The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 109, Miami Heat 119

Posted by Connor Huchton on January 3, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box ScorePlay-By-Play Shot ChartGame 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.

  • The Mavericks concocted one of their most complete performances of the season in Wednesday night’s overtime loss to the Heat. The only thing missing was the single additional point needed to gain a much-needed victory.
  • When pondering how the Mavericks’ ‘squandered’ a six-point lead in the final few minutes, a few reasons come to mind:
  • The Miami Heat, who actually played quite well, are an unbelievably talented and thoroughly overwhelming team. That much was apparent from the stellar play of LeBron James alone (11-20 FG, 32 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists), as he engineered impressive possession after possession in the final minutes. James found other Heat players for open corner threes with the precision of a well-practiced tactician. And when that failed, he simply curved and dodged his way to basket proximity and scoring success.
  • That goes without mentioning the terrific performance of Dwyane Wade (9-21 FG, 27 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), who seized several key overtime opportunities to seal the win for the Heat.
  • Wade glided to the perimeter, plucked an airborne Vince Carter pass, and assisted on a basket at the other end to give the Heat a very sudden and commanding seven-point overtime lead.
  • The Mavericks made far too many unnecessary mistakes down the stretch, as O.J. Mayo (12-21 FG, 30 points, six assists, six turnovers), Vince Carter (5-16 FG, 15 points), and Dirk Nowitzki (7-15 FG, 19 points, six rebounds, 29 minutes) each contributed to the Mavericks’ late-game turnover woes.
  • Nowitzki appeared the closest he has to pre-injury form, especially in regards to his confidence in releasing diffcult shots. It was very nice to see Dirk attempt and make jumpers from more than one impossibly guarded situation.
  • Beyond Dirk’s contributions, the Mavericks scored only 14 bench points.
  • The Mavericks have now loss six consecutive overtime games this season, and have only competed closely for a win in a few of those six. For whatever reasons (age, consistency, identity), the Mavericks have been completely unable to sustain any kind of high-level play for more than 48 minutes.
  • As Andy Tobo writes at Mavs Moneyball, one of the positive aspects of these recent games has been the reemergence of Darren Collison (4-9 FG, 11 points, three assists). If his moderate ascension can continue and the Mavericks collectively play near the level they did tonight, there’s hope for this Mavericks’ team yet.

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: Miami Heat 106, Dallas Mavericks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 30, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas93.091.448.116.715.415.2
Miami114.051.933.832.412.4

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

  • The margin of this game exploded in a hurry; Dallas trailed by just seven points with about four and a half minutes remaining, but a combination of Miami’s starters and deep reserves finished the night on a 16-2 run. This loss — the second “blowout” by the hand of the Heat this season — certainly looks bad on face, the final verdict and sheer number of bullets in this post are incredibly misleading. The Mavs certainly had their second-half difficulties, but their late-game petering isn’t of monumental concern. They’ll be healthier, they’ll play better, and most importantly, they’ll largely keep these kinds of winnable games within reach. The fact that something not at all dissimilar happened at the tail end of the Mavs’ loss to the Spurs last week does offer the slightest reason for pause, but there’s no reason to believe that Dallas’ latest fourth-quarter troubles are suggestive of any legitimate trend.
  • Odd though it may seem, this still appears to be a specific matchup that the Mavericks are capable of winning — even if they would be considered extreme underdogs in a single-game event or a presumptuously hypothetical seven-game series. I highly doubt that we’ll have to weigh Dallas’ playoff odds against any Eastern Conference opponents this season, but it’s easy to see this game going very differently if only for a stronger second half from Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, three assist, three turnovers). It’s certainly not a good sign that the Mavs are struggling so much on the offensive end, but so long as we’re basking in hypotheticals, I don’t think the on-paper Mavericks would necessarily be doomed.
  • Miami won this game by plugging away; their second half possessions were interwoven sequences of driving and passing from every angle imaginable, pressuring the defense repeatedly until it gave way at a particularly vulnerable point. LeBron James (19 points, 8-16 FG, nine rebounds, five assists) and Dwyane Wade (16 points, 5-11 FG, five assists, three rebounds) deserve a lot of credit for their refusal to settle, and the entire offense followed the lead of their shot creation. Those who somehow doubt Miami’s half-court potency need only to watch tape from this game; James and Wade were creating shots in a consistent stream, and Dallas’ defense was stretched to its limits.

