The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, Miami Heat 110

Posted by Kirk Henderson on December 21, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • This one was over at halftime. It was really, really over in the third quarter when the Miami lead ballooned to 36. The final score isn’t really indicative of the game at all because, with a brief exception in the second quarter when the Mavs third unit made a run, Miami controlled the entire game.
  • Though Dallas probably would have lost this game anyway, the Mavs missed an obscene number of shots at the rim. Though seemingly everyone missed a point blank attempt or two, Darren Collison’s three first half bricks at the rim stick out more than anything else.
  • Aaron McGuire over at Gothic Ginobli pegged this proclivity better than anyone else about a month ago: “He can get to the rim relatively easily, and he can get an open shot there without going through too much trouble. Having speed is useful that way. The problem — and the thing that differentiates him from other NBA speedsters like Tony Parker or Ty Lawson — is that he’s simply so bad at finishing (regardless of the duress he’s under) that his speed advantage impacts his game marginally at best and uselessly at worst. And, as stated, he balks at running a traditional set-play offense — he regularly dribbles himself into oblivion, ending the play far away from the screen that’s been set for him.”
  • This is the second national TV game in a row where O.J. Mayo (eight points, 3-for-14 shooting) has failed to live up to his newly acquired reputation. In Boston, he turned the ball over a season high nine times but was able to put up points, whereas tonight he failed to make a positive contribution to the game and in most circumstances hurt the team more than he helped it. The Heat successfully blitzed Mayo on all high pick and rolls, making him slow just a bit and clogging the Dallas offense. Mayo clearly became frustrated offensively as he began forcing shots, most of which were not even close. Later in the game he was able to have some success attacking the bucket, but it seemed his earlier mistakes were on his mind as he often made strange passing attempts or shot the ball minus the typical Mayo confidence we’ve become accustomed to.
  • The offensive struggle from Mayo is something that will happen from time to time; he’s clearly still learning and developing. It’s the defensive aspect to Mayo’s performance tonight that was really maddening. While no one can expect him to do much against Lebron James after a switch other than hope he miss and box out, Mayo got abused repeatedly by Dwyane Wade. Mayo bit on pump fakes from Wade three or four times in the third quarter alone, a few of which were from beyond the arc. He let Wade take an defensive rebound from him for a put back. Mayo must have more focus on the defensive end if he hopes to be a leader of the Dallas Mavericks.
  • To pick on Mayo alone wouldn’t be fair; at halftime Mayo, Chris Kaman, and Vince Carter were shooting a combined 15%. Kaman in particular was dreadful, with eight points and two rebounds, while also managing a team worst -27 while on the floor. I’m not sure who is more to blame here, Kaman for his incredibly poor shot selection or Carlisle for continuing to play him when the speed of the game was much higher than Kaman could deal with. I fully expected Kaman to attempt to establish himself on the block at some point and he settled for either a jump shot or fade away on most of his attempts. Really poor effort on his part.
  • Dallas has now lost eight games by double digits. Dallas has lost seven of those games by 15 or more points.
  • A brief rally from Dallas in the second quarter came from possibily the most unlikely five man group in Texas. Dominique Jones, Roddy Beaubois, Jae Crowder, Vince Carter, and Bernard James played with enthusiasm and, more importantly, effectiveness. Two second round rookies, a pair of end-of-bench role players, and Vince Carter nearly stole the momentum from the defending world champions.
  • The best Maverick, far and away, was Bernard “Sarge” James, putting up 12 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. Five of his rebounds were offensive as he relentlessly went after the physically weaker Miami big men. He rolls to the basket much better than he did earlier in the season and catches the ball very, very well. But defensively he has established himself as a true specialist. A second quarter block of Battier that lead to a Dominique Jones lay in displayed some unique timing. The TNT crew realized later in the game that James plays similarly to Joel Anthony, which is a reasonable comparison. James will probably never be a starter, but has played well virtually every time he has been given minutes.
  • Dominique Jones had a career high in assists with seven, five of them coming in the first half. Miami managed to close down a lot of the lanes he used in the first half, both passing and penetration. Still, nice to see him be effective, though I cringe when he shoots or tries a driving  lay in because he simply cannot finish with consistency.
  • Lebron James (24 points, nine rebounds, five assists) was brilliant in every facet of the game. His 13 first quarter points on 6-of-7 shooting made the game look unfair. Compared to the 2011 finals, James seems comfortable and confident doing whatever he wants with the ball. Defensively he’s a nightmare, covering ground laterally at a speed that defies common understanding.
  • Along that same vein, Miami is playing ideal position-less basketball. The main cog is James, but watching Wade, Bosh, and guys like Chalmers, Battier, Haslem, and Anthony, the Heat can guard any line up. Offensively they have different players like Mike Miller and Ray Allen who exploit the opportunities presented to Miami by simply knocking down open shots.
  • It’s disappointing Brandan Wright was injured tonight with a sprained ankle. Seeing him in a fast paced game where defensive help was a necessity could have made the game more interesting. Miami doesn’t expend energy crashing the offensive glass that often, so Wright’s main issue would have been hidden. But there’s always next game as Dallas plays Miami again in less than two weeks.
  • Seeing who Dirk nudges out of the rotation will be worth watching. Obviously, it’s great that he’ll be back soon, but with none of the Maverick big men playing well consistently (or in the cases of Wright and James, not seeing minutes consistently), who Carlisle opts to go with will be worth analyzing. The theory was Dirk and Kaman would see action together, with Brand being the main release valve. But with Kaman rebounding so poorly it’s hard to see that pair working out well for any significant stretch.
  • When looking at win loss records and including tonight’s game, the Mavs play the league’s 4th best team (Miami), 5th best team (Memphis), 6th best team (San Antonio) and the league’s best team (Oklahoma City) in a seven day span. That’s followed up by a match up versus the underwhelming but very talented Denver Nuggets, another game against the Spurs, a trip to the nations capitol, and then another meeting with the Miami Heat. Easily the most brutal stretch of games in the entire Dallas schedule.

