“…All the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
It honestly does not get much worse than this.
Worst loss in nearly a decade? Check. Embarrassing effort level on both ends of the court? Double check. Truly horrid execution? You betcha. Completely whiffing in a ‘statement game?’ Probably an understatement, but yes. The Dallas Mavericks failed in just about every conceivable way on Tuesday night, giving the players, coaching staff, and front office personnel plenty to think about going into the All-Star break.
You’ll find no more cogent and persuasive argument for the Mavs to make a trade than last night’s misery. The Nuggets just seemed to be operating on a completely different plane of existence, one that was simply beyond that of the pitiful, mortal Mavs. All Dallas could do was stare wide-eyed as Denver’s shooters nailed shot after shot, and marvel at every backdoor cut and spot-on defensive rotation. Nothing the Mavs did on the court could really be classified as actively playing the game of basketball, so don’t misunderstand my rhetoric; the Mavericks were spectators on the floor, watching the true professionals do what they do. They simply couldn’t be bothered with offering the slightest resistance or competition.
Dismissing the Mavs didn’t even require a spectacular game from either of Denver’s biggest stars, Chauncey Billups (16 points, 6-8 FG, six assists, three steals) and Carmelo Anthony (19 points, six assists, four rebounds). Instead, the Nuggets simply cashed in on the ordinary performances of their top players, and supplemented with some ridiculous production off the bench. Four of Denver’s reserves finished in double-figures, and it was actually the ridiculous second quarter runs of the Nuggets’ bench players that put away the game early. The Mavs expect, scheme, and tech to stop the players that are difficult to stop otherwise; Billups is so crafty and Anthony so talented that if you’re not preparing for them, you’re doomed to allow a monster scoring night from one or both. But Ty Lawson? Arron Afflalo? Johan Petro? These aren’t supposed to be the guys that give a team like the Mavs trouble…and yet here we are, looking at a decisive 18-33 quarter that says otherwise.
Without a healthy, fully-functional Erick Dampier, the Mavs have no hope of stopping Nene (21 points, 8-9 FG, eight rebounds). Eddie Najera got the start at center in Dampier’s absence (you know the drill – left knee effusion), but both he and Drew Gooden looked absolutely clueless in “guarding” (I use this term loosely) a player with such size, speed, and finishing ability. Nene was one of the unheralded difference-makers of last year’s playoff series between the Mavs and Nuggets, and his most recent domination of the Mavs was only more of the same.
J.R. Smith (12 points, three rebounds, three assists) and Chris Andersen (14 points, ten rebounds) were predictably troublesome, if only because the Mavs didn’t match their energy and activity. Based on everything else you’ve read and seen regarding this game, that shouldn’t be at all surprising.
Look, the Mavs were awful. Terrible, really. They slowed to a crawl when the should have (and could have) been sprinting, and now they’ll have to live with the consequences. So the best thing I can tell you to do is just laugh this off. Chuckle a bit at the thought of Ty Lawson running circles around the Mavs’ defenders. Let out a laugh because you know that Malik Allen, MALIK ALLEN, scored six points against Dallas. Just giggle with delight because you know that Denver shot 16-18 at the rim, and that’s probably not even the Mavs’ most embarrassing defensive feat of the night. But most importantly, laugh this off because there’s really nothing else you can do. This loss was so bad that it’s probably beyond anger or frustration, and qualifies as pure comedy. I mean, this is all some sort of elaborate joke…right?
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
The Mavs needed this. Not just to avoid going on a four-game losing streak, though that’s certainly important. But even more important than Dallas’ need to not lose was their need to flat-out win. A game like this one isn’t so much about celebrating an end to failure as it is putting together something productive and presenting it in a meaningful way. Success is determined by wins and losses, and though the Mavs have played well for some if not most of 144 losing minutes, it’s crucial that the Mavs find success in 48 minute spurts. In the grand scheme of things, it’s about playing well. But for now, it’s wins and losses that could get the Mavs where they want (and need) to go; anything less than the third seed means a second round collision course with the Lakers, which is no good. As much as I’m sure the Mavs wouldn’t mind soaking up the sun, Los Angeles is not a place you want to be in the playoffs until every other option is exhausted.
So, a nine point win against a team like the Warriors? In which Dallas surrendered a career-high 46 points to Monta Ellis on just 23 shots? It really doesn’t seem like much on paper, but this was kind of big.
First, let’s start with the completely insane: the Mavs’ defense on Monta Ellis was a little bit better than you’d think, based on Ellis’ ridiculously efficient shooting line. He did finish with seven turnovers (a decidedly Monta-like number), and while Jason Terry couldn’t do all that much to slow Ellis down, it wasn’t for lack of effort. I mean, take a look at the shot chart for Ellis. That’s a lot of long two-pointers for a guy who can get to the rim at will, and though I have complete faith in Ellis’ ability to hit the mid-range jumper, that’s pretty much exactly the shot they want Monta taking. He made eight of his 12 attempts from 16-23 feet, which when you think about it, is just stupid good. Some of those were contested and some weren’t, but in terms of shot selection, I think you take those looks over forays into the paint any day. (Only four of Ellis’ 23 attempts came at the rim; that’s about half his season average.)
I mean, there are nights where you make shots, and there are nights where you make this shot (via BDL):
Ellis was the Warriors’ offense last night, as the rest of the roster managed just 38.9% shooting from the field. When Ellis subbed out for a few minutes rest to start the fourth quarter, the Mavs promptly went on a 5-0 run. Without their star in to run the offense or, at the very least, create a shot for himself, the Warriors’ offense completely broke down. Moves and passes on the court were made without purpose, and we were able to see first-hand why Monta Ellis ranks second in the league in minutes per game (41.8 per): the Warriors don’t have any other choice.
