The Indiana Pacers were well aware of the fact that the Dallas Mavericks were one game away from shaving their beards. Indiana manhandled Dallas en route to a 103-78 victory. This was the worst loss for the Mavericks since their first matchup against the Houston Rockets to start the month (suffered a 136-103 loss on Mar. 3). Pacers forward Paul George tallied a game-high 24 points to go along with eight rebounds, a team-high six assists and three steals in 38 minutes.
Dirk Nowitzki totaled a team-high 21 points and seven boards in 33 minutes against Indiana on Thursday. He scored 20-plus points for the sixth time in his last nine games (15th time this season). Nowitzki is averaging 20.7 points on 54. 1 percent shooting (.419 3FG) over his last 10 games. Dirk is averaging 19.1 points and 8.3 rebounds since the All-Star break. He is shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 44.4 percent (24-of-54) from beyond the arc since the break.
Fortunately for the Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks. That means Dallas didn’t lose any actual ground to Los Angeles in the standings. By being two games under .500 now, the earliest they can shave is now Apr. 2, They would be able to do so by beating the Chicago Bulls and…the Los Angeles Lakers.
Some notes before the quotes:
- With the total being 55-34, Indiana clobbered Dallas on the glass. Nov. 24 against the Lakers still remains the largest rebounding deficit the Mavericks had this year (-22).
- After the game was tied at 41 at halftime, Indiana outscored Dallas 34-17 in the third quarter. Dallas shot 7-of-20 (35.0 percent) from the field in the third quarter. Indiana shot 14-of-20 (70.0 percent) from the field.
- Dallas shot 38.6 percent from the field in the loss. Dallas had shot above 40 percent in 31 straight coming into the game. That was their longest streak since 41 in 1987, and the franchise record is 72 from Jan. 1986 through Dec. 1986. Minus Dirk’s 10-of-20 shooting line, the Mavericks shot 22-of-63 (34.9 percent) from the field.
- Dallas is now 5-26 on the year when they score less than 100 points, 3-26 when they shoot below 45 percent from the field.
- The 78 points scored by the Mavericks ties their second-lowest scoring output for the season. The 74 they scored against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 14 marks their lowest total for the year.
Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ dud against Indiana.
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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.
- [11:26, 1st] – Brendan Haywood catches an entry pass from Vince Carter in the high post, and awkwardly anchors the offense from the elbow. He doesn’t panic, but does immediately look to get the ball to Dirk Nowitzki, who has been waiting patiently in the right corner. Nowitzki makes the catch on the wing, and immediately moves toward Haywood for the ever unconventional 4-5 pick and roll. He slides around the pick, but there is no roll, and no dribble penetration whatsoever; tucked behind Haywood’s screen, Dirk elevates for a jumper that leaves both David West and Roy Hibbert at arm’s distance. The ball splashes through the net, and drips with confidence.
- [10:52, 1st] - Carter inbounds the ball to a flaring Rodrigue Beaubois, who looks to initiate the offense from the left wing. So around an impromptu Haywood screen he goes, and upon entering the paint, Beaubois hits a revving Shawn Marion on the opposite side for a driving counter from the right. Three Pacers are drawn to him, choosing to suffocate Marion’s runner rather than stick to their respective assignments. Nowitzki, who had been waiting at the top of the key, is the beneficiary.
- [8:26, 1st] – The high pick and roll is a staple of virtually every team’s offense, and the Mavs have the luxury of running that play action with a wide variety of player combinations. On this occasion, Carter looks to work to the left side of the floor with Nowitzki acting as the screener. David West hedges early to deflect that action, allowing Paul George plenty of time to recover back onto Carter. However, that pick-and-roll set has effectively functioned as a beautiful guise for a Nowitzki iso; West’s recovery left a perfect window for an uncontested entry pass, allowing Dirk a clean catch and a chance to face up without the threat of a double team. He pivots forward. He measures up West. He stunts and then rises, launching a jumper over West’s vertical extension that seeps through the net.
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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin, only this time that margin is only one point, and the one corresponding bullet is really just a multi-paragraph bit that sticks to one basic theme.
