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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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Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is good work today.“
- In theory, it’s less important for the Mavs to win this game than it was for them not to lose it; wins over lottery-bound teams late in the season don’t count for much aside from an uptick in standings, meaning no one is going to give the Mavs a pat on the back for taking care of business against the Kings. That makes it all the more impressive that they not only didn’t lose, but they won in decisive fashion. One of the Mavs’ weaknesses all season has been their inability to put away weaker opponents, often turning what should be walk-away wins into drag-out affairs. Not so last night, as the Mavs seized a double-digit lead quickly, gradually built it up to around 20, and held on despite some mini-runs by Sacramento.
- Dirk Nowitzki had a special offensive night. His previous game against the Blazers was impressive in its own right, but he was just on another level in this one. Only two turnovers? Expected. 60% shooting from the field? Nice. 13-of-13 free throw attempts (which allowed Dirk to break his own franchise record for consecutive free throws made, previously 60, by making 68 in a row)? Terrific. 39 points on just 20 shots? Unreal. The Kings threw several different looks at Nowitzki but it didn’t make a bit of difference. Dirk just did what he usually does only even more impressively, and his Dirk’s 39 is but a footnote on the day’s NBA slate because excellence is what we expect from Nowitzki. Cherish it, folks.
- If anyone out there is worried about the Mavs’ ability to beat the zone, check out their execution in the first quarter. Dallas started the game on an absolute tear, mostly due to their ability to pick apart Sacramento’s zone and bury it from mid-range. Dirk’s ability to operate from the high post is a big part of that, but just as important were smart passes that exploited the Kings’ over-rotations. The Mavs have the shooters, the playmaker, the high post threat, and the offensive rebounders (Haywood, Dampier, Marion, Butler) to absolutely kill the zone, and that’s exactly what they did in their match-up with Sacramento.
- That and, well, they’re the Kings. Their defense is better than it was at some of their darker moments this season, but it’s still nowhere near playoff-caliber. So everything I just said? Only true, not necessarily tried.
- DeShawn Stevenson was pretty decent defensively. He may actually be a quicker perimeter defender than Jason Kidd, though I wouldn’t advise putting DeShawn on a lightning-quick point guard (Aaron Brooks et al) for any considerable length of time. Against Tyreke Evans though, Stevenson at least managed to use his size and strength to make Tyreke’s 27 points…difficult…what was I talking about again? No one’s stopping Tyreke Evans. Descriptions of him as the point guard LeBron aren’t exaggerations, but accurate descriptions of his athletic talents relative to his competition. Honestly, if ‘Reke isn’t your pick for Rookie of the Year, you’re not doing it right.
- I’m not sure there’s a more likable power forward rotation in the NBA than the Kings’. You can’t help but cheer for Jason Thompson (12 points, seven rebounds, five turnovers), who’s far more than the energy player and rebounder he was expected to be coming out of college. Carl Landry’s (30 points, 10-16 FG, six rebounds) scoring efficiency, toughness, and professionalism make him one of the most interesting and endearing cats around. Then there’s Jon Brockman (two points, two rebounds), A.K.A. the Brochness Monster, a dude who literally just does one thing well (rebounding), but does it really, really damn well. No superstars in the mix there, but three talented guys that are just really fun to watch.
- Jason Kidd (11 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds, three turnovers, two steals) had a complete turnaround from his struggles against the Blazers. Plus, he kicked a ball into the stands for pretty much no reason, which counts for something in my book. This performance was definitely impressive, and had Dirk not gone absolutely nuts in the 3rd quarter (Nowitzki scored 22 in that frame alone), Kidd would likely be taking home player of the game honors.
- Dallas finished shooting 13-of-21 from long range. Hot, hot, hot.
- Slight trouble as Brendan Haywood tweaked his right ankle after landing on Francisco Garcia’s foot. It doesn’t appear to be serious (Haywood went to the locker room, but returned to the bench), but Haywood played just eight minutes. On the plus side, Erick Dampier (seven points, six rebounds, three blocks) played 28 minutes, his highest total since February 16th.
- Shawn Marion sat out another game with his strained oblique, and remains day-to-day.
- Jason Terry finished with 25 points (8-14 FG) with six assists and two steals, and Caron Butler chipped in 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. That’ll do, gents.
- If you’re combing this win for negatives, I’d point you towards the Kings’ offensive rebounding (14 to the Mavs’ 7, good for a .326 ORR). It wasn’t enough to really give the Mavs’ trouble, but had the conditions of this game been different, it could have been a noticeable problem. Haywood’s absence didn’t really help, either.