We’ve seen similar sequences from the Mavs this season. With Dirk on the bench and Jason Terry and Josh Howard struggling, the Maverick attack was somewhat directionless. Not so against the Warriors. Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 7-11 FG, seven rebounds) wasn’t the team’s high-scorer and probably wasn’t even the most impressive Maverick; Jason Terry led the Mavs with 21 points and six assists, Shawn Marion scored 18 on a wonderful 11 of 19 from the field (and nine rebounds to boot), and Drew Gooden ran the floor with ease, and punished the Warriors to the tune of 16 points on just nine shots. But Josh Howard, the prodigal son, looked to have finally found his way home. His spot-up three-point stroke still needs some work, but Josh chipped in 19 points on 9-15 shooting, with a couple of assists and rebounds. Howard just looked so natural on the floor, as if his season hasn’t been eclipsed by the dark clouds overhead and some woefully inefficient play. You could easily accuse Howard of being a bit of a black hole, and this season has been no exception. But Howard didn’t force much at all against Golden State, and though his two assists don’t really grab your attention, he wasn’t stopping the ball. I’d almost forgotten what that looked like, but Howard’s game was a pleasant surprise.
In terms of offense, it really was a complete team effort. That’s five Mavs with 16+ points, and Jason Kidd (six points, 16 assists, six steals, four turnovers) orchestrated masterfully. The Mavs ran the ball down the Warriors’ throats to start, and beat Golden State at their own game; Dallas forced turnovers, got out on the break, and built up an early lead. It’s one that the Mavs would never relinquish, although the Warriors did bring the game within four points with 5:11 in the fourth quarter.
I know that sounds like this was another one of those games. But it really wasn’t. The Warriors had clawed their way back from an 18-point deficit, but from the moment they narrowed it to three, the Mavs took off. Or more specifically, Dirk did. Nowitzki scored six straight before the Warriors could even respond, and from that point on the Mavs simply matched Monta Ellis and the Warriors shot for shot. For once, the Mavs weren’t dodging bullets in the final seconds, and honestly it was a bit of a relief. I’m all for the dramatic, but once in awhile it’s nice to just breathe.
Eddie Najera got the start at center, as Erick Dampier sat out another game with a left knee effusion. Najera didn’t contribute much in limited minutes (no points, just one rebound), but did show a bit of his potential value: Najera drew three charges, including two on Monta Ellis. Considering that the only thing that may have kept Ellis from playing the entire fourth quarter was foul trouble, that’s huge.
I couldn’t be happier with Drew Gooden’s shot selection. With a guy like Drew, the last thing you want to see is him fall in love with his own jumper. I thought that might be the case after watching Gooden drain his first jumpshot of the night just 40 seconds after entering the game. But to Drew’s credit, he used that first made jumper as a weapon throughout the night. Ronny Turiaf and Andris Biedrins were the primary covers for Gooden, and after making that first jumper, they were both tempted to respect it. Gooden made the textbook move and turned to the shot fake, which was more than enough to goad the eager Turiaf and Biedrins into a block attempt. A few drives and a few trips to the free throw line later, and you have one of Drew Gooden’s best offensive nights as a Mav (in terms of shot creation).
The Warriors really were not accounting for Shawn Marion. Most of his points just came during broken defensive sets or off of very basic pick-and-roll action, but he looked like a serious offensive weapon against Golden State’s defenders.
Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, two rebounds, two assists) looked completely healthy after that nasty fall on Monday night. And he actually got some decent burn playing point guard, too. Beaubois played 16 minutes while J.J. Barea played just eight, designating Roddy as the back-up PG of the night. There’s plenty to look forward to, but his play is certainly a reminder that his play at the point is a work in progress. I still see him as a good second string point at the moment, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing him along slowly, getting him in-game experience with minimal pressure, and easing him into the life of an NBA point guard.
Devean George sighting! George scored five points on 2-6 FG for the Warriors, which is about six more points than he ever scored as a Maverick.
Dirk has ditched the large, bulbous elbow brace he’d been wearing for the last month or so in favor of a more traditional arm sleeve. Needless to say, the thinner “brace” didn’t have any kind of negative effect on his shot.
That said, Dirk did injure his right thumb, which has since been declared a mere bruise. So much depends on Dirk’s right hand, and if nothing else, his minor injury reminded us of the mortality of it all.
The Mavs had 32 assists to the Warriors’ 13.
Corey Maggete had 20 points (8-19 FG) and nine rebounds for GS and C.J. Watson had 14 points on 5-10 shooting. It was probably the quietest 34 points I’ve ever seen.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Josh Howard. As I mentioned before, Howard not only played well, but played unselfishly. It’s a thing that’s easier said than done for a guy in Josh’s position, and though I know he’s desperate for redemption, that desperation didn’t overcome his fairer basketball instincts.
Monday night’s game between the Mavs and the Jazz was a terrific showcase of high quality basketball…until Dallas completely broke down in the fourth quarter. Utah completely dominated the final frame, making those resilient Maverick performances from early in the season seem like a distant memory. In this installment of Moving Pictures, we’ll look at what the Jazz did well and where the Mavs folded.
You can watch the video on Vimeo for a much larger picture, which is in the original widescreen resolution the video was made for.
Note: Apologies on how late this is, but I don’t really feel that it’s dated. YouTube gave me all kinds of trouble on the upload, hence Vimeo.
“The straight line leads to the downfall of humanity.” -Friedensreich Hundertwasser
Last night, the Mavs had the distinct pleasure of being audience to their own implosion. They could only watch helplessly as the Utah Jazz forced turnover after turnover, catapulting themselves into transition and bringing the Maverick attack to a grinding halt. Dallas failed to execute in the half-court on a very basic level for nine minutes of the fourth quarter, which was more than enough time for the Jazz to put on a spectacular display of effort and intensity.
