what to say. It doesn’t quite match Chris Paul’s 42 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists, but that’s just Dirk being Dirk.
- The Hornets died on the court when Chris Paul took a breather on the bench. Can you even imagine how CP feels watching James Posey try to post up during his five minutes of rest on the bench? It’s hard to imagine him doing more to help his team win, and having to watch your team immediately surrender a 7-0 run the second you hit the pine has to be a bit unsettling. Paul is an MVP candidate, for sure. If he’s not in your top three, you’re nuts.
- Jason Kidd had 15 assists and 7 rebounds, but just 3 points. Still, the guy alters the game in ways that only the die-hards can appreciate. Call him old or point out his flaws if you’d like, but this guy is a monster.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Brandon Bass, who laid the smackdown on his former team with 8 points and a career high 13 rebounds…mostly because I felt guilty for not mentioning him. A usual display of dunking and boarding from The Animal. BEAST.
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I really would. I’m fighting off some nasty flu-like symptoms, so I’m going to keep this brief. The Mavs are suddenly really, really good at basketball. For the second straight game, they completely dominated a Western power on both sides of the ball, and blitzed the opposition with brutal offensive efficiency, tenacity on the boards, and consistent defensive execution. Phoenix and Utah both boast offenses that are dangerous in their own right, but last night’s poignant victory was all the more significant because it came at the expense of everyone’s ‘dark horse’ (if everyone is picking them, are they still a dark horse?) for the playoffs, it was unrelenting and superhuman, and it clinched Dallas’ place in the playoffs. Oh, yeah, and just so happened to push the Mavs and Jazz into a tie for 7th, just one game behind the Hornets at 6th.
A few links for you to consume in my drowsy, sinus-pained absence:
- Tim MacMahon dreams of Chris Paul in a Mavs jersey, and who am I to be a dream-killer? I do know this, though: if George Shinn is really looking to cut costs, trading away your best player, main ticket draw, and only hope of getting to the playoffs might not be the way to go. It’s definitely an option Cuban should pursue, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
- Mark Cuban answers the Shaq rumors.
- Danny Bollinger has an interview up with Jason Kidd.
- Matt Moore is reconsidering the Mavs, and his thoughts are worth a look.
- David Moore isn’t, and is holding on to his convictions. His thoughts are worth a look.
- Art Garcia is the man. Josh Howard is the man. A match made in heaven.
Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images.
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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Yes, it happened again.
In few businesses is it acceptable practice to take a product of dubious quality, repackage it, and shove it down the consumers’ throats. Personally, I kind of want my couple of hours back. I feel like I just sat through Transmorphers.
Let me start with the excuses. Chris Paul is a tough matchup for any player in the league, much less Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, and Antoine Wright. There’s a reason why he’s the best point guard in the league, and it’s not because he allows himself to be contained. The Mavs were on tired legs, after playing their fourth game in five nights. It’s unfortunate scheduling, to be sure, but the difficulty of which was exaggerated by the dismal showing against Oklahoma City. Josh Howard was still visibly hobbled by a tender ankle, and the soreness that traditionally comes with back-to-backs left him settling for jumpers and shooting blanks. He did not return in the second half, and the Mavs collapsed.
We’re supposed to be done with all that. Come what may, the Mavs are supposed to overcome all, and prove that they have what it takes to win on the road, much less win against the league’s elite. It seems painfully obvious at this point that that’s just not going to happen. Chalk it up to the lack of defensive execution, the lack of firepower, or the almighty excuses, but Dallas just isn’t getting it done.
That was readily apparent against the Hornets, who are rolling with the punches en route to the playoffs. Tyson Chandler was almost traded? So what? He came back from injury as a man on a mission, and he’s been playing some great basketball of late. Peja Stojakovic sidelined? So what? In steps Julian Wright, and Chris Paul makes sure the team doesn’t miss a beat. So naturally, when faced with a Maverick team brimming with confidence after a great win against the Spurs, the Hornets got their hits in early, endured the eventual run, and then finished with a fatality. It wasn’t ‘Flawless Victory,’ but it was ugly.
No one is blameless, and that starts at the top. Rick Carlisle clearly did not have this team ready to defend the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop, and I can’t even begin to explain why. It’s the Hornets. They have Chris Paul, David West, and Tyson Chandler. How could you not see this coming? Based on their track record, I don’t expect a complete denial of P&R basketball, but some resistance would be nice. It’s tough to defend with players this skilled, but rolling over and dying whenever you see a pick just isn’t acceptable. Well, it shouldn’t be acceptable.
That’s where Dirk (27 points on 19 shots, 7 rebounds, 0 turnovers), who had a brilliant game offensively, came up short. The Mavs played man to man and a matchup zone, but nothing could hide Dirk. They put him on Tyson Chandler and they put him on Sean Marks. Then he was caught watching the ball or switching onto Paul, and that was game over. Should Dirk have been switching onto Chris Paul in the first place? Well gee, that there’s an idea. But it wouldn’t be fair to focus on Dirk’s faults when he was just about the only thing going offensively. Dirk was money, hitting open and impossible shots alike. He combined stellar midrange play with some good work around the basket, and even sprinkled in a three. The Mavs have some serious work to do on the defensive end, but let’s not forget: the Hornets haven’t even come close to figuring out how to stop Dirk Nowitzki.