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 106, Minnesota Timberwolves 114

Posted by Kirk Henderson on December 16, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Cliffs

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.

  • With this being the second overtime loss in three games for Dallas, we can again look to small lapses in judgement which made a big difference in the final margin; two in particular jump out. First, Darren Collison got beat on a backdoor cut by J.J. Barea late in the first quarter. For some reason Collison tried to anticipate Ricky Rubio throwing a pass to a not-yet-rolling Greg Steimsma. Rubio read that move a mile away and instead fed the cutting Barea for a layup, which Brandan Wright goaltended off the rim. Second, to start the third quarter, Alexey Shved stripped Chris Kaman from behind after leaving a cutting O.J. Mayo. Mayo said nothing to alert his teammate to the coming double team. The Timberwolves took the ball down and scored in transition.
  • During the course of this three game losing streak, Dallas is averaging 21 turnovers per game. Tonight, the bulk of the Dallas turnovers game in the second quarter, when they had nine, as the Wolves outscored the Mavs 32 to 13.
  • The Mavs made a fast and furious attempt at a comeback in the fourth with a truly unorthodox lineup; at one point  Dominique Jones, Derek Fisher, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Elton Brand were all on the floor together. Three point guards, a shooting guard, and a power forward. That Carlisle has to resort to these odd line ups for some sort of offensive effectiveness is frustrating, that they are working is fun.
  • Vince Carter (nine points, four assists) and Derek Fisher (20 points, five turnovers) fouling out played into Carlisle’s decision to return to a traditional line up for the overtime. The small ball line up managed to keep the Wolves off of the offensive glass until the final thirty seconds of regulation when Minnesota had five chances to win the game but were not able to convert any. However, the traditional lineup was terrible offensively, as Dallas was only able to convert one shot in eight attempts in the overtime.
  • Shawn Marion (14 points, 10 rebounds) is the glue that is holding this team together. Night in and out he manages to find ways to be effective. He scored in transition early, got second chances for the Mavs through offensive rebounds, and played very well in the pick and roll with O.J. Mayo (20 points, six assists). He’s often the center of fan trade proposals due to his contract, but his contribution level at this point is immeasurable.
  • I’m with my colleagues that Brandan Wright needs to play more. But he is such a frustrating talent. In his past two outings he’s played 22 minutes and gathered one rebound. His mental lapses are mind boggling; in his eight minutes of action against the Wolves, Derrick Williams beat him on not one, but two back-door alley-oop cuts which, had he been able to convert the dunk attempts, would’ve been Sports Center highlights. It’s not enough that he is able to score in the offense. He has to contribute in other areas, and this season he’s had stretches where he just can’t seem to do anything to deserve more playing time.
  • Seeing O.J. Mayo develop has been rewarding, even in games where he struggles with being the lead play maker. The next step in his game has to be getting to the free throw line more frequently. Prior to tonight’s game he averages just under four free throw attempts per game. As someone who is averaging 35 minutes a night and bears the role of primary scorer, getting to the line is something he has to do with more regularity. While he’s shooting at a blistering rate at the moment (48%), history tells us that’s bound to fall three to four percentage points as the year wears on. He’s been attacking the bucket more often these last dozen or so games, so hopefully his FTA’s will increase at some point.
  • Dirk was seen working out and getting shots up prior to tonight’s game. I very much hope he isn’t rushing his recovery as he sees the team struggle these past few games. As Connor has pointed out repeatedly, the schedule gets much tougher to close out the year and it’s in the realm of possibility that Dallas will not able to get another win in 2012. The loss tonight puts Dallas at a 13.1% chance to make the playoffs and while I know these rankings do not factor in things like Dirk’s injury, seeing this Dallas squad make the playoffs, even with Dirk, is hard to imagine when one considers their problems.

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.

 

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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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 78, Chicago Bulls 101

Posted by Kirk Henderson on under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Storm Clouds

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.

