Thermodynamics: Week 21

Posted by Travis Wimberly on March 21, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Ice Melting
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

You wouldn’t know it from the game results (L, W, L, W, L), but the Mavs played at a fairly consistent level for the entire week (at least until the fourth quarter of the final game against Brooklyn). After being wildly inconsistent for most the season, the Mavs seem to have finally leveled out and settled into a groove.

So, if the Mavs were so consistent, why 2-3? Why alternating wins and losses? Well, that’s just the thing — the Mavs’ “consistent” level of play sits pretty much right in the middle of the league. Their season-long ceiling (as opposed to their single-game ceiling, which is largely a function of variance) sits right around the 50th percentile. By playing consistently over several games, then, the Mavs make it very easy to see exactly where they sit in the league pecking order. They’ll beat bad teams regularly (Cleveland); they’ll beat decent teams sometimes (Atlanta); they’ll lose to decent teams sometimes (Brooklyn); and they’ll lose to elite teams almost always (San Antonio and Oklahoma City).

Hence, the week that was.

Week 21 (@Spurs, Cavs, Thunder, @Hawks, Nets)

FIRE

1) Brandan Wright

Wright’s offensive game is so fluid and efficient, it’s hard to imagine that he could barely get off the bench earlier in the year. Here’s how Wright’s key numbers shook out this week: 10.4 points per game, 24-of-43 (56%) shooting, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 1.0 blocks per game. It’s much more difficult to quantatively measure individual defense, but I thought Wright showed his continued improvement in that area. He’s got a long way to go, but his footwork in the defensive post has improved since November, and he’s being more judicious with his weakside defense (i.e., not wildly jumping around trying to block every single shot instead of boxing out). Wright earned numerous accolades during college while playing in the highly competitive ACC, and it’s easy to see why. His raw talent is undeniable. With hard work and on-point coaching (and I have no reason to suspect both won’t occur), his ceiling is fairly high.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 107

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 17, 2013 under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

Strike

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.

  • Expect the lack of shot attempts for Dirk Nowitzki (23 points on 8 of 10 shooting) to become a narrative for the Mavericks in the coming days, though it’s something I’ve been concerned about since Dirk returned to form. Against the Thunder, he started off 8 for 8 from the floor off of a variety of different looks. His final make came at the 8:22 mark of the third quarter. He took two more shots in the quarter, then didn’t have a field goal attempt for the remainder of the game. Credit must go to the Thunder defense, but the responsibility falls to Dirk, the coaching staff and his teammates. His teammates are the biggest problem, as Mike James, Darren Collison, and O.J. Mayo seem bewildered as to how to get the big German the ball. Dirk posts up well, sets good screens and is the league’s most dangerous trailer. He’s had to resort to calling for the ball more and more often this season as his guards don’t seem to see him unless he’s yelling at them. He’s big, he’s blond, he even has an insane beard.  He’s also a former MVP and an NBA Champion. If this team still thinks it can make the playoffs it’s not going to do so on the backs of anyone other than Dirk Nowitzki. Get Dirk the ball.
  • Contrast Dirk’s stat line to that of once and future scoring champion Kevin Durant (31 points, nine rebounds). Prior to the fourth, Dallas had managed to keep Durant in check with 12 points while forcing a variety of turnovers. In the final period, Durant scored 19, taking full advantage of his size mismatch and demanding the ball from Russell Westbrook. In most cases Durant simply got the ball at the top of the key and went to work, very similar to the way Dallas used to use Dirk.
  • The development of Jae Crowder (11 points, four rebounds) has been a roller coaster. I greatly enjoy his man to man defense, but he has brief lapses in judgement that really hurt the Mavericks. Kevin Martin scored two layups on simple back door cuts when Crowder got caught watching the ball. Additionally, each of his turnover were very frustrating to watch; he somehow failed to see a Thunder player between him and his teammate. Each lead to easy fast break points in a tightly contested game.
  • The offensive rebounding from the Thunder, particularly from Serge Ibaka (18 points 16 rebounds including seven offensive) badly hurt the Mavericks. Due to the threat of Russell Westbrook (35 points, six assists), the Dallas big guarding Ibaka was forced to cheat over for additional help defense when Westbrook got a Maverick defender in an isolation situation. As a result, a smaller player usually had to rotate down to try to box out Ibaka which did not work.
  • In recent weeks, I’ve been a big fan of how O.J. Mayo has let the game come to him. He’s made smart choices and put himself and his team in a position to win. Though Mayo didn’t hurt Dallas against the Thunder, his nine points and three assists are not enough from a player many consider to be the second offensive option. Despite his growth as a player this season, he doesn’t give Dallas enough on a consistent basis.
  • We’ve most likely seen the last of Roddy Beaubois in a Dallas Maverick uniform. He broke a bone in hand in a rather strange play involving Kevin Durant. Though he’s out indefinitely at the moment, we here at the Two Man Game wish him a speedy recovery.

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.

