Setting the Table: Detroit Pistons (Game 17)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on December 1, 2012 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks (7-9) will host the Detroit Pistons (5-12) on Saturday night. Despite having two struggling teams going at it, the night will be special as for the eighth year, the Dallas Mavericks and American Airlines are joining together for the annual “Seats for Soldiers” event. Mavericks season ticket holders will provide a special tribute to U.S. military personnel by donating their seats to wounded soldiers. Over 100 wounded service members from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and other troops on reserve in the
Dallas/Fort Worth area will travel to Dallas to see the Mavericks play the Pistons.

Dallas Mavericks season ticket holder Neal Hawks originated the concept, and he and other front-row season ticket holders have again generously donated their courtside seats for the game, valued at more than $350,000. The Mavericks are 6-1 (.857) all-time in “Seats for Soldiers” games, most recently defeating that Jazz (103-97) at American Airlines Center on 12/11/10. Dallas’ only loss in a “Seats for Soldiers” game came against the Pistons on 12/7/06 (lost 92-82). The Mavericks’ first-ever “Seats for Soldiers” game occurred on 12/18/04 and Dallas defeated Atlanta by 22 (90-68). However, four of the last six “Seats for Soldiers” games have been decided by six points or less and two were decided in overtime (Dallas defeated Orlando 109-103 in overtime on 12/16/05 and Charlotte 98-97 in overtime on 12/12/09). No event was held in 2011-12 due to the work stoppage.

Saturday also marks the debut of Derek Fisher. Dallas is hoping Fisher’s experience can help the team. He ranks 34th all-time in regular-season games played. Fisher has also
appeared in 229 postseason games, which is the third-highest total in NBA history (Robert Horry 244; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 237). He won five NBA championships
with the Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010).

Here are notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Pistons.

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Point Guard Help Wanted

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on November 29, 2012 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 6 Comments to Read

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As a last minute scratch, Darren Collison missed the game against the Chicago Bulls due to a sprained right middle finger. That led to Dominique Jones getting his second consecutive start at the point guard position. It is safe to say that the point guard situation has gotten desperate for the Mavericks. It’s gotten to the point where Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle announced shortly after the loss to the Bulls that Derek Fisher would be joining the team. The news was made official on Thursday afternoon. ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst was the first to report that Derek Fisher would likely make a decision on his new team by Thursday.

“I think (Fisher) can really help our situation with experience, defensively and really all areas of the game,” Carlisle told reporters after the loss to Chicago. “Right now, the point guard position is a challenge for us and I think Derek can help us.” To make room for Fisher on the roster, the Mavericks released Troy Murphy. Fisher (6-1, 210) is a five-time NBA World Champion and has played in 1,173 games (722 starts) with the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State, Utah and Oklahoma City. At age 38, he holds career averages of 8.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 26.2 minutes per game. Fisher was originally the 24th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers and went on to win five World Championships in Los Angeles (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010). He also served as President of the NBA Players Association from 2006-2012.

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Thermodynamics: Week 5

Posted by Travis Wimberly on under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

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

When you write a weekly hot-cold basketball column and the team you write about has an atrocious week, it’s sometimes difficult to find much positive or “hot” to discuss. But that’s why they pay us the big bucks here at The Two Man Game. (Note: That “big bucks” thing I said just now? A lie.)

Despite the Mavs’ 0-3 week, which was anything but ordinary, we’re going to do our ordinary thing here at Thermodynamics. Three hot, three cold. Hopefully it’ll be marginally less painful than watching the Mavs’ play of late.

Week 5 (Lakers, @76ers, @Bulls)

FIRE

1) Vince Carter’s Three Ball

For a guy who often plays the role of shot-chucker, Carter had a nicely efficient week from long range. He shot 4-of-7 (57%) against the Lakeshow, 3-of-5 (60%) against the 76ers, and 2-of-4 (50%) against the Bulls. His three-point production against the 76ers was especially welcome. For one, that was the Mavs’ only close game this week, so it was the only one where his shots had any real impact. And also, Carter hit the biggest shot of the game when he drained a deep three with 1:24 left to ignite a last-ditch Mavs rally. Carter’s three-point percentage on the season is up to a respectable 40%, good for 41st in the league among qualifying guards. If he can hover around there for the remainder of the year–rather than dipping back down into the mid-30s–it will significantly boost the Mavs’ often-troubled offense.