If this were the Mavs’ first questionable performance in some time, this might be an understandable loss. After all, for whatever reason, professional teams are no strangers to letdown in a game like this one; Chris Paul watched from the sidelines, and a team that is so reliant on him for offensive stability seemed dead in the water against a quality club like Dallas. That clearly wasn’t the case, and while a one-point loss after a number of improbable Hornet makes isn’t the most torturous outcome for the Maverick faithful, this performance is an extension of the team’s depressed play of late. The Mavs are considered contenders because of what they’re capable of, but they certainly haven’t been living up to their top billing in recent weeks.
A slow, 82-game march toward the playoffs characteristically consists of wins and losses of most every type. There are blowouts in either direction, heart-breakers, momentum-shifters, near-losses, statement affairs, and everything else one can possibly imagine. Most teams don’t get through the year without experiencing them all, and thus all are a regular part of the in-season cycle. This is different. This is not a single loss or even a single pair of losses. It’s not a dropped game against a star-less team, or an underwhelming performance to wrap up a road trip. This loss is an indictment. It’s an indication of real weakness, and its a reason why I’m still hesitant to put Dallas on the same platform where San Antonio and Los Angeles currently reside.
The Mavs rank 28th in offensive rebounding rate and 13th in defensive rebounding rate, and they allowed themselves — Tyson Chandler aside — to be thoroughly out-muscled and out-hustled to rebound after rebound. That kind of thing doesn’t change against the likes of Tim Duncan, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol, and it’s likely among Rick Carlisle’s concerns for this team moving forward. As strong as they’ve been at times on defense, the Mavs allowed a team with Jarrett Jack as the initiator of its offense to produce at a rate of 106.9 points per 100 possessions, all while Jack cackled with every bucket or assist. Trevor Ariza missed every single one of his 10 field goal attempts, David West shot 5-of-12 from the field and had a respectable but underwhelming 16 points, and the Mavs still didn’t win. Dallas couldn’t quite make it out to the perimeter to contest Marco Belinelli, despite the fact that none of Belinelli’s teammates were really posing that much of a threat. Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler excluded, Dallas just didn’t have the firepower; those who were scoring somewhat efficiently couldn’t create more opportunities against New Orleans’ defense (or else weren’t given the opportunity), and those who tried (Rodrigue Beaubois and Jason Terry, primarily) didn’t have much success. Jason Kidd went 0-fer on seven attempts for good measure.
Wednesday night’s game wasn’t a spectacular failure on either end of the court, but it was an occasion where Dallas ceded too much ground in every regard to a rudderless team. Make no mistake — without Chris Paul, that’s what this Hornets squad becomes, and that’s who got the better of the Mavs. Things were as they should have been at points throughout the game, but the significance of this loss goes well beyond what it means today. Maybe we can all look back at this game in a few months’ time and laugh, but for now it seems a pretty fitting asterisk on the team’s success: this year’s Mavs are very beatable, their defense is strong but not impenetrable, and their offense stable but not universally consistent.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Comfort was allowed to come to them rare, welcome, unsought: a gift like joy.””
-Ursula K. LeGuin
Jason Terry curled around a screen. He streaked by his teammate and his defender. He rose. He fired. With the gradual click of grinding gears, the Mavericks’ universe balanced itself. With each give goes a take, with each reaction an equal and opposite reaction.
Statistically speaking, Dallas’ defense is the strength on which they’ve built their season, but it’s the improvements in the offense that give just as much reason for hope. Jason Kidd won’t score 16 points every game, but other than that, Dallas didn’t do anything out of character. Dirk Nowitzki faced up and hit over his defenders. Jason Terry found the ball when plays needed to be made, and had a fantastic second half to balance a crummy first one. Other than that, Kidd knocked down spot-up attempts, J.J. Barea got to the rim a few times with mixed results, and Tyson Chandler finished a few inside. There’s nothing to see here, other than Dallas’ offense executing against one of the best defenses in the league, doing nothing apart from what they do on a nightly basis.
