The Difference: Sacramento Kings 110, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Holly MacKenzie on March 10, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box score Play-by-Play Shot Chart Game Flow

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

  • It figures that the game I pick to recap is a blowout. Disclaimer before we go any further: I am a huge Isaiah Thomas fan. I will try to temper this as we talk about what went wrong with the Mavericks in Sacramento. It wasn’t pretty, people. Not even a little bit.
  • A rough start really doomed Dallas. The team had five of their 17 turnovers in the first quarter, including four of them in the first four minutes of the game. Sacramento took advantage, scoring nine points off of those turnovers in the opening session. The Kings jumped out to a lead quickly, leaving the Mavs to play catch up all night.
  • After finding himself on the bench at the end of the Suns game on Thursday night, Jason Terry (game-high 23 points, 10-for-18 fgs) was looking to get himself going early against the Kings, and was one of the bright spots for the Mavs offensively in the first half. He kept the Mavs in it by coming up with a bucket to temper the crowd every time the Kings seemed to be on the verge of really blowing things open.
  • While Dirk Nowitzki started off 2-for-2 from the floor, the team didn’t make it a point to get the ball to him in the first quarter and things went downhill from there as Dirk wasn’t ever able to get going. He shot 1-for-5 in the second quarter, 2-for-4 in the third and then 0-2 in the fourth. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting in 29 minutes of action.
  • The Mavericks just looked sluggish tonight. Perhaps they were tired from last night’s loss to the Suns, but their defense wasn’t doing them any favours against the Kings. A five-point swing for the Kings: Jason Thompson gets his own offensive rebound, finds Chuck Hayes open under the hoop for an easy two. Next possession:Francisco Garcia steals the ball from Nowitzki (Mavs turnover #6) and finds John Salmons for a three.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 98, Houston Rockets 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 12, 2011 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas102.096.148.221.714.619.6
Houston89.240.613.528.316.7

