The Difference: Toronto Raptors 84, Dallas Mavericks 76

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 29, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

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 Mavericks deserve no leniency, no respite from blame. They lost to a bad team. They lost to a bad team missing Jose Calderon, Sonny Weems, Andrea Bargnani, a half-game from Linas Kleiza (who was ejected), and a limited stint from Jerryd Bayless (who injured his ankle, left, returned, re-injured his ankle, and departed for good). They lost at home. They lost a game they should have won unless half of their roster was comatose, and yet they failed to keep pace. This loss doesn’t mark the end of Dallas’ days, nor does it quash the Mavs’ dreams of contention, but it’s a notable demerit that can’t just be written off.
  • Ed Davis may have been the best player on the court for either team. He notched 17 points (on eight shots), 12 rebounds, three steals, three blocks, and zero turnovers in just 31 minutes, which is a bit more than most anyone expected from the rook against a proven defense. Davis has a nice touch and good instincts, but he had it way too easy. Brian Cardinal’s substantial minutes at the 4 didn’t help, but Shawn Marion really should have (and could have) done a better job in boxing out Davis and keeping him away from the basket.
  • Marion (12 points, 5-10 FG, five rebounds, three turnovers) and Caron Butler (15 points, 7-16 FG, three rebounds, four turnovers) had decent games, but with the Mavs’ various defensive concessions, that wasn’t enough. If Dallas had put together a superior defensive showing, a win would have been reasonable even with an average offensive performance sans Dirk. Instead, Jason Terry was the only Maverick with a plus offensive performance, and the team sputtered to a mark of 90.5 points scored per 100 possessions. Yuck.
  • Dallas was plagued with unproductive passing and frequent ball-handling errors. On average, the Mavs commit a turnover on 13.8% of their possessions. They forked it over on 20.2% of their possessions last night, in part because of over-dribbling and over-passing that took the place of substantive playmaking. Dallas has an excellent creator in Jason Kidd (seven points, 3-11 FG, six rebounds, four assists, three turnovers), but he did little to set up his teammates with quality looks, and when he did, they were unable to connect. Not all of the Mavs’ failures were due to execution — they missed a number of quality three-point looks in the  fourth quarter, for example — but turning the ball over so frequently stalled Dallas’ offense and triggered Toronto’s fast break.
  • The three-point shooting finally came back to earth. Dallas made just five of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc, good (probably the wrong word choice) for 22.7%. The starters didn’t make a single three, and Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Butler combined to go 0-for-7 from distance.
  • Nowitzki misses very few games due to injury, but on those rare occasions where he does sit, the folks watching at home are usually gifted with Dirk’s on-air broadcast stylings. Nowitzki joined Mark Followill, Bob Ortegel, and Jeff “Skin” wade for over half of the third quarter last night, and didn’t disappoint. He took shots at Brian Cardinal and Jason Kidd for their age (the latter of which he said was 58 years old), gave a lengthy defense of his game-night sartorial choice, offered some intelligent commentary, exploded after Tyson Chandler slammed home a Kidd alley-oop, and yelled “Got ‘em!” after Linas Kleiza was ejected. Followill described Dirk’s on-air showing as an “A+ performance” during Nowitzki’s sign-off, to which Dirk fittingly responded: “Yes, it has.”
  • Where have you gone, Tyson Chandler? Maverick nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Brendan Haywood (two points, two rebounds, one block) was predictably lethargic, but Chandler (three points, six rebounds, three turnovers), too, had a bit of an off night. He may be the second best Mav on his better days, but this was certainly not one of them. Ian Mahinmi was the most impressive big to man the middle for Dallas, and he didn’t exactly have a huge night; two points, one rebound, and two blocks for Ian.
  • As poorly as Dallas played, they still had a winnable game sitting in their lap for most of the fourth quarter. The Mavs rushed shots. They turned the ball over some more, just for kicks. They surrendered open looks to Leandro Barbosa (12 points, 5-12 FG, two stealsk) and DeMar DeRozan (16 points, 7-13 FG). They just flubbed any chance at serious competition over the final minutes. Needless to say, Dallas needs to be better. These losses happen, but the Mavs need to be better.