The Mavs have been haunted in the past by their predictability, but this is one case in which familiarity offers sure comfort. Opponents should know that Dirk and JET are central to the Mavs’ offense, but Rick Carlisle and his staff have done a great job of freeing up both players in a variety of ways. This year, it’s been Dallas that meticulously picks apart opposing defenses with smart cuts, well-planned picks, and expert shooting. From a taglined perspective, it’s still Nowitzki and Terry, but their ability to get open consistently and execute against defenses like Boston and New Orleans is promising.
Of course, what happens to that offensive balance and flow when Caron Butler is reintroduced to the lineup is still a concern. Wednesday’s rematch with the Hornets could end up being an interesting case study on Caron’s impact, for better or worse.
As I mentioned in The Difference, Dallas’ second-half defense on Chris Paul (or on pick-and-rolls in general) should be commended. It’s not just the decision to put Tyson Chandler on David West, which turned out to be a fantastic strategic call, but the execution against the pick-and-roll by the team defense was top-notch. It was Chandler, it was Barea, it was Terry, Kidd, Nowitzki, Marion…every Maverick on the floor was rotating well, and the chosen concession was to give three-pointers for Willie Green, Peja Stojakovic, and occasionally Trevor Ariza. Those players get a pat on the head for hitting their open shots, but that was an excellent choice considering the alternatives. Paul was corralled, West was smothered. The ball was put in the hands of New Orleans’ lesser talents, and that’s something Dallas can live with, even if Green decided to be an above-average NBA player for a night.
Well-planned, and well-played, Mavs. Now do it all again on Wednesday.
- The Hornets lost, and it doesn’t really matter. I’m sure they’d prefer to still be undefeated, but New Orleans is a damn good basketball team.
- I could watch Tyson Chandler hedge on pick-and-rolls all day.
- This wasn’t Shawn Marion’s game. His five turnovers were killer, and to make matters worse, he wasn’t all that successful defensively. Marion can easily get lost on a night like this one, in which the opponent has no clear scoring option on the wing. Marion isn’t the type of defender the Mavs want chasing Peja Stojakovic down the baseline. He’s the type of defender you want to blanket a superstar wing scoring in isolation. Matchups like these negate Marion’s strengths, and though he did some good things on the court, the circumstances didn’t exactly help him along.
- Jason Terry deserves much more credit than he received in this recap, but rest assured, more is coming on JET’s performance. The same goes for Dallas’ fourth-quarter defense.
- I’m not sure there’s a more infuriating player to defend in the NBA than Chris Paul. He’s sickeningly good, and that makes the task of D-ing him up a tough one in itself. But factor in the fouls he draws both in the half-court offense and in transition by exaggerating contact, and it’s a miracle that anyone guarding Paul can keep their head. Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups are just as crafty with their manipulations of perception, but neither combines CP’s blend of top-level production and infuriating extracurricular activity.
- Jason Terry’s defense really is much improved this season. Not only is he covering better in general, but it seems as though he’s somehow improved his anticipation in the passing lanes. Maybe JET is just more selective with his more blatant steal attempts, but he can really disrupt ball movement on the perimeter.
- Brendan Haywood. Yeesh.
- Dallas has actually run plays designed to get Shawn Marion mid-range jumpers this season, and they’re working. My guess is that they’re sets frequently used by the starting lineup to free up Caron for a jumper at the free throw line extended, and Marion is benefiting from sliding into Butler’s role. Regardless, Marion is making them, and he’s 3-of-3 in such sequences by my highly unofficial count.
- The zone will give up threes, but opponents would be smart to put their most prolific three-point shooter on Dirk Nowitzki’s side of the zone. Dirk got burned a few times in this one by corner shooters, and given his responsibilities to collapse in the lane and his relatively slow recovery speed, I’d say that Nowitzki’s corner (usually the right one) is one of the zone’s more vulnerable points.
- This was just a wildly entertaining game. If you didn’t have a chance to watch it, I highly recommend tracking down the game via League Pass Broadband, etc. The fourth quarter alone was one of the more entertaining frames in any NBA game this season.