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“A really great talent finds its happiness in execution.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- Last night, the Mavs treated the basketball court as a place of business. They were ruthless and relentless in their offense (pushing the ball upcourt against the Kings’ weak transition defense is almost cruel), and smart and decisive with their defense. The final margin is ultimately pretty deceptive, as Dallas was thoroughly dominant in the second half…with the exception of the final, irrelevant three minutes, in which the Kings rattled off an 11-0 run. But this was a very effective game in terms of gameplanning and execution, and though wins over the Kings aren’t typically hung on the refrigerator, this one was nice.
- Tyreke Evans (14 points, 6-18 FG, 5 rebounds, six assists) is a beast, and the focal point of Sacramento’s offense. As such, the Mavs employed a lot of zone and help schemes specifically designed to counter Evans’ driving ability. It certainly worked, as ‘Reke wasn’t given any space to charge down the lane and was forced into taking a lot of contested runners and long jumpers. That’s a successful night of taking away the other team’s primary offensive option, even if the Kings aren’t considered an elite offensive team (though it’s worth noting that they are a respectable 13th in the league in offensive efficiency).
- The Maverick defense also did an excellent job of forcing turnovers during critical runs in the second and third quarters. Most were forced either directly (the Mavs had 11 steals to the Kings’ 16 turnovers) or indirectly (quick rotations, aggressive on-ball defense) by the Mavs, which is a defensive area in which Dallas typically struggles. The Mavs have done an excellent job this year of keeping their opponents’ efficiency, shooting percentages, and free throw attempts down, but they’ve never quite figured out how to bump up their opponents’ respective turnover rates. The Kings’ turnover numbers (both raw and rate) on the night are not all that impressive for Dallas, but over a two quarter stretch, the Mavs were very effective in both forcing turnovers and capitalizing on them.
- I’m not sure what kind of rehabilitation program Jason Kidd (14 points, 6-7 FG, 2-2 3FG, seven assists, three steals) has done for his layups, but it’s working. The man who seemed utterly incapable of making a shot attempt at the rim is suddenly wowing with his ability to finish, as evidenced by his flashy layup attempt with around four minutes remaining in the second quarter (video hopefully forthcoming).
- Another disappointing game from Erick Dampier (two points, four rebounds, two turnovers), who was unable to match the energy of Jason Thompson (15 points, 7-15 FG, 10 rebounds. Enter Drew Gooden (eight points, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocks). Drew wasn’t a compromise defensively like he has been in some games this season, and he was the game’s most dominant rebounder (his one-game total rebounding rate was 22.8, which more than doubled every other Maverick). The center position has been a bit of a give-and-take for the Mavs of late, which may be for the best; Dallas is best served having one effective center on a nightly basis rather than having both show up some nights and neither show up on others. Obviously it’s preferable that both Dampier and Gooden find ways to contribute effectively, but for now I’ll take Gooden as an insurance policy.
- Dirk (25 points, 8-18 FG, seven rebounds) looked to regain a bit of his shooting form after missing a few early jumpshots. Credit Nowitzki getting to the rim and to the line, as nine of Dirk’s first 11 points came on dunks, layups, and free throws.
- I like the Kings’ Donte Greene more than most, and I’m convinced he can be a legit NBA scorer on a consistent basis. But after watching Greene cover Dirk for stretches (and guard Kobe Bryant late in recent games between the Kings and Lakers, both of which ended tragically), I can’t help but think that Paul Westphal overestimates Greene’s current defensive abilities or has even fewer options than we realize. Greene has the potential to be an extremely versatile defender (he’s 6’11” and has started for the Kings at shooting guard), but man-up on Dirk? On Kobe? Really?
- A completely nondescript night from Shawn Marion (six points, five rebounds, a block). Games like these are tough for Marion because the Kings don’t have an obvious wing threat (at least not currently; Kevin Martin remains on the shelf), which limits what Marion can do for the Mavs on the defensive end. And considering how well J.J. Barea (17 points, 7-13 FG, three assists, four turnovers) and Josh Howard (16 points, 6-13 FG, three rebounds, three assists) were playing, Marion was squeezed out and played just 27 minutes.
- Now, some of you might read that above bullet point about the Kings’ wings, and scratch your head. Omri Casspi (22 points, 7-16 FG, 4-6 3FG, 11 rebounds, four assists) was absolutely swell, and positionally he should be matched up directly against Shawn Marion. But the Mavs opted to neutralize Evans rather than worry about the Kings’ three-point shooters. Casspi exploited that fact even if the rest of the Kings didn’t (without Casspi, the Kings shot just 2-14 from beyond the arc). It’s the risk you take when trying to stop a team’s most dominant offensive player, and though Omri played quite well, the Mavs can live with that.
Advanced box score data from HoopData.com.