The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 116, Golden State Warriors 91

Posted by Connor Huchton on February 10, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Sunrise

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot 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.

  • There has never been a player quite like Shawn Marion (11-16 FG, 2-3 3PT, 26 points, 11 rebounds), and it is unlikely that there will ever be another Shawn Marion in any future of ours.
  • He is basketball’s quiet genius performer, a gifted hardwood artist with the ability to paint a floor canvas with the contrasts of subtlety and bluntness, each swirling in needless but potent conjunction.
  • He glides towards the basket, he hoists an awkward three-point jumper, he defends your best player, and he does so with a consistency that is all to rare within this worldly toil.
  • A wise man once said, “There is no truth – only Shawn Marion’s jumper and all that comes with it.”
  • His game represents quite possibly everything (but no single something) that there is to be known about basketball and what the sport can achieve.
  • All that is to say, I enjoyed the way Shawn Marion played tonight.
  • And the rest of the Mavericks followed his glorious lead admirably.
  • The Mavericks have lost very few games this season when O.J. Mayo (19 points, 6-13 FG, nine assists, two turnovers) has passed well, and that trend continued quite easily against a Warriors’ team that seemed unable to keep up with a vibrant Dallas squad.
  • A similar belief could be stated regarding Darren Collison (18 points, 5-9 FG, 3-4 3PT eight assists, two turnovers), though perhaps to a lesser extent, as his ball movement has been a grade more consistent than that of Mayo.
  • Both players helped the Mavericks capitalize on a plethora of open three-pointers throughout the game, most of which the Warriors didn’t, or couldn’t, close out on with any great urgency.
  • I’m willing to bet that any performance involving 17 assists and four turnovers from the Mayo-Collison combination will lead to a Mavericks’ win.
  • Have I mentioned how quietly great at basketball Shawn Marion is?
  • The prestigious “Best Plus-Minus In A Blowout” award goes to elder post defense statesman Elton Brand (5-9 FG, 11 points, 11 rebounds) who earned a nice +32 in a cool 29 minutes, while determinedly controlling the lane as only he can.
  • If you would have told me pre-game that Steph Curry (8-23 FG, 1-3 3PT, 18 points, four assists, five turnovers) would take 23 field goals with only three of them being three pointers, I probably would have said something like: “No.”
  • Politely, of course.
  • That lack of attempts falls in part to the Mavericks, who did a solid job of committing to the perimeter and limiting Curry and the rest of the Warriors to a 6-16 three-point mark.
  • The Warriors played without the aid of Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bogut, each of whom is an important piece to the team’s exciting puzzle.
  • Bogut has scarcely played for the Warriors this season, so that holds somewhat lesser bearing.
  • But it’s safe to say that Golden State missed Jack’s steady presence on a night like tonight.
  • That is to say, a night in which no other Warrior player could do much of anything on the offensive side of the ball.
  • An NBA schedule sure is rigorous.
  • This is a pretty fun picture, and a solid example of the Dirk Yell.
  • Part of the reason Vince Carter has suddenly become more valuable this season is his surprising improvement on the defensive end (the Mavericks are consistently better on defense when Carter is on the floor), and while the sample size is inherently small, this is visual proof.
  • It’s very difficult to play 13 minutes without a field goal attempt in NBA play, but Andris Biedrins (eight rebounds) managed such a feat tonight. I don’t think such a choice is necessarily problematic, but it’s interesting.
  • In conclusion, I’m confident that Shawn Marion made this jumper.

Pocket Pair

Posted by Ian Levy on January 31, 2013 under Commentary | 10 Comments to Read

051:365 Magic Pair!

This has been an incredibly turbulent season for the Mavericks from a player personnel standpoint. They faced their first 27 games without Dirk Nowtizki, and with just five other returning players on the roster. An NBA roster has 15 slots, but the Mavericks have already used 19 different players this season, not including Delonte West — with whom the Mavericks parted ways before the season began. Each week it seems there is a new addition to be welcomed to the fold, bringing with them the warm tidings of hope.

Since he took over in Dallas, Rick Carlisle has proved repeatedly that managing personnel is one of his greatest coaching strengths. He has been innovative and progressive in managing his lineups and always seems to pull the most from each of his players. This season however, putting the pieces together has been a constant challenge. No matter how he arranges them, they don’t seem to fit together quite as uniformly as they have in the past, and the image never becomes totally clear. I’m personally of the opinion that it’s because these pieces don’t all come from the same puzzle, and that no matter what five-man unit Carlisle runs out onto the floor, some part of it will be a hasty Spackle job trying to hold back the rising tide of flood waters. However, I thought it might be interesting to look at the different lineup foundations he’s tried by examining his success (and lack thereof) with various two-man combinations.

