The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 109, Dallas Mavericks 93

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 22, 2012 under Recaps | 12 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.092.645.121.08.711.7
San Antonio110.654.012.528.613.8

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 basketball gods had seemingly arranged a game for Andrew Bynum to dominate, and yet just about every Laker but Bynum (nine points, 4-5 FG, seven rebounds) dominated. Some credit goes to the Mavs for throwing an extra defender Bynum’s way quickly, but this was no defensive victory; as much as I would love to shower praise on Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright (who, to be clear, did play effective defense), Bynum’s lack of shot attempts was purely a product of the Lakers’ otherwise dominant offense. It certainly didn’t seem as if L.A. was too focused on establishing Bynum on the block via re-post — and it didn’t matter a bit, as the Lakers’ off-ball movement ended up deciding the game.
  • In Shawn Marion and Delonte West’s absence, Jason Kidd was forced to take primary on-ball responsibility against Kobe Bryant (30 points, 11-18 FG, five rebounds, four assists, four turnovers). He honestly did what he could; there have been games this season where Kidd’s defensive effort is fleeting, but this was not one of them. He bodied Bryant when he could, tried to deny him the ball as much as possible, and yet few of his efforts produced favorable defensive outcomes. There were many instances in which Kidd played textbook defense only to be bested by Kobe being Kobe — a demonstration of dominance that at once must be both maddening and shrug worthy. Bryant worked hard to free himself up for quality shot attempts, and though not all of his shots were carefully chosen, it was hard to fault this particular process (particularly when juxtaposed with Bryant’s occasional ball-dominating ways).
  • Both teams started this game with a ridiculous, extended rally of mid-range jumpers. The Mavericks merely failed to adapt once those shots stopped falling, and as for the Lakers — well, I’m not sure those shots ever did. It was just jumper after jumper after jumper, largely produced through quality play action.
  • Jason Terry (23 points, 8-14 FG, 3-6 3FG, zero turnovers) is a masterful practitioner of the pick and roll, and though his ball-handling judgment has been questionable in recent weeks, his approach was perfectly on-point on Wednesday. Los Angeles trapped Terry fairly hard in pick-and-roll situations, but he managed to play his way out of and around them. JET walked the line of aggressive scoring and steady playmaking with perfect balance, a fact betrayed by Terry’s misleading goose egg in the assist column. Don’t be fooled; Terry did an excellent job of messing up his teammates, even if some unfortunate misses robbed him of any box score glory.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Denver Nuggets 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 20, 2012 under Recaps | 11 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas99.0113.159.517.914.314.1
Denver96.047.024.111.113.1

