Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
The winless warriors strike again. The Mavs just completed another week in which they consistently played hard but failed to win a single game. If you’re still watching each game in full, good on you. You’re a true fan (or a masochist).
Let’s dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Mavs’ week.
Week 11 (Hornets, @Jazz, @Clippers)
1) Elton Brand
Brand turned in a nicely productive week. He averaged 10.3 points per game (PPG)— well above his season average of 6.9 PPG— and shot a cumulative 14-of-23 (61%) from the floor. He was particularly effective from mid-range, going 6-of-7 (88%) on shots from over 15 feet. Most importantly, Brand exercised prudent shot selection and played within the flow of the Mavs’ offense — of his 14 field goals this week, 12 were assisted (86%). This last point explains in large part why Brand shot so well; Brand was consistently in a position this week to receive the ball after dribble penetration and ball movement had scattered the opposing defense, and when that happens, he has the ability to be a very effective mid-range shooter.
Moving forward, I’d like to see two more things from Brand. First, I’d like to see him rebound more consistently. He averaged 5.3 rebounds per game (RPG) this week, which was bolstered largely by his 20-minute, nine-rebound performance in Utah. He did not rebound very well in the other two games, as evidenced by his DReb numbers: 13.5% against the Hornets, 9.6% against the Clippers, per Hoopdata. A big man of Brand’s height, frame, and skill should be closer to 20.0%, if not even higher. The second thing I’d like to see from Brand is mostly out of his control: I want to see him play more. I think he should start at center (moving Chris Kaman to a bench role) and play 28-30 MPG. The Mavs’ defense is considerably more effective when Brand plays with Dirk (once we have a bigger sample size, I believe the on-court/off-court stats will bear this out). Considering how poor the Mavs’ defense has been for most of the year, this one minor adjustment could make a noticeable difference.
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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Wins against the Clippers may be all but assumed, but don’t take this one for granted; Dallas needed a W pretty badly for both the sake of their collective psyche and their place in the standings, and bounced back from a poor defensive performance in the first quarter to win this one outright. Dallas forced a ton of turnovers, which acted as a catalyst for their transition game. The Mavs rounded into form once they got out on the break, as the influx of easy fast break buckets relieved enough pressure on their half court offense to keep it stable. It’s wonderful to see the defense power the offense again, and the Mavs — though unlikely to create turnovers at this rate in the postseason — will need to establish a similar level of offensive/defensive flow. The success of one end should carry into the other, provided that the effort and execution are there.
- Sub-plot of the game: Jason Terry had some kind of “tirade”/“heated exchange”/fit at the beginning of the second quarter, apparently aimed at J.J. Barea. The confrontation wasn’t exactly spotlighted on the broadcast, but Terry was certainly frustrated, and Barea’s slightly off-target pass to a curling Terry — an exchange which resulted in a turnover and a fast break layup for Los Angeles — apparently made him boil over. The team intends to deal with the matter internally, but I’m sure it’ll be hinted at in the coming weeks, particularly if Terry’s frustrations continue into the postseason. For now, it’s nothing more than an asterisk; Terry didn’t play after his outburst, but he’ll be back soon enough, likely in good (enough) spirits.
- More relevant sub-plot of the game: Corey Brewer (20 points, 8-16 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, four steals, one huge block to prevent a fast break layup) did it big — again. The case is certainly mounting for Brewer to have a spot on the Mavs’ playoff roster, though his inclusion would likely mean that one of DeShawn Stevenson or Brian Cardinal would be left out. Normally that would be a tough call to make, but Brewer has been playing tremendously well over the last two games. His breakout game against the Nuggets seemed slightly fluky; Brewer just isn’t going to convert his jumpers at that reliable of a rate every night. That doesn’t devalue his defense or hustle, but expecting such a high point total from primarily perimeter looks is a bit questionable. That said, Brewer’s performance on Friday was a bit more in line with his skill set, even if it exceeded expectation. He slashed to the bucket, finished fast breaks, and cut backdoor. These are the kinds of things that Brewer can do nightly, independent of whether his jumper is actually falling, and it’s one reason I saw him succeeding in a Marion-esque capacity for the Mavs.
