Cleveland Cavaliers 102, Dallas Mavericks 74

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 30, 2009 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by Danny Bollinger.

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It’s not every day that you get to see an implosion.”
-Jim Staniewicz

Completely disgusting.  The Mavs have had embarrassing losses this season (on national TV, no less), but they hardly stack up to the horror that was Sunday’s game.  If every member of the roster and coaching staff isn’t thoroughly mortified by their performance, I don’t even know where to begin.

It wasn’t the usual lackadaisical defense that put the Mavs in a hole early; the Mavs’ first quarter was one of their more dominant runs all season.  This was unlike any loss I’ve seen all season from this team.  The Mavs proved that they know every main road, street, path, and backwoods trail that leads to a terrible loss.

Let’s start from the beginning, if for no other purpose than that of contrast.

In the first quarter of the basketball contest between the Dallas Mavericks and the Cleveland Cavaliers on this fair Sunday morn, the Mavs stormed out the gates to a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter, and a 15-point lead early in the second.  Dirk had 8 points and 3 assists in the first alone.  Dampier had 8 points and 5 rebounds, after blitzing the Cavs play after play on the screen-and-roll.  Jason Kidd was utterly brilliant in setting up the offense, chipping in with 5 points of his own (2-2 FG) and 3 assists early.  It seemed clear that the screen-and-roll would be an essential tool for Dallas all night long given Cleveland’s inability to shut it down.  The shots were falling (46.8% FG) for the Mavs, and things couldn’t look brighter, especially considering just how difficult things were for the Cavs (26% FG).  Credit the Mavs’ D, which was active, limiting, and lucky.  They did their part in contributing to Cleveland’s poor shooting, but it didn’t hurt that the Cavs were missing very makeable shots by the slimmest of margins.  Balls spun out of the hoop, rimmed out, and narrowly missed on attempt after attempt, and that coupled with great defensive rebounding and good job contesting on jumpshots might be enough to crush the confidence of lesser teams.  But as we all know, this Cavs team could never be described as a lesser team.

The first, second, and third concerns for any team playing the Cavs is how to make LeBron James’ life difficult.  In the first frame, the Mavs did just that.  Jason Kidd actually drew LeBron as his “primary” defensive assignment to start the game, though LeBron was double-teamed practically on the catch.  That meant a few forced shots and passing over the top, and on the whole the Cavs couldn’t take advantage.  He still had big contributions in the first (5 assists, 4rebounds, 2 blocks), but was 0-3 from the field.  Antoine Wright eventually slid over to cover LeBron, but the Mavs’ team defense seemed to be in slow motion on their rotations, doubles, and contests.  It’s one thing to do that solely against a scorer; a scorer of LeBron’s skill simply cannot be stopped.  But with James’ ability to establish his teammates and still find his own offense, the lack of effort defensively was magnified ten-fold.

The second quarter showed signs of the apocalypse, as the Mavs were outscored 27-19 but held on to a slim lead.  The symptoms of the Mavs’ inevitable demise were in full view, though.  The defense crumbled when the starters hit the bench, partially because Cleveland remembered how to play.  On one side of the court, the ball moved to the open shooter, penetration came with ease, and the defenders looked utterly foolish.  On the other, the over-reliance on jumpshots started to slide into the spotlight, and a squad with no offensive options really clicking was exposed by one of the league’s elite defenses.

The problem isn’t that the Mavs lost to the Cavs.  The Cavs are a better team, and if the Mavs did sneak out of Cleveland with a win, it would’ve been a shocker.  The real issue is that the team showed no sense of dignity, and no real desire to compete in the second half.  No one is absolved from blame.  The Cavs give Dirk trouble, but that doesn’t excuse his mailed-in effort.  Jason Terry needs to find ways to contribute meaningfully when his shot isn’t falling, because his defense was miserable.  Jason Kidd started off strong, but our primary play-caller refused to capitalize on the basics in the second half, and let the offense devolve into a jumpshooting frenzy.  Rick Carlisle and the entire coaching staff should be held responsible for how lazy and uninterested the Mavs looked on the defensive end.  At this point in the season, they should really know which buttons to press, and the fact that they still have trouble keeping this team motivated is troubling.