The visualization below lets you look at all the different two-man combinations the Mavericks have used for at least 100 minutes this season. Unfortunately, to create all the combinations I had to place several players on both axes, which can make for a slightly confusing view. The size of each square represents the number of minutes that pairing played. The color represents that pairing’s Net Rating, or point differential per 100 possessions. If you hover over any of the squares you can also see that combination’s Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating. The filters below let you include or eliminate pairings based on any of those variables.

MavsShots

***

The three least efficient areas to shoot from are inside the paint (but not in the restricted area), from mid-range and straight ahead three-pointers. Altogether, 63.7% of this lineup’s shot attempts come from those three areas. Going back to my shot-selection metric from two weeks ago, the shot selection of this lineup gives them an XPPS of 0.988, where the league average is 1.047. They feature above-average mid-range shooters, but are using that weapon to a fault. Above-average ability isn’t manifesting in above-average success, and their Actual Points Per Shot is an even lower 0.936. From an outsider’s perspective, this group seems like they may be fundamentally incompatible offensively, even with Nowitzki’s eventual improvement taken into account.

Although you never like to see anyone injured, Kaman’s concussion offers the possibility for an interesting experiment. Kaman has had a solid individual season putting up 18.8 points per 36 minutes, the second highest of his career, on a TS% of 53.3, his highest since 2008-2009. However, his rebound percentage is the lowest since his rookie season and the Mavericks have generally struggled when he’s on the floor. Dallas’ defense is 3.6 points worse per 100 possessions with Kaman in the mix, a margin that’s ultimately not all that surprising. However, the Mavs’ offense is also 2.9 points worse per 100 possessions with Kaman involved. Turning back to the visualization above, we see that Kaman is featured in 12 different pairings, only two of which have outscored the opposition. Those two — with Brandan Wright and with Jae Crowder — have played a combined 343 minutes, 44 of which are overlapped.

Much of Carlisle’s rotation work this season has felt like tinkering around the edges. As long as they’ve been healthy, the foundational pieces of Kaman, Nowitzki, Mayo and Marion have been largely cemented in place. With Kaman out, Carlisle will be forced to manipulate his foundation, and there is an opportunity for Brandan Wright and Bernard James to find their way back into the regular rotation in a significant way. Both Wright and James have been featured in several successful (albeit scarcely used) pairings, and I can’t help but feel that they are under-utilized assets. Neither player is comfortable away from the basket on offense and each would give the Mavericks a very different look than with Brand or Kaman alongside Nowitzki. When we talk about spacing issues we are usually referring to a team with a lack of outside shooters, allowing the defense to clog the paint. In this case I think the Mavericks can actually improve their spacing by removing overly-willing outside shooters; the insertion of James or Wright will force the defense to expand their focus and defend more of the floor, more vigorously.

The visualization also makes it seem that there could be potential benefits in increased roles for Vince Carter and Jae Crowder. Carter has done tremendous work in keeping the second-unit offense afloat, but maybe it’s time to let him work long more court time with Nowitzki. His ability to work inside and out, particularly as a post-up threat, seems like it could also alleviate some of the one-dimensional reliance on the mid-range jumpshot. It would be a difficult pill to swallow, but perhaps Mayo would be better off swapping places with Carter. Moving to the bench might feel like a step backwards for Mayo and could have significant impacts on team chemistry, but at this point the Mavs’ current rotation isn’t doing much for the team’s present or future.

In addition to his work for The Two Man Game, Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, and a contributor to Indy CornrowsHardwood Paroxysm, HoopChalk and ProBasketballDraft. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 104, Portland Trailblazers 106

Posted by Kirk Henderson on January 30, 2013 under Previews | Read the First Comment

LongRoadtoGreatness

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.

