The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Portland Trailblazers 99

Posted by Kirk Henderson on February 6, 2013 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.

  • The Wednesday night victory over Portland was game one in a five game home stand for Dallas which stretches out until February 22nd. This home stand is really a last stand, of sorts, in terms of Dallas hoping to make the playoffs. Winning all five seems unreasonable, since a four game win streak is all Dallas has been able to muster to date, but four out of five would be steps in the right direction
  • We’ve not seen the O.J. Mayo-Dirk Nowitzki pick and roll as much as I would have hoped this season, but there were a number of instances of it tonight which bodes well for future games. The best example happened towards the end of the third quarter. Dirk and Mayo ran the pick and roll at the top of the key with Mayo driving right and using the Dirk screen. Due to Mayo’s 20 point first half the Blazers were concerned with him turning the corner and getting to the basket. Dirk saw that Mayo drew both defender’s attention and drifted to an open spot near the left elbow. Mayo saw an opening between the defenders and fired a quick pass to Dirk who nailed the ensuing jump shot. It was the sort of “pick your poison” option that used to happen between Dirk and Jason Terry.
  • Damian Lilliard started the game with 12 points in the first quarter yet finished the game with 19. I was unable to see the first half due to a League Pass snafu, so I’d be interested in hearing what, if anything Dallas did different defensively beyond the first quarter.
  • The difference in execution when Vince Carter (17 points, three assists) is in the line up is something to see. After the ugly Thunder game, the impact of Carter was felt throughout the game. His ability to shake off bad plays and make important ones was seen at the end of the third quarter. He somehow missed both free throw attempts, then forced a lay up, and then followed that up with a turnover when he made a sloppy pass to Dirk. Portland capitalized on these mistakes to go on a 10-0 run to go up by eight points. After a 5-0 run from Jae Crowder, Carter followed up nailing a huge three pointer at the end of the quarter to bring Dallas back within two.
  • Great to see Roddy Beaubois (nine points, two assists) get 25 minutes of game action. He’s the best option available for back up minutes. He might not run the offense with the urgency of Mike James, but he’s smooth when he’s playing under control and really gives Dallas a bit of an “x-factor” when he sees his shot start to fall. His three pointer to start the fourth fully shifted the momentum back to Dallas after a bit of a frustrating end to the third quarter.
  • Jae Crowder’s 5-0 run near the end of the third quarter was vital for the Mavericks heading into the final period. I still cringe at his shot selection, but the three he made to start the run was huge. His steal on the following Blazer possession was an instance of hustle and basketball awareness, two things he was said to bring to the table when he was drafted. When he plays within himself, he can be a very effective basketball player.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog

 

Judging Happy

Posted by David Hopkins on January 29, 2013 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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“I am displeased, Morg. You have destroyed one of my creations. Such an act is my decision, not yours. You have overstepped your bounds.” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

I’m not usually one to quote Spurs coach Greg Popovich, but I love his response to David Aldridge during a sideline interview. Coach, how happy were you with the shot selection? Popovich quipped, “Happy? Happy? ‘Happy’ is not a word we think about in the game. Think of something different. Happy? I don’t know how to judge happy.”

Popovich makes a good point. How do you “judge happy?” Is it one of Hollinger’s advanced statistics that I haven’t heard of yet? But sports analysts do treat “happy” like a stat. We measure “ happy” and consider its weight and effect on the game.

I’ve found myself wondering if Chris Kaman is happy right now—according to this report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, not very. I contemplate how his unhappiness will affect the team. Will his “lack of happy” cause him to get traded? Does Rick Carlisle even care about Kaman’s happiness? The correct answer is probably not, and nor should he care. The Mavs are trying to win games, not maintain the happiest franchise in professional basketball. (Tangent: Which franchise do you think is the happiest right now? My guess is the Clippers. They seem like a happy bunch.)

We get so worried about “ not happy,” because we associate it with players not performing to their potential. Unhappy players become a nuisance in the locker room. Unhappy players start fights, get coaches fired, and leave the franchise in a lurch. Unhappy players look like Lamar Odom in a Mavs uniform. No one wants that.

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Ambiguous Architecture

Posted by Ian Levy on January 17, 2013 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

Solid Foundation?

For the first time in awhile, things are looking up in Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki is healthy, and the Mavericks are on a four game win streak. In their wins over Sacramento, Memphis, Minnesota and Houston, Dallas put up points at the scorching rate of 112.4 points per 100 possessions. This is a tremendous bump for what has been the 18th most efficient offense in the league this year and, at just 100.9 points per 100 possessions, the least efficient Mavericks’ offense of the past 13 seasons.

Offensive firepower of great variety has been the defining characteristic of Mavericks’ basketball for more than a decade, so watching the team struggle so mightily this season has been somewhat disconcerting. The absence of Dirk Nowitzki has certainly made things difficult, but the problems have been so systemic it’s hard to lay them all at the feet of one giant German. Across the entire season the Mavericks have wilted in each of the offensive Four Factors. They rank 8th in the league TO%, but 13th in eFG%, 16th in FTA Rate and 27th in ORB%.