Quoteboard: Oklahoma City 117, Dallas 114 (Overtime)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on January 19, 2013 under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

 

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The Dallas Mavericks hit the halfway point of the season in a rough way as they moved to 1-8 in overtime games this season. Dallas suffered a 117-114 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City. The win gave the Thunder a league-best six-game winning streak. The loss put an end to the Mavericks’ season-best four-game winning streak. Kevin Durant scored a career-high 52 points, including nine points on 3-of-4 shooting, in the victory over the Mavericks.

Vince Carter tallied a team-high 29 points in 32 minutes. It was the most points he’s scored as a Maverick, previous high: 25 vs. New York Nov. 21, 2012. He led Dallas in scoring for the fifth time this season. It marked his fourth 20-point effort of the year. It was also his sixth game with at least four 3-pointers this season. Carter had only one game with four-plus triples last year.

Dirk Nowitzki started the game 1-of-11 from the field. He finished the game scoring 18 points on only 5-of-19 shooting from the floor. Darren Collison went 4-for-6 from the field before the break en route to 11 first-half points. He finished with 15 points to go along with four rebounds, six assists and three steals in 31 minutes. Collison scored in double figures for the 14th consecutive game. He once again sat on the bench during the final minutes of regulation and overtime in favor of Mike James.

With the Thunder up 116-114, Mike James had a mismatch with Kendrick Perkins and Dirk Nowitzki was being guarded by Russell Westbrook with less than 10 seconds to go in the game. James hoisted and missed a 26-foot jumper over an outstretched Perkins. That will be a play that will be dissected for the next day and a half.

Here is the quoteboard for overtime loss to the Thunder.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Oklahoma City Thunder 111

Posted by Connor Huchton on December 28, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Clouds

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.

  • For three quarters of this game, the Mavericks controlled the tempo. The offense produced wonderfully, mostly due to an outstanding game from Darren Collison (13-22 FG, 4-4 3PT, 32 points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals, three turnovers) and the efforts of Chris Kaman (7-14 FG, 17 points, eight rebounds) and Shawn Marion (5-12 FG, 14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists), the latter of which nearly recorded a triple-double.
  • But after a stagnant fourth quarter, one which saw Kevin Durant (13-28 FG, 10-10 FT, 40 points, eight rebounds, five assists) lead the Thunder to a three-point lead with 2.2 seconds remaining, prospects appeared dire for the Mavericks.
  • And then this happened.
  • It was a bizarre, incredible moment that gave the Mavericks new life and a chance at a hard-fought overtime win. Unfortunately, that win was not to be. The issues that troubled the Mavericks’ fourth quarter offense continued into overtime. O.J. Mayo’s (1-7 FG, four points) recent struggles proceeded and amplified in the extra period. With the Mavericks facing a one-point deficit and less than one minute left, Mayo made a costly turnover. Like many of the turnovers that plague his game, it was avoidable and caused largely by confusion and impatience.
  • After picking up his dribble (with plenty of time left on the shot clock), he forced a pass to Collison that was easily stolen, and the resulting transition bucket put the Thunder comfortably ahead. Later, Mayo drew a clever foul on a three-point attempt with the Mavericks down three and 33 seconds remaining. Though a typically stellar free-throw shooter, Mayo unluckily made only one of three free throws, and the Mavericks never bounced back.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (3-11 FG, nine points, six rebounds) performed below his typical standards in 26 minutes of action. Hopefully the power of time will quickly aid him in his ascendancy back to stardom.

The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Dallas Mavericks 97

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

Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 11.15.33 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0105.448.130.425.012.7
Oklahoma City112.058.026.717.613.4

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

  • You know what they say: If you’re going to lose a winnable series in four games, at least go out in an exhibition for one of the game’s most fantastically understated players, supplying the wood for his buzzsaw in what one can ultimately assume will be a daunting display of razor-focused finesse and craftsmanship. James Harden (29 points, 11-16 FG, 3-4 3FG, five rebounds, five assists) gets a raw deal because the public’s attention span can only extend to two star teammates at a time, but he’s far too good to be relegated as some distant third, and far too lethal to be ignored, even for a second. Dallas tried a number of coverages from a variety of directions in the fourth quarter, but none of it mattered — Harden attacked from the same point on the floor at the same angle, repeatedly bludgeoning the Mavericks with his own unique grace. And, as an important extension: credit upon credit to Scott Brooks, who afforded Harden the opportunities he needed without the slightest interference. Harden keyed the offense and out-dueled Dirk Nowitzki, all because his teammates agreed to spot up from the perimeter, because his coach saw an opening and exploited it, and because he’s a ridiculously difficult pick-and-roll cover.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Dallas Mavericks 79

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 4, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2012-05-04 at 9.45.34 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.085.938.834.220.017.4
Oklahoma City103.349.420.017.48.7