- J.J. Barea finished with three shot attempts at the rim, five rebounds, four assists, and no turnovers. I’d say he’s settled in nicely after his early struggles, wouldn’t you?
- DeShawn Stevenson and Brian Cardinal finished with two threes apiece. I don’t buy into the “Cardinal doing the little things” rhetoric on most occasions, but I can definitely understand using him as a stopgap when he’s hitting his open shots.
- Something needs to be said about Dirk Nowitzki’s passing. Dirk hit a game-tying three-pointer with a little more than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but he gave up a three in transition — a Nowitzki favorite — so that Kidd could get an even better look in the corner. Then, within the final minute, Dirk set up Terry out of the two man game for an open jumper. Nowitzki would love nothing more than to have taken a shot in both situations, but he deferred, and it paid off.
The Difference is a new feature here at The Two Man Game, in which I’ll provide a bit of instant analysis on games shortly after they occur rather than the following morning. The longer, more detailed recaps will be up as soon as they’re available, but consider these morsels your post-game snack to hold you over until then.
For this feature, I’ll offer one bullet point for each point in the margin of victory. That makes this first installment fairly simple, but fun will be had when the blowouts come. Let’s not have another 50-point win though, eh?
- After a 20-point, five-assist, four-rebound first half in which he shot 72.7% from the field, Chris Paul went 1-for-5 for two points and four assists in the game’s final 24 minutes. There are three individuals to credit/blame. Paul himself was kinder to the Mavs in the second half, as he traded his weaving, probing style for a less audacious approach. Tyson Chandler deserves a heap of credit for challenging Paul’s jumpers aggressively, and showing well on almost every pick-and-roll he was involved in. The third player who deserves some sort of nightly hardware? J.J. Barea. Everyone’s favorite scapegoat got a bit of a raw deal at times from the officiating crew, but he fought hard from the top of the zone to keep Paul covered. New Orleans clearly had plans to exploit him, but Barea scrapped, Paul faded, and Dallas won.
- Peja Stojakovic turned back the clock with a throwback performance, but Willie Green turned the very laws of the universe. Long-time Mavs fans should be quite familiar with Stojakovic’s shooting potential give how good he was for the Sacramento Kings earlier in the decade, but Green has never and still is not a very good basketball player. He’s also not a particularly efficient shooter. The stars just aligned. Then they collapsed, merged into a giant black hole, and pulled all of us through an NBA wormhole. Apparently, we are now in the dimension in which it makes perfect sense for Green, who is shooting 18.2% from three this season, to make three of his four attempts from deep.
- The Mavs’ decision to match up Tyson Chandler with David West and Dirk Nowitzki with Emeka Okafor may seem like an odd one, but it was quite effective. Nowitzki’s interior defense is strong enough to challenge the robotic, predictable Okafor inside, and Chandler did a fantastic job of challenging West all over the court. The Nowitzki-West matchup — a red herring in the Mavs’ 2008 playoff loss to the Hornets — is no more, and in its place is something far less dramatic but far more beneficial for Dallas. New Orleans’ two starting bigs combined to shoot 7-of-24 from the field for the game and turned the ball over five times.
- I’ve received some excellent submissions for my Call to Arms, but more candidates can never hurt. I’m really quite pleased with the response and could probably roll out as is, but in case you missed the call the first time around and are interested in becoming a regular contributor for the site, check out the post.
- Sporcle quizzes are tremendous fun. Sporcle quizzes about the Mavs? Well, they’re just dreamy. (via greensborohill on the DB.com message boards). What’s your score?
- You guys commented, and I listened. To everyone who had a problem with the previous tagline for the site, take a look at the new, slightly-altered banner.
- Mike Fisher and Luke Kammrath have unveiled “Adjusted Win Percentage” Power Rankings at DallasBasketball.com, which is an interesting concept. I still don’t buy into the power ranking craze, but I definitely appreciate what Fish and Kammrath are trying to do. That said, I have a few concerns. Primarily, if one of the central points of contention with Hollinger’s rankings were that the weighting of the criteria were arbitrary, the AWP rankings aren’t any better. Are the seven percentages that factor in all weighted equally? If so, why? And if not, why not? That said, I appreciate the compromise in including both point differential (via Pythagorean win-loss) and close game winning percentage, though the decision on what is a “close game” is always going to be arbitrary as well.