It’s a shame, really. The Mavs had played three quarters of good basketball to that point, and trailed just one point to the Jazz going into the fourth. Dirk Nowitzki had already totaled 26 points and Jason Terry, 18. Dallas had just closed the third quarter with a 7-2 run, and seemed poised to open the final frame with a bang. Not so. The Jazz countered with a quick 6-1 surge of their own, and though the Mavs were able to withstand the forces of gravity momentarily, the downfall was imminent.
This time around, it wasn’t the Mavs’ unwillingness to put the ball in the hands of their best player, but simply their inability; Andrei Kirilenko (13 points, 6-7 FG, eight rebounds, three assists, four steals) played stellar defense on Dirk to close out the game, and he used his speed and length to make even the most routine entry passes an impossible endeavor. Dallas was only able to attempt 14 shots in the quarter to Utah’s 23; the fourth quarter yielded seven turnovers for the Mavs and seven offensive rebounds for the Jazz. The Mavs have had trouble securing defensive rebounds on a few occasions this season, but in no situation all year has their weakness been more glaring. Kirilenko, Paul Millsap (25 points, 10-16 FG, nine rebounds, four blocks), Wesley Matthews (seven points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks), and C.J. Miles (17 points, five rebounds) simply outworked the Mavs on the glass, turning what could have been a decent defensive performance into a pretty miserable one. Utah’s first shot was typically a difficult one, but the array of layups and dunks for second chance points gave the Jazz an easy opportunity to put up points.
Paul Millsap was especially brutal, and his influence was more far-reaching than just the offensive boards. Millsap showed a bit of range in knocking down mid-range jumpers, which made him a perfect lineup substitution for the injured Carlos Boozer. And although Millsap proved to be plenty capable of knocking down the open jumper when spotting up, he didn’t let it distract from his inside game. This is a man that makes his living down low, and though he showed the kind of shooting ability any team would want from their power forward, he has no delusions about what his role is on the court.
But Millsap was countered by the brilliance of Dirk Nowitzki (28 points, 11-16 FG, eight rebounds), who dominated the first three quarters. But Dirk didn’t attempt a single shot in the fourth, due to his own ability to seal off his man, some poor passing from the perimeter, and Kirilenko’s relentless defense. If Nowitzki gets the touches he needs in the fourth, it’s likely we’d be looking at a very different result. But the Jazz have seen that play out once before, and were determined to disrupt the flow of the Mavs’ offense by denying Dirk. It’s hard to argue with that theoretical logic, and based on the result, it’s hard to argue with Utah’s actualization of that logic.
January was a rough month for the Mavs, and they certainly haven’t kicked off February in style. But Rick Carlisle’s strengths as a coach lie in his ability to adjust and adapt, which should be reason enough to hold onto hope going forward. We’ve seen how well the Mavericks are capable of playing on both ends of the court, and though the last few games have been rough, the Mavs aren’t all that far from putting together complete wins.
Rodrigue Beaubois challenged a Paul Millsap layup attempt in the first quarter, and went down hard. He was able to walk off the court, and was warming up with the team at halftime, but he did not return. He’s listed as day-to-day with a bruised back, and could play as early as Wednesday.
Jason Terry (19 points, eight assists, four steals) looks so much more comfortable as a starter than he did as a reserve. He’s giving the Mavs a huge spark offensively right now, and the contrast between his play now and earlier in the season is astounding. Enduring cold stretches is just part of being a shooter, but it looks like things are finally warming up for Terry and, in turn, the Dallas offense.
A great battle between the point guards, as Jason Kidd (11 points, nine assists, two steals, two turnovers) and Deron Williams (18 points, 15 assists, seven rebounds, two steals, four turnovers) both turned in impressive nights. Williams was obviously the better of the two last night, as he is on just about every other night. I can’t say enough about Deron’s game…it’s nearing the point where the difference between him and Chris Paul is a matter of preference rather than performance.
Utah’s big fourth quarter run, keyed by their offensive rebounding, was actually achieved by going small. Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, C.J. Miles, Andrei Kirilenko, and Paul Millsap found a way to dominate the Mavs’ starters (but with Gooden rather than Dampier) on the glass, which doesn’t bode well. Rebounds are supposed to be the concession when teams go small, but the Jazz found a way to turn it into a strength.
Eddie Najera is finally getting a little bit of garbage time burn. He’s played a total of four minutes between last night’s game and Saturday night’s. He’s also attempted two shots and made both, showing his shooting touch from the corner in making a three and a long two. He’s not exactly making the splash that Humphries is in Jersey, but the deal was never intended to bring in matching basketball talent.
Josh Howard played just 11 minutes, and shot 1-4 from the field with two turnovers. Somebody change the “Josh Howard Doomsday Clock” to ten minutes ’til.
“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”
-Edward R. Murrow
For the purposes of this recap, the fact that the Mavericks lost is almost certainly a good thing.
I find it a bit difficult to rail on a team for winning. The explicit goal of playing in the NBA is to win games, and though there are millions of ways to accomplish that feat, the end result reads the same in the standings. All wins are obviously not created equal, but in a game where the Mavs are the victors, their weaknesses and limitations are easily disguised. The shoddy defense, the offensive impotence, the poor rebounding, the lack of consistent execution — all shoved into boxes in the corner of the garage, covered with a sheet, and forgotten.
Until a night like tonight. The defense we’ve come to expect from the Mavs’ strong start has been nonexistent in their last two contests, and any offensive momentum the Mavs have built in the past week was exhausted in the first three quarters against the Phoenix Suns. By the time the fourth came around, Dallas’ offense could do little other than sputter.
I have no intention of denying the Suns their due. They were relentless in their activity and ball movement, and were a huge part of the Mavs’ offensive collapse in the final quarter. They held the Mavs to just 16 points in the fourth on 6-21 shooting. Grant Hill (seven points, five rebounds) played terrific defense on Dirk (19 points, 5-11 FG, five rebounds) throughout, but of course he didn’t do it alone. The Suns’ ability to deny Dirk the ball late in the fourth quarter was absolutely tremendous, and that’s a team-wide effort. That’s Channing Frye cheating over a bit to help in the post. That’s Jared Dudley denying a pass. That’s Steve Nash (yes, that Steve Nash) making the entry pass just a little bit more difficult. This is how you phase your opponent’s best player out of the game, and the result speaks for itself.
