The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 90, Houston Rockets 81

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 28, 2012 under Recaps | 3 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.

  • Hopefully we can all look back at this game as the moment when everything turned around for Lamar Odom. The man donned a headband and everything changed; within seconds of coming into the game, Odom drove into the paint to set up Vince Carter with an open three, then made a huge block on the other end. A few possessions later, he forced the issue in semi-transition to create an open driving lane. This simply wasn’t the Odom we’ve sadly grown accustomed to watching this season (or that some have been accustomed to booing). He sprinted. He dunked. He defended. He was an excellent drive-and-kick shot creator. He was Lamar Odom, and in his best 23 minutes of the season, he reminded us all just how constructive of a force he can be.
  • Luis Scola was a mad man in the first half; he dropped 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in almost 18 first-half minutes, and seemed to thrive regardless of whether his shots were contested or not. But in the second half, the Mavericks were more diligent in their defense, and the Rockets backed off a bit; Houston was understandably ready to go to Scola on possession after possession in the first half, but Ian Mahinmi seemed to make it his particular goal to challenge Scola’s jumper, and Jason Kidd roved to make things particularly difficult for him in the post. Sometimes that’s all it takes to throw a certain player — and in this case, an entire defense — off-rhythm.
  • This was also a fantastic outing for Rodrigue Beaubois, who has possibly never looked more committed to getting to the basket. At the urging of the Mavs’ coaching staff, Beaubois appears to have fully embraced J.J. Barea as his spirit animal; watch enough tape of Barea’s fearless drives, and eventually you start to wonder what you might be able to accomplish as a faster, longer, more athletic player. Last night we saw some of the results, as Beaubois attacked relentlessly off the dribble with the intent to score, and ended up creating easy buckets for both himself and his teammates.

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Absolute Fitness

Posted by Connor Huchton on January 27, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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Connor Huchton is a contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm and Rufus On Fire, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Connor on Twitter at@ConnorHuchton.

Jason Kidd exemplifies longevity. His athleticism and strength have slowly dissipated, but even at age 38, his value remains. His game has matured superbly, and at this stage in his career, Kidd is the picture of adjustment.

He may no longer look to attack the basket (his at-the-rim field goal attempts slowly dwindled to last season’s measly 0.6 attempts per game), but Kidd has managed to find strength in weakness; his reduced foot speed has led to greater focus on competent three-point shooting and facilitation from the perimeer. In both of these facets, Kidd excels, and he contributes through made threes, crisp passing, exemplary rebounding, and timely defense.

But so far this season, Kidd has struggled to continue his helpful – if declining – play. His utter inability to make three-pointers (25.8% 3PT) has rendered his already minimal scoring almost completely nonexistent. 66 of Kidd’s 78 field goal attempts have been three-pointers, meaning that his failure to capitalize on these shots has led directly to his general scoring ineffectiveness.

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The Difference: Minnesota Timberwolves 105, Dallas Mavericks 90

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 25, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas96.093.844.210.524.611.6
Minnesota109.450.042.919.314.1

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

  • Ricky Rubio (17 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, four steals, seven turnovers) did a terrific job of getting the Wolves good looks both inside and out, be he hardly did all the work. Minnesota’s bigs fought hard to get good interior position and create contact once they received the entry pass, and the perimeter players worked diligently for a slice of open floor. The Wolves’ offensive success was hardly constant, but they at least seemed to know what worked and what didn’t, and sought to capitalize on their in-game strengths. Dallas, despite being a team of mismatch creation and utilization, didn’t quite share in that approach.
  • That said, there was a time in this game when the Mavs were pushing the pace not only as a means of getting easy transition buckets, but also forcing opponents to scramble into mismatches. On one particular first-quarter possession, Rubio was mismatched on Lamar Odom, giving Delonte West a chance to pull the ball out for a fake entry look before darting a pass to a wide open Brendan Haywood for an easy dunk. Haywood’s defender had snuck away to help on Odom, and West had correctly identified not only the mismatch, but its ripple effect.
  • The most succinct explanation possible for why the Mavs withered away on offense: they settled. Rarely is it so simple, but Minnesota applied defensive pressure, and Dallas recoiled. No rally. No response. There were simply too many pull-up threes and too many lazy sets. The Mavs tried to speed up their futile comeback attempt with quick jumpers early in the shot clock, but bricked pretty much every “momentum-changing” shot they attempted. I guess they did speed things up in a sense, merely not in the direction that they intended.