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The Difference: Miami Heat 105, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 25, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas100.094.043.328.018.217.0
Miami105.051.332.139.522.0

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

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Now in Session

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 22, 2011 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

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This year’s preseason campaign may be more important than the lead-in exhibitions of a standard season, but there’s still only so much that can be digested from a mere prologue. Still, we can glean hints of the year to come, even in the context of games that don’t matter. With that, here are eight observations from the Mavs’ two preseason games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, laced with a nice balance of optimism and gloom:

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At the Summit, or Close Enough

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 25, 2011 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Tyson Chandler made a radio appearance yesterday with Mason & Ireland of ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, and gave his own respectable, respectful take on the lockout and its proceedings. It’s exactly the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from a thoughtful player like Chandler, and his lockout comments are worth a listen (or a read, via Sports Radio Interviews).

Yet what interested me about Chandler’s radio spot was his tackling of a fairly routine question posed to him by the show’s co-hosts, regarding his determination of the league’s best player. Here was Chandler’s response:

“I would go with Dirk. It’s funny, I tweeted about it and I’ve been catching the same flack about it. But I feel it’s proven by what he did last year, what he did to the Lakers, what he did to Oklahoma City, what he did in the Finals, throughout the whole playoffs Dirk just became a man possessed. He went to a whole other level offensively. People talk about what he did defensively, but he actually stepped it up better during the playoffs last year and became a better team defender. And my whole thing is if you outscore the guy defending you by 10 to 15 points, then you’re playing pretty good D.”

Is Dirk Nowitzki the best player in the NBA? Not quite. LeBron James — even after a disappointing series in the Finals — should still rank as the NBA’s top contributor, and Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul all have legitimate claims over Nowitzki. Generally, the #ESPNRank project was right on the money in its assessment of the top five NBA players; Nowitzki still showed incredibly well at No. 5, but he’s still a bit removed from status as the league’s absolute best.

That said, Nowitzki is dominant enough that Chandler’s opinion isn’t considered absolutely absurd. One would expect Chandler to get his teammate’s back here; I doubt I need to remind anyone that Dallas recently won the NBA title, largely due to Nowitzki’s ability to anchor the offense and contribute on defense. Considering Dirk’s playoffs performance — the most recent NBA basketball we’ve seen, mind you — Chandler’s perspective is completely understandable. The logic isn’t flawless, mind you, but Nowitzki is in an elite class that can be noted as the NBA’s best without being met with incredulity. Dirk is that good, and with trophy in hand — a foolish reason to finally acknowledge Nowitzki’s success, but alas — the entire basketball-loving world has finally recognized it.

But my question in light of Chandler’s response is this: at what point is a great player’s teammate not “obligated,” (in some sense of the word) to throw out their colleague’s name in these discussions? I’m sure plenty of Mavs would cite Dirk as the league’s best considering the postseason he just had, just as I’m sure that many Magic players would name Howard, many Hornets players would glorify Paul, or virtually every Bulls player would cite Derrick Rose. The same would undoubtedly be true for Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant. But would a Clipper really introduce Blake Griffin into this discussion? Would a knick put Carmelo Anthony toe-to-toe with the best in the business? Who exactly can be included in this group worthy of coworker endorsement, and where is the brightline for teammate stumping? Or, to put it another way: which players are worthy of being in the “best NBA player” discussion, even if only as a function of reasonability?