This is where the offensive superlatives end. The next highest point total for the Mavs was Jason Kidd’s 13, which came on 4-11 shooting and trust me, it sounds better than it was. Kidd was basically in a practice gym for most of the game, shooting open jumpers against a team that refused to respect his shot. And that’s what we’ve been getting all season with Kidd; one night he’ll not only stick the dagger, but twist it in the opponent’s back, and the next he’ll be a complete offensive liability. When Chris Paul has 27 points (10-18 FG) and 15 assists, Kidd’s 13 and 2 just isn’t going to cut it.
For what it’s worth, Chris Paul didn’t really torch Jason Kidd. Barea, Terry, and Wright each had their shot at guarding CP3, and the Mavs switched to a matchup zone in part to stop Paul’s penetration. Nothing was particularly effective. But in the background looms a bigger problem: how many players can the Mavs hide defensively? Dirk is hardly a stud on that end, Jason Terry has his troubles, and Jason Kidd, despite his particular defensive strengths, isn’t able to guard point guards. Something’s gotta give, and when everyone’s trying to hid behind one another, someone is going to be exposed.
Jason Terry and Antoine Wright couldn’t provide the shooting to support the offense in Howard’s absence. The Hornets played heavily to Terry’s right, fully aware of his awkward post-injury handle to his left. He took tough shots, and missed some makeable ones. Antoine Wright on the other hand, was trying to do too much. He pump faked the three and attempted a drive almost every time he touched the ball. His intentions were noble, but the results less so.
Brandon Bass and James Singleton logged a combined 25 minutes, and I don’t understand why. Erick Dampier can’t guard David West and protect the rim at the same time. So if Dirk is on the floor, the Mavs aren’t getting much of an advantage by playing Dampier over Singleton or Bass. Both have the strength and speed to bother West, and would likely be better at contesting after the pick.
After the first half, it really seemed like the Mavs had a shot. They had played just one good quarter, and yet found themselves all square going into the 3rd. That changed in a hurry, as the Mavs’ offense turned impotent and Chris Paul found new and exciting ways to remind you that the Mavs can’t guard him. You’re not going to shoot 39.5% from the field and win many games. That applies when the Mavs play Sacramento or Washington, much less when they play a team as good as the Hornets.
Some random thoughts:
- Henry Abbott has ruined basketball for me. Since reading his series on the traveling rule, I can’t stop watching feet. Among the Mavs, Jason Terry is probably the biggest culprit. Whenever he receives the ball on a pass, it seems like he prances across half the court, and whenever he gets the ball on a handoff, he’s taking steps immediately.
- Moving screens are EVERYWHERE. I’m actively worried that Dirk’s going to get whistled for them, and David West has turned it into an art.
- As Erick Dampier rolled to the basket for what he thought was an alley-oop, James Posey ended up knocking him flat on his back. All of Damp’s weight and all of that force…straight into Damp’s back and elbow, as he fell straight to the floor. Not cool.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki, if only because no one else on the Mavs even came close to helping. Dirk was awesome offensively, and finished with 27 points on 50% shooting, and 8-9 FTs.
The Dallas Mavericks visit the New Orleans Hornets
I am not afraid of the New Orleans Hornets.
Chris Paul and David West fancy themselves Maverick boogeymen, but their particular brand of play isn’t terrorizing. It doesn’t torment me like a Manu Ginobili flop, an Amare Stoudemire tomahawk, or a Kobe Bryant dagger. I’m sure that one might paint the Hornets as a silent killer in light of those remarks, but they’re not. The Hornets, frankly, are just not that good.
Of course, neither are the Mavs.
Chris Paul is definitely a top 5 player in the league, if not higher. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him and his game. My real quarrel is with David West, the Hornets’ second best player. You may remember him from that one time where he OMG PUNKED DIRK. Like totally, man. I’m not going to get into that particular incident that has long since passed. What I will say is this: David West just doesn’t intimidate me, and I would doubt very much that he intimidates the Mavs. He’s a pretty decent midrange shooter. He’s got some cool post moves. He’s a solid interior defender. That’s sweet, but to even imply that he’s on Dirk’s level is a travesty.
Looking to the rest of the Hornets roster, it definitely falls short in the way of intimidators. Peja is a has-been. Tyson Chandler is a defensive presence against a Maverick team that rarely goes inside. Who else are we really looking at here? James Posey? Mo Pete? Julian Wright?
…okay, who doesn’t love Julian Wright? But that’s not the point. What I’m hinting at is this: the Hornets are infinitely beatable. Last season’s squad was unnaturally good, and this year’s model inexplicably weaker. What really transpired between then and now? Aging, certainly, among the NOLA peripheral. Don’t even get me started with Jannero Pargo, the poor-shooting lost cog who is oft claimed to be the lynchpin to the 2007-2008 Hornets’ success. Chris Paul may be among the best in the NBA, but I think it might be time to accept a simple fact: last season’s Hornets overachieved.
I do realize that I’m probably coming of as a complete jerk. The Hornets are typically a likable bunch, and I’m not trying to take that away from them. But while they remain among the league’s elite in some sense, comparing the success of the team a year ago and the relative lack thereof this season proves illuminating. Maybe not in a way that’s as obvious as a spotlight on a blatant flaw or a trade that acts as a clear point of reference, but in an equally demonstrative manner that has removed them from championship talk entirely. Make no mistake, I generally have no delusions about the Mavs’ ceiling and don’t consider them to be a better team than the Hornets. Far from it. But the Mavs aren’t a little pig, and the Hornets aren’t the big bad wolf.
From that point, there’s only one question that really needs answering: are the Hornets closer in quality to the Mavs and the playoff borderline, or the Lakers and talent supreme?