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

  • It’s probably a good thing that Jason Terry missed a potentially game-winning free throw with a second and a half remaining in regulation; Dallas had only played about 10 minutes of high-energy basketball up to that point, and for the sake of playoff readiness, an extra five minutes in which the Mavs were forced to run and rotate and execute certainly couldn’t hurt. The win still doesn’t excuse Dallas’ lethargy through the first three frames, but victories do have their own inherent worth, even if this one should and could have been significantly easier for the Mavs. I know there’s an element of mental fatigue involved when facing an opponent perceived to be inferior at this stage of the season — particularly an opponent missing two of its three best players — but Dallas has to be better at every turn. There are precious few tune-ups before the playoffs commence, and regardless of opponent, the Mavs can’t allow themselves to be convinced that this kind of effort is conducive to winning. Each empty victory may be nice for other reasons, but such games nonetheless condition Dallas to accept performances like this one, even when a comparable showing would surely result in a less favorable outcome against a playoff opponent. Tick tock, Mavs. Get it in gear.
  • Don’t let the defensive numbers fool you. Houston only scored at a rate of 89.2 points per 100 possessions, but Dallas’ D wavered from possession to possession, and looked particularly vulnerable to high post action executed by Chuck Hayes (10 points, 5-12 FG, 12 rebounds, four assists) and Brad Miller (12 points, 5-13 FG, eight rebounds, three assists). In its natural state, the Rockets’ offense is a beautiful thing; Rick Adelman’s system facilitates offensive flow like no other, and rewards hard cutting with smart passes. It’s the Mavs’ job to take the Rockets out of that natural element, and in that area they failed. The shooting and overall scoring numbers don’t reflect that, but Dallas’ defensive letdowns — many of which led to wide open layups and dunks — were pretty horrendous. The Mavs showcased the diametric opposite of their defensive struggles during the fourth quarter and overtime, but don’t overrate the significance of their clutchness; as nice as it was that Dallas finished strong, they should never have been in a situation where that was necessary.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, 8-22 FG, 12 rebounds, three assists) struggled with his shot a bit, but his jumper was the least of the Mavs’ offensive problems. For large portions of this game, Dallas had little or no offensive structure whatsoever. Some players wandered around the three-point line, but having bodies on the perimeter with others inside does not constitute spacing. Just…blech. Here’s to better days when the Mavs actually elect to run sets.
  • The offense wasn’t without that ever valuable silver lining, though. Shawn Marion (21 points, 10-14 FG, four rebounds, four assists, three turnovers) was the most efficient Mav by a considerable margin, despite the fact that he threw away two cross-court passes in the extra period. Marion on the left block is a credible offensive option, and a pretty interesting counter to Dirk’s operation on the opposite wing. (A quick aside: Marion also might be among the best in the league in his ability to discern shot fakes from legitimate attempts; Kevin Martin [28 points, 10-24 FG, 3-7 3FG, seven turnovers] is a wizard with the ball, but Marion stays on the floor and contests Martin’s shots without fouling as well as any wing defender out there.) Additionally, Jason Terry (21 points, 9-15 FG, four assists, six turnovers) had a lot of success driving to the basket, and fully exploited Houston’s lack of shot-blocking inside. Chuck Hayes is a fantastic post defender, but his options in rotation are limited by his height. Once Terry makes an aggressive move toward the rim, Hayes can contest the shot or try to maintain good position between JET and the rim, but he’s unable to put a lot of pressure on Terry’s attempt at its most vulnerable points.
  • Mavs fans have now witnessed the other side of Corey Brewer’s coin. The effort is always there for Brewer, but he played nine largely fruitless minutes. Nothing wrong with grabbing four boards (and his one offensive rebound was heavily contested), but Brewer just isn’t a consistent scoring threat. He’s skilled and works relentlessly on both ends, but Brewer isn’t productive enough to tip the scales nightly.
  • This definitely registers as a curiosity, but count me among those who hope to never hear about Terry’s possible miscalculation again. Honestly it doesn’t really matter to me if JET knew the score or didn’t. Awareness is certainly preferred, but he’s shooting to make free throws at that point, and I’m fairly positive he intended to make his second one. It’s a non-issue, really.
  • How Dallas struggles to rebound in a game like this one baffles me. Tyson Chandler is among the top rebounders in the league. Dirk Nowitzki has historically been a solid defensive rebounder, even if he doesn’t attack the offensive glass. Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd both do terrific work on the glass relative to their positions. Yet the Mavs allowed the Rockets to grab an offensive board on 28.3% of their rebounding opportunities, despite the fact that Chuck Hayes (16.3% total rebounding rate for the season) was Houston’s only decent rebounder on the court. Dallas typically does a decent job of securing defensive rebounds, but this won’t fly.

No Game Is an Island: Pleasant Surprises

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 18, 2009 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

The Mavs have pleasantly surprised. Although it might be easy to dig up a Maverick die-hard who had faith in Dallas’ ability to develop a top-notch defense, I think you’d be hard pressed top back that argument with warrant and logic. Expecting such a prolific defensive display could possibly have labeled you as some kind of maniac, or worse, a homer.

But the Rockets have been a surprise in a completely different way. Whereas underestimating the Dallas defense was natural given the personnel (a supposedly slowing Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion, and the near-liabilities turned competent defenders, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry), the Rockets were underestimated due to a complete oversight of the power of a basketball cooperative. Each player compensates for the weakness of another, and though high-level talent separates Houston from the West’s elite, we all should have expected competence from a batch of skilled, highly-motivated ballplayers:

I don’t know if you heard, but over the Summer, the Houston Rockets essentially swapped Ron Artest for Trevor Ariza. The former is a bit of a wildcard, known for ill-advised 3s, elite perimeter defense, and something about snake eggs. The latter is a superb athlete, a tremendous wing defender, and an emerging shooting threat.

So why is it that the Houston Rockets were so woefully underestimated coming into the season, when the only significant difference between last year’s playoff team and this year’s would-be playoff time is the (occasionally bad) shot creating abilities of Artest?

I…I don’t know. Count me among the many that refused to acknowledge Houston’s potential. I didn’t see where the points were going to come from, even if Ariza is a young, talented player on a perfectly reasonable salary. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t sold on Aaron Brooks’ ability to score consistently, much less run an offense. And I saw some problems among their rotation of bigs, which had fallen to three productive if undersized power forwards in the absence of Yao Ming. Not only is none of that true, but we’ve seen virtually the opposite.

Read my thoughts on the Rockets in their entirety on Hardwood Paroxysm.