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Kenneth Faried (nine points, five rebounds) is a good player and an incredibly active defender, but he had the incredible misfortune of being pitted against a most dominant Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 12-19 FG, 11 rebounds, six assists). What, precisely, would you have any defender do against Nowitzki at the top of his game — much less one with relatively limited NBA experience and far less matchup-specific experience? Dirk maneuvered too well to be blanketed, shot too accurately to be stopped, and passed too effectively to be doubled. Faried was damned before he even had a chance to consider his options, as Nowitzki triggered his usual array of fades and jumpers en route to one of his most spectacularly efficient performances of the season.
  • Dallas’ 33 assists were a season high, and the furthest thing from an empty total; the Mavs’ ball movement was the most successful and consistent force in this game, and sustained even during the roughest offensive stretches. The shots didn’t fall, but to the Mavs’ credit, they never abandoned the process. That commitment is more important than any series of makes or misses, wins or losses — it’s the backbone of successful offense, and that the Mavs are relying on a replicable formula to generate points bodes well for their future this season.
  • This particular matchup made for a fascinating watch due to the fact that size was a uniquely irrelevant factor. Nowitzki demands a certain size and length in defensive response, but Dirk aside, both teams were free to play whichever players gave them the greatest chance for success, regardless of the opponent’s configuration or traditional positions. The Mavs largely stayed “conventional,” if you could really term their usual lineups so ridiculously. The Nuggets, on the other hand, toyed with all kinds of combinations, most of which used Denver’s army of wing players in a futile (in retrospect, anyway) effort to get the jump on Dallas. Faried split time with Al Harrington as the only big on the floor for long stretches of the game, and though Denver couldn’t use their wing-heavy lineups to create any in-game leverage, it was still a hell of a sight.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 106, San Antonio Spurs 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 18, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • What began as a great offensive performance by Dirk Nowitzki (who finished the first half with 19 points) turned into a wonderful overall performance by the Mavs’ offense. Nowitzki (27 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers) was absolutely brilliant in both a one-on-one capacity and as a spot-up shooter, but when San Antonio began to throw hard doubles at Dirk on the catch, he wasted no time in finding open shooters on the weak side. Throwing a pass to a shooter in the opposite corner off of a double team is a bit of a risk, but Nowitzki’s height and experience with this kind of swarming coverage make him uniquely suited for that kind of play. Nowitzki was only able to notch three points in the fourth quarter (when the Spurs made their defensive shift), but Dallas shot 5-of-9 from three-point range to the frame, with many of those makes coming off of double-team exploitation.
  • Another thing that’s abundantly clear: Nowitzki takes his matchup with Stephen Jackson — he of that infamous 2007 playoff letdown — incredibly seriously. Gregg Popovich wasted no time in getting Jackson acclimated, and pitted him against Nowitzki almost immediately, despite the fact that more conventional Nowitzki foes (Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter) were also on the floor. From that moment, Nowitzki’s entire approach shifted; he sought to back down Jackson relentlessly, and noticeably increased the physicality of his pre-shot maneuverings. Jackson did what he could to deny Nowitzki early position and fight him for every inch, but, well, it’s not 2007 anymore.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 8-16 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) will naturally receive praise for the quality of his performance, but in truth this was a nice outing for the entirety of the Mavs’ guard core. Jason Kidd lived up to everything that could possibly be expected of him and more, as he connected on four threes out of five attempts, racked up double-digit assists, and played great help defense to indirectly force a few turnovers. Jason Terry put up 17 points on just 10 shot as a continuation of one of his strongest stretches of the season. Vince Carter, too, put up 10 points on 50 percent shooting, just to complete the picture. The fact that all four of these players were able to positively influence the game is a wonderful sign for the resurrection of the Mavs’ depth, particularly considering how heavily the Mavs were leaning on this group in the absence of both Delonte West and Shawn Marion.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Charlotte Bobcats 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 16, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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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.

  • For the moment, Dallas is one of the shallowest deep teams in the league — or at the very least, one of the least consistent. The Mavs’ lackluster first-half showing wasn’t solely the fault of the subs, but the very notion that Charlotte’s second unit could so thoroughly cook a group consisting of (in part) Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Ian Mahinmi is a bit strange. Earlier in the season — those dark days when Dirk Nowitzki was nothing but a pick-and-pop player — the Mavs were only able to tread water because of their depth. Things look very different these days, which could in part be traced back to the fact that Delonte West’s absence hurts this team in ways that we never could have known.
  • It’s always a very distinct pleasure to watch Nowitzki (27 points, 9-21 FG, six rebounds, five assists) go to work from any of his favorite spots on the floor, but he seems to have particular fun with the Bobcats’ antsy shot-blockers. Nowitzki’s very basic ball fake looked like an entirely new move on Thursday night, as the slightest pump would sent a Bobcats defender flying. I don’t think it’s even worthwhile to chastise the ‘Cats for their lack of discipline; that’s Dirk Nowitzki, and when he rises to shoot — or even pretends to rise and shoot — a futile contest may be the best defensive option available.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 107, Washington Wizards 98

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 14, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First 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.

  • When a team as talented as the Mavericks defeats a cellar-dwelling team like the Wizards by single-digits, it’s typically not considered much of a triumph. But following a dismal 2-8 stretch and a complete lack of team cohesiveness, it was comforting to watch the Mavericks build and sustain a lead, though not too comfortably. The Mavericks play an inordinate amount of games in the coming weeks, but games against the Wizards and Bobcats offer a nice opportunity to win without any particular strain on the Mavericks’ aging core.
  • The Mavericks’ offense was revitalized by the confused, scattered defensive efforts of the Wizards. The Wizards allowed almost every viable Mavericks’ scoring option to focus on their individual offensive strength. Jason Terry (10-20 FG, 24 points) was able to drive right and pull up for jumpers, Dirk  Nowitzki (10-14 FG, 27 points) easily earned position on the high block, and Rodrigue Beaubois (8-14 FG, 19 points, four assists, four rebounds) darted into the lane with little problem.
  • This Mavericks’ team is so much different when Jason Terry is playing well. Terry’s been in a weird funk lately that’s led him to commit 2-4 perplexing turnovers a game. Terry returned to early-season form Wednesday night, and managed to avoid the overly frenetic, rushed play that’s troubled him so greatly in recent games.
  • I feel like I say this frequently, but it really is a joy to watch Rodrigue Beaubois play basketball at a high level. There’s a positive trend emerging in Beaubois’ game, a trend Rick Carlisle hinted at in his post-game comments. Beaubois has begin to attack the basket with increasing frequency, and he’s almost entirely removed long pull-up jumpers from his offensive repertoire. He’s made a strong case to remain an integral part of the Mavericks’ rotation when Delonte West returns, and often provides the scoring spark the Mavericks so desperately need.