  • Having lost seven of their last 10 games, including their last two, Dallas entered this game needing to show some sort of fire. An injury to starting point guard Darren Collison meant Dallas faced an uphill battle against an up and down Bulls team. The Mavericks did not show up, and barely put up a fight when things got ugly in the second quarter. It’s hard to know where to begin.
  • Similar to the Laker game over the weekend, it would be easy to look at the box score, see the field goal percentage (a hair under 35%) and attribute the loss to the poor shooting. If it were only that easy; the poor shooting is a start in terms of explaining their atrocious play on both ends of the floor.
  • There has to be a change in defensive philosophy regarding the pick and roll. Against the Lakers and the Knicks, getting punished made some sense; it’s a huge part of each team’s game plan. But against the Bulls? Who are playing an assortment of guards who are not in the upper echelon of NBA talent? It’s rather ridiculous. Dallas does not have the personnel to be defending the pick and roll in this fashion. At first it seemed an issue of timing and effort. Effort does play a part, but most of the big men on the roster cannot recover in time.
  • Early in the second quarter, Chris Kaman (10 points, four rebounds) “showed” high on a Joakim Noah screen and lazily waved his arms. Noah (13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) slipped the screen quickly and Nate Robinson (14 points, six assists) fed Noah for an easy layup. Noah repeated this course of events again in the third.
  • Dallas also needs to spend a great deal of practice time in getting through screens while playing defense. It’s too much to see every guard on the Dallas roster get hung up on a screen from nearly every opposing big man.
  • Roddy Beaubois (six points, three assists) was particularly horrible on defense. He lost his man in half court sets repeatedly, forcing rotations and often fouls. Early in the second quarter, he got hung up on a screen and while trying to recover, bit on a terrible Nate Robinson pump fake, then decided to try to block his shot from behind and picked up an obvious foul as Robinson sank the shot. Nate Robinson, he of the cheer leading and dunk contests from a few years ago, looked like a legit back up point guard due to Roddy’s defensive effort.
  • Remember when Roddy was labeled as untouchable? I’ve stepped away from the ledge and finally agree with Connor Huchton that he can be serviceable, but he’s been terrible this season, shooting just under 32% on the year. He’s working the offense fine, but with the few occasions where he strips his man and scores on a fast break attempt, we’ve seen almost none of the dazzling speed and athleticism that made him so intriguing. He still makes the same baffling bad decisions he did as a rookie. It’s really disappointing.
  • Of course, Roddy was not alone in his lack of defensive awareness. In the second quarter, O.J. Mayo lost the ball while rising to shoot a 17 footer. On the ensuing fast break possession for Chicago, Mayo lost Marco Belinelli (11 points) who hit a wide open three. Later in the third, Mayo let Rip Hamilton (four points, four assists) get wide open on a flare off a screen. These sorts of plays are bound to happen, that’s the point of an offense. But Dallas seems completely incapable of doing anything to limit an offense when it involves heavy screening.
  • While we’re on the topic of awareness, is Rick Carlisle aware of just how terrible Troy Murphy (seven points, two rebounds) is playing? By my count, Taj Gibson (eight points, eight rebounds) took three rebounds away from Murphy. Murphy played 18 minutes, yet was bullied all over the floor. He was often simply taking up space while doing nothing productive. It’s time for Troy to see his minutes reduced severely.
  • Did I mention Troy Murphy got beat to the basket by Vladimir Radmanovic? Or that he let Luol Deng take two rhythm dribbles towards the elbow to shoot a jumper? Both those things happened, and more!
  • One play in the third quarter defined the entire game. Down 16 with a little under two minutes left, Taj Gibson rebounded his own shot while surrounded by four Mavericks: Mayo, Murphy, Roddy, and Brand, who actually fought for the board with Gibson. The struggle for the board saw Brand hit the deck. The other three Mavericks simply watched from the paint as Gibson fed a wide open Luol Deng for a three pointer. Brand was the only Maverick who made any attempt to challenge the shot, and he had been on the floor.
  • The rebounding issue has become almost comical. There are so many instances of Mavericks simply watching the ball and doing nothing to put a body on an opposing player. Murphy and Kaman are particularly guilty of this but the guards play a big role as well. With a little under eight minutes in the second quarter, Nazr Mohammed missed a layup that Gibson cleaned up with a put back. No effort was made from Dominique Jones or Mayo, who simply stood near the three point line.
  • To start the second half, there was no Dallas Maverick with more than two rebounds. The Bulls shot well (49%) from the floor, but not so well so that there weren’t rebounds to grab. No Maverick finished with more than six rebounds.
  • The NBA is one of the only professions that I can think of where one can get a label for something that one isn’t any good at. Troy Murphy is a “stretch four” who can’t actually stretch the defense out at because he can’t make open shots; he’s a shooter who can’t shoot. In a similar vein is Dominique Jones (1o points, five assists). He is a “finisher” who cannot finish. His layups are thrown up with a hope and a prayer. I appreciate his hard work and the minutes he’s giving a struggling team. But he’s not very good and the more he plays the more clear it becomes.
  • The engagement level of Chris Kaman is something that needs to be more heavily examined. He relishes taking on a weaker match up, as he took advantage in games against Toronto, Washington, Cleveland and Golden State. But against teams with strong post defenders, like New York, Los Angeles, and tonight with the Bulls, he seems to settle for lesser quality shots. Tonight he took seven shots outside the paint and only attempted two free throws.
  • Dallas needed a top flight scorer tonight and O.J. Mayo (four points, five rebounds) seemed inclined to take the night off. Marco Belinelli and Kirk Hinrich either played the defensive game of their lives on Mayo, or he simply did not assert himself much on offense. While it was nice he didn’t force his shot (2-for-9 from the floor), it’s rather confusing he didn’t do more while on offense. He played 35 minutes. Part of the can be attributed to a lack of Collison, but Mayo disappearing cannot happen.
  • There should be cause for concern with regard to Jae Crowder (two points, three rebounds). I’ve often considered his energy and effort to be similar to a rookie contract Josh Howard, who managed to contribute everywhere without needing the ball very often. Crowder played 26 ineffective minutes and took a number of long jump shots. Only one of them fell, as he was 1-for-7 from the field. Sounds a lot more like 2008 Josh Howard, unfortunately. Crowder needs to get back to what made him a summer league and pre-season favorite: hard nosed play, defense, rebounding.
  • It’s uncomfortable to question a coach as knowledgeable and accomplished as Carlisle. But right now his rotations are concerning. Brandan Wright saw no playing time. Bernard James (one point, two rebounds) only saw action in the fourth. Why? The Mavs as an organization have a healthy respect for data and numbers and Dallas is in no way, shape or form, better with Murphy on the floor over either of these two. If Dallas is going to lose, at least do so while letting the players who have a future get some experience.
  • First round selection Jared Cunningham saw four minutes of action and managed to hoist up six shots. Impressive display of gunning, yet he failed to show any inkling of why Dallas selected him in the first round while there were other more accomplished players on the board.
  • The Dallas bench does it’s best work when the game is close or Dallas is ahead. Vince Carter (10 points on 10 shots) was asked to do too much, again. He’s 35 years old. He is battling hard, but asking him to be the savior when there are other more talented players at this point in their careers (hey, O.J. Mayo) on the roster is silly.
  • Elton Brand (four points, six rebounds, four assists) and Shawn Marion (18 points, 3 rebounds) were the only two Mavericks who played with any sense of urgency or pride. After a solid night against his former team, Brand again struggled with his shot. His post defense is still not very good, but its not for a lack of trying. Marion does so much while needing the ball so little. While he obviously could have contributed more on the defensive end, his positive offense effort was the only one worth mentioning for Dallas.
  • News broke after the game that Dallas signed Derek Fisher. It’s unclear why, as he brings next to nothing to the team other than another veteran presence. The point guard position is shaky to say the least, but he doesn’t help with that other than the fact that he can dribble it past half court without falling down (something Roddy nearly does once a game). Who gets cut (or sent to the D-league) is unclear. Options include Troy Murphy, Dominique Jones, and Roddy Beaubois.
  • Dallas gets two days of rest and possibly practice time with their new addition before they welcome Detroit Saturday night.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace 