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On The Ground Floor

Posted by Ian Levy on January 24, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

Every NBA offense begins with the same purpose – put the ball in the basket, preferably repeatedly and in a manner that’s not too straining. The pieces and approaches that are chosen to strive for that goal take an infinite number of forms. Through 18 games, the Mavericks’ offensive form has shape-shifted through a variety of ghastly and ghoulish looks.

This season, the Mavericks have scored 100.3 points per 100 possessions — the league’s 22nd most efficient offense. That’s a drop of 9.4 points per 100 possessions from last season, when they scored 109.7 points per 100 and registered the eighth most efficient offense in the league. The offense has regressed, significantly, in almost every area:

2011-20122010-2011
eFG%47.3%52.5%
TO%14.4%13.6%
ORB%23.6%24.1%
FT/FGA0.2240.222

Taking a look at the four factors, we see a team that’s getting to the line at roughly the same rate (still way below the league average), while shooting less accurately, turning the ball over more often and recovering fewer of their own missed shots. The fact that they’ve been able to start the season by winning 11 of 18 games is a testament to how much defensive compensation they’ve done.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 83, New Orleans Hornets 81

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 22, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas91.091.243.025.323.112.0
New Orleans89.038.541.022.011.5

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 sat out his first of what will be four games played in absentia, and we got our first glimpse of how the Mavericks might operate with their best player wearing a suit as casually as humanly possible. If this first outing against the Hornets is any indication, we’re due for a familiar look: Shawn Marion (14 points, 6-11 FG, 12 rebounds) quietly continuing his terrific season on both ends of the court, Delonte West (16 points, 6-10 FG, six assists, five rebounds) playing like he’s been a part of the Mavericks’ system for a decade, understated defensive play from Brendan Haywood (six points, 10 rebounds, two blocks), extended struggles from Jasons Kidd (zero points, 0-6 FG, five assists, nine boards) and Terry (12 points, 3-16 FG), and Lamar Odom as a complete wild card. Odom’s opportunities for playing time and production won’t be any more ripe than those he’ll see in the coming week; Dallas will need his scoring pretty badly while JET continues to struggle from the field, and thus Rick Carlisle may be more willing to allow Odom to play through his mistakes in the hopes of later seeing glimpses of the old Odom. We saw plenty of said mistakes on Saturday night, as Odom put on an absurd, one-man showcase of jump passes and curious decisions. Crossovers and fakes in isolation before throwing a cross-court pass to Shawn Marion? Managing five three-point attempts against a slew of opponents who have no hope of stopping him off the dribble or in the post? Odom’s judgment with the ball still isn’t where it needs to be, but it’s a credit to his talent and effort that he was able to contribute 16 points and four boards in 26 minutes of action nonetheless. The space cadet performances are part and parcel with Odom, but hopefully he can manage a more level game on Monday night.

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Royalactin

Posted by Ian Levy on January 12, 2012 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

If you’re not an apiarist or natural health fanatic, chances are you haven’t crossed paths with royal jelly, a truly incredible substance. Wikipedia explains:

The honey bee queens and workers represent one of the most striking examples of environmentally controlled phenotypic polymorphism. In spite of their identical clonal nature at the DNA level, they are strongly differentiated across a wide range of characteristics including anatomical and physiological differences, longevity of the queen, and reproductive capacity.[6]Queens constitute the sexual caste and have large active ovaries, whereas workers have only rudimental inactive ovaries and are functionally sterile. The queen/worker developmental divide is controlled epigenetically by differential feeding with royal jelly; this appears to be due specifically to the protein royalactin.