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The Difference: Golden State Warriors 111, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by James Herbert on March 11, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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.

  • There aren’t a lot of positives to take from a loss like this, except for the fact that it’s probably not all that representative of anything. The reality: the Mavs are now the third team this season to lose all three games of a back-to-back-to-back. At 23-20, they’ve dropped eight of ten and would occupy the West’s final playoff spot if the season ended today. Fortunately, the season doesn’t end today. This brutal stretch of nine games in 12 nights is over and I’m closer to the Mark Cuban “these losses are meaningless” school of thought than the “Dallas is a disaster” stance that clean-shaven Sam Mitchell took on NBA TV Friday night. Brendan Haywood will be back soon, Delonte West after that, and we’ll look for incremental improvements over the next month or so.
  • Oh, Jason Kidd will be back soon, too. He was a late scratch. No need to play the soon-to-be 39-year-old on three straight nights. This meant we were treated to a starting backcourt of Jason Terry and Dominique Jones, with Rodrigue Beaubois and Vince Carter theoretically adding scoring punch off the bench. For JET, it was his first start since last January. For Jones, it was the first of his career. Also, this was Terry’s 1000th career regular season game.
  • For the second night in a row, Dallas looked old and slow and fell behind early to a non-playoff team. The Warriors scored the first six points of the game and Rick Carlisle took his first timeout with 6:31 left in the first, down 11-5. The Mavs’ legs were dragging from the opening tip, while the Warriors, who hadn’t played since Wednesday, were full of energy, even if it wasn’t always channeled correctly. The Mavs started the first quarter shooting 2-13 and finished it 6-22.
  • That energy I talked about? Much of it came from Ekpe Udoh, who was running and jumping and contesting shots all over the place. Early in the first, he challenged a Dirk Nowitzki jumper, then blocked Ian Mahinmi’s follow attempt. He blocked a Nowitzki shot a few possessions later. He should become a Serge Ibaka-like league-wide fan favorite as soon as the Warriors are relevant.
  • The first quarter wasn’t all one-sided and it wasn’t just the Mavericks being sloppy — both teams had six turnovers in the opening frame. After that timeout with 6:31 left, Rodrigue Beaubois and Lamar Odom checked in. Both immediately hit threes and tied the game at 11. But in the last 3:31, Golden State went on a 13-2 run. For the rest of the game, Dallas was playing catch-up.

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The Difference: Sacramento Kings 110, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Holly MacKenzie on March 10, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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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.

  • It figures that the game I pick to recap is a blowout. Disclaimer before we go any further: I am a huge Isaiah Thomas fan. I will try to temper this as we talk about what went wrong with the Mavericks in Sacramento. It wasn’t pretty, people. Not even a little bit.
  • A rough start really doomed Dallas. The team had five of their 17 turnovers in the first quarter, including four of them in the first four minutes of the game. Sacramento took advantage, scoring nine points off of those turnovers in the opening session. The Kings jumped out to a lead quickly, leaving the Mavs to play catch up all night.
  • After finding himself on the bench at the end of the Suns game on Thursday night, Jason Terry (game-high 23 points, 10-for-18 fgs) was looking to get himself going early against the Kings, and was one of the bright spots for the Mavs offensively in the first half. He kept the Mavs in it by coming up with a bucket to temper the crowd every time the Kings seemed to be on the verge of really blowing things open.
  • While Dirk Nowitzki started off 2-for-2 from the floor, the team didn’t make it a point to get the ball to him in the first quarter and things went downhill from there as Dirk wasn’t ever able to get going. He shot 1-for-5 in the second quarter, 2-for-4 in the third and then 0-2 in the fourth. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting in 29 minutes of action.
  • The Mavericks just looked sluggish tonight. Perhaps they were tired from last night’s loss to the Suns, but their defense wasn’t doing them any favours against the Kings. A five-point swing for the Kings: Jason Thompson gets his own offensive rebound, finds Chuck Hayes open under the hoop for an easy two. Next possession:Francisco Garcia steals the ball from Nowitzki (Mavs turnover #6) and finds John Salmons for a three.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, New York Knicks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 7, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas96.099.043.137.521.314.6
New York88.541.727.428.016.7