- All of which ignores Brewer’s incredible defensive effort. He’s endeared himself to his teammates rather quickly, in no small part due to the fact that Brewer is going hard at all times, looking at every element during a possession as a chance to make a play. Henry Abbott wrote the following concerning Brewer over a month ago, and I’ve had the sentence bouncing around my head during every minute that Brewer’s been on the floor over the last two games:”Once you clue in to the guy, it’s glaringly obvious that no one on the court is defending like him.”
- One last note for BrewerFest 2011: the guy is an unexpectedly smooth playmaker. He can’t run an offense, and if you give him the ball at the top of the key and tell him to go to work, your possession could end in shambles. But swing the ball to him on the weak side against a stilted defense, and Brewer seems to not only know exactly how to drive in order to maximize his potential to score, but also to set up for a little bounce pass or drop-off to an open big man. Brewer’s four assists were a huge help to the Mavs last night.
- Dallas did some incredible work on the offensive glass. Posting an effective field goal percentage of 52.9 percent doesn’t leave all that many caroms, but the Mavs did a terrific job of scrapping for rebounds and keeping loose balls alive. I lied about the finality of my last Brewer praise: He was the leader in terms of offensive rebounding effort and collection, but Shawn Marion (13 points, 5-10 FG, 10 rebounds, four offensive boards, four assists) was also huge in that regard, as was Tyson Chandler — who wasn’t credited with many offensive boards but tapped quite a few out to the Maverick guards. The height of the Mavs’ rebounding dominance was in the third quarter, when the Clippers were only able to collect five boards for the entire 12 minutes.
- Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points on 16 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, and notched seven assists. Nothing to see here, folks, just one of the best players in basketball, looking about as brilliant as one could expect.
- It was mentioned briefly above, but the Mavs’ first quarter defense was fairly horrendous. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have a way of making opponents pay for their slow rotations on the back line, and the Clips exploited the Mavs to the tune of 35 points (on 15-of-23 shooting) in the first frame. Dallas then went on to hold L.A. to 61 points over the final three quarters while forcing 18 turnovers along the way.
- Mo Williams (29 points, 10-18 FG, 5-9 3FG, five rebounds, six assists, seven turnovers) scored quite well, but he was making everything. He worked his way into good looks from short and mid-range, but also took some of his pet pull-up three pointers (the Chauncey Billups special) when bringing the ball up court. The Mavs certainly could have closed out better on Williams and not doubled Blake Griffin quite so often in the post (Tyson Chandler is a pretty formidable interior defender, and the help wasn’t exactly all that helpful), but the Clipper guard was hitting easy and difficult looks alike. It was just his night, and if I’m Rick Carlisle, I’d be far more pleased with Eric Gordon’s (11 points, 4-12 FG, six assists, five turnovers, four steals) relative invisibility than Williams’ outburst.
- The problem isn’t that Rodrigue Beaubois is incapable of playing point guard, but that he apparently doesn’t feel comfortable being an aggressive scorer when asked to fill in for Jason Kidd. Skill-wise, he’s a competent replacement, yet you don’t see the same drives or even shot attempts in general from Beaubois when he’s a “point guard.” I can appreciate that he wants to facilitate the play of his teammates, but Beaubois isn’t precise enough with his passing to impact a game the way Kidd does. His greatest impact will come through scoring for the conceivable future, and that potential to create offense for himself will open up opportunities for his teammates.
- Peja Stojakovic (10 points, 4-7 FG, 2-5 3FG) and J.J. Barea (15 points, 4-13 FG, four rebounds, five assists, six turnovers) performed well in supporting roles. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, both offered their designated contributions on offense — three-point shooting and dribble penetration, respectively — without hurting the team’s defensive concept. That’s all one could reasonably ask.
Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.“
What exactly do you make of a team doing everything it’s supposed to do? In most cases, a veteran team with 54 wins and (at least) the 3rd seed in a fiercely competitive conference needs not the satisfaction of an April win over the Clippers. This Dallas team is technically in such a position, but they’re hardly the playoff ideal; they haven’t been on a month-long tear, the defense isn’t as proven as you’d like, and there are still questions as to how the Mavs’ center duo will perform against a conference full of capable bigs.
Still, it’s impossible to deny how positively dominant the Mavs have been in their last three games, in which Dallas has demolished a trio of inferior opponents and nearly secured the no. 2 seed in the process. They don’t have a month’s worth of momentum on their side, but the way the Mavs have been able to establish early leads with their starters, maintain the advantage using the reserves, and limit the minutes of the central figures gives plenty of reason for optimism. There’s no question that this team has the talent to rain fire through April, May, and June, it’s just a matter of talent maximization and execution. Neither has been in question for the last week, and the Mavs’ +18.3 point differential over their last four games (+22.3 over their last three) signifies the seriousness of Dallas’ preparation and play. This team is ready to roll.
It certainly didn’t help the Clips’ cause that Baron Davis and Eric Gordon missed the game along with the long-sidelined Blake Griffin. The former are starters for a reason, with Baron acting as resident superstar (though he hardly performed at that level this season) and Gordon a solid supplemental scorer. Instead, the Mavs faced off against the delightfully average stylings of Steve Blake (who actually had a decent night with nine points, 13 assists, and three turnovers), and the useful but wonderfully limited Rasual Butler (10 points, 4-15 FG, three rebounds, three assists). Mavs-Clippers isn’t a particularly fair match-up even when L.A. is functioning at full strength (sans Griffin), but to deny the Clips two of their more productive players while playing against a would-be contender honing in on the playoffs is just cruel.
Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-13 FG, 3-3 3FG, eight rebounds, three assists) was almost mythical in his level of efficiency; his points nearly doubled his shot attempts (13), he scored more than a point a minute (1.11 ppm if we’re being precise), and he finished with just one turnover. Even more impressive was that only one of his nine made field goals (and of his 13 attempts, for that matter) came within fifteen feet of the basket: a converted layup at the 4:09 mark in the first quarter. Come one, come all, to the Dirkus Circus, the greatest show on Earth.
Shawn Marion (21 points, 9-12 FG) returned after three games on the sideline, and his strained oblique didn’t hinder him in the slightest. Marion’s ability to run the break was a big reason why the Mavs were able to sprint out to a lead almost immediately, and the Clips were never quite able to recover from the sucker punch of the opening minutes. It’s tough to properly gauge Marion’s defensive ability in a game like this one, but his movement on the whole didn’t seem slow or hesitant.
It’s easy to like where the Mavs are right now, and Wednesday’s game against the Spurs should at the very least provide an interesting test. Should Dallas win against San Antonio, the two teams would be locked into their respective positions and would meet in the first round. That should create a pretty odd dynamic for Wednesday night, in which Gregg Popovich, ever the gamesman, could conceivably choose to rest his veterans in an attempt to fold to the Mavs (San Antonio would likely find Dallas to be a better match-up than Utah). Even if Pop chooses to play Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, and co., both teams would be trying to win the game without tipping their hand too far; the truly effective stratagems would need to be saved for the playoff series, which could leave the Mavs’ final regular season game as a battle of sheer talent and will rather than the precise execution of a more complicated game plan.
- DeShawn Stevenson could very well have earned a playoff role after his performance in the last few games. His defense against opposing scorers (O.J. Mayo, Tyreke Evans) has been commendable, and last night he balanced his defensive success by looking damn good on his jump shot (11 points, 4-7 FG, 3-4 3FG). Marion will still be the Mavs’ go-to defender for tougher perimeter threats, but having another solid wing defender coming off the bench is quite a luxury. If Stevenson works out as a decent 2-guard alternative, the Mavs would have an absolute glut of talent and versatility at the position, with Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Stevenson, and Rodrigue Beaubois all capable of producing at the off-guard.