Stranger Danger

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 4, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

Forgot to mention this yesterday, but apparently the security at the AAC may be in the slightest bit lacking. From Jason Quick of The Oregonian, in regard to last week’s game between the Mavs and the Blazers in Dallas:

During a timeout with 41 seconds left in regulation, two women walked onto the court and into the Trail Blazers huddle. One woman wrapped her arms around the waist of Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez from behind. Fernandez, who was not in the game but focused on the plays being diagrammed by coach Nate McMillan, was stunned.

“I was surprised,’’ Fernandez said. “I was listening to the coach on the bench and behind me, she touches me and says, ‘Rudy, I love you. Nice to meet you. Good game.’

“I said, ‘What?’’’

Blazers guard Jerryd Bayless, who was on the perimeter of the huddle, said he saw the whole event transpire.

“They were drunk, obviously,’’ Bayless said. “I was actually close to Rudy, but when I saw them coming, and once they got onto the court, I stepped back.’’

The women were ushered away from the huddle, and amazingly allowed to return to their courtside seats under the basket and watch the remainder of the game, which went to overtime.

Let’s not make this more than it is. That said, like most of the other internet scribes commenting on this pretty bizarre story, I’m curious: why on Earth were these two women, who wandered onto the court and into a huddle, not kicked out of the arena? I’m puzzled. Bamboozled. Perplexed. Fans walk onto the court during a dead ball situation, hugged a player, talked to him, and then were led politely back to their seats?

No Game Is an Island: On Their Own

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 22, 2009 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

For a team with a bright future, things in Portland are certainly dim. Greg Oden’s injury puts a damper on what could have been a successful season, and the point guard situation is far from resolved. They have an All-Star shooting guard and bright, young talent at virtually every position, yet the chemistry and rotation have become unexpected problems. The worst of it is this: regardless of what has worked for other teams in the past, there is no blueprint for team-building. There is no generic solution for the Blazers’ uniquely talented players, and though it sure beats being a lottery team, being rich with talent often presents its own new problems.

The Portland Trailblazers are an interesting case study on multiple levels, but particularly because their fortunes have been all over the place. Brandon Roy is clearly the star of the show, and rightfully so. He’s an incredibly talented offensive player who can produce without stymieing the greater team-wide vision. In fact, with a player of Roy’s particular talents and tendencies, you could go as far as to say that he excels within a team framework. There are certain NBA players who were born to win one-on-one tournaments. And for what it’s worth, Roy probably wouldn’t do too badly. That said, the true beauty of his game comes in how he controls the flow of the offense and manages space. He works the pick-and-roll beautifully, he draws extra defenders and finds the open man, and above all, Roy isn’t just capable of making the pass, but completely willing to. He’s humble. He’s a consummate professional. He’s hungry. And despite everything that has gone right for the Blazers in amassing their stable of young talent, it’s possible that they still haven’t figured out what kind of players are best-suited to flank Roy (and LaMarcus Aldridge, and whoever else is deemed part of the core).

It’s not as simple as taking a franchise model and plugging in Roy. His style is very much his own, and despite the temptation to assume that he would work the same in any number of systems with a precedent of talented shooting guards, that’s not the way it works. Just because the Bulls of the 90s, the Lakers of the early 2000s, and the current incarnation all run some version of the triangle offense, the personnel put their mark on the system. In those cases, you can hold the coach and the system constant, but that doesn’t make Luc Longley and Shaquille O’Neal one in the same. Players will always shape a system to make it unique, and great players typically have a more profound influence than is easily recognizable. As much as Roy is to be part of McMillan’s system, the system and the rotation must adjust to the specificities of Roy’s game.

Read my piece on Brandon Roy and the Blazers in its entirety at Hardwood Paroxysm.