Thermodynamics: Week 21

Posted by Travis Wimberly on March 21, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Ice Melting
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

You wouldn’t know it from the game results (L, W, L, W, L), but the Mavs played at a fairly consistent level for the entire week (at least until the fourth quarter of the final game against Brooklyn). After being wildly inconsistent for most the season, the Mavs seem to have finally leveled out and settled into a groove.

So, if the Mavs were so consistent, why 2-3? Why alternating wins and losses? Well, that’s just the thing — the Mavs’ “consistent” level of play sits pretty much right in the middle of the league. Their season-long ceiling (as opposed to their single-game ceiling, which is largely a function of variance) sits right around the 50th percentile. By playing consistently over several games, then, the Mavs make it very easy to see exactly where they sit in the league pecking order. They’ll beat bad teams regularly (Cleveland); they’ll beat decent teams sometimes (Atlanta); they’ll lose to decent teams sometimes (Brooklyn); and they’ll lose to elite teams almost always (San Antonio and Oklahoma City).

Hence, the week that was.

Week 21 (@Spurs, Cavs, Thunder, @Hawks, Nets)

FIRE

1) Brandan Wright

Wright’s offensive game is so fluid and efficient, it’s hard to imagine that he could barely get off the bench earlier in the year. Here’s how Wright’s key numbers shook out this week: 10.4 points per game, 24-of-43 (56%) shooting, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 1.0 blocks per game. It’s much more difficult to quantatively measure individual defense, but I thought Wright showed his continued improvement in that area. He’s got a long way to go, but his footwork in the defensive post has improved since November, and he’s being more judicious with his weakside defense (i.e., not wildly jumping around trying to block every single shot instead of boxing out). Wright earned numerous accolades during college while playing in the highly competitive ACC, and it’s easy to see why. His raw talent is undeniable. With hard work and on-point coaching (and I have no reason to suspect both won’t occur), his ceiling is fairly high.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 96, Brooklyn Nets 113

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 20, 2013 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

CautionNet

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.