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Miami Heat 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 15, 2011 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas91.0115.456.714.625.015.4
Miami104.452.127.823.117.6

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

  • In professional sports, panic is easy. Identifying worries and overreacting to them quickly is the path of least resistance, false adjustments that feign activity. Throughout their entire playoff run, the Mavericks never were tempted into that panic; they took their path every time, even when the win-loss binary told them that path was faulty. Rick Carlisle never pushed a button for pushing’s sake, nor did any of the Mavs attempt to drastically alter their approaches in an effort to counter some real or perceived problem. They just ran their stuff. They ran their stuff in the house and with a mouse, they ran their stuff here, and there, and anywhere. They ran it in a box and with a fox, and then they skipped the green eggs and just went ham. True commitment to a system or strategy often seems a lot easier than it is (case in point: Miami’s willingness to abandon their pick-and-roll game with a single kick-ball in the fourth quarter of Game 5), and I’m convinced that perseverance within their system is among the most crucial reasons for Dallas’ first ever NBA title. Carlisle could have easily rewritten the book after Game 1 of the Finals, or drastically changed his team’s defensive strategy once Dwyane Wade began to really go nuts. He didn’t and the Mavericks thrived from the strength of their minor, precise adjustments.
  • Strictly as an observer, I haven’t decided whether there was more narrative power in the actual outcome of Game 6 or in an alternate reality where Dirk Nowitzki finished the series as dominant as ever. Both are suitable finales, but there would have been a clearly established satisfaction in seeing Nowitzki grab the Larry O’Brien trophy by its personified throat. That wasn’t quite the way it turned out, but is that a fair conclusion to the tale of Nowitzki’s historically incapable supporting cast, or an anticlimactic finish for the man who always did it all?
  • Tyson Chandler scored five points and grabbed eight rebounds in Game 6, and I still wouldn’t have been opposed to him being named the Finals MVP. Nowitzki was an offensive juggernaut in the Finals, but Chandler was the primary deterrent against a formidable Heat offense. He wasn’t an anchor, but a pillar; Dallas unveiled a beautifully crafted defensive structure in the Finals, and though Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion really brought it together, Chandler was the critical support that allowed the entire thing to exist in the first place. (Plus, offensive rebounding was pegged as a definitive Heat strength going into the Finals, and yet the Mavs won the offensive rebounding rate battle in three of the six games. That’s essentially all Chandler.)
  • For the record, my mom, soothsayer that she is, predicted that the Mavs would win the title this season. Then again, she’s said the same thing every season since 2000, so I guess hat makes her 100% right this year, and about 9% right overall. Still, even grasping at straws deserves a tip of the hat, so long as she gets the straw.
  • J.J. Barea (15 points, 7-12 FG, five assists) was unbelievable. It seems like it’s been ages since I was forced to defend Barea’s presence by outlining his unique strengths within the context of this team, but in reality, Barea was painted as a scapegoat as recently as a few months ago. He’s come a long way in terms of focus and efficiency, mind you, but the strength of his game is the same: Barea’s handle, speed, and creativity give him an inlet to the basket that few players are able to access. Barea has made clear his intent to stay with the team that unearthed him, but strange things can happen in free agency. If Barea ends up on another team’s roster, Dallas will be the worse for it.
  • There’s always room for more in Maverick Nation, and in principle, I’m not opposed to accepting refugee fans from other teams that have been bounced in the playoffs. Still, I won’t miss the bile. I won’t miss the abject hatred. I won’t miss the inescapable stink clouding what was a brilliant series with a fantastic ending. Fans are free to love or hate whoever they’d like, but the way they conduct themselves can always disgust me, even if their agency doesn’t.
  • DeShawn Stevenson dropped nine points, as did Eddie House. Brian Cardinal had three, and Ian Mahinmi four. In the closing game of the NBA Finals. It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
  • Oh, there’s this cat named Jason Terry — he’s turned the pull-up jumper in transition into an art form, and was the dynamic offensive star Dallas badly needed to finish out the series. Terry (27 points, 11-16 FG, 3-7 3FG) has been maligned as any Maverick over the years, and to an extent he’s deserved the criticism. His defense used to be quite poor. In the past, Terry’s offensive contributions could be teched against too easily, leaving Nowitzki to carry the entirety of the scoring burden on his own. But this year’s offense wasn’t Nowitzki-and-JET-dependent so much as it utilized both as investments in the system. Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, and previously, Caron Butler, rounded out the offense and balanced the floor. No player benefited more from Dallas’ offensive flow than Terry, who was able to finally benefit from the creation of others. Just having Kidd set up Terry was never enough; the entire offense had an oddly stable codependency, in which Kidd needed Nowitzki, Terry, a more involved Marion, and Chandler to really do what he does best, and each of those players needed one another in order to create the perfect swing to their offense.
  • LeBron James didn’t perform as he could have or should have, and yet somehow, I don’t think anyone in Dallas really minds all that much. James has been story 1A in the postseason’s aftermath, but frankly, I was more taken by how Dallas held Dwyane Wade to 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting (with five turnovers) in Game 6. Wade’s injury likely played a part in his underwhelming line, but the Mavs used some quick doubles to chase him out of his comfort zones. Wade in the post had been the most consistently effective weapon for either team all series long, and yet the Mavs were able to completely neutralize it in Game 6 while keeping the rest of Wade’s game in check and keeping LeBron James producing on a reasonable level.
  • Do you believe it yet?