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Execution is always a matter of great importance, but from opening tip this game came to be defined by the Mavs’ energy. Dallas came out of the gates with an insistence on beating New York in transition on offense and curtailing fast break opportunities on defense, perhaps best showcased by Ian Mahinmi (nine points, six rebounds, three steals, two blocks) flying back and forth across the court (for a block in transition, for a soaring rebound, for a gliding dunk, etc.). As Dallas’ energy waned, New York’s defense picked up and capitalized. The Mavs’ most successful stretches of basketball were dictated by their energy and assertiveness, and though those things were indicative in small differences in approach (Shawn Marion being more aggressive as a fast-break ball-handler, Rodrigue Beaubois looking to get to the rim, Jason Kidd not being gun-shy) than consistent, over-arching tropes, they were still very evident nonetheless.
  • It’s in that vein that I do have praise for Lamar Odom, in spite of a miserable shooting night and an otherwise neutral stat line. If nothing else, Odom played hard — and considering where he and his mind have been in the last few weeks, I think that’s an acceptable step. It doesn’t make 1-of-9 shooting okay, but under the circumstances the bigger issue is Odom’s commitment to the team and to the game. He has the talent to produce more, and if he’s engaged, he will.
  • Shawn Marion and the Mavs’ collective defense did a great job against Carmelo Anthony. It felt as though Anthony was actually getting to his favorite spots on the floor with some ease, but once at the rim or in his pet zones, rarely did he put up a shot attempt without a hand in his face. This was particularly true inside, where the Mavs’ interior defenders swarmed Anthony as early as possible. He was blocked from behind, forced to contort, and ultimately, held to six points on 12 shot attempts. Some of that is the natural process of the Knicks’ offense feeling itself out, but the Mavs did an outstanding job of capitalizing on some of the disarray and made Anthony a non-factor.

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Cosmic Significance

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 6, 2012 under Commentary | 31 Comments to Read

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As a general life philosophy, I find it prudent to worry solely about what can be controlled. There are an infinite number of forces in the universe — each with varying levels of significance — and nothing much good can come from addressing the untouchable.

Living things die. Forces of nature collide in horrid natural disasters. Planets wither away. Massive stars supernova. And sometimes, oddly enough, NBA referees botch calls.

It happens, and it certainly happened on Monday night, when Ian Mahinmi was tagged on a highly questionable — but entirely crucial — foul call that gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a pair of go-ahead free throws with 46 seconds remaining. It was a rough call on what appeared to be a perfectly legal defensive play, and at the risk of sounding entirely dismissive of the ordeal, I’d offer this: Move on.

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The Difference: Memphis Grizzlies 96, Dallas Mavericks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 1, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas95.089.546.817.719.517.4
Memphis101.150.023.825.716.1

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Dirk Nowitzki left this game early in the second quarter with what appears to be a minor injury to his lower back (all indications point to Nowitzki being available on Friday), and from there things went pretty much as expected. Dallas can get by without Dirk on the floor for stretches — a few minutes here, a few minutes there — but runs into a huge, huge problem when teams are able to tweak their approach toward the Mavs’ teetering, Dirk-less offense. Nowitzki is such a prolific and efficient shot creator that the offense can operate according to plan just by having him available, but remove him as a factor and opponents quickly realize how putting pressure on Jason Terry can make the Mavs squirm.
  • Plus: Memphis is a team that understands how to operate without their best player in the lineup. Dallas is not, if only because their construction is fundamentally different. It’s not that Zach Randolph isn’t important; he’s every bit as significant, just not as pivotal.
  • As mentioned above, Terry (18 points, 7-15 FG, five assists) — and to a lesser extent, Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 7-16 FG, three assists, four turnovers) — had the unenviable task of trying to keep the offense afloat. He did what he could, but it doesn’t take much digging into the tape to determine that JET isn’t the kind of player who can function as the primary creator of an offense. He still managed to hit some tough shots and did a good job of trying to get to the rim, but every step he took was shaded by a Grizzly, and Memphis’ guards did a terrific job of funneling him into help. Beaubois wasn’t quite as successful, particularly once the Grizzlies’ defense locked down in the second half. Beaubois was forced to be the Mavs’ primary reset option, but ultimately wasn’t much of a threat out of the pick and roll. The timing and vision just wasn’t there for Beaubois to actually hit the roll man, and the Grizzlies deserve a lot of credit for cutting off passing lanes, hedging on those screens, and forcing Beaubois to retreat.

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