The eFG% is especially troubling. Making shots is what Mavericks do, and under Rick Carlisle in particular, the team has shown a razor-sharp focus on the craft of creating quality open looks. This season however, their miraculous ability to manipulate and manufacture open space has largely fizzled. As dark as things have been, some fragrant Four-Factor-blossoms bloomed in their three most recent wins. They posted an eFG% of just 45.3% against Sacramento but pushed the bounds of offensive efficiency with just nine turnovers and 35 free throw attempts. Against Memphis and Minnesota, Dallas scorched the nets with eFG%s of 55.6% and 66.3% respectively. Against Houston, shooting was again a problem but 10 turnovers and 43 free throw attempts did the job. Those eFG% numbers are exciting to type; they feel like a thick, down sleeping bag with the potential to fend off the long winter weeks still to come. But I’m not sure they are truly a reflection of problems solved.

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Old Man Look at My Life

Posted by David Hopkins on January 8, 2013 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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“For all your vaunted strength, you are but a fading shadow of my cosmic all!” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

Last summer, Jason Kidd turned down the Mavs’ generous offer of three years and $9 million. Instead, he took the Knicks’ offer of three years and $9 million. On one level, the defection was a slap in the face to the organization that drafted him, the one that brought him back when some thought he was “too old” to be an elite player, and the one where he won his championship. On another level, Kidd’s frustration is understandable. He was disappointed with a front office that “blew up” the championship team (which I don’t think was entirely within their control, but whatever), and he wanted the opportunity to come off the bench for a highly talented point guard. The Mavs couldn’t get Kidd’s golf buddy Deron Williams, and Dallas just felt a little less like home.

While many were surprised to see Kidd leave, those keeping a close watch on precious cap space may have thought $9 million seemed a little too generous for a player who averaged 6.2 points and 5.5 assists in the previous season and would turn 40 this year. Clearly, it was an offer to cement Kidd’s legacy as a Maverick, possibly transitioning him to an assistant coaching position. But for a second time in Mavs’ history, Jason Kidd left Dallas on bad terms.

In hindsight, I wonder if $9 million was too low of an offer. The Knicks are in second place in the Eastern Conference. The Mavs are tied with Sacramento for the third worst record in the West. The disparity between the two teams cannot only be attributed to Jason Kidd, but his presence and veteran leadership cannot be ignored either. A semblance of continuity from 2011 might be worth something.

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Abandoning the Apocalypse

Posted by David Hopkins on December 19, 2012 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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“This is why I am here. This is the death I have foreshadowed. Mad gods have come to destroy us all.” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

From what I’ve heard, the world is ending. I’m not talking about the end of the Mayan calendar and the doomsday projections for this Friday, December 21st. I’m talking about the Mavs season and apparently the future of the franchise — if the most pessimistic prognostications are correct.

In case you were wondering, the Apocalypse will look something like this: Dallas loses relevance as a Finals competitor. They get stuck in the middle. Not good enough to go deep into the playoffs, not appealing enough to win big name free agents, and not bad enough to get lucky in the lottery. And even if the team did try to “suck for luck,” this is a ridiculous strategy because it creates a culture of losing that is difficult to recover from. Also, it’s a bad idea when you consider this well-written and thoroughly depressing column by Jonathan Tjarks. Would the Mavs be able to appropriately develop high draft picks? No matter. If this is the end, it looks ugly.

If I am to believe the Mavs fans, the ones who pace and rant, who wear placards proclaiming the end, they say the signs have been here all along.

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A Wolf in Street Clothes

Posted by Shay Christian Vance on December 14, 2012 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

starry night

My last experience at the American Airlines Center had me sitting near the tunnel — almost close enough to tap Marcus Camby on the head as he left the court before halftime with a minor ankle injury. As a Dallas ex-pat, I catch nearly all the games on TV or Internet, but it’s not often that I’m able to come back to the AAC to attend in person. To stress the size of Texas to the uninformed: Google Maps tells me I could almost make it from Philly to NYC and back in the same amount of time it would take me to get from my apartment in Austin to my seats at American Airlines Center; that kind of trip just doesn’t get to be an everyday affair. So, when Dirk Nowitzki hit one final shot and the Mavs pulled out a double overtime win against a Portland team led by Dallas-area native LaMarcus Aldridge, it was solidified as a successful trip. The biting chill of the walk across the parking lot to the hotel in the frigid February wind was dulled in the blood-warming afterglow of glorious extra basketball.

