Dallas Mavericks 89, Boston Celtics 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 9, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2010-11-09 at 1.02.08 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas91.097.854.530.312.520.9
Boston95.651.77.729.214.3

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
-William Shedd

Defense is predicated on calculated risk, and when properly executed, this is what those risks look like. Lots of long two-pointers (Boston shot 31 shots between 16-23 feet and made just 12 of them). Rotations that expose the defense temporarily, but are balanced by a strong presence at the rim. A huge, potentially game-winning shot, put in Rajon Rondo’s hands some 24 feet from the basket. Even the best defense can’t stop everything, but if a team focuses on what’s important and cedes the rest, they can debilitate opposing offenses enough to win games like this one.

The Mavs weren’t flawless in their execution, but we focus primarily on the defense, this is precisely what the Mavs should hope to achieve on a nightly basis. If all goes according to plan, this defensive performance — though fine on its own merits — should be completely unremarkable. This needs to be the regular for Dallas. This needs to be a trademark. This needs to be the schoolwork proudly displayed on the fridge for a day until a new assignment takes its place, rather than some mantle piece riddled with dust. The Mavs have the potential to be this good defensively if they execute properly, and on this night they did just that.

The Mavs also have the potential to rival the league’s elite if they execute properly on offense as well, yet on this night they did anything but. Dallas committed 19 turnovers in a 91-possession game, which might be borderline impressive if it weren’t so maddening. The Mavs can’t expect to win these kinds of games with regularity if their turnover rate is hovering around last night’s mark of 20.9. Dallas’ hot shooting this season has managed to balance out their turnovers, but the shots won’t always fall. This team can’t always hang its hat on high-percentage shot-making, even if they’re working to create more high-percentage looks than ever. The turnovers need to come down, even if it’s hard to peg any specific reasons for the unexpected bump. As I mentioned yesterday, the symptoms are obvious, but if anyone has a proper diagnosis for these sudden turnover concerns, I’m all ears.

Luckily, Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-16 FG, seven rebounds, four turnovers) was relentless in his drives to the rim, Jason Terry (17 points, 5-11 FG, four assists) was patient and fought for open looks in the half-court offense, and Tyson Chandler (12 points, 5-5 FG, 13 rebounds, two blocks, zero turnovers) introduced the alley-oop as an item of cultural relevance in the Dallas metro area, and J.J. Barea (12 points, 4-7 FG, three assists, three turnovers) scored just enough, even if he overstepped his bounds a bit.

The Celtics have a number of excuses/justifications if they choose to play those cards. Maybe they were looking ahead to a game against the Miami Heat. Maybe they were physically or mentally exhausted in playing the second night of a back-to-back. Regardless, Dallas was the superior squad last night. They executed more effectively, shot more efficiently, hustled more consistently, and attacked more strategically. The Mavs were ready for this game, and they earned a win. That’s important. That’s what you can take away to keep in your back pocket. Whatever goes on in Boston’s camp is their problem, but Dallas came in with a well-constructed plan and enacted it properly.

Closing thoughts:

  • Tyson Chandler was fantastic. Nowitzki’s offense was obviously instrumental, but Chandler (Gold Star spoiler alert) was obviously the Mavs’ most effective player. He didn’t create any of his offense on his own, but by relying on his teammates to feed him the ball at the proper moments, Chandler was always in the right spot offensively. He finished each of his opportunities, and demanded that the Celtics’ defense account for him, praise that hasn’t been applicable to a Mavericks’ center, well, ever. On defense, Chandler didn’t re-write the rules of help defense, but he recited them from memory to perfection. He stepped up and challenged any Celtic who dared attack the basket, and even recovered fully to challenge his own man at the basket in some cases. He never stopped. Chandler clearly understands that a defensive possession is only finished after his team secures the rebound, and he worked tirelessly to challenge as many shots and potential shots as possible before concluding each and every possession. Books aren’t written about those who do exactly what they’re supposed to, but for his efforts on this night alone, I vote Chandler worthy of a memoir.
  • DeShawn Stevenson started in place of Jason Terry, as Rick Carlisle opted to redistribute the Mavs’ strongest scorers. He answered by hitting a pair of three-pointers and chasing Ray Allen around for 14 minutes, and that’s an unquestionable success. I’m not sure it makes a world of difference to have Terry starting or coming off the bench, as both designations can be balanced by his usage in particular lineups. However, if Stevenson can hit reliably from distance and put in that kind of defensive effort nightly, I’d have no problem with him assuming the starting job until Rodrigue Beaubois’ return.
  • Caron Butler knows that the season has started, right?
  • The Mavericks have absolutely no respect for Rajon Rondo’s jumper. So much so that J.J. Barea once forgot that Nate Robinson had subbed in for Rondo, and gave up a wide open three-pointer without even pretending to contest.
  • I’m not sure who this Brendan Haywood is, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the old one come back. Haywood had a nice contested slam and grabbed a few boards, but he had a lot of trouble defending Kevin Garnett, Semih Erden, and Glen Davis. I know the matchup wasn’t favorable; Haywood would have been far more useful had we seen more of either O’Neal, but Jermaine played limited minutes and Shaquille sat this one out. I understand that puts Haywood in an awkward position, but he has to do better. He has to provide better help, he can’t let Erden beat him to rebounds, and he can’t give up points on the low block so easily. There’s no problem being patient with Haywood given what he’s capable of, but if this is par for the season’s course, Mark Cuban is going to have plenty of sleepless nights, holding his wallet close.
  • Even after all of the barking and strutting, I still love watching Kevin Garnett play. As long as he milks that pump fake and turnaround jumper, it doesn’t much matter to me what he’s said or done. Garnett — the player — is still terrific in my book, even if Dirk gave him serious trouble with his drives. Also: KG is so brutally effective from the high post against the zone. He backs down a shoots jumpers over JET, while having the passing savvy to abuse any double-teamer that comes his way.
  • If you think this game was in any way decided by officiating, stop. The free throw discrepancy was that large for a reason, and the Mavs’ aggressive third quarter mentality was a big part of that reason.
  • Hail Jason Terry, who in his infinite wisdom, opted to foul Ray Allen with 1.5 seconds left in the game. The Celtics had collected an offensive rebound after Rajon Rondo’s three-point miss, and the Dallas defense was in slight disarray. The Mavs had a foul to give, and Terry took it while he could. Not only is that a smart move irrelevant of the result, but the fact that Dallas was able to completely smother the ensuing inbound pass and force Garnett into a contested turnaround from the far corner…well, you can’t ask for much more. Pitch-perfect execution in all regards by Dallas down the stretch, and a great judgment call by Terry.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: Tyson Chandler. I wouldn’t hang the Mavs’ hat on this iteration of Chandler showing up for every game, but Mavs fans should be thankful he was so effective last night.
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Dallas Mavericks 99, Boston Celtics 90

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 19, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas90.0110.060.335.312.916.7
Boston100.053.220.813.914.4

“The unpredictability inherent in human affairs is due largely to the fact that the by-products of a human process are more fateful than the product.
-Eric Hoffer

It’s getting to the point where the Maverick offense is almost impossible to predict. The Mavs were unable to get the ball in the basket for long stretches against the Toronto Raptors, who despite their improved play of late, are dead last in the league in defensive efficiency. In the first half last night, the Mavs were scoring relatively well, but were turning the ball over at an uncharacteristically high rate.

Then in the second half? A deluge. 58 points (which is notable considering the there were only 90 total possessions) dropped on the head of one of the league’s top defenses (currently ranked 3rd). The less surprising part was that Dirk Nowitzki (34 points, 14-22 FG, seven rebounds, three assists) was the primary bread-winner, scoring 22 of his 37 points in the second half on 9-15 shooting. He was 6 of 7 in the third quarter, when the Mavs scored 34 points on an insane 16 of 20.

Dirk was mismatched against the likes of Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine, but he abused any defender Doc Rivers assigned to him. But honestly, as brilliant as Dirk was in getting open off of picks and the like, Boston’s defense had a complete breakdown. I’d imagine that Nowitzki takes up a pretty substantial part of the scouting report, and yet he was frequently wide open for mid-range jumpers. He is the undisputed best player in a Maverick uniform, and yet the Celtics were leaving him open to double in the post or sending two defenders to rotate due to miscommunication. Even great defensive teams are due for some mental errors once in awhile, but the second half (and the third quarter, in particular) was just mistake after mistake after mistake.

What’s scary is how good the Mavs could have been offensively if Jason Terry (eight points, 3-12 FG) and Josh Howard (three points, 1-5 FG, three rebounds, four assists) had been in any kind of rhythm. JET didn’t score a single point within 15 feet of the basket (0-4 from that range), as he was denied at the rim and forced into tough jumpers after prematurely killing his dribble. Terry caught the ball looking to score, but simply failed to convert. But he kept his turnovers down, played some decent defense, and deferred at the appropriate moments. Josh, to his credit, kept his shot attempts down. But his play continues to frustrate. His recent play should already have him on thin ice, and every missed layup and long, contested jumpshot is another step closer to the freezing water beneath his feet.