 

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 89, Los Angeles Lakers 115

Posted by Kirk Henderson on November 25, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • It would be incredibly easy to simply chalk this loss up to excellent shooting by the Lakers (48.8%) and horrid shooting by the Mavericks (37%). The shooting played a part, yes, but the Lakers did a phenomenal job of exploiting every single weakness of this Dallas team.
  • With Shawn Marion (10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals) covering one of the league’s best in Kobe Bryant (19 points, five assists), O.J. Mayo guarded Metta World Peace (19 points, six rebounds) and clearly he took his assignment too lightly. MWP hit his first open three with Mayo nowhere in sight, followed that up with a pair of driving layups, and then hit another three Mayo challenged late. World Peace scored all ten points in the first four minutes of the game. That lack of attention to detail set the tone for Dallas for the remainder of the night.
  • Dallas cannot find a way to effectively guard the pick and roll as of this point in the season. Recently, Carlisle has opted to have the big man, usually Chris Kaman (four points, three rebounds), show high on the pick and roll to slow down the ball handler.  Unfortunately, he does not have the lateral quickness to recover when the opposing screener rolls or slips the screen,  forcing a rotation from the baseline which essentially breaks down the entire Maverick defensive structure.  When that screener is someone like Pau Gasol (13 points, nine rebounds, three assists) it wreaks havoc on the Dallas defense as there is often not anyone to protect the rim when these defensive rotations occur.
  • To be fair to Kaman, he’s not the only Dallas big man who is having this issue. Elton Brand (four rebounds, one assist) and Troy Murphy (two rebounds) are all well past the point to where they can consistently recover on a constant barrage of pick and rolls. Brandan Wright (six points, one rebound) and Bernard James (seven points, five rebounds, four blocks) are each much better about showing and recovering, but Carlisle has been reluctant to use them for larger stretches.
  • I’d like to be wrong about this, but it seems as if Darren Collison (two points, four assists, four turnovers) is always shocked when he runs into a screen on defense. One and a half minutes into the game he was knocked down by a Dwight Howard (15 points, seven rebounds, five steals, two blocks) screen that Elton Brand was clearly calling out. Collison seems to get hung up on most of the screens set by opposing offenses. Pair that with the Dallas big men being unable to recover fast enough, and we see Dallas getting exploited in the paint with alarming regularity as of late.
  • The Lakers marginalized Collison, as he shot one for ten from the floor and made some silly turnovers in the process. The Lakers limited his ability to penetrate on the right side of the floor with his strong hand where he is most productive. As a result he mostly able to penetrate on the left side of the floor with his off hand where he was often met by Dwight Howard and had to adjust his shot accordingly. Collison’s outside shots were mostly uncontested and they simply wouldn’t fall.  Oddly enough, this season Collison has been brutal in the 10-15 foot range, shooting 24%.
  • The Lakers picked up the Dallas ball handlers just after half court with intense pressure, seeming to dare the Maverick guards to drive.  The result was that Dallas struggled to get into their offense in a timely manner. Collison, Dominque Jones (two points, three assists), and Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, six assists) all acted as if they hadn’t dealt with half court pressure before.
  • Dallas also has an offensive screening problem.  I need to see more film, but O.J. Mayo (13 points, three rebounds) does a very poor job coming off screens to get the ball out of initial offensive sets. In theory, one is supposed to run one’s man into the screener by running off him, even rubbing shoulders with the screener if need be. It’s how someone like Ray Allen can play into his late 30′s.  Mayo often (but not always) runs without purpose, and the screener is often forced to step towards his man, which is a great chance to pick up an offensive foul. Mayo needs to run his man into the screener so he can have more time once he catches the ball on the wing.
  • The fault doesn’t purely lie with Mayo, however.  Outside of Bernard James, the current Dallas bigs are not excellent screeners. This is one area Dirk does not get near enough credit for, and one area where he’ll help immediately upon his return (that he’s able to roll, slip, and flare for the league’s prettiest jump shot also helps in that area).
  • Not to keep picking on Mayo, but his inability to operate out of a pick and roll where he is the primary ball handler is confusing. Though he only accounted for two turnovers, I counted four separate occasions where he attempted to split a hedge trap from the Lakers, only to fall over, dribble off someone’s foot, or make a bad pass.
  • Part of this can be attributed to the Laker defense and some can be attributed to Mayo trying to force the issue since Dallas was down big.  But this isn’t the first game I’ve seen this.  I was confused by the “hero ball” in the Golden State overtime loss; Mayo scored all of his points in transition or playing one on one, there was no chance of a two man game.  Mayo will have to get better at working out of pick and roll opportunities in order to thrive in Carlisle’s offense.
  • It’s a bit odd that Vince Carter(16 points on ten shots) has become a stabilizing influence off the bench. There were times last year where I’d cringe as he’d enter the game.  Carter helped make the game seem manageable in the first quarter with five points coming within the flow of the offense. He was the only guard who had no trouble dealing with the Laker defensive pressure early in the game.