  • Luck matters a lot more than we’d like to admit in close games. After all, perhaps Dallas would not have been in this game late in the fourth without a desperation Darren Collison bank three, two missed free throws from Nic Batum, or a ridiculous high, arching pass from Shawn Marion which led to a Dirk Nowitzki three pointer. Of course, that the Mavericks let a 21 point lead evaporate in 13 minutes during the third and fourth quarters is baffling. As is the fact that they gave up 15 offensive rebounds. Then, there’s also the small-ball late game line up Carlisle has opted with in close games (Collison, O.J. Mayo, Vince Carter, Dirk, and Shawn Marion) that just does not work. This was the line up with 1:15 left in the fourth with the Mavs up 101-96. Turnovers (four in the final two minutes, three alone from Mayo) due to terrible recognition and an inability to stop Portland’s offense saw Portland score nine points in 71 seconds to tie the game with four seconds remaining. The ensuing offensive foul call on Mayo was just bad luck; a high speed play that was simply called incorrectly due to human error. But a team this far gone from the playoff hunt needs luck, and the Mavericks have lost far too many close games this season. We can’t write them off just yet, but that time may be drawing near.
  • Chris Kaman is out indefinitely with a concussion. While we here at the Two Man Game wish him a speedy recovery, we’ve found out over the last few years that concussions can often be challenging to both diagnose and recover from. Over the last three weeks our parent blog, ESPN’s Truehoop, has published a series of articles about head injuries under the title “Working Bodies”. The first entry is an overview of head injuries and basketball, the second is Brian Scalabrine’s concussion tale, which prompted other players to share their concussion stories for the third entry. All are worth checking out.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog

 

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 110, Phoenix Suns 95

Posted by Connor Huchton on January 28, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Sunrise

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot 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’ win on Sunday night could be described as a story of beginnings and endings (and that’s how I’ll describe it).
  • The starting unit began the game well, on the heels of precise ball movement and an active Shawn Marion (9-19 FG, 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists), and finished equally adeptly, as Dirk Nowitzki (7-14 FG, 18 points, seven rebounds) closed out the fourth quarter with the scoring precision of, well, Dirk Nowitzki.
  • Bernard James (1-2 FG, two points, three rebounds, 11 minutes) started the game at center for the Mavericks and performed well enough, though James’ 11 minutes may be indicative of the move’s dual purpose as a means of motivating Chris Kaman (2-4 FG, six points, five rebounds, two turnovers, 11 minutes). Neither James or Kaman served as part of the best pairing with Dirk, however.
  • That distinction lies with Elton Brand (6-10 FG, 12 points, three rebounds, 17 minutes), as it has much of the time in recent weeks.
  • I’d be remiss to write any further without mentioning that Dirk passed Allen Iverson for 18th all-time on the NBA’s scoring list. Well done, Dirk.
  • And hopefully his ascension towards further tiers of that list continues.
  • Though their numbers weren’t gaudy, the Mavericks’ guards deserve credit for a job admirably done. O.J. Mayo (4-9 FG, eight points, six assists), Darren Collison (3-7, eight points, five assists), Dahntay Jones (4-5 FG, 11 points), Vince Carter (5-8 FG, 2-3 3PT, 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals), and Rodrigue Beaubois (3-7 FG, eight points, three assists, three rebounds) collectively played quite well, and their overall decision-making radiated excellency.
  • That excellent decision-making propelled the Mavericks to 26 assists and only 13 turnovers, good for an aesthetically pleasing 2:1 ratio.
  • All 13 active Mavericks earned playing time, which in this case was indicative of a comfortable win.
  • Another key to the Mavericks’ victory was how well they spaced the floor.
  • Guards were able to make post passes into feasibly-sized windows, and areas of the floor were often carefully sectioned off for the sake of Shawn Marion, Dirk, or cutting guards (Mayo, Beaubois, etc.) on their way to the basket.
  • That element of movement and spacing is absolutely crucial for a team that’s been frequently mired in offensive stagnancy.
  • Four Mavericks’ centers played significant minutes tonight, which give some insight into the current revolving door of Mavericks’ center minutes.
  • Brandan Wright (1-3 FG, four points, three rebounds, three assists) was the fourth center used tonight. He first saw minutes in the fourth quarter and helped spark a momentous run with keen passes near the basket and an important finish.
  • Wright was also the only Maverick to make less than 42% of his shots, another mark of a thoroughly efficient offensive performance.

Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 110, Phoenix Suns 95

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks did well on a momentous evening as they delivered a 110-95 beating to the Phoenix Suns. Shawn Marion appeared in his 1,000th career regular-season game against the Suns on Sunday. He became the 107th player in NBA history to reach the milestone. Marion played in 660 games with Phoenix from 1999-2008. Marion recorded a game-high-tying 18 points to go along with a game-high nine rebounds, five assists and one steal in 30 minutes against the team that brought him into the league.