Of course it didn’t exactly help matters that Phoenix was getting to the basket at will. The Suns had 22 attempts at the rim compared to the Mavs’ 12, mostly due to poor rotations in the paint; Erick Dampier’s (12 points, four rebounds) minutes and mobility were limited and Drew Gooden (eight points, three rebounds) looked suspiciously like Drew Gooden. And on the perimeter? The Mavs were lost, doubling Amar’e Stoudemire (22 points, one rebound, five turnovers) in the post at the wrong moments and scrambling to account for Steve Nash (19 points, 11 assists). The mayhem left plenty of shooters open from behind the arc, where the Suns’ collection of marksmen nailed nine of their 15 attempts. 38 of Phoenix’s 73 attempts came from highly efficient spots on the floor, and they added 31 free throw attempts just for the hell of it. That’s three very efficient ways of scoring for the Suns, contributing a total of 82 points on 51 estimated possessions.
Needless to say, that’s not exactly championship caliber defense. And the offense that scored just eight points in the final seven minutes? Well, that’s not even quasi-contender quality. The Mavs are past the point where they “need to figure these things out,” and on to “they really should have figured these things out by now.” Things should be getting easier on the offensive end, and the defensive game plan should be second nature. That hasn’t happened. And though it seems like centuries between now and the playoffs, the post-All-Star stretch will fly by. The Mavs are far from a lost cause, but if they’re to peak at the right time, they should probably get started with their marked improvement relatively soon.
Jason Terry (21 points, 8-15 FG, five assists) looks to be in an offensive rhythm. One can only hope that this is more than a mirage, and that the productive, efficient JET is here to stay.
Josh Howard’s (seven points, 3-10 FG, six rebounds, two turnovers) presence on the court was pretty damning. I so badly want to defend Josh’s play because I think he’s putting in the effort, but his performance is hardly worthy of significant floor time. He’s losing his man on defense, he can’t convert on jumpers or in the lane, and he’s stopping the ball. Rick Carlisle’s in a tough place in managing Howard’s ego, playing time, and trade value, but something has to give.
The Mavs looked great working against the zone, as they moved the ball to the open area of the floor, drew in the D, and kicked it out. The Suns tried their hand at zoning up for just two possessions early in the game, and two Jason Kidd jumpers later (one two-pointer and one three-pointer), they were back to man-to-man.
Amar’e Stoudemire had a weird game. He grabbed just one rebound in 27 minutes. He sat out the entire fourth quarter. He floated. He scored .0.84 points per minute. He could get moved, and after the game he was all smiles. If you can make any sense of those events, then by all means.
Dirk Nowitzki’s last field goal attempt came with 6:15 left in the fourth quarter. Yikes. To steal a line from Hedo Turkoglu on what could have helped Dirk contribute more down the stretch: Ball.
I’m convinced that Jared Dudley may be the perfect role player. He works hard, he rebounds, and he completely overcomes his limitations by playing smart defense, limiting his shots to where’s he’s most effective, and moving without the ball.
Goran Dragic (13 points, 4-6 FG) isn’t a “completely different player” from last year, but he’s skipped a step in his evolutionary process and become an instant contributor. He was much more of a scorer than a playmaker last night, but Dragic is capable of doing both playing either guard position. He continues to find ways to make himself more and more useful.
Obligatory mention to Louis Amundson (12 points, 5-7 FG, two blocks), whose play kept Amar’e off the floor.
The Mavs shot .500 from the field, Marion chipped in 15 points and 8 rebounds, Dampier added 12 points, Jason Kidd notched 13 points and six assists and J.J. Barea scored eight points on just five shots to go along with four assists. Combined with Terry’s production, that’s about all you can ask from the supporting cast. Makes you wonder what could have been offensively if the Mavs hadn’t completely fallen apart in the fourth quarter, doesn’t it?
Black eye on Shawn Marion’s game: Marion missed a fairly basic look from short range with the Mavs down three and under a minute remaining. Dallas then gives up a layup to Steve Nash (not Marion’s fault), and is forced to go into fouling mode (only kind of Marion’s fault).
Via @mavstats: “[Jason Terry] has six 20+ pt games in last 11 (only eight 20+ pt games in first 34 of the season).”
John Krolik explains, with myriad reasons, why Drew Gooden was one of the “most ridiculous” rotation players to play alongside LeBron James. He’s probably not wrong. And Krolik sums up Drew’s Cavs career nicely with this anecdote: “Around the beginning of my Sophomore year, I realized that the magnetizing strip on my student ID card had worn out. This meant that it wouldn’t work sometimes in some places, and would never work in other places. It was often a hassle, but it would work just often enough so that I didn’t feel the need to replace it. It wasn’t making my life impossible, and I had too many other things to do to worry about replacing the card. You know when I ended up replaced that card? Yesterday. It took me just over a year and a half to get sufficiently fed up with my barely adequate card. That story is how I would explain the Drew Gooden era for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s hard to realize that something that works needs replacing, even when it doesn’t work very well.”
Rick Carlisle lets Erick Dampier off the hook for Andrew Bogut’s big night (seriously, Bogut’s post-work was a thing of beauty). Via Tim MacMahon: “Damp was playing really on a leg that was not right and he made three monstrous defensive plays in the last few minutes that put us in position to win the game…Give him a lot of credit. He’s been struggling. It’s been a tough go here the last three weeks, but he’s giving us what he can.”
Jason Terry on the Beaubois-Barea on-court pairing (via Jeff Caplan): “They play well together, they’re quick…That’s a unit that you say, ‘Wow, they just bother the heck out of people.’ If you look at them, they’re all over the place.”