2) Shawn Marion’s Two Ball

The Matrix had a solid week on offense, particularly from two-point range (which, frankly, is the only range from which he should ever be shooting). Marion shot 15-of-25 (60%) from two this week, highlighted by a terrific 7-of-10 (70%) performance last night in Chicago. He showed his typical offensive versaility, mixing layups and tip-ins with a nice array of mid-range floaters off the dribble. It doesn’t always look pretty–in fact, it rarely does–but Marion sent a message this week that he can be a fairly productive scorer on a team desperately seeking its offensive identity.

3) Brandan Wright’s Bench Seat

Earlier this week, The Two Man Game guest columnist Jonathan Tjarks wrote a terrific piece on Rick Carlisle’s handling of Troy Murphy and Brandan Wright. I won’t repeat Jonathan’s reasoned and thorough analysis, but I completely agree with him that Murphy has essentially no business playing power forward in front of Wright. Unfortunately, coach doesn’t agree. Wright started against the Lakers and scored six quick points, but ended up playing fewer minutes than Murphy, who contributed a whopping zero points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. What’s more, that Lakers start was the last time Wright would play this week. He didn’t log a single minute against the 76ers or the Bulls, while Murphy averaged almost 14 minutes in those two games. Wright has serious weaknesses to his game–defense and rebounding, to name a couple. But Murphy has those same weaknesses and, unlike Wright, really doesn’t do anything else well. With the Mavs adding veteran guard Derek Fisher just last night, it’s possible that Murphy will be cut later today to make room. Or maybe they’ll cut Wright, and this whole discussion becomes moot.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Dallas Mavericks 79

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 4, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.085.938.834.220.017.4
Oklahoma City103.349.420.017.48.7

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

  • With the Mavericks splattered on the Thunder’s windshield, it seems a more appropriate time than ever to reinforce just how limited Dallas’ half-court offense has been this season. This crew has managed to salvage just enough possessions for us to wonder if they’re still capable of more, and yet time and time again these Mavs trip into performances like this one: outings filled with bouts of lame, stagnant offense, designed to flow but caught in the mire. Dirk Nowitzki is a miraculous player, but the team so carefully propelled by its balance last season has very clearly caved in, leaving Nowitzki as the one self-standing tentpole to bear the weight of a drooping roster.
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    It’s all fun and games when the play action comes easy, but the virtues of extra passes and open shots don’t mean all that much when a team lacks the capability to consistently create such opportunities. Rick Carlisle has tried to find substitutes for the likes of J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler, but ultimately failed to recreate the same perfect mix of ingredients that brought this same core their own slice of basketball immortality last June. Things could never be the same — not after all of the pieces Dallas lost, and after each of the team’s many additions subtly pushed the Mavs in a different direction. It’s no fault of the newcomers specifically, at least any more than it’s a fault of every Maverick; this was an experiment gone wrong, and though by nature of the process most eyes will turn to the experimenter himself in blame, every beaker and burner and unproductive big man played a part in not playing their part.
  • I’ve been among Brendan Haywood’s more generous supporters, and even I’ve completely run out of excuses and justifications for his poor performance. Perhaps Haywood still holds value in the right context, but at the moment that context seems far too limited to justify his standing or his salary. He actively holds the team back in the vein of an end-of-the-road Erick Dampier, and though he’s only 32 years old, Haywood seems to have sufficiently worn through much of his NBA utility. Haywood has seen Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright — two very imperfect players — take their turn in the spotlight during the regular season, all while he settled in with unimpressive rebounding, far too unreliable defense, and slim offensive relevance. Now he seems to have fully completed his downswing; his play leaves more to be desired than I would have possibly imagined, and he shrivels not in the shadow of Mahinmi, Wright, or even Chandler, but in the context of useful basketball players in the most general sense.

