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 recaps as short as this one, I generally try to make it a point not to focus too much on the game-winning plays or sequences; I’m a firm believer in the fact that clutch value is more or less an arbitrary construction — one that brings plenty of entertainment, no doubt, but still counts no more than the 45 (or some odd) minutes that preceded it. Dirk Nowitzki’s go-ahead bucket on Friday night qualifies as a clear exception, in a sense, although the shot made matters far less than what it means. In a playoff picture this muddled and this competitive, Dallas needed a game like this. They fought hard, even in the face of deficits. They played well enough. They kept pace with a quality opponent, and didn’t let a competitive game slip away. And finally, they caught a stroke of luck. Nowitzki has hit more than his fair share of legitimate game-winners over the course of his career, but the serendipitous bounce off the glass on this particular shot was surely a gift of the basketball gods. Dirk played the post-shot celebration like a pro, but based on the excessive awkwardness of his form and the way Nowitzki tried to draw contact, we have every reason to believe that a bank wasn’t part of his plans. It happens, and Hedo Turkoglu will likely be left shaking his head for a week. But Dallas gets a much-needed pick-me-up at a crucial time in the season; as impossible as it sounds, the Mavs are in real jeopardy of missing the playoffs. With that possibility in mind, it’s more crucial than ever that the Mavs keep their heads on straight — momentum can be a tricky thing, and its unexpected gems like this one (or more importantly, the avoidance of a hard-fought effort that ends in a slim loss) that keep the rudder straight.
Another thought, less relevant to the game than to the Orlando Magic in general: When we make a point of saying that Orlando “lives and dies by the three,” how is that functionally different from the operation of any other team? Some live and die with their rebounding, some live and die with their turnovers, and some live and die with their post play, but why is there a perception that three-point shooting is particularly erratic?
You know the drill. The Difference is a quick-hitting reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
What a blast. Two very capable offenses went to work, and while the defensive effort wasn’t necessarily lacking on either side, they just couldn’t keep pace with either team’s offensive execution. It wasn’t always the prettiest ball, but there’s an obvious appeal to a game where both teams light it up from the outside. 23 total three-pointers between the Mavs and Magic, who combined to shoot 41.8% from deep. Caron Butler (4-6 3FG), in particular, continues to impress with his range. Butler has only been even remotely successful from behind the three-point line in two of previous nine NBA seasons. This year, Caron is hitting an impressive 40.4% of his threes, his career-high by a wide margin. I want to believe that this is legitimate improvement. I want to believe that we’re beyond the warning period for flukes, and that Caron, the corner gunner, is here to stay. So why is it still so hard to believe that Butler could have settled into a Kidd-like comfort zone from the perimeter?
Dwight Howard (26 points, 23 rebounds, three steals, two blocks) was fantastic. The Mavs’ bigs, to both their credit and discredit, did a great job of contesting Howard’s shots without fouling, but Dwight showed off a nice array of moves with both hands to score over and around them. Howard shot just four free throws all night (and made all four!), but his 11-of-19 mark from the field kept him — and the Magic — efficient. Howard was effective on defense as always, even if his impact was negated a bit by the Mavs’ hot shooting from the outside. His presence was probably most felt when he was on the bench. As soon as Howard caught a breather, Tyson Chandler (16 points, 7-7 FG, four rebounds) went on a rampage. Orlando is aching for a proper backup center now that Marcin Gortat is a Sun, and Chandler took full advantage of that weakness in the rotation.
On a related note: Butler seems to have rounded a legitimate corner in his possession usage. He still gets caught pump-faking and jab-stepping into infinity on a possession or two, but 20 points on 14 shots? With just one turnover? This is the dream. This is the sidekick the Mavs have been looking for, and as is the case with his three-point shooting, all Dallas can hope for is a little sustenance.
Jason Kidd (13 points, 12 assists, six rebounds) had one of his best games in awhile. He wasn’t the best Maverick on the floor, but had a total impact in a way he hasn’t in some time. It’s nice to have the complete Kidd back, hitting threes, setting up his teammates, fighting for rebounds, and scrambling for defensive advantage.
Of note: Hedo Turkoglu’s defense on Dirk Nowitzki (17 points, 4-13 FG, eight rebounds, five assists) was surprisingly successful. Maybe Stan Van Gundy really does bring out the best in Turkoglu’s game. There was just something extra in his effort against Nowitzki that we haven’t seen from Turkoglu in Phoenix or Toronto. He looked right at home in a Magic uniform again, and though he did damage to both teams on the offensive end, his D on Dirk shouldn’t be discounted. Golf clap for the man.
Not much separated the Mavs and Magic in this one. Dallas was a bit hotter from outside, had a bit more scoring versatility, and got to the free throw line just a tad more often. Orlando was within striking distance, and Jason Richardson (10 points, 4-13 FG, five rebounds) made things interesting late after Hedo Turkoglu’s (nine points, 2-11 FG, eight assists, four turnovers) hilarious attempts to take over the game failed miserably. I wouldn’t say this game was quite as balanced as yesterday’s match-up with Miami, but it was competitive to say the least.