I was not in attendance when the Mavericks played the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. Boston is a slightly longer drive than Dallas. The rapturous sway of a live crowd was replaced by the periodic updating of box scores, the ceremonials of “defense” and “let’s go Celtics” mere background noise to the endless analyst exposition and the sharp chirps of luxurious kicks shifting across the miked-up court. The comfort of my apartment precluded a chill wind at the end of this contest, and the only afterglow came from my television. After a long climb to get back into the game, the Mavericks had come up short of the peak.

Neither the Boston crowd nor the Celtics players could stop the Mavericks from besting their opponent in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage, from out-rebounding the Celtics, from posting more assists or blocks on the TD Garden hardwood than the hometown team. An eight-point field goal percentage difference usually points to a rout, and 50 percent more points in the paint will most often tell you the victor. But the Mavericks were able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with one simple statistic; turnovers were a disaster for the Mavericks, as they had been on so many nights previous.

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Setting the Table: Boston Celtics (Game 22)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on December 12, 2012 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks (11-10) are going for their first four-game winning streak of the year as they take on the Boston Celtics (11-9). The Mavericks are also looking to build on their two-game road winning streak. If they can win against Boston, it will be the first time they’ve won three consecutive road games this season. It will be a reunion night as the Mavericks see Jason Terry for the first time since he left the organization this summer via free agency.

To update you on players, it appears Shawn Marion will play in the game against the Celtics. He had missed the team’s previous two games due to a sprained right groin. It does appear Jae Crowder may not be available for the game as he’s battling an illness (it’s that time of the year).

Here are notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Celtics.

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Thermodynamics: Week 3

Posted by Travis Wimberly on November 15, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Ice Melting

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)

FIRE

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 Longer Road

Posted by Brian Rubaie on October 29, 2012 under Commentary, Roster Moves | Be the First to Comment

LongRoadtoGreatness

A lot can change in five years. In 2007 Josh Howard and O.J. Mayo were both on top of the world. Howard was Dirk Nowitzki’s clear No. 2 on a team that won a team-record 67 games. Mayo was the country’s premiere high school prospect. Five years later, they are journeymen at a crossroads. Howard is still seeking employment, and though the Mavericks have had plenty of roster openings, they’ve displayed no interest in their former star. Instead, they’ve placed their hopes in the hands of the enigmatic Mayo, who arrives in Dallas with much to prove in what may be his last chance to cement a starting role. Mayo weighs in at precisely the same 220 pounds as Josh Howard but many doubt his ability to hold the same weight of responsibility that once rested on Howard’s shoulders. Can Mayo fulfill his promise and become the second option in Dallas? It’s a tall order but one that Mayo can meet.

Mayo’s career arc thus far has taken a steady decline. He arrived in the NBA after a solid but unspectacular campaign for USC. Viewed as a distant draft consolation prize behind Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, he was dumped before the dance ended, traded by the Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Things only got worse in Memphis. The 38 minutes a game he was afforded by the Grizzlies in his first two seasons transformed to 26 minutes a game and a sixth-man role behind rookie Xavier Henry. Asking whether Mayo has fulfilled expectations yields an unflinching “no.” The better question is where his ceiling currently stands; what should Mavs fans reasonably expect from Mayo?

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Tribute to an Aviator: Welcome to ‘Jason Terry Day’

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 31, 2012 under Commentary | 9 Comments to Read

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Although Jason Terry only agreed to contract terms with the Boston Celtics a few short weeks ago, he had been outbound from Dallas for months. He auditioned and he campaigned, but only because he knew that the writing was on the wall; it was time for him to go, and time for him to leave the franchise he had helped make whole.

It’s been noted once or twice that the NBA is a business, but in this instance that fact is inescapably true. The decision to part ways with Terry was as shrewd as it was necessary; for the Dallas Mavericks to move forward, they had to let go of a long-tenured leader, a plucky personality, and a damn good basketball player, if only because his contractual preferences didn’t — and couldn’t — align with those of the franchise. There’s an alternate universe out there where a championship core remains intact and Terry is allowed to retire a Mav, but such a finale proved to be a touch too quaint for this world.

So the JET departs for Boston, and a player whose Maverick career was laced with controversy and debate was allowed a graceful, drama-free exit. Terry was never what everyone wanted him to be — he wasn’t a point guard, he wasn’t an expert defender, and he wasn’t two or three inches taller — but he stands to this day as one of the best things to ever happen to the Mavericks franchise, imperfections and all.

It’s for that reason that The Two Man Game somewhat arbitrarily dubs July 31, 2012 to be “Jason Terry Day” — a single day set aside to appreciate and reflect on the career of a Maverick in egress. Friends will be coming by shortly to share their thoughts on the JET and his time in Dallas, and I’d encourage you to do the same; feel free to use the comments section as your personal soapbox, or tweet me your thoughts on Terry (@RobMahoney, using the hashtag #JETday, or both) for inclusion in ‘Peanut Gallery’ section of this post. JET-related content will be coming in waves, so be sure to check back throughout the day or keep an eye on my Twitter feed (again, @RobMahoney) for updates.

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