A Beautiful Construction

Posted by Ian Levy on under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

Even with two days to process the end of the NBA Finals, I’m still in amazement. I’m amazed at what happened and how it happened. Most of all, I’m amazed at the composure displayed by the Mavericks’ throughout the series. At no point did they allow the circumstances to change what they intended to do or how they intended to do it. Inserting J.J. Barea into the starting lineup was not a rash decision or a frantic pushing of buttons. It was a calculated move that changed nothing except when certain player combinations were utilized. In a moment of weakness, I told my wife before Game 6 that I thought Dirk Nowitzki would need to score 40 for the Mavericks to win. Even after all I had watched the Mavericks accomplish this season, by constantly moving the ball until an open shot materialized, I still felt that at some point said formula would fizzle out, that it wouldn’t be enough to push them to their ultimate goal. The Mavericks were able to win, because for several stretches, Dirk Nowitzki was clearly the best player on the floor, and accomplished it without dominating the ball. I kept waiting for the “Dirk needs to touch the ball on every possession” offense, but it never happened. The Mavericks’ attack never wavered from their template, and they consistently got the job done.

Equal to my amazement at what the Mavericks were able to accomplish, has been my frustration at how the series is being described by many in the media. I was particularly infuriated by a post-game discussion between Magic Johnson and Mike Wilbon; both described the Mavericks’ victory as 10 players beating 3. Even as a Mavericks’ fan, I find that characterization incredibly offensive. In the most literal sense, this was a case of 11 beating 10, the actual number of players used by each team. To describe the Heat as a three-man team is unbelievably demeaning to the efforts of their entire roster. It’s true that their team is constructed so that the majority of their offensive production will come from LeBron, Wade and Bosh. It’s true that the Mavericks received greater contributions from a larger variety of players. But there is more — much more — to the Miami Heat than just those three players. Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem both had strong performances across the Finals. The Mavericks victory was an example of one team beating another. Every player, on both teams, had a hand in pushing their team to the NBA Finals.

The thing I think is most important to understand, is that this is true, independent of the outcome. Even if Miami had won the series, it still would have been a case of one team beating another, not a case of three star players overwhelming a patchwork arrangement of very good players. The Heat and the Mavericks were each built in different ways, but they are both teams, with five players on the floor at a time and seven reserves on the bench. The Mavericks’ victory is a victory for their players, organization and fans, not a victory for a template of roster assembly. They won because, for six games, they were the better team; not that their methods or motivations were more pure or virtuous.