  • Dirk Nowitzki (16 points on 8 of 10 shooting) has 10.3 shot attempts over his last three games. He’s shooting 23 for 31 over that period. Dallas is 1-2 in those games. What else is there to say?
  • Dallas fans and Mark Cuban got a great view of the player they missed out on signing this off-season in Deron Williams (31 points, six assists). After a 2 for 7 first half, he responded shooting 11 of 18 in the second, lighting any Dallas guard on fire who came near him. He’s been slowed by a combination of ankle injuries, weight gain, and hubris, but since getting his mind and body right over the All-Star Break, he’s looked exactly like a player worth a $100 million dollar contract. Dallas missed out in a huge way by being unable to sign the former Colony High School player.
  • After outscoring the Nets by 10 in the first quarter, Brooklyn out-scored Dallas by 27 points over the next 36 minutes of basketball.
  • I lied. We need to talk about Dirk not getting the ball more. That his first shot didn’t come until the 6:35 mark in the first quarter is one thing, as the Mavericks actually played really solid offensive basketball. But when Dirk didn’t even touch the ball in the third quarter as Deron Williams and Brook Lopez shot 11 for 12 for 26 points in the quarter, alarms have to go off on the Dallas bench.
  • In the 16 games since the All Star break, Dirk Nowitzki is shooting 51% from the field, 49% from 3 point range, and 96% from the line.
  • On the one hand, it’s nice that Rick Carlisle has faith in his team to run his system over set plays. The offense is essentially a read and react system based out of pick and rolls. On the other hand, why Carlisle would allow Chris Kaman and Mike James to get into a pick and roll duel with Brook Lopez and Deron Williams at the start of both halves is beyond understanding. Neither player is efficient and neither player is going to be a Dallas Maverick next year.
  • Brook Lopez seems to relish playing the Dallas Mavericks. His offensive display was amazing, scoring 38 points on 22 shots and doing so in a variety of ways. He opened the game running a series of strong pick and rolls. He built on that by punishing Chris Kaman with some back down post moves. Lopez then went to a bit of a dribble drive game, taking full advantage of any Dallas defender, using both hands to get to the rim.
  • It’s frustrating that Elton Brand (four points, five rebounds) is playing his most ineffective basketball in months over the last six games, right as Dallas needs him to be his best. Brand has been a phenomenal addition to Dallas this year and I hope the front office finds a way to keep him beyond this one season.
  • Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans combined for 33 rebounds. The Dallas Maverick team pulled down 34.
  • This was the first game in some time where Dallas fans witnessed the limitations of Brandan Wright (nine points, on 4 of 5 shooting). Wright actually had a fairly nice stat line, given his limited playing time. But the Nets took full advantage of Wright’s slight frame, punishing him in one on one defense and on rebounding opportunities. Wright has improved dramatically over the last third of the season, particularly in help defense and rebounding, but occasionally teams with strong post players will take advantage of the fact that he weighs 210 pounds soaking wet.
  • With Jae Crowder hitting yet another corner three against the Nets, this shot is a potential weapon for the Mavericks moving forward. Though the sample size is a bit small, Crowder has hit 50 percent of his corner threes this season, as opposed to a mere 28% anywhere above the break. Crowder had a reputation of being a stretch four in college, but the distance of the NBA three has proven a bit too much for him this season. Interestingly, all of his corner threes this season have been assisted.
  • TMG’s own Bryan Gutierrez tweets that Carlisle doesn’t buy into the notion of Dirk not getting shots being an issue during these two recent losses. However, ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted during the game that tonight he saw a top 5 on court anger moment from Dirk as he came to the bench during the fourth quarter. Something has to give.
  • There was an odd appearance in the first quarter of the rare 5-4 pick and roll. Kaman caught the ball on the right elbow and Dirk decided to set a screen for him in the middle of the free throw line. Dirk slipped the pick and Kaman fed him for a lay up, which Dirk missed, only to grab his own rebound and score.
  • Some rare playing time for Anthony Morrow (six points on 3 of 6 shooting). Looking oddly like the ghost of Jason Terry, Morrow played well on offense, hitting two tough shots and stealing an inbound pass for a third quarter ending lay up. Defensively, he seemed lost, as Joe Johnson got warmed up in the second with Morrow attempting to stick with him.
  • The shooting of Mike James by the quarter: 2 of 5, 0 of 1, 1 of 4, and 1 of 5 for a total of 4 of 14 for the game. He hits one shot and it seems to give him the confidence to keep shooting. When these shots come within the flow of the offense, as his fourth quarter corner three did, it boosts the Dallas offense, almost serving as a bonus. But when he hunts for his own shot, as he did through out the game, it actively hurts the Dallas offense.
  • Matt Moore of CBS Sports writes an interesting look into the death of the post entry pass as a NBA player skill. Given the Dallas woes to consistently get the ball to Dirk, it feels very timely.
  • After a strong 23 point win against the Timberwolves on March 10th, the Mavericks have gone 3-3 over their next six. With only 14 games remaining, the Mavs are now 3.5 games back from the eighth seed. However, they’re also too far ahead in the total league standing to benefit any from losing games for draft lotto positioning. Dallas currently stands in no man’s land.

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

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 127, Atlanta Hawks 113

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 19, 2013 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Clouds

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGame 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.

