Playing to the Narrative

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on September 27, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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One of the driving forces in sports today is the idea of the narrative. By definition, a narrative is the representation in art of an event or story. Narratives can be on the nose, but they can often be lazy cookie cutter analysis. That said, it can be quite a driving force in storytelling.

LeBron James had the narrative of being unable to come up clutch. With the game on the line, James would often pass to an open teammate for a game-winning shot. Even though it was the fundamentally sound play, James was lambasted by the media for not taking the last shot. Kobe Bryant is often cited as a clutch player when he’s often missed more game-winning shots than he’s made. Dirk Nowitzki has had his own narrative as many labeled him soft and said he couldn’t be a player that could lead a team to a title.

With a new cast of characters, there’s already a set of narratives in place for all of them. Will they hold true or will they be broken? In order to decide, it’s wise to establish what the narratives are.

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Your Name is All You Have

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on September 25, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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According to various reports, the NBA is considering the Miami Heat and Brookyn Nets to wear special nickname jerseys for a game this season. The natural progression leads to wondering what these type of jerseys would look like for the Dallas Mavericks.

There is a lot of backlash coming from this reported suggestion. Many don’t like the idea of nicknames taking over for the name on the back of the jersey. Phoenix Suns guard Kendall Marshal cited that there is a special value to having his name on the back of his jersey as he is playing and representing his family. It’a a bit of a quandary the league is in with this.

The league is probably the best compared to the rest of pro sports in America, even better than the machine that is the NFL, when it comes to marketing their stars and pushing the envelope in fashion and general apparel.

There are a lot of issues when it comes to the nicknames such as not every player having a nickname or the PG-13-inization of some names. The nickname for Andrei Kirilenko (AK-47) comes to mind.

The league is slowly approaching a time where ads will be on their jerseys. Honestly, the first step in terms of altering names on jerseys was going with Twitter account names as opposed to nicknames. I’m sure that’s still coming down the trail.

Anyway, back to the idea of looking what the jerseys would look like for the Mavs.

Let’s look at the ones we know that are a given.

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Running the Weave: Upgrade or Downgrade

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on August 23, 2013 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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We wrap up the staff’s Q&A this week with a rather simple question. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the various voices giving their insight on the topics.

We’ve got a great staff here at The Two Man Game. I can’t thank them enough for their contributions towards this. They were the driving force for the project.

Let’s run the weave one more time.

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Rorschach: Part One

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

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Quick associations can really describe a situation in its purest form. An immediate reaction to something can really get down to the core, the essence and really establish what is what. Less can sometimes truly be more.

Again, we’ve got some time on our hands hear, so we’re going to look at each of the components of the Mavs in 2013-14 and give an instant, one word reaction to them. It will be the first word that comes to mind when a player/person is presented. After that, a brief explanation for the initial response will come up.

Gersson Rosas will get a pass for this go round, considering we don’t know that much about him.

With all of that in mind, here is the first round of analysis.

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Summer Thoughts Continued

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on August 7, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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As we discussed last week, there are plenty of things to cover with the Mavs. Considering the time of the year, that might come as a shock but there’s been a lot of movement within the organization during the off-season.

Let’s roll with the next part of the Mavs Q&A.

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The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 104, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 24, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-Play Shot Chart Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