- Kelly Dwyer: “Dallas got off to a great start in this one, they had the Hornets down double-figures early, but seemed to want to let New Orleans set the tone from there on out. As if they expected NOLA to lie down after the quick start. The Hornets did not, clearly, and made up for some cold shooting from Darren Collison by forcing turnovers (Dallas coughed it up in one of every five possessions) and going through David West...Dirk Nowitzki…had five turnovers. Or, as many turnovers as he had in the week of March 13th to the 20th, in over 116 minutes of play.”
- A happy birthday to Jason Kidd, who turns 37 today.
- An interesting note from Tom Haberstroh, part of the HoopData revolution that is slowly taking over the world: “From the @ shot location files: Caron Butler has shot better on long 2s than layups in DAL.”
- Ryan Schwan of Hornets 247: “Nothing makes me smile like Jason Kidd putting the ball on the floor in the half-court. It’s rare when that results in something good for the Mavs.”
- Michael Jordan, starring in: “If I Could Be Like Mark.” Wait, what?
Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy — the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.”
There are some things in this world that we take for granted. The sun will come up tomorrow. Our technology, that helps us, guides us, conveniences us, and protects us, will not fail. That the institutions with a huge influence on our lives — governmental bodies, banks, etc. — will work with the best interest of the population at large in mind. These are things that we likely only give thought to in the event that they fail, which doesn’t give the proper due to the steady but impactful forces in our lives.
The Dallas Mavericks are apparently resolved to never fall into that category.
If you even begin to take this team for granted — even their leadership, their execution — they’ll make you a fool. They’ll cough up 14 turnovers over the span of two quarters. They’ll go six minutes without scoring a single point and surrender a 23-0 run to a Hornets team that really isn’t that good. They’ll give up 20+ points to not only David West (25 points, 10-17 FG, six rebounds, 10 assists) and Marcus Thornton (28 points, 12-22 FG, 4-9 3FG), who are very talented scorers, but also to Morris Peterson (20 points, 8-11 FG, 4-7 3FG, five rebounds). It was a 36-minute defensive disaster, and though the Mavs once held a 16-point lead in the opening frame, it wasn’t enough to save them from the clinic the Hornets ran over the final three quarters.
That’s an important distinction. The Hornets won this game. They didn’t stumble into success; they earned it with their defense and their effectiveness in transition and from the perimeter. I’m not in any way saying the Mavs aren’t culpable for the way they played, because Rick Carlisle should demand accountability from this team. They’re too good and too experienced for anything less. But New Orleans still played some incredibly impressive basketball from the first quarter on.
They were white-hot from beyond the arc, as good ball movement (33 assists on 45 field goals) and strong cuts opened up shooters from all over. The Hornets are in the top third of the league in three-point shooting percentage, but they looked nothing short of elite last night. Peterson and Thornton combined for eight makes alone from the beyond the arc, and the team as a whole shot 50% on 24 attempts. That shooting combined with David West’s interior scoring was more than enough to anchor New Orleans’ half-court offense.
But all of that is manageable. The Mavs have dealt with teams that are skilled operating on the perimeter before (Phoenix, Orlando, etc.), and they’re certainly capable of doing it again. But a team shooting so well from just about everywhere on the court doesn’t need to be handed points, and that’s exactly what the Mavs did with their 18 turnovers, a vast majority of which came over the game’s horrific middle quarters. That gave the Hornets entirely too many opportunities for transition buckets, which made what could have been a perfectly winnable game (even given the six-minute scoreless stretch the Mavs had spanning the second and third quarters) into a bit of a laugher. That’s usually what happens when one team allows the other three 30+ point quarters in a row.