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The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 96, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 23, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas88.0103.444.417.839.611.0
Los Angeles109.151.340.837.015.9

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

  • The Mavs are undoubtedly disappointed in their collective inability to capitalize on the opportunities presented them, but ultimately, this was a pretty commendable effort. Lamar Odom, Delonte West, and Rodrigue Beaubois were out of the lineup, leaving Brian Cardinal (three points, 1-4 FG) and Yi Jianlian (four points, 2-3 FG) to play significant minutes. Pau Gasol played solid defense on Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-22 FG, 12 rebounds), and prevented him from dominating offensively. Dallas shot .250 from beyond the arc, and .400 from the field overall. Yet both teams were deadlocked virtually every step of the way in the second half, a literalization of the seeding battle between Western Conference teams. The Mavs and Lakers are both talented teams capable of making the Western Conference Finals, and the same could be said of about half a dozen other clubs. It’s all going to come down to minor differences in record and the random resulting matchups, much like this particular game was ultimately determined by a thin margin and specific matchup advantages.
  • Even in a season of spectacular defensive performances, this may be Shawn Marion’s showpiece. Kobe Bryant (15 points, 4-15 FG, four assists, five rebounds, seven turnovers) is among the toughest covers in the league, but Marion blanketed him step for step, forced him into tough, contested shots, and goaded Bryant into taking long three-pointers born of frustration. You can’t ask for better primary defense on an opponent’s top offensive player, and though Gasol (24 points, 11-18 FG, nine rebounds, four assists, five turnovers) and Andrew Bynum (19 points, 6-10 FG, 14 rebounds, three assists) were able to make up for Kobe’s shackles with highly efficient interior play, Marion’s defense alone gave the Mavs a legitimate chance to win this game. (On a related note: No Maverick needs the All-Star break more than Shawn Marion. I wish him a long weekend of nonexistent mornings, catnaps, and time away from the court.)

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The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 73, Dallas Mavericks 70

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 17, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.077.837.520.022.416.7
Los Angeles81.138.825.013.612.2

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

  • Let’s get one thing straight: Derek Fisher’s game-winning three-pointer was a stroke of mercy. A competitive game is not necessarily a good one, and though the Mavs put themselves in a position to sneak a win on a tough night on the road, Fisher’s spot-up three saved us all from (at least) five more minutes of basketball misery. I’m sure Dallas would love to have a mulligan on a few of their more pitiful possessions, but perhaps a game of this ilk is better left dead. The defensive activity displayed by both teams was excellent, but energetic D against unstable O makes for a horrid mess. Nothing about either team’s total performance should be glorified; there’s simply too much for both the Mavs and the Lakers to figure out about the workings of their respective offenses, and too much muddled by terrible play to really determine anything meaningful and specific about either team’s defense. Poor shooting is the great equalizer, and though one could certainly build a case in support of the defensive efforts of either team, I have a hard time seeing this outing as anything other than Dallas and Los Angeles attempting to out-miss one another. I guess the Mavs won.

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WAR IS OVER!

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 26, 2011 under News | Read the First Comment

Happy Christmas from David Stern, The NBA’s owners, and the soon-to-be-reformed National Basketball Players Association.

Summit Push

Posted by Ian Levy on May 6, 2011 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. He’ll be bringing his intelligent brand of — mostly quantitative — analysis here on a weekly basis. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The story of the Mavericks-Lakers series has already undergone a significant rewrite. In Game 1, the Mavericks applied white-out with surgical precision, erasing a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to steal a win. They continued their editing in Game 2 using broad strokes of liquid-paper, and erased presumed Laker advantages in propelling themselves to a convincing 12-point win on the road. Both teams will be looking to retake control of the narrative in Game 3 tonight. Even with the next two games being played in Dallas, one would be a fool to not anticipate a tightening of the series. The series should be expected to be closer the rest of the way…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Dallas.