But Dirk wasn’t carrying the offense alone. Erick Dampier (11 points, seven rebounds, four turnovers, two blocks), Drew Gooden (10 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks), Jason Kidd (13 points, 5-7 FG, 3-3 3FG, 17 assists, three turnovers), and Shawn Marion (16 points, 7-9 FG, eight rebounds, two blocks) provided ample scoring support. Damp’s performance was especially notable for just how explosive of a scorer he was; all 11 of Damp’s points came in the third frame, where he also grabbed five rebounds and went a perfect 5-5 from the field. He was also surprisingly versatile, dropping a free throw line jumper and what I only know to describe as a runner (maybe a walker?) along with a few layups and some post work. That’s the closest thing you’ll ever see to an Erick Dampier offensive clinic, and it was against a pretty solid defender in Kendrick Perkins.

Gooden had a similar role in the first half, but in my mind Drew’s offensive contributions are far eclipsed by those on the defensive end. I’ll be blunt: Drew Gooden is not a strong defender. The rhetoric that he often “floats” on that end of the court is certainly true, and his concept of defensive spacing is certainly not in line with Coach Carlisle’s. But last night was a pleasant surprise, as Gooden combined excellent anticipation, great hands, and a high activity level to put together one of his best defensive performances of the season.

The shocking thing about Kidd and Marion’s performances was that there was really nothing spectacular about them. Kidd simply made the right plays, again and again, and his teammates finished inside. He displayed that incredible efficiency from the three-point line, which has become a staple of his time in Dallas. He played tough defense (even when switched onto bigger threats like Paul Pierce), pressured shooters, and initiated the offense. His numbers are absolutely stellar, but Jason Kidd only did what Jason Kidd does.

Shawn Marion’s outing was similar, with one notable exception: he finished. Marion’s time in Dallas has already seen him miss plenty of layups and several dunks, but Shawn maximized his opportunities last night. He was excellent in transition, but even more impressive with what he was able to do in half-court sets. Plus, his defense on Paul Pierce was admirable, even though it wasn’t totally effective. That happens when your primary objective on the court is to contain the league’s best players night in and night out. And though Pierce still scored 24 points while shooting over 50% from the field, Marion is putting in the effort to deny, bump, and challenge, and on the whole it’s working.

It was certainly an impressive win for the Mavs, but they hardly turned a corner. We’ve seen this team put up the occasional dominant offensive outing, and in truth, this was only half of one. It came against a quality opponent and a quality defense, but don’t misconstrue the Mavs’ third quarter brilliance for some sort of grand revelation. This team still only goes as far as Dirk can take them, and until Josh Howard and Jason Terry become more efficient and effective parts of the offense, Dallas will continue to struggle on that end of the court.

Closing thoughts:

  • Rajon Rondo (seven points, 12 assists, two steals) is tremendously improved as a shooter. He was 3 of 5 from 16-23 feet last night, and he’s managed to virtually eliminate one of the holes in his game. That shot doesn’t need to be his bread-and-butter, but being able to hit from that range consistently can really complicate things for the defense.
  • Oh, and Rondo’s okay at passing, too. A lot of the Mavs’ defensive trobles came from collapsing too hard on Rondo’s lane penetration, which gave players like Kendrick Perkins (14 points, 12 rebounds, three turnovers, two blocks) all kinds of easy buckets. Not that Perk wasn’t a beast in his own right. The Celtics routinely sent him to work on the low block, and his array of turnaround jumpers was a clear homage to teammate Kevin Garnett.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki. He scored 37 points on 22 shots…isn’t that good enough for you?

All shot distribution data courtesy of HoopData.com. Efficiency rankings courtesy of ESPN.com.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 11, 2009 under xOther | 7 Comments to Read

  • Could Drew Gooden’s contract be more valuable (trade-wise) than we were led to believe?
  • Charles Barkley was asked once again about the playoff hullabaloo surrounding Dirk and his “praise” for the Nuggets’ defenders, and he’s still missing the boat (via Sports Radio Interviews): “If a guy was sleeping and thought he could stop me, I’d go over to his house in the middle of the night and slap the hell out of him.  If he even was dreaming about the fact that he could stop me, I would go to his house, and I’d just walk in his room and slap the hell out of him, and say, ‘Wake up.  Don’t even think you can guard me.’  That’s the mentality you have to have if you’re gonna be a superstar in this league.”  This.  Will.  Not.  Die.
  • A recount of the fateful 2004 summer that brought Steve Nash’s departure and the acquisition of Erick Dampier.  I’m not sure it’s entirely fair from the Mavs’ side of things, but the point is made: Damp is no Nash.
  • Von Wafer and Glen Davis, two recent residents in the Mavs’ rumor mill, have signed with Olympiakos and the Celtics, respectively.  For what it’s worth, Davis ended up signing for far less than the potentially gaudy contract that haunted my nightmares.  Logic prevails!