Before the Finals started I wrote that this series represented a chance at redemption for several Mavericks players, ones who had no personal involvement with the letdown in 2006. Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic each achieved a goal they’ve been chasing for years. I hope that this championship was made sweeter for each by the way the playoffs unfolded and the title was earned. A championship on a player’s resume is often viewed as tainted if it was won in mercenary style by an aging veteran. Kidd, Marion and Stojakovic each earned their jewelry; they didn’t sign with a team only to provide vocal support from the end of the bench. They may have had to change teams (in some cases several times) to win their first championship, but they didn’t tag along or catch a ride on anyone’s coattails. The Mavericks simply aren’t in the Finals, let along raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy, without the contributions of those three.

Most of my contributions to The Two Man Game this seen have been statistical in focus and flavor. I’ll leave you with a few statistical nuggets to chew on over the summer.

  • DeShawn Stevenson was absolutely lights out in the Finals, making 13 of 23, or 56.6% of his three-pointers. Who could have possible seen that coming? Oh, that’s right. I did.
  • Brendan Haywood’s injury opened up a hole in the Mavericks’ frontcourt rotation — a hole that was filled admirably by Brian Cardinal. He gave Dallas 30.3 minutes in the series, over which they outscored the Heat 71-68.
  • Tyson Chandler has received plenty of well-deserved praise for his efforts in the Finals. His performance, particularly on the offensive glass, was remarkable. When he was out of the game Dallas rebounded just 18.6% of their own misses. When Chandler was on the floor that number jumped to 27.0%.
  • One of John Hollinger’s Finals recaps mentioned that one of the reasons the Mavericks pursued Rick Carlisle was that statistical studies showed he had a tendency to give the most minutes to the most effective lineups. Seems like an obvious idea, perhaps one someone should have shared with Jim O’Brien. I wanted to see if that held true for the Finals. The easiest way to do this was to a run a correlation between the Net Rating for each unit and the number of minutes they played together. However, this creates some sample size problems for units that only played together briefly. To weight the totals I just multiplied the Net Rating for each unit by the minutes played, then ran a correlation between that total and the minutes played. The Mavericks had a 0.692 correlation between the effectiveness of the unit and their minutes played. For the Heat it was a -0.177. Saying Carlisle managed his rotations well is a huge understatement.

On a personal note, it’s been a pleasure to write about the Dallas Mavericks this season at The Two Man Game. I’m a Pacers’ fan at heart, and adopting the Mavericks with Rob’s invitation to start contributing here, felt strangely unnatural. However, watching a team on a nightly basis gives you an appreciation and attachment that can be gained no other way. I’m thrilled for the Mavericks organization. They earned everything they’ve accomplished this season, and it was a joy to watch. I’m also thrilled for Mavericks’ fans, a group of which I am proud to be a part of.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Miami Heat 103

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 10, 2011 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas86.0130.265.930.412.912.8
Miami119.858.630.029.018.6