The middle school biology explanation is that bees are identical at the DNA level. The differences between the worker bee and the queen, including the enormous size differential and the ability to lay hundreds of eggs, come entirely from eating the substance known as royal jelly. Player development expert and ESPN analyst, David Thorpe, uses this as a metaphor for the his system of positive reinforcment.

“Playing time is the first part,” says Thorpe. “A coach’s support is another thing — it helps you grow as a player if you know you’re not going to get yanked the first time you miss a shot. That gives you the confidence to be creative and expand your game. And then the final aspect of the ideal set-up is coaching you up on the new things you’re adding to your game. A great recent example of this was Trevor Ariza with the Lakers last season. In the spring, everyone was wondering why they’d let him shoot all those 3s. It wasn’t productive. But they needed him to be able to do that, they let him do that, they didn’t yank him for doing that, and they coached him how to do that better. And in the playoffs he was amazing at that and helped them win a championship.” – Courtesy of Henry Abbot and TrueHoop

Usually this term comes into play when we are talking about a young player who is still developing an identity and carving out their niche in professional basketball. The royal jelly is minutes, opportunities and teachable moments, all of which are lavished on said player. But this idea of positive scaffolding doesn’t have to be reserved for fresh-faced youngsters. The journeymen, those who’ve moved from team to team never quite finding the right sequence of steps with which to unlock their full potential — can they not benefit from repeated doses of the same treatment?

The addition of Delonte West was among last and least heralded of the Mavericks’ off-season acquisitions. His second tour in Boston did not go the way he, or the Celtics, hoped it would. Since his first season in Cleveland, basketball success has seemed to be creeping inexorably away from him. At one point, his issues off the court made his grip on an NBA career seem tenuous at best.

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Interstitial Space

Posted by Ian Levy on December 29, 2011 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The first two games of the Mavericks’ title defense have been ugly — like “Eric Stoltz in Mask” ugly. After two games the Mavericks have an Offensive Rating of 93.8 (26th in the league) and a Defensive Rating of 110.4 (23rd in the league). Both numbers are a huge disappointment, especially when viewed in the context of what was accomplished last season. For now, though, we’ll set aside defensive concerns and focus on efficient scoring.

Ball movement and offensive execution were the premium fuel that drove the Mavs through the playoffs last year. During the regular season, the Mavericks recorded an assist on 63.7 percent of their made baskets — the highest rate in the league. Through their first two losses, they’ve recorded 38 assists on 73 made baskets, good for just 52.1 percent. That mark would have ranked dead last in the league last season. But this is just a symptom, not the disease; the Mavericks are moving the ball, just not to the right spots. When the ball does end up in the right place, the movement of bodies has often ensured that an open shot no longer resides there.

On some level, early season difficulties are understandable. But some big questions remain: Why, with abbreviated training camp and new faces being the standard around the league, have the Mavericks’ struggles have seemed uniquely harsh? Are we  watching kinks that can be worked out, or more worrisome and fundamental changes from the glorious contraption we witnessed last season?

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The Difference: Miami Heat 105, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 25, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas100.094.043.328.018.217.0
Miami105.051.332.139.522.0

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

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Now in Session

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 22, 2011 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

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This year’s preseason campaign may be more important than the lead-in exhibitions of a standard season, but there’s still only so much that can be digested from a mere prologue. Still, we can glean hints of the year to come, even in the context of games that don’t matter. With that, here are eight observations from the Mavs’ two preseason games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, laced with a nice balance of optimism and gloom:

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Reinventing the Checkbook

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 9, 2011 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Fans and analysts have done their best to read the tea leaves containing the Mavs’ off-season plans, but implicit in that process is a lot of assumption. We know that Dallas doesn’t want to sign Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler to the kinds of deals they’re able to secure elsewhere. We know that J.J. Barea was only offered a short-term, and that it wasn’t to his liking. We know that the Mavs are likely to pursue free agents on one-year contracts almost exclusively. From all of these facts — and the reports they stem from — we can try to piece together the team’s strategy, but there will always be bits of logic and nuance missing from our formulations.

Well, prepare to have the blanks filled in. On Thursday, Mark Cuban articulated Dallas’ general strategy in a must-read post by Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:

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