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 game was a demonstration of how incredibly simple basketball can be at times; although intense basketball observers attempt to break the game down into dozens of very complicated, interrelated factors, Dallas was ultimately bested by effort, the extra pass, and the open three-pointer. And now, I will proceed to give you 16 more bullet points that are by no means arbitrary, but nonetheless seem rather silly in a game like this one.
  • Manu Ginobili — as a defender — was two or three steps ahead of Rodrigue Beaubois for this entire game. It’s not uncommon to see a young playmaker be stifled by an older, craftier defender, but Ginobili’s ability to peg and deflect Beaubois’ moves was downright uncanny. It’s to Beaubois’ credit that he still managed to notch 10 points and five assists, but even that passable stat line doesn’t convey just how thoroughly marked Beaubois was throughout this particular game.
  • It was certainly noteworthy that even with Shawn Marion’s return to the lineup — and after expressing some concern about Rodrigue Beaubois’ minutes inflating as a product of being in the starting lineup — Rick Carlisle elected to keep Beaubois in the opening set. Lineup variants involving Marion, Beaubois, Jason Kidd, and Dirk Nowitzki haven’t really played enough minutes together this season to be judged for their merits, but matchups depending, this could be a very sensible starting five (save Ian Mahinmi’s substitution for an injured Brendan Haywood) going forward.
  • Dirk Nowitzki had an absolutely horrific game, in which he provided little impact aside from his willingness to seek out contact and put up shots. It was weary legs, it was San Antonio’s active, dynamic defense, and it was a stark contrast just to highlight Nowitzki’s usual efficiency, but most importantly from a game-specific context: it was an outright disaster. There’s simply no other way to look at his 5-of-21 shooting mark, his inability to make an impact on the defensive end, and his noncommittal work on the boards. I’m not saying Nowitzki wasn’t trying, but next to the exemplary effort that the Spurs put forth, it sure seemed like it at times.

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Runaway Train

Posted by admin on April 26, 2010 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

mo·men·tum:
  1. Impetus of a physical object in motion.
  2. Impetus of a nonphysical process, such as an idea or a course of events

(definition from dictionary.com)

NBA games are all about momentum. In Game 4, the Spurs not only seized momentum when they came back from a double-digit deficit in the third quarter, they also managed that momentum effectively and didn’t allow the Mavs to take advantage of what appeared to be giant momentum shift in the fourth quarter.

Let’s take a look at the course of the game’s momentum shifts, including the woulda-coulda-shoulda moments in the fourth quarter when the Mavs couldn’t seem to regain the momentum despite a late-game push.

—–

Momentum Shift #1: Shawn Marion made a layup on a pass from Jason Terry to put the Mavericks up 25-24, after being down 20-24. Immediately after, Matt Bonner missed a three and Brendan Haywood was fouled in the act of shooting. Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan re-enter the game, but didn’t accomplish much, and the Mavs took advantage of poor shooting by both of the Spurs’ stars to go up 15 with 2:33 remaining in the half.

Momentum Shift #2: With two minutes remaining in the half, Jason Terry rolled his ankle on a fast break layup attempt, which was blocked, and the subsequent Spur fast break ended in a Richard Jefferson dunk. The home crowd got back into the game in one sequence. Jason Terry went to the bench and the Spurs took  control, outscoring the Mavericks 38-16 from this point until the start of the fourth quarter.

Should-have-been Momentum Shift #3: Dirk was called for a technical with 1:34 left in the third. On the very next play, Richard Jefferson was called for a flagrant foul for karate chopping Dirk as he went up for a shot. Normally, this course of events would cause a team to rally around their best player, start a run and not look back. Not in this game, though. By this point, the Mavericks had lost the lead and were trying to fight their way back into the game. When Dirk went to the line, the Mavericks were down 57-62. Dirk made both free throws, followed by a Terry missed jumper a George Hill corner three. Any chance of the Mavs gaining momentum was thrown out the window.

Should-have-been Momentum Shift #4: Eduardo Najera got ejected from the game after just 43 seconds of play for a flagrant 2 foul on Manu Ginobili. The Spurs should have completely blown the game open right here, and it looked like they were going to, when Manu made both free throws, then DeJuan Blair got a tip-in on the ensuing play, which made the score 61-70. But no, the next Mavericks possesion was……

Kind-of-was Momentum Shift #5: Blair was called for a flagrant on Jason Kidd (the third flagrant of the game, for those of you counting at home). This play was a small momentum shift, and it allowed the Mavs to get right back into the game, but they never could take back the lead.