  • How many teams have lost in NBA history after scoring 127 points in regulation?
  • Not many, if any, and the Mavericks didn’t join that barely existent or nonexistent group on Monday.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (7-11 FG, 2-2 3PT, 22 points, six rebounds, five assists) has been fantastic since the All-Star Break. Nothing emphasizes that more than watching him make difficult, long jumpers that anyone else would have absolutely no chance of making.
  • There are few basketball sights more comforting than seeing Dirk pump-fake, create no separation, wait, and drain a long-two regardless of any normal reality otherwise embodied.
  • As I noted the other day, the success of the Mavericks exists in a purely offensive context at this point, and the key to achieving that context is threes.
  • The Mavericks made 13 of 22 attempts from beyond the arc and did so with some unusual style.
  • O.J. Mayo (7-11 FG, 3-4 3PT, 17 points, four assists, one turnover) took the open looks the defense allowed and smartly rejected the ones they didn’t.
  • Mayo made several uncharacteristic passes to open cutters and used his pump-faking ability wisely. When he flows and decides carefully within the offense, few defenses can contend with the Mavericks’ offensive potency.
  • Tonight also displayed how easily Darren Collison (10-14 FG, 24 points, five assists) can decimate an opponent off the pick-and-roll and in transition when the stars align correctly. Collison’s pull-up-from-mid-range game emanated basketball lethality tonight and duly expressed the importance of transitional space in regards to his skill set.
  • The Hawks radiated listless lethargy tonight, striving clumsily to find consistent stops but failing upon the presentation of nearly every key moment.
  • Teams that don’t get back in transition or defend perimeter opportunities tend to struggle against this iteration of the 2012-2013 Mavericks, and the Hawks’ performance falls nicely in line with that category.
  • The Chris Kaman (7-11 FG, 14 points, seven rebounds) situation remains an intriguing oddity, as Kaman may play virtually no minutes or 21, like tonight, if he’s scoring well and the game trends in an offensive direction.
  • He and Brandan Wright (5-9 FG, 12 points, eight rebounds) are a perfect scoring center tandem for a fast-paced contest like this one – they combined for 26 points and 15 rebounds in 42 collective minutes.
  • Finally, if anyone wants to caption this, I’d love to read such a response. Beard battles don’t get much better than Nowitzki-Johnson.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 107

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 17, 2013 under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

Strike

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.

  • Expect the lack of shot attempts for Dirk Nowitzki (23 points on 8 of 10 shooting) to become a narrative for the Mavericks in the coming days, though it’s something I’ve been concerned about since Dirk returned to form. Against the Thunder, he started off 8 for 8 from the floor off of a variety of different looks. His final make came at the 8:22 mark of the third quarter. He took two more shots in the quarter, then didn’t have a field goal attempt for the remainder of the game. Credit must go to the Thunder defense, but the responsibility falls to Dirk, the coaching staff and his teammates. His teammates are the biggest problem, as Mike James, Darren Collison, and O.J. Mayo seem bewildered as to how to get the big German the ball. Dirk posts up well, sets good screens and is the league’s most dangerous trailer. He’s had to resort to calling for the ball more and more often this season as his guards don’t seem to see him unless he’s yelling at them. He’s big, he’s blond, he even has an insane beard.  He’s also a former MVP and an NBA Champion. If this team still thinks it can make the playoffs it’s not going to do so on the backs of anyone other than Dirk Nowitzki. Get Dirk the ball.
  • Contrast Dirk’s stat line to that of once and future scoring champion Kevin Durant (31 points, nine rebounds). Prior to the fourth, Dallas had managed to keep Durant in check with 12 points while forcing a variety of turnovers. In the final period, Durant scored 19, taking full advantage of his size mismatch and demanding the ball from Russell Westbrook. In most cases Durant simply got the ball at the top of the key and went to work, very similar to the way Dallas used to use Dirk.
  • The development of Jae Crowder (11 points, four rebounds) has been a roller coaster. I greatly enjoy his man to man defense, but he has brief lapses in judgement that really hurt the Mavericks. Kevin Martin scored two layups on simple back door cuts when Crowder got caught watching the ball. Additionally, each of his turnover were very frustrating to watch; he somehow failed to see a Thunder player between him and his teammate. Each lead to easy fast break points in a tightly contested game.
  • The offensive rebounding from the Thunder, particularly from Serge Ibaka (18 points 16 rebounds including seven offensive) badly hurt the Mavericks. Due to the threat of Russell Westbrook (35 points, six assists), the Dallas big guarding Ibaka was forced to cheat over for additional help defense when Westbrook got a Maverick defender in an isolation situation. As a result, a smaller player usually had to rotate down to try to box out Ibaka which did not work.
  • In recent weeks, I’ve been a big fan of how O.J. Mayo has let the game come to him. He’s made smart choices and put himself and his team in a position to win. Though Mayo didn’t hurt Dallas against the Thunder, his nine points and three assists are not enough from a player many consider to be the second offensive option. Despite his growth as a player this season, he doesn’t give Dallas enough on a consistent basis.
  • We’ve most likely seen the last of Roddy Beaubois in a Dallas Maverick uniform. He broke a bone in hand in a rather strange play involving Kevin Durant. Though he’s out indefinitely at the moment, we here at the Two Man Game wish him a speedy recovery.