With a jumper at the 5:38 mark of the third quarter, Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki passed Allen Iverson (24,368) for 18th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The basket gave Nowitzki 13 points for the game (and 24,370 for his career). Next on the list for Dirk is Patrick Ewing. Ewing ranks 17thon the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 24,815 career points. Dirk tallied a game-high-tying 18 points to go along with seven rebounds in 30 minutes against Phoenix.

Elton Brand appeared in his 900th career regular-season game and recorded 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench. He scored in double figures for the sixth time in his last seven games (14thtime this season). Brand is averaging 12.1 points and 8.6 rebounds over his last seven games. Brand came off the bench because Bernard James made his first career start and managed two points and three rebounds in 11 minutes. The Mavericks used their 17th different starting lineup of the year in their 44th game of the season.

O.J. Mayo dished out a team-high six assists against Phoenix. His fourth assist of the game, at the 9:22 mark of the third quarter, was the 1,000th assist of his career. He finished the game with only eight points. Dallas now moves to 1-5 this season in games where he scored fewer than 10 points in a game.

Here is the quoteboard for the Dallas victory over Phoenix.

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Thermodynamics: Week 13

Posted by Travis Wimberly on January 24, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

Fire Ice Birds

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

The Mavs played just two games this week (1-1), so this will be a relatively lean and mean installment of Thermodynamics. Still, there’s plenty to talk about, especially given that both games went down to the wire.

Week 13 (Thunder, @Magic)

FIRE

1) Bench Play

I’ve broadly labeled this item “Bench Play,” but I’m really talking about two bench players in particular: Vince Carter and Elton Brand. Both guys produced well this week. In Friday’s nationally televised bout with OKC, Carter was the Mavs’ leading scorer and probably their best overall performer. He dropped 29 points and had an effective field-goal percentage (eFG%) of 71. Further, despite handling the ball extensively, he had zero turnovers in 32 minutes of action. In Orlando on Sunday, Carter didn’t shoot well from two-point range, but he had a solid all-around game: 15 points (50 eFG%), six assists, and three blocks. And to the extent you find value in single-game plus-minus numbers, Carter was the Mavs’ plus-minus leader for both games (+10 against OKC, +22 against Orlando).

The other half of this bench duo, Brand, also deserves commendation. It wasn’t a torrid shooting week like he had earlier in January, but Brand made an impact in several phases. He averaged 12 PPG, shot a cumulative 11-of-24 (46%), and chipped in nearly 10 rebounds per game. His 13-rebound performance against OKC was especially needed, as the Thunder (predictably) abused the other, less-athletic Mavs on the boards by grabbing 18 offensive rebounds (five in the fourth quarter and overtime alone).

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The Rundown: Volume XII

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on January 21, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

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

After what seemed like a bleak outlook in terms of making the playoffs, the Mavericks are actually right in the thick of the playoff race. The 8th and even the 7th seed are within reach for Dallas. In 10 days, Dallas has moved from 7 games back of 8th spot to 3 games out of spot with 40 games to play. They got to that point with a four-game winning streak. There was a deflating loss before a positive trip to the East Coast, but the Mavericks have made positive strides in order to get to where they currently are. As usual, there were interesting moments that popped up during the week for the team. Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.

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Ambiguous Architecture

Posted by Ian Levy on January 17, 2013 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

Solid Foundation?

For the first time in awhile, things are looking up in Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki is healthy, and the Mavericks are on a four game win streak. In their wins over Sacramento, Memphis, Minnesota and Houston, Dallas put up points at the scorching rate of 112.4 points per 100 possessions. This is a tremendous bump for what has been the 18th most efficient offense in the league this year and, at just 100.9 points per 100 possessions, the least efficient Mavericks’ offense of the past 13 seasons.

Offensive firepower of great variety has been the defining characteristic of Mavericks’ basketball for more than a decade, so watching the team struggle so mightily this season has been somewhat disconcerting. The absence of Dirk Nowitzki has certainly made things difficult, but the problems have been so systemic it’s hard to lay them all at the feet of one giant German. Across the entire season the Mavericks have wilted in each of the offensive Four Factors. They rank 8th in the league TO%, but 13th in eFG%, 16th in FTA Rate and 27th in ORB%.