The Mavericks were 18-9 this season in games decided by five points or less. We’ve looked at their performance in the clutch this season at least once before; they were simply one of the best in the league at making the plays needed to pull out a win in hard fought contests. Obviously the Mavs would prefer not to play the Lakers down to the wire, but have to feel confident about their ability to win in such situations should they arise.

The Lakers are in a slightly different situation. Their performance in crunch time has been a persistent topic of discussion this season, specifically due to L.A.’s reliance on Kobe Bryant. Observation and precedent tell us he’s a crunch time all-star and one of the best closers the game has ever seen. Statistics tell a slightly different story. Kobe scores a lot in crunch time situations, but not very efficiently. He averages more assists, but only because he uses more possessions. Relative to shot attempts and turnovers, Kobe isn’t any more likely to share the ball at the end of the game as he is at any other point.

Los Angeles has just two players who have been very efficient in clutch situations this season, and neither is Kobe Bryant. Lamar Odom shot 61.5% in the clutch, Pau Gasol 46.3%. Luckily for the Mavericks, those two players averaged a combined 26.7 FGA/48 in the clutch, while Kobe alone shot 40.2% and averaged 38.8 FGA/48. When you factor in a combined 22.2 FGA/48 in the clutch for Ron Artest and Derek Fisher — who shot 30.8% and 31.3% respectively in such situations — the Mavericks have to feel pretty confident about their ability to outscore the Lakers in late-game scenarios.

I’m sure many of you are sick of this the ongoing debate over Kobe’s clutch performance, but my apologies — I’m not quite done with it. I’m certainly not the first to point this out, but shot selection is a huge factor in his inefficiency. The table below shows the percentage of Kobe’s shots which have come from each location over the past five seasons.

SeasonAt the Rim<10ft.10-15ft.16-23ft.3PTFTA/FGA
200722.4%6.8%10.9%36.7%22.7%0.437
200824.8%7.2%10.2%32.0%24.6%0.439
200920.9%10.5%15.2%33.4%19.6%0.329
201022.6%10.8%18.6%28.0%19.2%0.345
201117.4%15.4%15.9%29.6%21.7%0.356

Kobe is taking roughly the same percentage of his shots from inside of 10 feet. The difference is that a much smaller percentage of them are coming right at the rim; Bryant is more and more reliant on his jumpshooting, which makes him much easier to defend effectively late in games. What makes Kobe so theoretically dangerous is the sheer number of ways that he can punish defenders, but 48,235 career minutes played over 14 seasons have taken some of those options away.

In late-game situations, Kobe’s shot distribution becomes even more rigid. This second table shows his shot breakdown in clutch situations for this regular season, and the small sample from this year’s playoffs:

At the Rim<10ft.10-15ft.16-23ft.3PTFTA/FGA
Regular Season14.0%13.4%14.6%29.9%28.0%0.476
Playoffs15.4%7.7%30.8%15.4%30.8%0.154

He’s certainly confident in his ability to win games with mid-range jumpers. Still, that patter of decision making has made the job of the defense that much easier. Many have credited Bryant’s supreme confidence as the key to his perceived success in the clutch, but oddly enough, the only way for Bryant to break a cycle of inefficiency is to relinquish his ultimate alpha status. Does anyone think that’s a realistic possibility right now? It may be in the future, but I have to imagine it would take significant failure to prepare him for that mental transition.

Despite Kobe’s relative inefficiency in clutch situations, the formula has continued to work for the Lakers, a fact no APBRmetrician can argue with. But it won’t work forever. With the inevitable age-related decline of his athletic abilities, there’s not much Kobe can do to change his shot distribution and maintain a semblance of efficiency. We know where Kobe’s story is going because frankly, the nature of aging doesn’t allow for it to unfold any other way. Bryant’s ability to push the Lakers to victory with contested crunch time jumpers can’t persist forever, and though the critical turning point in L.A.’s late-game performance may still be a ways off, it feels closer than ever.