99 points is enough, and that’s with Dirk resting over the final eight minutes. Making 52% of your shots is enough, and that’s with Jason Kidd (six points, six assists, three turnovers) and Caron Butler (12 points, six rebounds) combining to go 7-for-21. The Mavs were scoring at a rate of 108.8 points per 100 possessions, which would register as a top five offense. But when you allow your opponent to 126.4 points per 100 possessions, you’re going to face some problems. I’m not sure where the defense went or why it decided to take a sudden vacation, but the Mavs would be wise to track it down. The search starts on the perimeter and goes inward.
- Jason Terry ditched his protective face mask, apparently because he has regained some of the feeling in his face. Doctors have advised him to wear it for the rest of the season, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Especially not after dropping 24 points on 16 shots without it.
- Chris Paul (11 points, three assists) returned to the starting lineup, but he actually didn’t have all that much to do with this win. That’s a bit scary. This game was kind of reminiscent of the Mavs January loss to the Lakers in that way: a limited superstar was technically on the floor, but wasn’t necessarily a reason why Dallas lost at all. The Mavs were taken down by Paul’s supporting cast, and that’s no bueno. As a follower of the Mavs, I’m obviously not thrilled to see Chris Paul back in uniform. But at the same time, as an NBA fan, how could you not be excited? Even if there’s some bitterness over when Paul downed the Mavs in the playoffs in 2008, Chris is such a special player. I’m convinced of Paul’s greatness, as in eventual historical greatness, and you’re honestly missing out if you don’t take every opportunity to appreciate his game now.
- Caron Butler’s vice: the jab-step, jab-step, jab-step long two-point jumper with his heels on the three-point line. It’s almost always contest, but sometimes goes in. The sometimes is not a positive, as the makes only encourage him to do it again and again.
- Wow, Marcus Thornton. I don’t get a chance to talk about him much around here, but how could you not like his game? His double-clutch reverse layup around Erick Dampier was just plain beautiful. I was pretty high on Thornton around the draft, but I didn’t expect this. Not for him to be this good this fast.
- Slightly alarming offensive note: Dirk Nowitzki shot 67% from the field, but only put up 12 field goal attempts. That’s as many as Shawn Marion. The Mavs were getting Nowitzki plenty of good looks when they settled into their sets, but the Dallas turnover splurge hurt Dirk’s attempts more than anyone else. Dirk was responsible for five of them himself, which is more than a tad uncharacteristic.
- Signs of life from Brendan Haywood (10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks), who had played poorly in his last three. Only ten minutes of action for Erick Dampier, though, all of which came in the first half. Something happening there.
- The Hornets broke a three-game losing streak, and the Mavs have now lost three of their last four.
- Darren Collison deserves mention for his excellent play off the bench. He finished with 16 points and eight assists in 35 minutes, though he only shot 6-of-15 from the field. Impressive nonetheless. And who says Collison and Paul can’t play together?
- An odd sequence to end the game, as James Posey was called for a flagrant foul on Rodrigue Beaubois with 0.4 seconds remaining. The play wasn’t malicious, but Posey did make contact with Beaubois’ head.
Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“All good things arrive unto them that wait – and don’t die in the meantime.”
If it wasn’t crystal clear that easy baskets are the Mavs’ best friend, take note. Write it in red, underline it, and trace over it over and over again until it makes an etching in the rest of your notepad, the desk below it, the foundation of the building you’re in, and the molten core of the planet Earth. Dallas may not need a ton of transition buckets to win games, but the Mavs’ running game plays enough of a role that it can be the demonstrative difference between a dominant win and a nail-biter.
Not to lean too heavily on the “tale of two halves” platitude, but…well, it was a tale of two halves. The game’s first 24 minutes was about as dominant as Maverick basketball gets. The defense was creating turnovers (which as we well know, is not usually a strength) to ignite the break in the second quarter, and some great ball movement (23 of the Mavs’ 31 assists came in the first half) and fast breaking opportunities allowed the Mavs to put up 69 points in two quarters. Dallas led New Orleans by 19 at halftime, had created clear separation thanks to some explosive offense, and seemed set for a second-half snoozer with some late-game rest for Jason Kidd (13 points, nine assists, five rebounds, seven turnovers) and Dirk Nowitzki (36 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, no turnovers).