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

Thermodynamics: Week 20

Posted by Travis Wimberly on March 14, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Fire Ice
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

An undefeated week. 3-0. Say it aloud, because we’ve had little occasion to celebrate such things this season.

Okay, so admittedly, it was a weak schedule (the Mavs’ three opponents this week have a combined record of 77-115), and two of the games went down to the wire. But let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about the 2012-2013 Mavs, not the Mavs of yesteryear. For this squad, it’s no small feat to win three straight road games against any three NBA teams. And given that this team’s playoff hopes are slim, I for one plan to enjoy the small victories here and there for the remainder of the season.

Week 20 (@Pistons, @Timberwolves, @Bucks)

FIRE

1) Vinsanity

When the Mavs refused to move Vince Carter at the trade deadline, several observers questioned that decision, and perhaps rightfully so. But since then, Carter has made the Mavs’ front office look very prescient. He’s firmly cemented himself as either the Mavs’ second or third-best all-around player (depending on where you would put him relative to Shawn Marion), and he’s done so with excellent efficiency and irreplaceable leadership. This week, Carter averaged exactly 15.0 points per game, shot 18-of-31 (58%) from the field cumulatively, and pulled down 6.3 rebounds per game. That’s terrific, but it hardly tells the full story. Carter’s tenacity and willingness to take (and make) big shots was on full display this week. If you were one of the lucky few who watched the Mavs-Bucks game on NBA League pass with Milwaukee’s broadcast crew, you had the pleasure (as I did) of listening to them bemoan Carter’s bevy of clutch shots late in the fourth quarter. In net points per 100 possessions, three of the Mavs’ four most productive lineups on the season include Carter.  Carter now carries a player-efficiency rating (PER) of 17.7, the third-highest on the Mavs. Guess which Mav ranks number one by that metric?

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Timing is Everything

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 12, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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You can look at what the Mavs have to do if team X, Y and Z have a certain record over their last remaining games. You can do that, but all that really matter is what the Mavs do on their own over the last 20 games of the season. Win as many games as you can and the rest will sort itself out. Dirk Nowitzki is firmly back and showing signs he can be the old Dirk that everyone remembers. O.J. Mayo has shown that he actually can be a creator and facilitator, despite what his coach said just over a week ago. Shawn Marion is still known as the defensive stopper for the team. Elton Brand is going to do his part to be the defensive anchor and a presence off the bench. Despite the team’s record, Vince Carter is going to continue to be a massive bargain for the Mavs by showing he’s one the league’s best reserves off the bench.

Dallas has an elite coach, veteran leadership and pride that they will rely heavily on as they make their final push for a playoff spot. There is one player though that could really put them over the top and really put their push into overdrive.

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Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 112, Houston Rockets 108

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 7, 2013 under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks were able to avenge their catastrophic 136-103 loss to the Houston Rockets on Sunday with a 112-108 win at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. O.J. Mayo recorded his second double-double of the season (fourth career) with 13 points, six rebounds, a career-high 12 assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes against Houston on Wednesday. His previous high assist total was 10 (at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009). Seven of Mayo’s 12 assists came in the first half, including five in the first quarter alone. The seven first-half assists were tied for the most assists he’s recorded in any half in his career (7 in first half at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009; 7 in second half vs. Golden State Feb. 9, 2013).