  • The Laker defense was tremendous, particularly in the paint.  Though Dallas actually committed fewer turnovers than Los Angeles (15 to 19), Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol changed so many shots in the paint they effectively became turnovers. Go look at the shot chart again. The Mavericks had to earn every point in the lane.
  • Elton Brand’s lack of shooting touch is bordering on “Lamar Odom in 2011-2012″.  Last year, Brand shot about 45% from three feet all the way to just inside the three point line.  This year he’s struggling from the ten feet to three point line range, shooting just 13-46 for the year.
  • He missed two free throw jumpers early in the first quarter, each wide open.  If Brand is able to hit those shots, he changes the way the Lakers defend.  Without Dirk, the only player who has shown himself capable of hitting that 15 footer is Brandan Wright (of all people), and he usually does so while moving towards the bucket.  I really do think Brand figures it out, but it’s so painful to watch and he’s an offensive liability at the moment.
  • Speaking of liabilities, there has to be some sort of explanation as to why Troy Murphy saw fourteen minutes tonight.  He did not match up well with any member of the Lakers front court defensively and Pau and Antawn Jamison (19 points, 15 rebounds) simply owned him.  The theory on offense is that he adds some aspect of a stretch four. While he has hit 10 three’s this season, seven of those came in two games; the other seven games Murphy is 3-19 from deep. Until Dirk comes back, we should start seeing more Wright and Sarge and less Murphy.
  • Jae Crowder (15 points, four rebounds, four steals) was one of only four Mavericks to not post a negative plus-minus.  Considering all thirteen Mavericks saw at least ten minutes, this is fairly impressive when one factors in the blowout.  His spot up shooting has been solid, but I’m more impressed by the way he attacks the rim. Most of the Dallas players seemed to dreading contact tonight whereas Crowder seemed to relish in it.
  • I’d be curious to know if Crowder’s shot selection is by design. As you can tell from the shot chart, he takes most of his threes from the free throw line extended area.  It’s challenging for teammates to establish position for offensive rebounds as missed shots from that angle can go a variety of places even if its an on target shot. Given that corner threes are the most efficient three point shot, I’d expect to see him taking more in those locations.
  • Chris Kaman is the lone Maverick who can consistently score with his back to the basket. Tonight as the game wore on, he clearly became frustrated by the Laker defense and drifted farther and farther away from the goal.  Five of his eleven shots came from 15 feet or more from the rim.  Kaman has to force the issue and get to the foul line against talented front lines if Dallas hopes to establish consistent offense.
  • While you can count me among those who think Brandan Wright needs more playing time, its clear why he doesn’t get time.  In his thirteen minutes, he grabbed one rebound.  Wright tries to block some shots which he won’t get to, thus putting himself completely out of rebounding position.  In the fourth there were a couple of occasions where he wildly tried to block a shot only to see his man get an offensive rebound and put back.
  • On ESPN Insider David Thorpe characterized Bernard James as “a legit shot-blocking specialist” after a series of games where Sarge saw time and made an impact. James blocks shots from guards which are made in an attempt to avoid a shot blocker entirely.  His timing and effort were fantastic and he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise horrible night.
  • That the Lakers were able to put up 115 points without Steve Nash is impressive. The Lakers got 107 points out of their top eight rotation players. Antawn Jamison in particular dominated, with 19 points and 15 rebounds. His 12 defensive rebounds were two less than the entire Dallas starting five.
  • Dwight Howard played an impressive game and yet he still looks fairly slow.  Well, slow for him. With Andrew Bynum out until further notice, the gap between Dwight Howard and any of the other league’s centers is so wide it doesn’t matter if Dwight is only at 80%.  I expect Howard will continue to regain his explosiveness as the season moves along. If that happens and D’Antoni actually opts to use Dwight in pick and roll situations the league is in trouble.
  • The clear difference in the first match up between these teams was the free throw shooting; Dallas shot 14 of 18 while LA managed 12 of 31.  The Lakers managed to nearly double that number tonight, shooting 23 of 34.  The Mavs, on the other hand, struggled mightily, shooting 12 of 22. Particularly strange was the Jae Crowder-Dominique Jones combo shooting zero for seven from the charity stripe. Both players have earned minutes in the rotation, but not hitting free throws is one way back to the bench. Dallas has to hit their free throws against top tier teams.
  • It was nice to see Roddy Beaubois contribute, even in a blow out.  He’s not seen much time as of late, and to dish out six assists and eight points in around eighteen minutes is a good sign, particularly after not playing in two of the last three games.
  • Why Laker fans insist on wanting to trade Pau Gasol is beyond me. He’s easily one of the best pivot men of a generation. Outside of Dirk, there is not another modern European player who has been better. He’s been slow to get going, but I fully expect Pau to have an All-Star caliber season.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family.  Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace 