The Mavs allowed Mo Williams and Joe Smith to blitz them, and fully volunteered themselves for complete dissection and dismemberment by the hands of the Cavs.  Cleveland sliced and diced Dallas in every conceivable way, and not much remains other than a bloody pulp, assorted skeletals, and dust where a proud team used to be.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Kidd, I guess.  I don’t feel good about that selection, though, and I’m tempted (yet again) to give it to no one.

Heard It Through the Grapevine 3-4-09

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 4, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Henry Abbott of TrueHoop is killing it today with a five-part series on the traveling rule in the NBA.  Still need a hook?  Try this on for size: “In the conversation that follows, [Vice President of Referee Operations Joe] Borgia unravels one of the NBA’s great secrets. ‘We really don’t reference the rulebook.’”
  • Did you know that Jason Kidd has recorded 10+ assists in 492 games (45.3% of his total games)?  That Kidd would need to play around 630 more games to pass John Stockton as the All-Time assists leader?  That Kidd is responsible for approximately 21,521 points through assists alone?  More fun with numbers with Joe Schuhmann at NBA.com.
  • A look at the “Los Mavs” jerseys the guys will wear tonight, for the league’s Noche Latina “celebration.”
  • Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News has made it his personal mission to make Maverick fans cry: “The Mavs already have lost six games by at least 20 points, and there’s still more than a month left in the season. No good team does that. Just so you know, the Mavs lost only seven games by at least 20 points in the last three seasons combined. Last season, it happened just once.”
  • The big story of late is Mark Cuban’s rather rigid stance towards the Mavs’ lack of effort.  From Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “‘The effort and energy, on both sides of the ball, by each player will decide their future with the Mavericks. If each player can’t take the personal initiative to make every game important and play like it, I don’t see them being here next season.’ Cuban, who pours his heart as well as his money into the franchise, wasn’t finished. ‘The ball won’t always bounce the way we want it to, but every player can control their level of effort,’ he said. ‘If it’s not important enough to them to lay it out every game the rest of the season, they won’t be back. I don’t care what their contract is. I would rather turn over the roster 100 percent than subject fans to another game like last night.’”  Not even Dirk and JET are absolved from the criticism this time around; each played a big part in the Mavs’ no-show in OKC.  Let’s hope for an energized team tonight.  Also: this apparently is not breaking news to the players themselves.
  • Luther Head has apparently chosen to go to the Miami Heat.  Short-lived rumors, FTW!  Also — Drew Gooden is heading to San Antonio as predicted, and Joe Smith is unsurprisingly Cleveland-bound.
  • One of the most important things to consider when re-evaluating the Kidd-Harris deal is that the point is not that Kidd has been bad.  He’s contributed in a lot of ways and some nights he’s been spectacular.  The problem is that he pales in comparison to his competition, and that the Mavs just haven’t been good.  From Jeff Caplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Yet, in a Western Conference teeming with dynamic point guards who score and dish, solid hasn’t cut it. Kidd’s disappointing head-to-head matchups against five elite counterparts who lead playoff contenders — and the Mavs’ 3-9 record this season against those teams — provide eye-opening perspective…Kidd is not winning many one-on-one clashes when going up against Parker, Utah’s Deron Williams, New Orleans’ Chris Paul, Denver’s Chauncey Billups and Phoenix’s Steve Nash. In those 12 matchups, Kidd has averaged 9.5 points on 37.1 percent shooting. His counterparts have averaged 23.7 points and 46.2 percent shooting. Kidd has outscored them twice…Since Kidd’s arrival, the Mavs are .500 (29-29) against the West and — stop rubbing your eyes — 9-23 against this season’s other eight playoff contenders…Maybe Kidd’s talents to distribute, with little pressure to score, might be a championship fit with a more athletic cast such as Portland or Denver. Or with Orlando, a team equally as dangerous inside and outside…While injuries, negligible interior scoring and a fluctuating bench are all culprits in the Mavs’ poor record against chief rivals, it seems apparent that a playoff push will require their $21.4 million quarterback to more closely match his counterparts point-for-point.

Breaking: Tyson Chandler Just Became a Thunder

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 17, 2009 under News | 10 Comments to Read

Seems pretty official, folks: the Hornets are trading Tyson Chandler to the Thunder for Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith (or more importantly, their expiring contracts).

And yes, this is good good good for the Mavs.  More to come later, but let me start with this: New Orleans got hosed.