JET throws in a vote for Andrew Bogut as an All-Star. He was better than merely an All-Star last night, though.
Dirk Nowitzki tied Brad Davis for the most games played as a Maverick (883) last night.
via @benandskin: “Marc Stein feels like Mavs like Kevin Martin best of all names being thrown around[.]“
“Out of need springs desire, and out of desire springs the energy and the will to win.”
For the first 46 minutes, the Mavs were executing brilliantly on offense and, well, letting the Bucks execute brilliantly on offense as well. Dirk Nowitzki (28 points on 25 shots, eight rebounds, five assists) and Jason Terry (21 points, 8-15 FG, 4-6 3FG, four assists) made beautiful music together throughout, and their play was clearly reminiscent of the simpler times of ’08-’09. But despite the throwback quality of Terry’s shooting, the Maverick offense was anything but the isolation-heavy sets of a year ago; the Mavs notched an impressive 31 assists on 41 field goals.
But the Bucks kept pace. Though the Mavs were able to build a slight lead and reap the benefits of some breathing room, there was never any clear separation. Blame Andrew Bogut, who missed just one of his 14 attempts from the field en route to a 32-point, nine-rebound performance. Or blame the exceedingly slippery Carlos Delfino (22 points, 4-5 3FG, six rebounds, five assists) who somehow seemed to be the open man on any particular offensive set.
The Bucks shot very well from the field, and based on the Mavs’ inability to stop Bogut down low or get a man to stick with Delfino, a win would require just making one more basket than Milwaukee. Or, literally, making a few more baskets and coasting on offense to a one-point victory. In the final two minutes, the Mavs didn’t score a single point. In a rare display of mortality, Dirk turned the ball over with the game on the line. Compound that turnover with the two Maverick misses in the final few, and a game of impressive offense suddenly boils down to a few defensive possessions. On most nights, no problem. But given what Bogut and Delfino were able to accomplish against the Mavs’ D — not to mention the potential impact of a guy like Brandon Jennings — the fact that Dallas escaped with a win seems an improbability. Milwaukee had just scored six straight, all but erasing Dallas’ seven-point lead and bringing the game to a “do or die” sequence with 27 seconds remaining.
Dirk Nowitzki definitely didn’t “do,” as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute channeled him into help defense and the subsequent turnover. But the Mavs found a way to avoid that unenviable demise by doing just enough to ensure a victory. Their last defensive sequence isn’t quite worthy of gilding for display in the halls of the AAC, but in the game’s final three seconds, the Mavs bothered Carlos Delfino just enough to survive.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two back-to-back impressive offensive displays from the Mavs. Does not compute.
Erick Dampier (two points, 11 rebounds, a block, a turnover) played despite sitting out Sunday with his left knee injury. It wasn’t pretty. He was a non-factor on offense, and wasn’t anywhere near his usual defensive impact. Bogut had a field day against Damp (and for that matter, Drew Gooden, and anyone else who tried to guard him) with a few notable exceptions: late in the game, when the Bucks desperately needed points, Damp bodied up Bogut, forced him out of the lane, and prevented him from even taking a shot. It doesn’t quite make up for the fact that the Aussie was putting on a hook shot clinic, but the defensive accomplishments in this game were purely relative.
Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, 3-6 FG, 2-2 3FG, two rebounds, two assists) continues to impress, though he was again moved off the ball upon Jason Kidd’s return. But oddly enough, the Mavs were startlingly effective fielding a lineup of J.J. Barea at the point and Beaubois at shooting guard. It’s an interesting look if the Mavs are in need of a short-term shakeup, as the speed of that backcourt could be absolutely brutal against some slower guards.
Josh Howard (13 points, 4-7 FG, three rebounds) was a bit nondescript, but did make a bit of an impact by driving to the basket. It really is that simple with Josh; if he stops taking bad shots and looks to get to the rim rather than throw up contested jumpers, it will not only help the team but open up the rest of his game. Josh’s jumpshot was always predicated on his ability to drive, and when you take away that foundation, he’s too easy to defend.
Roddy made a 25-footer without any hesitation, but his long shot was completely upstaged by Carlos Delfino’s. On a busted offensive set with 27 seconds left and the Bucks down four, Delfino nailed a 31-footer with the shot clock on his back.
The natural chemistry between Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings is a little strange and totally excellent.
Jason Terry’s impact cannot be overstated. He really may be all the difference between middling offensive efficiency and a top ten mark, which is all the more reason to be optimistic about times like this. Terry has only really looked like himself in a handfull of games all season, and last night’s contest was definitely one of them.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is one of the best defenders in the league. Not just in defending Dirk, but overall. The only shame is that at this point, he’s a bit of an offensive liability. Mbah a Moute really just needs one offensive move — a steady mid-range jumper, the corner three, SOMETHING — to make him impossible to take off the floor. The fact that this guy made it all the way to the second round is a travesty.
Shawn Marion (12 points, 5-8 FG, five rebounds) is much improved as a finisher. Chalk it up to familiarity with Jason Kidd’s passing or simply Marion settling in, but he’s worlds more effective offensively than he was to start the season.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points while shooting a decent percentage. In other news, the world continues to turn.
THE GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Terry. Dirk faced a lot of double coverage early and had to grapple with Mbah a Moute late, so it was up to JET to carry the offense for stretches. He certainly answered, putting up nine points in the fourth frame and hopefully securing his position as the starting 2. The Mavs start and finish better with JET in the lineup, and until Howard can figure things out (and maybe even beyond then), the job should be Terry’s to lose.
“The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you’re playing by somebody else’s rules, while quietly playing by your own.”
You could easily look at all of the Mavs’ close wins this season and determine that they’re not getting the job done. There’s little separation on the scoreboard, and for a quality team against inferior opponents, that’s simply unacceptable.