The Rundown, Volume V

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on November 19, 2012 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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The Rundown is back. Every Monday, The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavericks, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.

After a frustrating loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, causing a three-game losing streak, the Mavericks made some changes. Some perplexing negative trends popped up and a special person chimed in to say hello and give an update. Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 95

Posted by Kirk Henderson on November 17, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • Shawn Marion (10 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) proved his worth repeatedly against the Cavs tonight. His little contributions here and there, from passing out of double teams, rebounding in traffic, or making the right pass on a fast break, don’t seem huge, yet one looks at the box score and his finger prints are all over the game. Without Shawn Marion, Dallas loses this game.
  • Chris Kaman (15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks) was huge tonight. He still forces his offense a bit too frequently (he had five shots in the first quarter, then 7 shots the remainder of the game), but when he either makes a decisive post move or catches the ball off a pick and pop, its highly enjoyable to watch.  Six blocks is worth applauding; often this season Kaman has been slow to react and its apparently taken him some time to round into shape. Tonight he looked great and Dallas needed his defensive presence.
  • Unlike the last few games, Dallas’ shots were finally falling as the team shot 52% from the floor to Cleveland’s 37.5%.  The Cavs managed to stay in the game due to 20 turnovers from the Mavs, many of them unforced.  Turnovers are one area Dallas had improved upon as of late, so hopefully this is simply a one game blip.
  • The efficient play of O.J. Mayo (19 points on 9 shots) was entertaining to watch. He got to the free throw line 6 times and unlike last night, virtually all of his shots came within the flow of the offense and looked good upon release.  Mayo still makes a number of puzzling passing decisions (4 turnovers) from time to time, but he’s also capable of really dazzling passes out of the pick and roll.
  • Dominique Jones (10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists) had perhaps his best game as a professional basketball player. Though Darren Collison (14 points, 8 assists) finished the game well, he struggled in the first half so Carlisle turned to Jones over the struggling Roddy Beaubois. Jones responded by getting to the rim repeatedly and making the correct pass in the flow of the offense. He could have finished with 16 or more had a few shots at the rim taken a more friendly bounce.
  • The Mavs managed to win this game despite getting four rebounds in the second quarter. Four. That they actually won the rebounding battle is impressive, but that should also be attributed to Cleveland missing a lot of shots.
  • Bernard James (4 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks) had his second straight solid game. It’s unclear if he’ll ever be called on for more than 10-15 minutes a game, but he does what he’s asked and plays incredibly hard.  Many of the Dallas big men lean more towards the finesse stereotype, so its refreshing to see James willing to mix it up with the likes of Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson.
  • It was good to see Vince Carter (14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) resume his role of spark plug in limited minutes. He only played 21 minutes tonight and was not asked to repeatedly bail out the Mavericks offense, which clearly wears on him in games when Dallas is struggling.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family.  Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace 