Rick Carlisle on Dominique Jones (via Earl K. Sneed): “(Jones) is a strong, tenacious type player, and I think down the road he’s gonna be a guy that’s gonna be depended on to guard the best players on a lot of nights. No question.” High praise from a coach who doesn’t dole out these kinds of superlatives easily.
Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas supposes that Tim Grgugrich, who served as a guest coach for the Mavs throughout training camp, could be a candidate to join the Dallas coaching staff full-time: “Marion worked with Grgurich during their time together in Phoenix. Marion praised his subtle communication with players, to teach and translate information and ideas about the game’s nuances and geometry, and to share it in a way that, like Terry, excites players. Grgurich became well-known for his partnership with Gary Payton in Seattle and today some of the game’s top talent attends his under-the-radar camp in Las Vegas every August.”
Flip Saunders isn’t quite sure who his starting five will be tonight against the Mavericks. Also, John Wall is excited to play against Jason Kidd.
Since the Phoenix Suns acquired Hedo Turkoglu from the Toronto Raptors via trade, Alvin Gentry has faced an endless stream of questions concerning Turkoglu’s position (he’s currently slated as a power forward) and what it means for the Suns’ defense. Here is his response (via Josh Greene): “Hedo will be fine. There are certain fours nobody handles in the league. I love when somebody says, ‘How will you guys guard Dirk Nowitzki?’ The last time I checked, no one else could guard him either. In those situations, we’ll do the best we can. My philosophy has always been, ‘They have to guard him on the other end of the floor.’ Sometimes that’s the best defense. The team that scores the most points wins the game. We were the best defensive team 62 times last year.”
In the third quarter of last night’s game, Corey Brewer’s elbow became better acquainted with Jason Terry’s face. It was an incidental play that couldn’t be classified as a cheap shot or anything even more sinister, but it did take JET to the ground and gave trainer Casey Smith quite a challenge in stopping the bleeding. But Terry finished the game, helped to ice a win despite some pain and an eye that was slowly being swollen shut.
But this morning, we have a more precise diagnosis of exactly what ailed Terry in the third and fourth quarters last night: a broken orbital bone. According to the team, JET will undergo surgery tomorrow, but there’s no official timetable for his return as of yet.
Hedo Turkoglu suffered a similar injury earlier this season, but only missed two games with a fractured, non-displaced orbital bone. That said, Hedo’s injury wasn’t serious enough that it required surgery, meaning Terry’s could be significantly more serious. But having said that said, JET, when asked how long he might be sidelined, responded “Not long.” So we have a point of comparison, even if it’s one that could be fundamentally different due to magnitude, a prognosis from a hopeful patient, and no official timetable from a team that won’t release further details until Terry’s surgery tomorrow at the very least. Gotta love the wealth of information in the modern age, right?
Terry will certainly be missing some time, though, even if the exact length is undetermined at this point. Rodrigue Beaubois, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, and Von Wafer are all candidates to see an increase in opportunity, but also don’t count out the option of Carlisle bumping the minutes of Caron Butler and Shawn Marion. Each could see a slight uptick both in terms of their overall minutes and their minutes on the floor together, as no JET at the 2 could mean more of Butler. Beaubois is the clear fan favorite to leap into Terry’s role, and he’d appear to have a leg up after his big night against the Wolves. But if Roddy doesn’t see an increase in minutes over JET’s absence, it wouldn’t be the first time that Carlisle has surprised.
The Mavs and Raptors finally agreed to terms on a deal that landed Shawn Marion in Dallas, but not before roping in a third team…and a fourth. In a bit of creative trade engineering, Toronto and Dallas pulled off a once-in-a-blue-moon four team deal that involves a signed-and-traded Hedo Turkoglu and the Grizzlies’ available cap space.
The deal is awaiting finalization from the league, but the principles of the deal include the following acquisitions:
Shawn Marion (five years, ~$39 million)
Kris Humphries (two years, $6.40 million, player option for the second season)
Jerry Stackhouse ($2 million guaranteed, expected to be released)
Quincy Douby (one year, $855,189)
Trade exception worth ~$7 million
From a Mavs-centric perspective, they flipped Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George, Antoine Wright, and cash for Shawn Marion and Kris Humphries. It’s a trade that undoubtedly makes the Mavs a better team. How much of a better team is something we’ll have to wait until the season starts to find out…or you can wait a little while to get a thorough analysis of what to expect on this very blog.
The Raptors were actually big winners here, and showed what good can come by doing right by your own free agents (even departing ones). Marion’s impending departure meant the Raps would be left with no compensation for the loss of a very good player. Rather than simply wish Shawn the best and tear up as he walked out the door, Bryan Colangelo helped to engineer a hell of a trade with the Mavs that not only helped to fill a need at shooting guard with the acquisition of Antoine Wright, but also gave Toronto an even more valuable asset: their full mid-level exception.