- The Mavs had 37 assists on 45 made field goals, with 22 of those assists coming into the first half. The ball movement was crisp on the break but equally impressive in the half-court, where the Mavs’ point guard trio of Jason Kidd (12 points, 12 assists, four turnovers), J.J. Barea (two points, seven assists, zero turnovers), and Rodrigue Beaubois (11 points, five assists, six rebounds, zero turnovers) easily established the momentum to break the struggling Clippers.
- Also worth noting: the Mavs interior passing was rather terrific. L.A. ranks third in the league in blocks per game, and the Dallas bigs turned that strength into a weakness. With a slight hesitation and a well-timed pass, the Clips’ help defenders were soaring into the air to block nonexistent shots while various Mavericks exploited the soft underbelly of the Clipper defense. Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood finished with three assists apiece.
- Rodrigue Beaubois filled in for Caron Butler (strained hip flexor, mostly a precautionary rest) in the starting lineup and had an excellent game. He connected with Kidd on his trademark alley-oop and by the end of the first quarter, Beaubois already had nine points (4-5 FG), four assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
- Minutes distribution: Dirk – 23, Kidd – 29, Marion – 26, Terry – 21. Love it.
- DeAndre Jordan (10 points, 13 rebounds) finished with a nice stat line, but the bulk of that production came after the game had already been decided. That doesn’t discount everything he able to accomplish, but it certainly hurts his case that his most effective stretches came against the Mavs’ reserves or after Dallas was already in cruise control. He also looked pretty lost defensively against Dirk Nowitzki, though he can hardly be blamed for that; Dirk isn’t a typical match-up for Jordan, and Nowitzki is a tough cover for even the most accomplished defenders in the league. I’m still very high on DeAndre, though, and I’m very anxious to see what kind of player he’ll become in five years. He and Blake Griffin have the talent to make up a pretty special PF-C tandem.
- via @mavstats: “#Mavs finish with 27 road wins, most in NBA this season and tied for 3rd most in team history”
- Six points for Matt Carroll! Boomshakalaka!
- Programming note: I’m not sure why I stopped offering game-by-game four factors data, but those tables will be included in the recaps just as they were earlier in the season. Enjoy.
Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.”
-Arnold H. Glasgow
The Mavs’ second straight win was an exercise in call and response. The Clippers actually managed impressive stretches in every quarter, powered primarily by the brilliance of Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, and, oddly enough, Sebastian Telfair. But each Clipper run was countered by a timely and even more impressive Maverick run. Dallas played with the poise and composure of a playoff team, and unlike the 2008-’09 Mavs, this group didn’t allow a little adversity to transform into the business end of a blowout.
Take a walk with me:
- The Clippers were down 5-8 at the 8:51 mark of the first quarter, and the Mavs looked to be establishing a little bit of offensive momentum. But as the Clips’ defensive intensity increased, the Mavs’ offense came to a steady crawl behind a slew of missed jumpers. Chris Kaman responded with a few jumpers of his own (though of the made variety), and Gordon and Davis each contributed a bucket apiece during an 11-2 Clipper run. Rick Carlisle immediately called a timeout. Though the effects of that timeout weren’t immediately apparent, the Mavs responded to Carlisle’s strategery by rattling off eight straight points through a Marion nine-footer, a Damp layup, and four free throws. L.A. clearly had the Big Mo on their side, but a well-timed Carlisle timeout keyed a great defensive run (the results of the Clips’ offensive possessions: shot clock violation, missed layup, offensive foul, missed jumper, missed shot, missed jumper, turnover) and a more assertive offense.
- The Clippers were down 32-38 at the 6:20 mark of the second quarter, and the Mavs looked to be establishing a little bit of offensive momentum. DeAndre Jordan tagged in Marcus Camby who gave L.A. some life with six points and an assist during a 12-2 Clipper run. That was enough to give the Clips a 44-40 advantage, which is beyond close and starting to get uncomfortable. But just in time, the Mavs’ somewhat stagnant offense came alive with some excellent ball movement, and a late 9-2 Mavs run kept things from getting out of control. Over that stretch, the Mavs made four field goals: three were assisted, two were layups, one was a Shawn Marion slam. Easy buckets are a beautiful thing.
