Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Last week around this time, the Mavs were flying high. They carried a 4-1 record and possessed what looked to be one of the best offenses in the NBA. But after some poor performances and a 1-3 record this week—including the franchise’s first-ever loss to the Charlotte Bobcats—the Mavs have some work to do. But hey, at least they didn’t fire their coach five games into the season.
Let’s take a look at the Mavs’ hottest and coldest performances from Week 3. (Spoiler alert: Cold wins this week.)
Week 3 (@Knicks, @Bobcats, Timberwolves, Wizards)
1) OJ Mayo
With a couple caveats, it was another strong week for the shooting guard affably known as “Juice” (alternate nickname: “That guy who temporarily ruined USC’s basketball program”). Mayo shot 29-of-61 (48%) in the Mavs’ four games this week, including 10-of-20 (50%) from three-point range. He was the Mavs’ most consistent and productive scorer by a considerable margin, averaging exactly 22 PPG. For the season, Mayo’s true shooting percentage (64%) and effective field-goal percentage (60%) both rank in the top fifteen in the league among guards who have played more than negligible minutes. Mayo’s turnovers (3.5 per game this week) and comfort within the offense both remain issues. But if the expectation is for Mayo to be the team’s second scorer behind Dirk Nowitzki, he’s currently showing why that expectation is entirely fair.
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The Dallas Mavericks visit the New Orleans Hornets
I am not afraid of the New Orleans Hornets.
Chris Paul and David West fancy themselves Maverick boogeymen, but their particular brand of play isn’t terrorizing. It doesn’t torment me like a Manu Ginobili flop, an Amare Stoudemire tomahawk, or a Kobe Bryant dagger. I’m sure that one might paint the Hornets as a silent killer in light of those remarks, but they’re not. The Hornets, frankly, are just not that good.
Of course, neither are the Mavs.
Chris Paul is definitely a top 5 player in the league, if not higher. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him and his game. My real quarrel is with David West, the Hornets’ second best player. You may remember him from that one time where he OMG PUNKED DIRK. Like totally, man. I’m not going to get into that particular incident that has long since passed. What I will say is this: David West just doesn’t intimidate me, and I would doubt very much that he intimidates the Mavs. He’s a pretty decent midrange shooter. He’s got some cool post moves. He’s a solid interior defender. That’s sweet, but to even imply that he’s on Dirk’s level is a travesty.
Looking to the rest of the Hornets roster, it definitely falls short in the way of intimidators. Peja is a has-been. Tyson Chandler is a defensive presence against a Maverick team that rarely goes inside. Who else are we really looking at here? James Posey? Mo Pete? Julian Wright?
…okay, who doesn’t love Julian Wright? But that’s not the point. What I’m hinting at is this: the Hornets are infinitely beatable. Last season’s squad was unnaturally good, and this year’s model inexplicably weaker. What really transpired between then and now? Aging, certainly, among the NOLA peripheral. Don’t even get me started with Jannero Pargo, the poor-shooting lost cog who is oft claimed to be the lynchpin to the 2007-2008 Hornets’ success. Chris Paul may be among the best in the NBA, but I think it might be time to accept a simple fact: last season’s Hornets overachieved.
I do realize that I’m probably coming of as a complete jerk. The Hornets are typically a likable bunch, and I’m not trying to take that away from them. But while they remain among the league’s elite in some sense, comparing the success of the team a year ago and the relative lack thereof this season proves illuminating. Maybe not in a way that’s as obvious as a spotlight on a blatant flaw or a trade that acts as a clear point of reference, but in an equally demonstrative manner that has removed them from championship talk entirely. Make no mistake, I generally have no delusions about the Mavs’ ceiling and don’t consider them to be a better team than the Hornets. Far from it. But the Mavs aren’t a little pig, and the Hornets aren’t the big bad wolf.
From that point, there’s only one question that really needs answering: are the Hornets closer in quality to the Mavs and the playoff borderline, or the Lakers and talent supreme?