The eFG% is especially troubling. Making shots is what Mavericks do, and under Rick Carlisle in particular, the team has shown a razor-sharp focus on the craft of creating quality open looks. This season however, their miraculous ability to manipulate and manufacture open space has largely fizzled. As dark as things have been, some fragrant Four-Factor-blossoms bloomed in their three most recent wins. They posted an eFG% of just 45.3% against Sacramento but pushed the bounds of offensive efficiency with just nine turnovers and 35 free throw attempts. Against Memphis and Minnesota, Dallas scorched the nets with eFG%s of 55.6% and 66.3% respectively. Against Houston, shooting was again a problem but 10 turnovers and 43 free throw attempts did the job. Those eFG% numbers are exciting to type; they feel like a thick, down sleeping bag with the potential to fend off the long winter weeks still to come. But I’m not sure they are truly a reflection of problems solved.

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Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 105, Houston Rockets 100

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

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It’s not in the quad, but the Mavericks have gone streaking. Dallas used a 19-0 run in the first quarter en route to their 105-100 victory over the Houston Rockets. With the victory, the Mavericks recorded their ninth consecutive win against the Rockets. It’s Dallas’ longest active winning streak against any team. The Rockets have not defeated the Mavericks in the regular season since Dec. 31, 2009, defeated Dallas 97-94. The Mavericks scored 100-plus points for the fourth straight game. Dallas is averaging 109.8 points per game over its last four games.

According to Mavericks statistician Dave Keeney, the Mavericks won for only the fifth time since 1986 when shooting under 39 percent from the field but scoring at least 100 points. They had at least 33 free throws made in all five games. Dallas shot 38.4 percent from the field in the win. The 33 free throws made marked a new season-high for the Mavericks, previous high was 30 at Sacramento on Jan. 10.

Elton Brand recorded his fourth double-double of the season (400th career) with 11 points, a team-high 10 rebounds and a team-high two blocks in 27 minutes vs. Houston. He scored in double figures for the fifth time in his last seven games. Shawn Marion tallied 18 points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes. He scored 18-plus points for the third time in his last four games.

O.J. Mayo recorded seven points, four rebounds, five assists and one steal in the first quarter. Mayo finished with 18 points, six rebounds, a game-high eight assists, two steals and a block in 33 minutes. He went 12-of-13 from the line, setting new career highs for free throws made and attempted. He recorded eight-plus assists for the second consecutive game, season-high 9 vs. Minnesota 1/14. Vintage Dirk Nowitzki also arrived as he scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.

Here is the quoteboard for victory over the Rockets.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Houston Rockets 100

Posted by Connor Huchton on under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Clouds

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot 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.

  • Never has Elton Brand’s (4-9 FG, 11 points, 10 rebounds) importance been more clear than as he denied James Harden (5-23 FG, 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) on two consecutive attempts in the closing moments of the fourth quarter. Brand carefully blocked Harden during the most important possession of a close game, as Harden soared into the air with the game tied and momentum on the Rockets’ side. But Brand waited and precisely leaped, and the resulting Mavericks’ fast break points (from O.J. Mayo free throws) were enough to seal a Mavericks’ victory.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (7-14 FG, 19 points, eight rebounds) led the Mavericks in scoring, as he has so many times in the past. The most encouraging aspect of Dirk’s performance was its overcoming nature: Dirk began the game slowly (1-6 FG), but made six of his last eight shots and steadied the Mavericks’ offense throughout a turbulent fourth quarter.
  • O.J. Mayo (3-14 FG, 12-13 FT, 18 points, eight assists, six rebounds) really struggled to find his jumper but did find a nice replacement vein of scoring: free throws, and many of them. It was nice to see Mayo find a way to help the Mavericks in a significant way on a night when he couldn’t simply pull up from beyond the arc. Instead, Mayo passed, rebounded, and free-throw(ed) his way towards a solid contribution.
  • And again, Mayo only had two turnovers in a Mavericks’ win. It’s fair to call this a trend.
  • Tonight’s game serves as a keen example of winning on a night defined by adversity. Despite struggling mightily from the field, the Mavericks drew fouls (43 free throws), passed well (22 assists, 10 turnovers), and played strong closing defense on the way to a hard-fought, four-game winning streak-continuing victory (that’s a lot of adjectives).