Not so. Jeff Bower had the Hornets making some serious defensive adjustments in the second half, and the Mavs’ pass-happy ways that had led to so many easy buckets in the first half turned on them completely. Jason Kidd had five turnovers in the third quarter alone, and though Darren Collison did a nice job of pressuring the ball, the real credit goes to an assortment of Hornets playing the passing lanes and picking off Kidd’s would-be assists. The game slowed down and the Mavs broke down, giving Collison (a career high 35 points, three assists, five turnovers) and Marcus Thornton (21 points, five rebounds) ample opportunity to carve into Dallas’ early lead. Both took full advantage as the Mavs’ defense focused on stopping David West, and on that front they were wholly successful; West with just 10 points on 20% shooting with four turnovers, though with eight rebounds and six assists.
The Mavs’ biggest problems weren’t on the defensive end, though I’d hardly call New Orleans’ 106.4 points per 100 possessions any kind of success. The primary troubles came with the Mavs inability to execute in half-court sets, though it was largely due to Dallas swinging for home runs rather than the steady single. Jason Kidd in particular wasn’t settling the Mavs into the offense, and a sequence of passes by Kidd and Terry compounded with a few missed jumpers keyed a 10-0 third quarter run for the Hornets. It’s hard to get too upset considering the Mavs were ultimately just trying to do too much, and especially because when they badly needed buckets late in the fourth quarter, they isolated Dirk Nowitzki and let him go to work. The results in those situations typically speak for themselves, and this was no exception. James Posey may have, at some point, been the prototypical defender for Dirk: skilled, hard-working, smart, athletic, long. But Nowitzki dropped 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the fourth, which was enough to give the Mavs a late surge and a sure victory.
- Caron Butler (19 points, five rebounds, four steals) isn’t known for his defense, despite his reputation as a tough player. But his steal with 51 seconds remaining of the game was crucial to preserving the Mavs’ lead…even if Brendan Haywood’s subsequent uncalled offensive basket interference should have turned the tide.
- I understand the need for bench depth, but the more minutes and shot attempts the Hornets give to Morris Peterson instead of Marcus Thornton, the worse they’ll be. There was a time where Mo Pete was a solid option as a shooting guard, and though he’s never been a gold standard for the position, he was more than capable of being a quality shooter and scorer for a good team. No longer, as each jump shot is more a shot in the dark, and all of his insubstantial production comes at a direct cost to a younger, better player that could stand to play even more. It’s not an issue right now, with Chris Paul out and Darren Collison logging major minutes in his place. But I worry that with the priority on Collison’s development as a point guard prospect (for either a 6th man role or to use as trade bait), Chris Paul’s return to the lineup will inevitably cut into Thornton’s production/opportunities just because of some ridiculous notion that Mo Pete deserves his due.
- Brendan Haywood may have played his worst game as a Maverick on Sunday night…and he had 12 points, nine rebounds (five offensive), two blocks, two steals, and no turnovers. Makes you wonder if Carlisle, Nelson, and Cuban are happy with the trade returns on Josh Howard.
- J.J. Barea didn’t have a high-scoring night, but he ran the offense to perfection for the entirety of the second quarter. He had eight assists and just one turnover in the frame, and for how brilliant Rodrigue Beaubois has been at times this season, I’m not sure he’s had a sustained performance that could fully match how J.J. fueled the team’s surge in the second quarter. The few Barea supporters left in MavsLand: here is your 12-minute long piece of video evidence.
- Caron Butler is looking more and more comfortable in the offense. He’s hitting his jumpers from his comfort zones along the baseline, and though he’s not quite a force in attacking the basket, he’s remaining assertive.
- Eddie Najera is starting to worry me a little bit. He’s not in the game for long enough stretches to make any kind of significant negative impact (and part of the drop-off is negated by his hustle), but I can’t wait to see how this rotation functions with Dampier back in the mix.
Photo by AP Photo/Bill Haber.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
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 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.