The clean sheet for Mayo in the turnover department marked the sixth game of the year where Mayo did not commit a turnover. The Mavericks are 5-1 in those games. The one loss came in the team’s last game against the Rockets on Sunday.

Shawn Marion went 10-of-16 from the field and recorded a team-high-tying 22 points to go along with three rebounds, four assists and two steals in 36 minutes against Houston. With the win, the Mavericks improved to 4-1 this season when Marion scores 20-plus points.

Dirk Nowitzki tallied 22 points, five rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes against Houston. He scored 20-plus points for the fifth time in his last seven games.

The Mavericks made a change to their starting lineup. They started Mike James in place of Darren Collison and Brandan Wright in place of Chris Kaman. It marked the team’s 19th different starting lineup of the year.

Some notes before the quotes:

- Mike James made his first start of the season (264th career) against Houston on Wednesday. It was his first start since Mar. 25, 2009 vs. Charlotte (with Washington). The Mavericks used their 19th different starting lineup of the year.

- Shawn Marion passed Rod Strickland (1,616) for 25th place on the NBA’s all-time steals list with a theft (his 1,617th career) at the 6:37 mark of the third quarter. Marion finished with two steals against Houston and now has 1,618 for his career. Eddie Jones ranks 24th all-time with 1,620 career steals.

- With a block at the 1:16 mark of the first quarter, Elton Brand passed Rockets head coach Kevin McHale (1,690) for 24th place on the NBA’s all-time blocks list. It was the 1,691st block of Brand’s career. Moses Malone ranks 23rd all-time with 1,733 career rejections.

Here is the quoteboard for the Mavericks’ win against the Rockets.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Houston Rockets 108

Posted by Kirk Henderson on under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Rocket

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.

  • This was quite possibly O.J. Mayo’s best game of the season with 13 points, 12 assists, and six rebounds. He set the tone early with five first quarter assists and continued to make the easy pass throughout the game. It obviously helps when teammates are converting shots (Shawn Marion was brilliant in this regard), but Mayo deserves credit in an area where he’s struggled recently, attempting to do too much and committing turnovers. That he didn’t post a single turnover against the Rockets is incredibly impressive and displays a level of patience not seen from him in weeks. His patience in play making carried over into his shot selection; he waited to assert himself until the final quarter, taking and making three straight shots over a 90 second period as Houston was attempting to take the lead.
  • Dirk Nowitzki’s willingness to give up the ball out of his short corner sweet spot kept the Maverick offense flowing. Though Dirk was quite efficient with his shooting, scoring 22 points on 9 of 16, I was more impressed with the three assists he dished to Brendan Wright (12 points on 6 of 7 shooting) in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Wright may not ever have a consistent rotation spot, mainly due to his rebounding (he grabbed two in 27 minutes of action against Houston), but when he’s hitting offensively, he helps open up the floor for the Mavericks. Dirk was able to get shots later in the game due to Houston being forced to guard the high post flash from any Dallas center.
  • Though many league observers focus on what a certain purple and gold clad shooting guard is doing at age 34, Shawn Marion is doing things defensively at the same age that should not be possible. Even throwing out his 22 points on 10 of 16 shooting, Marion had a brilliant game. Yes, James Harden had 16 free throws, mainly due to his ability to sell contact, but when the game was on the line Marion prevented Harden from getting quality looks. Harden is excellent at both direct penetration and getting off shots when moving side to side. Marion’s abililty to stay on his feet and in front of Harden made the majority of these looks incredibly dificult.  That Marion’s never made an All Defensive team is one of the unspoken travesties among close followers of the NBA.
  • What is Dallas going to do with Darren Collison (seven points, five assists, three turnovers)? He’s been forced to come off the bench at least once behind every single point guard Dallas has had on the team this season, this time behind Mike James. That list of point guards is not a short one. As maddening as his offensive inconsistency is, it’s his lack of defensive understanding that may limit his time in Dallas to a single season. He was unable to stay in front of Jeremy Lin (or any other Rocket) for much of the game. I fail to understand how a player as fast as Collison has such poor lateral movement. Lin repeatedly beat Collison to the middle of the floor which is counter to the Dallas philosophy of forcing a ball handler towards the baseline. I also don’t understand the recovery angles he takes once he gets beat as he often ends up on the side of his man instead of in front of him. Towards the end of the first quarter, after Lin had scored two consecutive layups on him, Collison was unable to get over a screen on a left wing pick and roll. His attempt at recovery did nothing to prevent Lin from whipping a pass to the right corner for a Chandler Parsons three, mainly because he saddled up next to Lin instead of getting between him and the basket. Finally, we have Collison’s tendency to float mentally when he’s off ball. At the three minute mark in the third, Harden caught Collison flatfooted and found Lin making a simple back cut behind Collison which lead to a Lin lay up. A starting point guard in the NBA cannot make the kind of mental errors Collison makes with alarming regularity.