—–

All season long, we’ve heard Rick Carlisle and different members of the team talk about focus, or lack thereof. Even after Game 3, we’ve heard the same song and dance from Carlisle and Dirk about the team’s need to focus. I’m sure that for many, the notion that the Mavs would pull it together for the playoffs seemed like a given considering their veteran status. The team may have thought the same, because they look like they’re expecting the focus and drive to just come to them naturally. It hasn’t. Meanwhile, the Spurs are playing like the vetrans they are and are squelching the Mavs opportunities and confidence at every turn.

Basically, in Game 4, whenever the Mavericks should have taken control of the game due to their veteran leadership, instead they instead expected someone else on the team (Dirk) to carry them to victory.

In order for this series and season to be saved, the Maverick veterans need to take advantage of every opening the Spurs give them. Dirk is going to have to become as agressive as he was in Games 1 and 3, especially if the rest of the team is content to stand idly by while expecting Nowitzki to carry them to victory.

This post was written by Blaine Zimmerman. If you’d like to contact Blaine, drop a comment or email him at bzimmerman11b[at]gmail[dot]com.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • Sebastian Pruiti did a fantastic job at NBA Playbook of picking out the specific ways the Spurs were able to beat the Mavs’ zone last night. For starters, combining the three-guard lineup with the zone means that Jason Kidd is often guarding the likes of DeJuan Blair, which isn’t any fun at all.
  • Johnny Ludden continues his coverage of the series with another excellent game-specific piece: “Hill and Blair felt right at home in the middle of it. Young and hungry, both from hardscrabble backgrounds, they have given the Spurs an edge, a toughness, they haven’t always had in recent years. They look the part – between the two of them they have more tattoos than the Spurs’ past three championship teams combined – and also play it. With Duncan making just a single shot and Ginobili missing 12, with Tony Parker looking almost as ordinary, Hill carried the Spurs’ offense, shedding his defenders with a series of crossovers and step-backs, throwing in five 3-pointers on his way to 29 points, just two fewer than the Spurs’ three stars totaled. The Mavs couldn’t keep a body in front of Hill or Blair, who scrapped and fought, frustrating the Dallas big men with his limitless energy…Three minutes into the second half, the Mavs led by 12. By the end of the third quarter, they were down seven, losing their grip on the game and maybe the series. Over the course of a week, Gregg Popovich’s dog pound had somehow transformed from poodle to pit bull.”
  • Kelly Dwyer, peeking Behind the Box Score: “…[the Mavs] did play sound D on Duncan. Tim missed some chippies, but he only got nine shots off, clearly a function of the Dallas defense. The Mavs just didn’t have enough shot-makers running things in the second half, as Jason Kidd’s 3-10 mark actually raised his playoff shooting percentage to 28.6 percent from the floor. Even with all these nasty stats, this might be my favorite series thus far. Competitive basketball from two teams that just don’t seem to know any better. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle should be on the hot seat for some of his rotation choices, but I’m openly rooting for seven games. Rotate accordingly, Rick.”
  • Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk notes that the Mavs’ salary situation won’t allow for an easy off-season overhaul should they bow out early from the playoffs. I agree, but with one clarification: that’s never stopped Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson before. If they want to make moves and there are pieces available, they will make moves.
  • Shawn Marion, via Marc Stein: “I’ve been in this situation. It can be done. I don’t see no fat lady.”
  • According to Wayne Winston’s lineup ratings, the Mavs’ two most effective lineups have been of the three-guard variety.
  • Apparently the Suns started focusing on their defense because of Jason Terry.
  • ADDED: More glorious photo captioning courtesy of Doc Funk.
  • ADDED: Dan Devine compiled a bevy of perspectives on Caron Butler’s poor play in Game 4 for Ball Don’t Lie. (H/T Phil in the comments.)
  • ADDED: Henry Abbott, reflecting on a Hill-Beaubois parallel: “Watching that same game, I couldn’t help but marvel once again the value of young legs. Of course, in the playoffs, you can’t play anyone who makes a lot of mistakes, as some young players — including Hill, last year — do. But if you have a player who makes good decisions and has young legs … that’s awesome. Then, if you’re in Dallas, you have to wonder about the magical, but benched, Rodrique Beaubois. Was there no way to have him groomed to be ready, right now, to do such things for Dallas?”
  • ADDED: Charles Barkley thinks that Caron Butler “is probably [the Mavs'] second best player and you’ve got to play him.” Really, Chuck? Really? (H/T Ben Q. Rock)