No Baby, No Cry

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 15, 2009 under Commentary | 7 Comments to Read

The Magic may have left the Mavs Gortat-less and alone, but they also gave Dallas back their midlevel exception.  All of a sudden the Mavs have all kinds of options in terms of available players, though none is a clear fit, fulfills a startling need, or comes at a price tag deserving of their talent level.  The player that epitomizes all three incompatibilities is Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

Davis is a restricted free agent, a term which Mavs fans should be all too familiar with.  As such, any offer designed to swipe Davis out from Boston would require enough of a contractual obligation that the Celtics would be crazy to match it.  We’re talking well more than Davis is actually worth here, the bane of the midlevel exception.  If the Mavs use their MLE on Davis, it will not be the same apparatus the once locked up Chauncey Billups in Detroit and almost brought Marcin Gortat to Dallas.  It will be a weapon of evil, the likes of which we’ve seen in the money owed Beno Udrih and DeSegana Diop.  The Mavs would need to pledge the average salary to a well below average player (career 10.9 PER) just to get him out of Boston, and that’s a move I simply cannot advocate.  Or even give a thumbs up to.  Or even do anything but wince when I read about it.

Most of my hesitation comes from the fact that Davis hasn’t yet shown himself to be that great of a player.  The Celtics likely wouldn’t have gotten past the Bulls or kept up with the Magic if not for Davis’ efforts, but in the playoffs he performed at a level far above reasonable expectations.  It screamed outlier more than progress, an abnormally efficient stretch of games in which Baby probably made his next contract.  His stats jumped almost across the board from the regular season to the playoffs.  His efficiency actually increased along with his usage rate, which is pretty unusual for an undersized four shooting more midrange jumpers than ever.  His turnover percentage dropped while his shooting percentages increased, resulting in the quality rotation big man we saw against Chicago and Orlando.  But just because that Glen Davis was the last thing to flash before our eyes does not mean we should expect anything similar.

The problem with Glen Davis last season was that he had trouble making his presence on the floor a truly positive one.  He worked well as rotation filler for a high-level team with few other options, but that’s a far cry from a super-sub worthy of almost $6 million per year.  According to 82games.com, Davis logged a negative net production (player production – opponent counterpart production) at both center and power forward.  It wasn’t close (-3.5 at center, -4.8 at power forward).  For comparison’s sake, Brandon Bass, a player deemed not worthy of the full midlevel by the Mavs, registered a +5.7 at center and a +3.9 at power forward.  That’s a pretty startling drop-off in bench production, and one that would be damn hard to justify from a salary perspective.

On top of that, just as an item of interest, 82games indicates that 100% of Davis’ field goals in the 2008-2009 regular season were assisted.  It’d be nice to have players on the floor capable of creating their own shots, especially when Jason Kidd is resting comfortably on the bench.

The real hole in the Mavs’ rotation left by the departure of Brandon Bass and the sudden denial of Marcin Gortat is not power forward, but center.  Shawn Marion is more than capable of playing power forward when Dirk goes to the bench, and both Kris Humphries and Ahmad Nivins are capable of filling in the gaps.  But as of right now, Erick Dampier is the only real center worthy of minutes on the Mavs’ roster, unless Nathan Jawai is much better than he showed in his first summer league game.  Gortat would have solved this problem, and even Bass would have been a viable option.  But Glen Davis?  Is Davis really the Mavs’ plan to fill out the minutes at center?  Offensively, Big Baby is a hustle guy with delusions of having a jump shot.  On defense, he’s still very short to play center despite having the weight to throw down in the post.  I’m sure he’d work hard and make every foul count, but you don’t pay players of Davis’ ilk considerable dollars to play center poorly.  Not when you have a choice, anyway.

These rumors of a potential interest in Big Baby continue to surface not because of skills, or fit, or value.  If the Mavs do sign Glen Davis, they’ll be motivated by something far more powerful: Desperation.  If the Mavs react to their front-court losses with a sense of panic, Davis could very well be on the receiving end of some serious cash.

Rumor Mongering: You Do the Math

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 4, 2009 under Rumors | 2 Comments to Read

Gary Tanguay of Comcast Sportsnet (via Celtics Blog):

Dallas has become the 5th team interested in Glen “Big Baby” Davis, along with Memphis, New York, San Antonio and Detroit. He wants to stay in Boston but the money may be to good to turn down.

[Dallas Mavericks - (Midlevel Exception) + $73 million in guaranteed contracts + commitments to a star power forward and two centers] < a suitable location for a rotation player likely looking for more money than he’s worth.

EDIT: Cuban personally gave this rumor the smack-down on Twitter: “contrary to reports, the Mavs are not pursuing Glenn Davis. Great player, but we like our guys”