On some level, I agree; the Mavs should certainly be winning games more decisively. They have the talent necessary to build up a big lead and rest their starters in the fourth quarter, but seem to much prefer slugging out a game in the final seconds. Great for drama, not so much for the point differential.
But I will say this: the Mavs have plenty of clutch experience this season. This team knows how to execute and win with the game on the line. Think that might make a difference in the playoffs?
Last night’s game was only the latest of the Maverick nail-biters, as Dallas surrendered consecutive three-pointers to the Wiz in the final 30 seconds. A safe seven-point lead had dwindled to just one, and then the unthinkable happened: Dirk Nowitzki committed a turnover with the game on the line. It’s one of the few blemishes on Dirk’s clutch resume, and it put Washington in control of the game with just six seconds remaining. They inbounded to Caron Butler in isolation, who measure the situation as he approached the three-point line. He attacked driving left, bumped to create contact, hung in the air, and was smothered by Shawn Marion.
One play hardly a win makes, but Marion and the Mavs are finishers in the truest sense. They may not always start the game strongly (although they had a perfectly respectable first quarter Wednesday night), but they close it with authority. Nowitzki is brutally effective in late-game situations, Jason Terry is one of the league leaders in fourth quarter scoring despite his disappointing performance overall, and the Mavs’ team defense has generally been superb in finishing games. It may not be enough to win by 20 every night, but it’s enough to win on most of them. Considering the pretty intense schedule the Mavs have had so far and the quality of opponents in the Western Conference, winning by a slim margin isn’t quite the sign of weakness it used to be.
The Mavs were certainly not without flaws in their win over the Wiz, but when the most glaring is simply the inability to build up a huge lead? I’ll take it. The offense performed well behind another terrific night from Dirk (28 points, 11-19 FG, five rebounds, three turnovers) and the welcome contributions of Jason Terry (21 points, 9-16 FG, one turnover). JET jumped into the starting lineup for just the second time all season, and he responded beautifully with eight of the Mavs’ 25 first quarter points. Starting Josh Howard has its perks (as does starting J.J. Barea), but it may be time for the Mavs to jump-start Terry’s offensive game with early shots. Despite his talents and his reputation, JET doesn’t play with blinders on. He’s likely to put up points early, but he’ll do so without handcuffing the rest of the offense. That’s the biggest difference between the offensive games of Jason Terry and Josh Howard right now, and though Josh missed the game due to illness, the notion of starting Terry is something the Mavs ought to explore.
On a night-in and night-out basis, those two should be the givens on offense. They should be putting up 20+, and the contributions of the rest of the Mavs provide the fudge, the whipped cream, and the cherry on top. On Wednesday it was Shawn Marion (12 points, 6-12 FG, 12 rebounds, two blocks) and Drew Gooden (14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks) who provided the trimmings, and they did so in a very efficient manner. Marion and Gooden combined for seven offensive rebounds, which is the ideal for them to provide on the offensive end. Marion can create a little off the dribble or in the post, but his primary offensive strengths come in moving without the ball and securing extra possessions for the Mavs off of rebounds. Drew is a bit more skilled in terms of shot-creation, but Dirk, Terry, and Kidd (in terms of setting up plays) remain superior options. If Gooden secures the offensive rebound and throws up an errant baby hook, it’s essentially a no-loss scenario; the Mavs could technically have scored on the additional possession they created, but Drew still had the opportunity to score based on an opportunity he seized by himself. That means he’s using up less of the possessions in the structured offense, but still contributing on the scoreboard. Tremendous.
The Mavs’ defense wasn’t especially notable, except for their inability to cover Randy Foye (26 points, 9-14 FG, three assists, three turnovers). If you’ll recall, Foye dropped 19 on the Mavs on opening night, and was a bonafide difference-maker with his scoring alone. There’s apparently something about Foye’s game that’s slippery enough to elude Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, and co., and he’s taken full advantage of that fact this season. But other than that? Antawn Jamison had just seven points on 2-10 shooting with four turnovers. Caron Butler turned in a modest 20, while shooting 7-20 from the field. And though Brendan Haywood (13 points, 18 rebounds) and Earl Boykins (11 points, three assists) stepped up to fill the void, it wasn’t quite enough. This was by no means a marquee defensive performance, but the Mavs did force the Wizards’ best players into tough nights, and sealed the game by shutting down Caron Butler.
Jason Kidd only scored six points (2-10 FG), but contributed plenty to the offense as evidenced by his gaudy 15 assists…which matched the the Wizards’ team total. Kidd has topped 15 assists in the last two games, and he’s averaging 12.6 dimes over his last five. Bravo, good chap.
Even when the Wizards took a slight edge on the scoreboard in the closing minutes, the Mavs always seemed to have the game in control. They were the aggressors, and their primary scorers had established themselves as go-to guys. When in doubt, just get the ball to Dirk or JET. But the Wizards? Not having Butler or Jamison in rhythm, if only as a last resort, hurt their offense.
Matt Carroll logged a few minutes in the second quarter, and played about how you would expect. It’s tough to go into a situation like that and contribute; despite all the drills and practices, nothing can really prepare you for an NBA game except for other NBA games. Quinton Ross also played 15 minutes (and wasn’t all that impressive defensively), and James Singleton logged eight.
Erick Dampier threw down two alley-oop dunks from Jason Kidd with authority. Don’t worry, clips are on their way.
The Mavs are moving the ball beautifully right now. It’s not just Kidd, either — the team totaled 27 assists on 39 field goals.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Shawn Marion. The double-double is huge, but the game-saving block is even better. Shawn had another tough assignment in Caron Butler, but forced Butler into some bad shots throughout the night, and took any hope the Wizards had for a comeback win and stomped on it as time expired.