 

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 83, Indiana Pacers 103

Posted by Kirk Henderson on November 16, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

 

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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • Dallas has lost five games. In four of those five losses they were leading at half time. I do not know what this means. I do not know how to correct it other than to say “hit shots”.  Someone on the TMG staff should look into this phenomenon because it has plagued the Dallas offense heading back into last season.
  • O.J. Mayo (19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) has a way of disappearing for huge stretches of time. Yes, he scored 19 points, but 11 of those 19 points came in the first fifteen minutes of game action. Expecting him to score 40 is unreasonable, but he can affect the game in other ways when he chooses to assert himself. Tonight, he looked like the player others have accused him of being.
  • Chris Kaman (8 points, 10 rebounds) needs to slow down.  He shot 4 of 12 from the field tonight and at least 3 of his 4 makes came within the flow of the offense. He insisted on trying to take the taller Roy Hibbert one on one  for the remainder of his attempts and most of them were simply awful decisions.
  • I don’t know what to make of Elton Brand’s (7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks) continued struggles offensively.  I believe his shot was blocked three times tonight.  I assumed the Pacers’ length would give Dallas trouble, but Brand is a crafty player.  His field goal percentage is a very Odom-like 36.8% for the year. I appreciate how he manages to contribute in other ways, but Dallas really needs him to be more of a threat offensively.
  • The two former Clippers combined to shoot 7 for 20 with one free throw attempted between them.
  • Bernard “Sarge” James played his best game as a pro, with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 16 minutes.
  • Roddy Beaubois is 4-22 from the field since returning from his ankle sprain.
  • Darren Collision (10 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds) played one of his worst games as a Mav while hoping to play his best.  Perhaps calling it “his worst” game is embracing a hyperbole, but Collison played quite poorly, posting a +/- of negative 19, the worst on the Dallas roster.
  • Shawn Marion (2 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists) started tonight. He looked rusty, but he was also covering ground well and didn’t seem to be in any pain.  That bodes well for the future.
  • Carlisle opted to start Mayo on Paul George to start the game, an odd decision considering Mayo is still learning how to play defense and Shawn Marion was available. Marion started the second half on George, but I remain confused by the assignment. If Carlisle was concerned at all for Marion, he should not have played him. With respect to Mayo, I’ll take a one legged Shawn Marion on defense over most of the Dallas roster.
  • Paul George (11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) will be incredibly dangerous should he ever put it all together on a consistent basis.  He lit Dallas on fire last year, scoring 30 the only time the two teams matched up.  He’s taller than his listed height and is still clearly learning the game.  In an age when we’re spoiled by wings like Durant and Lebron, its important to keep an eye on a guy like George. He entered the league young and might not find his game for a few more years. If he does, he will be a devastating player.
  • I miss Ian Mahinmi (7 points, 4 fouls). Remember this?
  • Dallas lost tonight despite not turning the ball over too much (11 times) and keeping the rebounding margin within a reasonable amount.  Most of the offensive turnovers happened in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand.  As Bryan was talking about tonight on twitter, that Dallas lost despite this is maddening.
  • The shooting once again was a major culprit (Dallas shot 37% from the floor).  It has to be a healthy mix of bad luck and poor shot selection as the shot chart would indicate there were a lot of long two point shots from everyone.
  • Carlisle opted to go zone when Paul George picked up his 4th foul and the Pacers responded by expanding their slim lead in a hurry. The Pacer ball movement was shockingly good, considering their offensive struggles this year.  Considering that the Pacers were dead last in the league in field goal percentage, they were bound to break out of their slump at some point. It figures it would be against Dallas.
  • Former Mav Gerald Green has found a home in Indiana, and he looked solid tonight.  His talent is so obvious (at one point tonight he hit a turn around and-one over Roddy that looked to be out of a video game) I’m glad he finally found a place to play.
  • 33, 35, 40, 43, and 34.  Those are the second half point totals from Dallas in the five losses.
  • The decision to go with Troy Murphy over Brandan Wright probably vexes a lot of casual fans.  To some degree it does me as well, yet in the first half it was obvious why Wright saw so little action.  In his two minutes of playing time he picked up two fouls simply because his match up exploited his general lack of strength. In the fourth quarter, while Wright was playing, Dallas surrendered 5 offensive boards. This isn’t the sort of stat the coaching staff can ignore, even if its not entirely his fault.
  • On the flip side, Lance Stephenson and Sam Young shot a combined 11-20 for 29 points for Indiana. That sort of role player contribution is hard to over come.
  • The Mavericks are asking too much of Vince Carter. His play has declined as the season has wore along because opposing teams key in on the fact that he’s the only Mav capable of attacking the bucket with regularity. This is frustrating because its not entirely true, as Mayo and Collison are both capable, but don’t seem to want to force the issue the way Vince is willing to. Vince is at his best as a spot up shooter and attacking weaker, second string small forwards and shooting guards. I expect him to find his groove again upon Dirk’s return.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family.  Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace 

 

Make or Break

Posted by David Hopkins on November 13, 2012 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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“Galactus does what Galactus must to survive.” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

While watching the Mavericks play against the Knicks, I realized that with Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion out and with Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler now playing for the other team, there were actually more players from 2011 championship squad active for the Knicks than the Mavs. Then, I remembered that the Mavs had Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois — the yin and yang, the dueling fates, and the twins of a new Rome. The forgotten prophecy of a Dallas without Dirk. Do they even count?