If Toronto had signed Hedo Turkoglu as a free agent as per their initial plans, they would forfeit the right to the mid-level exception by using up their available cap space. But by having Orlando sign-and-trade Turkoglu instead, the Raptors still have use of their MLE. A nice maneuver, to say the least.
Things were equally clever from the Mavs’ end, as Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have turned a creative out in Stackhouse’s contract into a four-time All-Star. With all of the pieces changing hands, this deal was way more complicated than it should have been, and it’s a credit to Mark and Donnie for sticking to it and getting Marion to Dallas.
Kris Humphries could be an interesting role player for the Mavs, and his presence has to make you question whether Brandon Bass and/or James Singleton really have a place with Dallas next season. I’m personally big on both players over Humphries, but the Mavs are obligated to cut the check to Kris. That gives him the edge to not only stay on the roster, but to fulfill a role as a reserve forward. With Shawn Marion also a shoe-in for minutes at power forward, this could be the nail in the coffin for hopes of Brandon Bass being a Maverick in 2009-2010. Bass wants the money and the minutes, and though the Mavs may be able to give him a competitive offer, he’ll likely be scrapping for minutes with Dirk, Marcin Gortat (supposing the Magic don’t match the Mavs’ offer), Erick Dampier, Kris Humphries, Shawn Marion, and possibly Ryan Hollins. That’s a bit of a log-jam, and likely too much of one to generate any kind of intrigue in Bass’ camp. James Singleton remains a more likely candidate, for no other reason than the commitment (in almost all senses) to him would likely be minimal.
Fish brings up a great point in his Mavs-centric breakdown of Turkoglu’s free agent signing: Carlos Delfino and Anthony Parker are not only expendable commodities at this point, but unwanted free agents that could end up in a bargain bin. Both would look pretty excellent in a Mavs’ uniform right about now, but don’t be surprised if one or both of them end up heading to Europe if they don’t find a contract to their tastes.
The other half of Third Quarter Collapse, Eddy Rivera, analyzes Gortat’s game and season: “There was a lot to like about Gortat this past year. Offensively, his percentages (58.3% true-shooting percentage, 57.5% effective field-goal percentage) and his offensive rating (121) during the regular season were excellent. The latter statistic (t-1st on the Magic) shows that Marcin is a highly-efficient individual on offense. Is Gortat the most polished (get it?) offensive player? No, of course not. Marcin gets his points off of drives to the basket on pick & rolls, post-ups, put-backs, etc. Given his age, Gortat has room for growth but don’t expect an expansive repertoire on offense from the Polish Hammer. Not yet, at least…Marcin Gortat is an excellent role player who is ready to accept more playing time and perhaps a starting role with a new team – the Dallas Mavericks. If you’re a Dallas fan, don’t be alarmed by his plus/minus stats. That’s what happens when an individual is playing behind, arguably, the best center in the league. The statistics become skewed. Given that his block rate and rebounding rate are eerily similar to Dwight, Mark Cuban and the Mavs got themselves excellent value with the Polish Hammer.”
A well-done photoshopped picture of what Brandon Bass might look like in an Orlando Magic jersey. It’ll be tough to see him go, but I doubt there will be any ill wills for a guy just looking to make his name and some money in this league…while ripping down every rim in the process (via TQC).
The Dallas Mavericks visit the Orlando Magic
When boiled down to a purely theoretical framework, I think the Magic might have the best team in the NBA. They don’t have the best players and they’re not the most complete, but in terms of approach and personnel I’m not sure there’s a better way to do things. That could be because I see a little bit of the Spurs in the Magic.
As far as big men go, I don’t know that there are more philosophically different players than Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard. Duncan supplants technique and precision over athleticism and strength, a shockingly lethal array of bank shots, footwork, and baby hooks. His game reeks of calculation and blueprints, not gunpowder and rocket fuel. On top of that, his high post mastery has marked the free throw line extended as his kingdom. Dwight Howard has no such jurisdiction, but that doesn’t change the way they function within the offense. The San Antonio triumvirate functions because each individual brings something unique to the table, and because they can give defenses fits without stepping on each other’s toes. Beyond that, many a role player has found themselves on the receiving end of an open three-pointer or a hundred because of those three.
In a sense, Orlando is a dignified and yet deeply flawed San Antonio. Jameer Nelson is a point guard who’s quick enough to get where he needs to go on the floor, and yet shares some of Parker’s defensive limitations. Like a young Parker, Jameer has a singular midrange talent (jumper versus teardrop). Hedo Turkoglu provides offensive movement and a creator away from the point. He doesn’t have Manu’s explosiveness, but he supplements his talents with considerable size and a nice passing touch. Rashard Lewis is, for all intents and purposes, the super-scorer/role player that may have kept the Spurs from exploding into a ten year dynasty. The Magic are decidedly Bowen-less, and maybe that’s what separates them from the cream of the crop (possible). Or maybe it’s the difference between Howard and Duncan (likely).
We all know that Dwight Howard with a legit low-post skill set would be something to behold, but is it possible that his transformation could usher in a more far-reaching evolution of lovable, innocent Magic into the infinitely more exciting and smiley neo-Spurs?