San Antonio Spurs 92, Dallas Mavericks 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 25, 2010 under Recaps | 15 Comments to Read

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

Any event, once it has occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent historian.”
-Lee Simonson

Admittedly, I’m a bit tired of the Mavs being both incredibly predictable and uncomfortably surprising.

On the offenseive end, the Mavs’ limitations are the same old, same old: there aren’t enough players around Dirk who can create shots. Jason Terry’s pull-up game is nice but only when he’s hitting, Caron Butler’s ability to drive is comforting but he’s both resistant of it and can’t finish, and the rest of the Mavs are largely situational scorers that can only complete plays if put in very specific situations. For all of the moves, the money, and the hype, these Mavericks are more or less the same team that they’ve always been.

You can’t walk into every Maverick game knowing precisely what to expect, though. For one, it’s unclear exactly which opposing role player Dallas will allow to thoroughly demean them. Maybe it’s George Hill, like it was tonight, or Richard Jefferson, like it was in Game 2, or DeJuan Blair, like it was in the regular season finale. That’s one regard in which the Mavs will always keep their fans guessing, as you never know when they might give up 52 points to Andre Miller.

That’s the Dallas Mavericks in a nutshell: too predictable on offense, too unpredictable on defense. They have yet to find the magical balance where they can still bewilder their opponents without also startling themselves, and it’s that quality that separates the Mavs from the Spurs, much less teams like the Cavs or the Magic. It’s that quality that has Dallas on the brink of elimination, facing a seemingly impossible three-game gauntlet just to move on to the second round.

That fate is, of course, made even more depressing by a few factors. The Mavs led by 15 points in the first half, and looked to be responding well to the pressure of a “must-win” Game 4. Tim Duncan scored just four points on 1-of-9 shooting and Manu Ginobili shot 25% from the field despite tying the team high in shot attempts. Dallas was right there at the end yet again, despite playing one of the worst third quarters in the post-Greg Ostertag era. You’d think in a game where the Mavs held a substantial lead, the opposing Big Three totaled just 37 points, and their own shortcomings were remedied by a shot at greatness, that something would end up going Dallas’ way. It didn’t. The lead was an empty memory, the Spurs’ stars’ struggles were erased by an incredible game from George Hill, and the Mavs’ second-half struggles should haunt them long into the off-season.

This was a game Dallas could have won and should have won. They just didn’t, and while there is some consolation in knowing that all of the Mavericks’ losses have been close, that very fact also makes them incredibly heartbreaking.

I think it would be difficult to fully comprehend everything that happened in the third quarter. It was a bizarre intersection of turnovers, poor defense, and iffy shot selection, and the magnitude of that 12 minutes (or even the first six minutes, in which Dallas went completely scoreless) likely warrants a post of its own. Maybe the Mavs will miraculously climb out of the 1-3 hole they now find themselves in, and we can all laugh and reminisce about how dire it all seemed. But should the rest of the series play out as expected, Dallas won’t have died rolling over in Game 5, toughing it out in Game 6, or clawing to the last in Game 7. They’ll have fallen whiffing, caving, and settling in the third quarter of Game 4.

It’s a shame.