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

 

The Four Ingredients

Posted by David Hopkins on March 5, 2013 under Commentary | 9 Comments to Read

quadrant_hopkins

“Victory must now be mine or Galactus shall not fight again.” — Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

Last week I wrote about Dirk Nowitzki, his legacy and his future. Do the past two years represent the sudden decline of Nowitzki? Should fans recalibrate their expectations? Or are these two years statistical outliers with a bum knee to blame? Like most things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Regardless, there is no denying that the future inevitable departure of Nowitzki has been a concern as fans watch the season unfold. And as much as we’d like to put everything on Nowitkzi’s shoulders, he isn’t the only factor in making the Mavs a great franchise. When looking at the long-term health of this franchise, I would suggest that there are four ingredients.

1. Young talent
2. Reliable veterans
3. An All-Star “Go To” Player
4. Trustworthy management, ownership, and coaching

In the young talent category, the jury is still out. For players born in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, the Mavs have: Rodrigue Beaubois, Darren Collison, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Dominique Jones, O.J. Mayo, Anthony Morrow, and Brandan Wright. Young players aren’t just the replacements for the old team. They are valuable trade assets. They offer the greatest potential for improvement and growth. I believe in O.J. Mayo, and I’d be happy if he signed a long-term contract with the Mavs. The question is money, but I can’t imagine shooting guards are in such high demand that another franchise would overpay for him. Darren Collison? I just don’t know. When you look at his advanced stats, he’s actually slightly better than O.J. Mayo. However, I don’t trust him to run an offense. The rookie class isn’t too bad. Crowder and James are encouraging. This isn’t Cunningham’s year, but who knows how he’ll do once given a chance? Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones are a disappointment. I believe Brandan Wright is a better player than his minutes and stats suggest.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 98, Brooklyn Nets 90

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 1, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

CautionNet

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.