“The unpredictability inherent in human affairs is due largely to the fact that the by-products of a human process are more fateful than the product.“
It’s getting to the point where the Maverick offense is almost impossible to predict. The Mavs were unable to get the ball in the basket for long stretches against the Toronto Raptors, who despite their improved play of late, are dead last in the league in defensive efficiency. In the first half last night, the Mavs were scoring relatively well, but were turning the ball over at an uncharacteristically high rate.
Then in the second half? A deluge. 58 points (which is notable considering the there were only 90 total possessions) dropped on the head of one of the league’s top defenses (currently ranked 3rd). The less surprising part was that Dirk Nowitzki (34 points, 14-22 FG, seven rebounds, three assists) was the primary bread-winner, scoring 22 of his 37 points in the second half on 9-15 shooting. He was 6 of 7 in the third quarter, when the Mavs scored 34 points on an insane 16 of 20.
Dirk was mismatched against the likes of Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine, but he abused any defender Doc Rivers assigned to him. But honestly, as brilliant as Dirk was in getting open off of picks and the like, Boston’s defense had a complete breakdown. I’d imagine that Nowitzki takes up a pretty substantial part of the scouting report, and yet he was frequently wide open for mid-range jumpers. He is the undisputed best player in a Maverick uniform, and yet the Celtics were leaving him open to double in the post or sending two defenders to rotate due to miscommunication. Even great defensive teams are due for some mental errors once in awhile, but the second half (and the third quarter, in particular) was just mistake after mistake after mistake.
What’s scary is how good the Mavs could have been offensively if Jason Terry (eight points, 3-12 FG) and Josh Howard (three points, 1-5 FG, three rebounds, four assists) had been in any kind of rhythm. JET didn’t score a single point within 15 feet of the basket (0-4 from that range), as he was denied at the rim and forced into tough jumpers after prematurely killing his dribble. Terry caught the ball looking to score, but simply failed to convert. But he kept his turnovers down, played some decent defense, and deferred at the appropriate moments. Josh, to his credit, kept his shot attempts down. But his play continues to frustrate. His recent play should already have him on thin ice, and every missed layup and long, contested jumpshot is another step closer to the freezing water beneath his feet.
But Dirk wasn’t carrying the offense alone. Erick Dampier (11 points, seven rebounds, four turnovers, two blocks), Drew Gooden (10 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks), Jason Kidd (13 points, 5-7 FG, 3-3 3FG, 17 assists, three turnovers), and Shawn Marion (16 points, 7-9 FG, eight rebounds, two blocks) provided ample scoring support. Damp’s performance was especially notable for just how explosive of a scorer he was; all 11 of Damp’s points came in the third frame, where he also grabbed five rebounds and went a perfect 5-5 from the field. He was also surprisingly versatile, dropping a free throw line jumper and what I only know to describe as a runner (maybe a walker?) along with a few layups and some post work. That’s the closest thing you’ll ever see to an Erick Dampier offensive clinic, and it was against a pretty solid defender in Kendrick Perkins.
Gooden had a similar role in the first half, but in my mind Drew’s offensive contributions are far eclipsed by those on the defensive end. I’ll be blunt: Drew Gooden is not a strong defender. The rhetoric that he often “floats” on that end of the court is certainly true, and his concept of defensive spacing is certainly not in line with Coach Carlisle’s. But last night was a pleasant surprise, as Gooden combined excellent anticipation, great hands, and a high activity level to put together one of his best defensive performances of the season.
The shocking thing about Kidd and Marion’s performances was that there was really nothing spectacular about them. Kidd simply made the right plays, again and again, and his teammates finished inside. He displayed that incredible efficiency from the three-point line, which has become a staple of his time in Dallas. He played tough defense (even when switched onto bigger threats like Paul Pierce), pressured shooters, and initiated the offense. His numbers are absolutely stellar, but Jason Kidd only did what Jason Kidd does.
Shawn Marion’s outing was similar, with one notable exception: he finished. Marion’s time in Dallas has already seen him miss plenty of layups and several dunks, but Shawn maximized his opportunities last night. He was excellent in transition, but even more impressive with what he was able to do in half-court sets. Plus, his defense on Paul Pierce was admirable, even though it wasn’t totally effective. That happens when your primary objective on the court is to contain the league’s best players night in and night out. And though Pierce still scored 24 points while shooting over 50% from the field, Marion is putting in the effort to deny, bump, and challenge, and on the whole it’s working.
It was certainly an impressive win for the Mavs, but they hardly turned a corner. We’ve seen this team put up the occasional dominant offensive outing, and in truth, this was only half of one. It came against a quality opponent and a quality defense, but don’t misconstrue the Mavs’ third quarter brilliance for some sort of grand revelation. This team still only goes as far as Dirk can take them, and until Josh Howard and Jason Terry become more efficient and effective parts of the offense, Dallas will continue to struggle on that end of the court.
Rajon Rondo (seven points, 12 assists, two steals) is tremendously improved as a shooter. He was 3 of 5 from 16-23 feet last night, and he’s managed to virtually eliminate one of the holes in his game. That shot doesn’t need to be his bread-and-butter, but being able to hit from that range consistently can really complicate things for the defense.
Oh, and Rondo’s okay at passing, too. A lot of the Mavs’ defensive trobles came from collapsing too hard on Rondo’s lane penetration, which gave players like Kendrick Perkins (14 points, 12 rebounds, three turnovers, two blocks) all kinds of easy buckets. Not that Perk wasn’t a beast in his own right. The Celtics routinely sent him to work on the low block, and his array of turnaround jumpers was a clear homage to teammate Kevin Garnett.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki. He scored 37 points on 22 shots…isn’t that good enough for you?
“They’re certainly not the protagonists.”
Each Maverick game this season has been but another installment in the team’s plotline. There are ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and hopefully, a terrific climax following the rising action late in the playoffs.