- The Clippers were up 59-57 at the 7:41 mark of the third quarter, and they were still rolling from a late second quarter surge that brought the game within striking distance. Then, not unlike the win a night ago, the Mavs absolutely took over the third quarter. Every Maverick on the floor (Kidd, Terry, Marion, Dirk, Damp) scored in a complete team effort, and the result was a beautiful 17-3 run that would eventually decide the game. The Mavs were not very good offensively in the fourth, but they were able to edge out a victory based on the successes of this run.
- The Clippers were down 71-80 at the 10:47 mark of the fourth quarter, and the Mavs appeared to have the game in tow. Sebastian Telfair had other plans, as he was responsible for nine points in a critical 11-2 Clipper run that brought the game to an even 82-all. Both offenses lacked rhythm and coordination, but the Mavs were able to score some easy points with buckets around the rim, and then relied on the heavy lifters to supply a dagger or two. The result was a sloppy but effective 11-3 closeout, locking up the game for good and throwing away the key.
Nowitzki (24 points on 9-19 FG, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers) looked to be much more comfortable shooting the ball, even if his overall line was a different shade of Dirk. It’s surely worth noting, though, that the Clippers’ bigs are far less equipped to defend Dirk than that of the Lakers or even the Wizards. But it’s about the baby steps, and Dirk showed a bit more of his usual shooting touch to accompany his forays into the paint and trips to the free throw line.
Shawn Marion and Erick Dampier were the Mavs’ finishers, and they performed excellently. Some lobs and interior feeds still reeked of a feeling out process, but Dallas showed a sudden willingness to toss lobs in the direction of Erick Dampier off of the pick and roll. The Kidd-Dampier combo could be a fun new weapon in the half-court game, as Damp made the Clippers pay for not respecting his rolls to the basket. Shawn Marion finished well on the move in all kinds of situations, even if L.A.’s bigs were ready to combat him at the rim. The result wasn’t always a dunk or even a make, but I already admire Marion’s aggressive movement off the ball and refusal to surrender opportunities to shot blockers. Shawn’s shot was packed a few times as a result, but his activity around the basket on both ends helped him total 16 points and 11 rebounds to go with a steal and two blocks.
Kidd, JET, and Barea did an excellent job of finding the right guys at the right times, and they were the only reason why the offense was in gear for key stretches. Kidd finished with 10 assists, JET with 6, and Barea with 4, which isn’t too shabby for a three guard rotation.
Still, the bizarre offense could give some a reason for worry. The Mavs managed just 13 points in a messy fourth quarter, and if their opponent had been anyone other than the equally messy Clippers, that could have been a problem. The Mavs came out with a win thanks to their ability to respond when it counted, but it’d be nice to nurse a cozy lead rather than jump into a slug fest.
Of course the defense played a huge role in making the Clippers falter, a fact which shouldn’t go unrecognized. The Mavs played good D inside and out, and though their performance wasn’t flawless, it was impressive nonetheless.
- Even though you wouldn’t know if it from the box score, Baron Davis (9 points on 4-10 FG, 6 assists, 4 turnovers) can still wreck havoc against the Mavs’ defense.
- The Clippers roared back into the game at the end of the second quarter, but their four point lead was quickly erased in the closing seconds when Sebastian Telfair fouled Jason Terry while shooting a 3-pointer. Telfair objected, and was rewarded for what I’m sure was a perfectly cordial objection with a technical foul. Four made free throws later, both teams walked into the locker room with a tie.
- Drew Gooden missed the game with a strained rib muscle on his right side. Kris Humphries played effectively in his absence, even if Kaman managed to bully him inside for points.
- JET was twice called for an offensive foul for pushing off with his off-hand while driving in for a layup.
- J.J. Barea seems to be a much improved jumpshooter, which is a beautiful thing for a guy who already had touch and range.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night, in a bit of a curveball, goes to Erick Dampier. Damp (12 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 0 turnovers) protected the rim, rebounded well, and turned himself into a bonafide offensive contributor with his ability to find dimples in the Clips’ defensive coverage and abuse the pick and roll.