As I mentioned before, George Hill (29 points, 11-of-16 shooting) was beyond impressive. He was deadly from the corners, but just as efficient from mid-range. That’s what surprised me most about Hill’s performance: most of his damage came strictly from jumpers, as a loose ball found its way into his hands or he was left open off a pick-and-roll rotation. With Dirk (17 points on a measly 10 shot attempts, 11 rebounds, four assists, three turnovers) held down by Antonio McDyess and shackled by the Spurs’ double-teams, no Maverick could even attempt to match Hill’s scoring production. Terry (17 points, 5-of-11 FG, six rebounds) tried, and Butler (17 points on 18 shot attempts, three turnovers) really tried, but it wasn’t enough. Haywood and Kidd managed to chip in 10 apiece, but where is the scoring option that can take advantage of the double teams on Dirk? Where is the scorer that will elevate the Mavs above their .416 mark from the field?

The Spurs, by contrast, won in spite of subpar performances by their stars. Duncan couldn’t hit a thing (1-for-9), but it didn’t matter. Hill provided the scoring, DeJuan Blair was so good that his mortal offerings on the stat sheet (seven points, seven rebounds) seem like a joke, and Richard Jefferson was both more productive and more efficient than Tony Parker. It turns out that this is what depth looks like, and though the Mavs would seem to have it in spades, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson seemed to have done nothing more than make the world’s most ferocious paper tiger.

This post honestly isn’t supposed to be an outright hit; there are still plenty of positive things to take out of Game 4 and the effort was there even if the execution wasn’t. But suffering another close loss by the Spurs’ hand doesn’t make this 1-3 deficit any less glaring or any more manageable. Dallas will need something truly remarkable to advance to the second round, and based on how the Spurs have answered the Mavs at almost every turn, deeming a comeback ‘improbable’ may be too kind.

Heard It Through The Grapevine

Posted by admin on April 22, 2010 under xOther | 4 Comments to Read

  • Jesse Blanchard from 48 Minutes of Hell discusses how the Spurs adjusted to contain Dirk: “Given the same looks he has gotten in the first two games, and they have been the same despite the vastly different outcomes, on most nights Nowitzki will produce a stat line that looks like  8-17 from the field and four to five free throw attempts. A great line, but hardly unmanageable.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie notes that the Mavs’ Game 2 offensive performance was atypical: “Dallas was stinko, in that regard. Save for the late comeback mentioned above (after trailing for double-digits for most of the contest, the Mavs got it down to five points before Duncan and Ginobili put it away), Rick Carlisle’s team consistently failed to connect on shots that, I’m sorry, they’ve consistently made for years.”
  • Apparently, DeJuan Blair has a new nickname.
  • Spurs owner Peter Holt responds to Mark Cuban’s comments regarding “hating” the Spurs: “Listen, there might be some people in the league that are mad at him, but I’m not mad at him. Anything that raises the awareness is only good for us.”
  • Johnny Ludden of Yahoo explains Tim Duncan’s post-season focus, and with Duncan turning 34 on Sunday, Ludden spotlights the implications of Duncan’s age: “As much as anyone, Duncan settles into a rhythm in the postseason, which spares him the grind of back-to-back games. He’s at the age where any day off is a good day. Popovich’s decision to hold Duncan out of the season finale afforded him five days to rest before the playoffs. He received another two days before Game 2. ‘I’m feeling a lot better and I’m re-energized,’ Duncan said. That’s why it was imperative for the Spurs to win one of these first two games. The series now shifts to an every-other-day format, which should favor the deeper Mavs. The Spurs can’t ignore that reality, nor do they pretend Duncan is the same force he was seven seasons ago, when he won his second MVP award. Last year’s knee problems spurred him to lose 15 pounds during the summer, and no longer does he command a double team as often as he once did…But this, too, is also true: ‘He’ll never lose his skill set,’ Dirk Nowitzki said. Come Sunday, Duncan will have another birthday to celebrate, another game to play. And if the Spurs’ season needs saving again? Yes, Tim Duncan is both older and wiser. No one should think he is done.
  • As usual, Rick Carlisle kept his cool during the post-game interview.
  • Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas writes that when Kidd isn’t playing well, neither are the Mavericks.

This post was written by Blaine Zimmerman. If you’d like to contact Blaine, drop a comment or email him at bzimmerman11b[at]gmail[dot]com.