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

  • One more. That’s all that stands between Dallas and the prize the Dallas Mavericks were never supposed to win, between Dirk Nowitzki and the validation that players like him supposedly didn’t have in them to secure. The Mavs’ insane shooting performance was an outlier, but one that has changed the series and can never be reversed. One could yap all day about sustainability, but nothing in that chatter can reverse what has been stone, or push Dallas from the brink of the title. There’s still so much left to be accomplished — stealing another game in Miami will be no easy feat — but Dallas’ versatility should give them reason for optimism. This was the first game in the Finals when the Mavericks actually shot well, and though plenty of that shooting was against good defensive coverage, there is value in the fact that two wins were earned without consistently competent offense. The Mavs can’t again afford the defensive breakdowns they suffered in Game 5, but they likely won’t have to. Dallas will tweak and adjust. Rick Carlisle will have them ready to roll, and iron out the wrinkles. They haven’t won their championship yet, but they’ll be ready to close in Miami, and the defense will undoubtedly execute at the level we’ve come to expect.
  • The Mavs’ pick-and-roll defense will have to improve. Miami finally started hitting the roll man in the fourth quarter — either directly or through a preliminary pass to the other big — and Dallas really struggled to contest that action with such heavy pressure being committed to Miami’s ball-handlers. The Mavs have the right idea in walling off Dwyane Wade and LeBron James as they come around screens, but that kind of coverage naturally leaves the roll man open as a release. Dallas has been great about covering that roll man and the other big simultaneously, but that pick-and-roll action broke through for Miami in a big way down the stretch. Dirk Nowitzki, who has quietly had a tremendous defensive series, really struggled in that regard. Tyson Chandler does a fantastic job of hedging Wade and James away from drives, but Nowitzki has to be able to cover the back line when he does so.
  • J.J. Barea continued the playoff run of his life, albeit after a few hiccups. Say what you will about his height, but when Barea is able to tuck behind screens and connect on his threes, he’s an insanely tough cover. Once that shot starts to go, the middle of the floor tends to open up even more for Barea, and in Game 5 he was able to penetrate and create great looks time and time again. Barea very nearly usurped Jason Terry’s sacred role as a closer, but was pulled, and Terry went on to hit several big shots down the stretch. I guess J.J. will have to settle for merely being the unstoppable force that pushed the Mavs to the brink of the NBA title with his ability to create off the dribble, his fantastic shooting, and his smart decision making.
  • Dwyane Wade is injured, but on that matter I share an opinion with Jason Terry; when Wade is on the floor, he’s a threat. Period. He may be ailing, but he’s still plenty capable of torching the Mavs, and he scored 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter to prove it. I’m sure that whatever Wade is experiencing with his hip isn’t pleasant, but basketball fans should know the terrors that Wade can bring for opposing teams. The Heat have their backs against the wall, Wade will have time for treatment and recovery, and Dwyane Wade is still Dwyane Wade. His offensive performance in this game was nothing to scoff at, and Game 6 will only bring more drives, more shots, and more defense to contend with.
  • Brendan Haywood was again inactive, and Tyson Chandler again managed to stay on the floor and function as one of the Mavs’ best players. Chandler only scored two points in the second half, but he finished with 11 overall, a product of his aggressive rolls to the rim and ability to make himself into a big, accessible target. Chandler’s teammates fully understand just how much of an offensive weapon he can be, and though Miami attacked Dallas’ pick-and-roll action effectively in the second half, I shouldn’t need to preach the value of that forced adjustment. Chandler’s success opened up more room for Nowitzki, Barea, and Terry, and conveniently exemplified Chandler’s underrated offensive impact. The fact that Dallas consistently performs better offensively with Chandler on the floor is no coincidence; he may not be a threat to go to work from the low block, but Chandler creates legitimate opportunities just by setting hard screens and rolling to the rim.
  • Much has been (and will forever be) made of LeBron James’ alleged disappearance in this series, but I thought he had a rather decent performance in Game 5. The Finals just aren’t a stage conducive to decent performances, and with a player of James’ standout caliber, we expect better. It’s not absurd to expect James to be the best player on the floor, and from that perspective — the one he’s created by being the best in most every other setting but this one — James has surely disappointed. Still, let’s not lump James’ Game 5 performance with Game 4; he was hardly transcendent on Thursday night, but he was much more focused offensively than in his infamous Game 4 letdown.
  • On a related note: James was right in his post-game assessment of the Heat’s performance. Miami played well enough to win this game, they just didn’t have a means to counter Dallas’ incredible shooting. The Heat’s defense was unquestionably their weaker link; though LeBron’s numbers may not be as gaudy as we like, it was the defensive breakdowns that led to Chandler dunks, wide open three-pointers, Barea drives, and some oddly open opportunities for Nowitzki. The Mavs’ accuracy — even in the face of good defensive pressure — may have put them over the top, but it was those breakdowns in coverage that led to shots around the rim that really doomed the Heat.
  • Almost 18 combined minutes for Ian Mahinmi and Brian Cardinal, but Dallas survived. Neither of those players is a preferred member of the regular rotation, but the circumstances of the series have dictated that they play. So they play. Mahinmi does his best to function as a substitute Haywood, and Cardinal takes his open shots and tries to get in a position to draw charges. Neither was tremendously successful in Game 5, but they also didn’t kill the Mavs — an underrated value for any situational player. Mahinmi and Cardinal can’t be expected to produce like regulars because they flat-out aren’t regulars; they don’t have the skill nor the experience at this stage to produce as Haywood or Stojakovic potentially could, but they’re the most sensible options with Haywood ruled out and Peja burned out.
  • By the way, Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points on 18 shots. Just thought I’d sneak that in there.