During the Mavs’ championship season, Dominique Jones was in his rookie year, and saw more action in the D-League than in the NBA. Jones didn’t play a single minute during the playoffs. And Rodrigue Beaubois, right before the playoffs, sprained his left foot. Like Jones, he also won his championship while watching from the bench. They saw the victory but could never lay claim to the bragging rights.

For both these players, the omen of a “make or break season” has been relentlessly applied, as if fans are demanding that Beaubois and Jones become retroactively worthy of their rings or be forever abandoned to the wild fate of a trade deadline. Jones is in his third season, and the Mavs decided not to exercise their team option. Beaubois is in his fourth year of his contract (his injuries almost make it seem like his second year). Both will be free agents at the end of this season, free to roam and find their fortune wherever it might be.

Make or break. Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois have to prove their worth this season. Both were the 25th pick in their respective draft classes. Both have dealt with injuries early in their NBA careers. And both appear out of place in their natural position, and are fighting for the same roster spot as the backup point guard to Darren Collison. Their fates are intertwined – the All-American over-tattooed Jones and the forever-smirking Frenchman Beaubois. For one to live, must one perish?

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 94, New York Knicks 104

Posted by Kirk Henderson on November 9, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • 20 turnovers, 40% shooting, 11 offensive boards surrendered, and a 37 point second half. Much like the loss in Utah last week, Dallas lead in the first half only to suffer an offensive collapse in the second.  Carmelo Anthony (31 points on 22 shots, 14 free throw attempts, and 7 rebounds) attempted to bully the Mavericks from pillar to post and largely succeeded. All in all, a somewhat frustrating defeat.
  • And yet… Dallas was within striking distance for most of the second half despite missing Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. Eight of the twenty turnovers and six of the eleven offensive rebounds came in the fourth quarter as New York steadily pushed the lead from 6 to 8 and then 10 points. The Mavericks clearly missed Dirk as the offense came to a grinding halt in the fourth quarter.
  • O.J. Mayo (23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) had another big game statistically, but only played 23 minutes due to foul trouble.  He was partially responsible for the Dallas first half lead but was forced to sit stretches in both halves in which Dallas could have used his offensive abilities.  He also managed to turn the ball over 8 times, bringing back pre-season memories where he had a great deal of trouble holding onto the ball.
  • Darren Collison (4 points on 1-8 shooting,  8 assists) had an excellent first half with seven assists, but his inability to connect on any of his shots seemed to impact his play in the second half. Exceptional pick and roll defense by the Knicks added to his frustrations; only Brandan Wright (11 points, 4 rebounds) seemed capable of slipping the screens and finding gaps in the Knicks coverage.
  • Vince Carter (15 points, 6 rebounds) seemed to tweak his groin muscle in the second half. We should all hope the injury isn’t too serious; first because groin injuries can linger and second because he’s the main scoring cog off the bench.
  • Elton Brand (8 points, 7 rebounds) and Troy Murphy (7 rebounds) need to discover some sort of offensive touch if Dallas is to keep winning games while Dirk heals. Brand is shooting 33% and Murphy is shooting 30% so far this season.  Neither player is expected to contribute an offensive punch, but connecting above 40% of shots shouldn’t be out of the question. Brand in particular has had a rough go of it; he seems very reluctant on most of his moves within 15 feet of the basket.
  • Jason Kidd hit two shots at the rim tonight. Last season he hit seven.
  • The production Carlisle is getting from the center position continues to impress. Chris Kaman and Brendan Wright combined to give Dallas 25 points on 10-14 shooting and 11 rebounds in 42 minutes.
  • Back to Vince for a moment; thus far this season he seems to have eliminated (or at the very least severely limited) taking mid-range shots. If you view his shot chart location from last season he was questionable at best on all shots taken from three feet out to right inside the three point line.  This season he’s taking much better shots; either from the low post over smaller defenders where he also draws fouls or from the three point line.  While he has hit a number of long two point shots, as long as these shots don’t become a staple in his shot selection, he’s likely to remain an efficient contributor off the bench.
  • Carlisle played deep into the bench tonight, establishing an 11 man rotation due to necessity from foul trouble.  No one on the team played more than 27 minutes; Dallas plays their fifth game in 8 nights tomorow against the Bobcats and Monday’s game against the Timberwolves kicks off another 4 game in seven night stretch for Dallas. The Mavericks have not had consecutive nights off since November 2nd and won’t again until November 22nd.