But tonight didn’t feel like a Maverick game. Dallas was merely the backdrop of the latest Laker adventure, with the Mavs thrown out of the spotlight in favor of the night’s true protagonists. They showed resolve. They showed savvy. They fought nobly in the face of adversity, displayed teamwork and fellowship, and prevailed. The Mavs were simply the extras in the background while the celebration ensued, a footnote in the epic being written to log the exploits of the reigning champs.
From the very beginning, it seemed as if Dallas was fighting an uphill battle. The Lakers found plenty of early success by jumping on the back of Andrew Bynum (22 points, 8-11 FG, 11 rebounds). Erick Dampier’s (five points, four rebounds, two turnovers) return was supposed to provide a defensive counter to Bynum’s inside presence, but to no avail. Damp couldn’t slow down Bynum, much less stop him, and the interior D went from bad to worse when Dampier picked up two early fouls. Drew Gooden (eight points, five rebounds) is an able big against second units and small lineups, but against a gifted conventional center like Bynum, he could offer little in the way of resistance. The center rotation couldn’t even balance their poor defense with a bit of offense, leaving the rest of the Mavs to counter Bynum’s efficient night.
The defensive problems hardly stopped there. Ron Artest (16 points, 5-5 FG, 11 rebounds) was a bull inside, exploiting Josh Howard in the post with decisive moves and superior size. But perhaps the biggest slap of all came with the Mavs inability to get stops against the Lakers’ reserves; how is that a team of starters for a would-be contender fails to gain ground against a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Luke Walton, Josh Powell, and Andrew Bynum? That’s one starter (albeit on this night, a terribly effective one) with two rotation players and two deep reserves, and yet stops were a rarity and easy buckets were nowhere to be found. That is not the kind of team that the Mavs are supposed to struggle against, and though the Lakers’ margin of victory is relatively small, that stretch is surely representative of a larger deficit. The Mavs are struggling.
Kobe Bryant (10 points, two rebounds, one assist) was a virtual non-factor in the first half, as back spasms rendered him an observer on the court. The ball stayed out of his hands, and the Mavs failed to attack him when in the half-court offense. Bryant was matched up Marion, and while Shawn does not have an expansive offensive repertoire, would posting up Bryant be too much to ask? It’s hard for players with hurt backs to guard mobile opponents, but it’s also difficult for them to establish a base, bump, and contest down low. That should have been the Mavs’ primary directive early in the game, but Marion was hardly a factor in Dallas’ first quarter offense.
By the second half, Kobe seemed to be more comfortable. Maybe it was the considerable rest (he didn’t play at all in the second quarter, giving him thirteen minutes of rest in addition to halftime) afforded him by the Laker bench, or perhaps a change in approach by L.A.’s training staff. Or perhaps a recovery of some supernatural nature, a divine right given to the heroes of our story so that they may rise above. Bryant didn’t do much of the heavy lifting, but he managed to suck the air out of American Airlines Center with a go-ahead jumper with 29 seconds remaining. Dirk had just hit the biggest shot of the night to tie the game 95-all, but we should have known that the Mavs were simply setting the stage for their opponents’ victory. Josh Howard later had a chance to send the game to overtime on an open three-pointer, but leather hit nothing but rim. And instead of thinking that the Mavs fell short, all I could think was that the Lakers held on. From the opening tip on, this was their game. It was their story, and they played like it.
Dirk Nowitzki (30 points, 11-22 FG, 16 rebounds, two assists) and Jason Kidd (11 points, 3-8 3FG, seven rebounds, 11 assists) were sensational. But Kidd’s timely threes and Dirk’s heroics couldn’t overcome the Mavs’ defensive shortcomings. It was one of those nights where Dirk reminds you of just how fantastic of a player he is, and fittingly so, because Nowitzki notched his 20,000th career point. He’s 38th on the all-time scoring list, and while it’s easy to say that the Dallas Mavericks have never seen another player or scorer like him, I’d venture as far as to say that the NBA hasn’t, either. Dirk is a truly unique talent, a revolutionary, a franchise savior, and one of the best to ever play the game.
Jason Terry (seven points, 2-12 FG, three assists) didn’t offer much support, and the offense stalled because of it. Terry is so crucial to the offensive game plan, and when he’s not providing a scoring punch from the bench (especially on a night where Josh Howard moved into the starting lineup), he doesn’t offer much at all. That’s painful considering just how close the Mavs were to a victory, and when considering that the Lakers’ bench outscored the Mavs’ bench by ten points (31-21).
Lamar Odom did exactly what the situation called for – he drove to the basket (nine attempts at the rim), set up his teammates (four assists) and hit his open jumpshots (four of five from 16-23 feet). With Kobe stepping into a minor offensive role, somebody needed to use up shots. To Lamar’s credit, he certainly wasn’t passive, and although his 9-20 shooting and three turnovers aren’t terrific in regard to efficiency, it was exactly what the Lakers needed on this night.
Early in the game, the Mavs made the decision to put Josh Howard on Ron Artest and Shawn Marion on Kobe Bryant. I don’t meant to beat a dead horse here, but the way that Artest was bullying Josh inside made me wonder if Marion couldn’t do a little better job of standing his ground. Shawn is bigger than Josh and a more adept defender in the post, and putting Josh on Kobe would create more transition situations where Kobe is forced to guard Josh. Even if you don’t buy into the idea of Marion being able to punish Kobe in the post, Howard could at least provide offensive pressure on an ailing Bryant.
Two crucial plays that Rick Carlisle highlighted in his press conference took place at the end of the second and third quarters. To close the second, Ron Artest had a look at a running three-pointer, but Dirk Nowitzki mistimed his jump and ended up fouling with .2 seconds on the clock. Ron sank all three free throws, and what could have been a one-point deficit at halftime was four. Then, to close the third, the Mavs gave up an uncontested three to Jordan Farmar, pushing a two-point deficit to five. Both were pretty glaring mental mistakes, worsened by the fact that the clock was working against the Lakers in those situations, and yet they still found ways to get points.