Circumnavigation

Posted by Ian Levy on June 9, 2011 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-06-09 at 9.38.31 AM

Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The fact that the Mavericks were able to win two of these first four games is, frankly, remarkable. They’ve posted an Offensive Rating of 100.8 against the Heat compared to their scorching 112.5 mark for the playoffs as a whole. Dirk Nowitzki has shot 50% from the field and the three-point line in the playoffs, but just 43% and 46% against the Heat. Quite literally, the Mavericks saved their season in the last 12 minutes of Game 4. Basketball-Reference’s Win Probability projections gave the Heat a 78.3% chance of winning the entire series after the first three quarters of Game Four. Twelve minutes later their probability projection had dropped to 55.0%.

The Mavericks have basically outplayed the Heat for two stretches – the final 7:14 of Game 2 where they outscored the Heat by 17, and the final 10:11 of Game 4, where they outscored the Heat by 12. Over those 17 and a half minutes they’ve outscored the Heat by 29 points, the rest of the series they’ve been outscored by 24 points. Clearly something different has happened during those two stretches, allowing the Mavericks to thoroughly change the course of the action.

One major culprit would appear to be turnovers. Over those 17 and a half minutes, I counted 30 offensive possessions for the Mavericks, with just two turnovers. That’s a turnover rate (TOR) of 6.7%. Across the rest of the series the Mavericks have turned the ball over 52 times on 309 offensive possessions, for a TOR of 16.8% — an absurdly high percentage of possessions ending in turnovers. No team in the league had a TOR above 15.1% this season, and. only 23 teams in the last two decades have finished a season with a TOR above 16.0%.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, the Heat have scored 57 points on 48 transition possessions against the Mavericks, or 1.19 points per possession, compared to 0.87 points per possession on all other possession types. Although there have been moments of efficiency, the Heat’s half-court offense has been largely held in check by the Mavericks’ defense. Those transition opportunities, created by a slew of turnovers, have often been the catalyst for Heat runs. During the first four games, the Heat have had four separate runs where they outscored the Mavericks by at least nine points. I approximated the average pace during those Heat runs and arrived at a figure of 90.9. That’s considerably faster than the 85.1 average pace for the entire series. The pace factor for those 17 and a half minutes that the Mavericks dominated in the fourth quarters of Games 2 and 4 was a deliberate 82.7. The Mavs’ turnovers have sped up the pace, led to Heat transition opportunities, put their defense at a distinct disadvantage, and contributed to some of their larger deficits in the series.

We saw similar dynamic in the Western Conference Finals. I won’t guess at which is the chicken and which the egg, but in these playoffs, a slower pace has been tied to efficient offense and overall success for the Mavericks. The Heat are not the Phoenix Suns or Golden State Warriors - they don’t push the pace just for the sake of pushing the pace. They are more than comfortable in the half-court, and are only looking to run when they have a clear advantage. Those advantages manifest with Mavericks’ turnovers. The idea that transition defense can impair the sorcery of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is ludicrous. If the Mavericks want to keep the Heat playing at a speed which limits their offensive effectiveness they need to simply protect the ball.