  • Though his box score was not particularly impressive, the play of Chris Kaman (eight points, four rebounds) has set the tone for two straight games. Against the Nets he opened both halves with driving lay ups which seemed to catch their defense off guard. Prior to missing games with a concussion, Kaman had gone to his jump shot a bit too frequently, often at the expense of the flow of the Dallas offense. Though he still missed three long jumpers against the Nets, they were taken later in the shot clock and were not contested particularly hard.
  • The clash of play styles was obvious from the opening tip. A glance at the box score wouldn’t reveal this, but the Mavericks pushed the tempo on Brooklyn at every opportunity and the Nets seemed unsure how to cope. This became particularly apparent in the third quarter and the early part of the fourth as the Dallas lead ballooned to 20 points. The remaining influence of former coach Avery Johnson was clearly apparent, as the Nets ran an oddly methodical offense that bogged down into one on one match ups which Brooklyn could not exploit.
  • Easily the most entertaining match up of the game was Elton Brand (eight points, two steals, two blocks) against Andray Blatche (eight points, three assists). For some reason, they started barking at one another early and Brand managed to surprise Blatche early in the second with a catch and shoot from the post and a lay in after a botched steal attempt. Not to be out done, Blatche went back at Brand, using his superior size and athleticism for a driving lay in. It’s taken me nearly a whole season to figure out how Brand gets off a quality look against a larger defender, particularly out of face up situations. He’s always been a bit undersized for his position and has been robbed of most of his vertical leap due to an Achilles injury. When he gets the ball in the post or off of a pick and role, he nearly always sizes up his opponent before rising to shoot. He rarely seems to get blocked mainly because of the length of his arms combined with a slight fade. It seems as if defenders cannot accurately determine where his point of release is. Brand can make a living with that specific shot against second unit defenses for at least two or three more seasons.
  • It was strange to see the Nets not force feed the ball to Brook Lopez (19 points, nine rebounds), particularly in the third where he did not take a single shot attempt. His confidence and skill from the low block is rare in the modern NBA. He’s much stronger and more patient than a casual fan would give him credit for and really has the chance to be a special player if the Nets run an offense more attuned to getting him the ball. Against Dallas, they attempted point guard cross screens which did not work with regularity because it was clear what was coming.
  • When playing in a fast paced offense, turnovers are going to happen. But with Darren Collison (nine points, four turnovers), so many of his turnovers are the kind that he shouldn’t be making at this point in his career. After a Lopez put back basket, Collison attempted to pass ahead to O.J. Mayo. Carlisle has urged the Mavericks to push even off of a made basket, so this was normal. That Collison was unable to see Deron Williams, who stepped in front of the pass for the steal, is maddening. Later in the third, he had a terrible turnover on the screen and roll, attempting to loop a pass over Lopez. Defending after a live ball turnover is exceptionally challenging because the defense has to scramble to get back. The majority of both Collison and O.J. Mayo’s turnovers during the recently losing streak were of the live ball variety.
  • Though Dallas native Deron Williams (24 points) a had turnover plagued evening with seven, his strengths are so readily apparent. He gets to the rim almost at will, particularly when going right. The sort of strength he uses to get off shots is rare in guards, let alone those who handle the ball so well. It often looks like he’s going half speed, but if he were to run a more up tempo offense or if the Nets went to the high screen and roll with Lopez more often, the Nets might have a terrifying offense.
  • The Nets had no answer for Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, eight rebounds), who hit a variety of tough shots over nearly any Nets defender. He finally hit his patented wrong foot fall away over Kris Humphries in he second quarter. Dirk’s attempted this shot (usually off of a spin) three or four times in the last week and while it’s been impossible to stop in years past, Dirk’s leg strength hasn’t been there for him until recently. I hope it becomes a staple in the remaining games.
  • I’ve highly enjoyed the defensive play of Jae Crowder during the last week’s worth of games. Starting Sunday against the Lakers, he defended Kobe as well as anyone this season (that Kobe made a variety of insane shots is besides the point). He continued with decent defense against J.J. Redick, though Redick is the kind of player who causes any NBA rookie fits simply because he is constantly moving and knows how to use his strengths against opposing players. Against the Grizzlies he helped frustrate Mike Conley into a 2 of 13 shooting performance and against the Nets he made a key strip of C.J. Watson as the Nets were attempting to stage a comeback. Early in the season, Carlisle opted to try him on the various small forwards of the NBA and the size he encountered at the position caused him a variety of problems. He’s been much more effective against smaller or weaker guards who can’t deal with his physicality and quick hands. I still think he can turn into a fine defender against NBA small forwards, but asking a rookie to deal with Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony isn’t the easiest of tasks.

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