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

  • With the Mavericks splattered on the Thunder’s windshield, it seems a more appropriate time than ever to reinforce just how limited Dallas’ half-court offense has been this season. This crew has managed to salvage just enough possessions for us to wonder if they’re still capable of more, and yet time and time again these Mavs trip into performances like this one: outings filled with bouts of lame, stagnant offense, designed to flow but caught in the mire. Dirk Nowitzki is a miraculous player, but the team so carefully propelled by its balance last season has very clearly caved in, leaving Nowitzki as the one self-standing tentpole to bear the weight of a drooping roster.
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    It’s all fun and games when the play action comes easy, but the virtues of extra passes and open shots don’t mean all that much when a team lacks the capability to consistently create such opportunities. Rick Carlisle has tried to find substitutes for the likes of J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler, but ultimately failed to recreate the same perfect mix of ingredients that brought this same core their own slice of basketball immortality last June. Things could never be the same — not after all of the pieces Dallas lost, and after each of the team’s many additions subtly pushed the Mavs in a different direction. It’s no fault of the newcomers specifically, at least any more than it’s a fault of every Maverick; this was an experiment gone wrong, and though by nature of the process most eyes will turn to the experimenter himself in blame, every beaker and burner and unproductive big man played a part in not playing their part.
  • I’ve been among Brendan Haywood’s more generous supporters, and even I’ve completely run out of excuses and justifications for his poor performance. Perhaps Haywood still holds value in the right context, but at the moment that context seems far too limited to justify his standing or his salary. He actively holds the team back in the vein of an end-of-the-road Erick Dampier, and though he’s only 32 years old, Haywood seems to have sufficiently worn through much of his NBA utility. Haywood has seen Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright — two very imperfect players — take their turn in the spotlight during the regular season, all while he settled in with unimpressive rebounding, far too unreliable defense, and slim offensive relevance. Now he seems to have fully completed his downswing; his play leaves more to be desired than I would have possibly imagined, and he shrivels not in the shadow of Mahinmi, Wright, or even Chandler, but in the context of useful basketball players in the most general sense.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City 102, Dallas Mavericks 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 1, 2012 under Recaps | 11 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2012-05-01 at 1.38.45 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.0105.344.940.527.312.3
Oklahoma City108.548.558.217.916.0

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

  • Basketball fans tend to see their teams as either the cursed or the ordained, but in reality every franchise is somewhere in between; whatever forces govern the seemingly random bouncing of the ball tend to slide in whichever direction they like, and as much as we’d like to pretend that there’s a real image to be discerned from the breaks of the game, doing so is akin to claiming that stars are drawn for the sake of constellation.
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    Performance is and will always be based in execution, but as Dallas has shown over the first two games of this series, sometimes that execution isn’t enough. It’s not sufficient to merely create opportunities; in the inevitable close games that come in a playoff run, the currency of those opportunities must be exchanged. They’re worth something in themselves, but only by utilizing those windows can Dallas — or  any team — attain something of more practical value. The Mavs are trying their damnedest to get more out of those crucial chances, but for the moment they’ve only (and admirably) managed to put themselves in a position to flip a coin. In that, Rick Carlisle and his team can’t be wholly disappointed that the flip keeps coming up tails.
    .
    Dallas, through late-game blunders and all, had their shots. They just weren’t the ordained this time around, and thus failed to make the most of their aforementioned opportunities. Dallas may have left the 2010-2011 season as conquering heroes, but the days of improbable comeback after improbable comeback and huge shot after huge shot appear gone. The magic has left from this Maverick world, with a departure only so sure as the inevitability of its return.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 99, Dallas Mavericks 98

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 29, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2012-04-29 at 1.34.59 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.0104.350.032.127.014.4
Oklahoma City105.351.925.322.013.8

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

  • This should hardly come as a surprise given the final margin, but games really don’t get more balanced than this one. Both teams saw their superstars swell in the spotlight, escaping heroically from the mire of their earlier struggles. The top-notch defenders present didn’t disappoint; Serge Ibaka and Shawn Marion both came up with tremendous play after tremendous play, and the craftier defenders on both teams — Jason Kidd and James Harden — managed to get deflections and key defensive action from off the ball. The rebounding profiles of both teams came to a curious middle. The Mavericks somehow managed to get to the line more often than the Thunder — an incredible feat considering that OKC ranks tops in the league in free throw rate — but also turned the ball over more often than their opponents — an equally incredible feat considering that OKC also ranks last in the league in turnover rate. The elite team and the inconsistent team played their way to a standstill, and Kevin Durant broke the silence with a terrific shot in the face of perfectly played defense.
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    One could theoretically chalk up a Maverick loss to any number of factors (oddly fragile late-game performance, Dirk Nowitzki’s uncharacteristic turnovers, OKC’s fantastic denial of Jason Terry, a random Ibaka three-pointer, etc.), but I’m not sure I see the point in that kind of exercise. Rick Carlisle and his staff will look to make changes based on Dallas’ many distinct shortcomings, but none of those individual flaws provided a reason for loss so much as the slightest opportunity for one. The Mavs played well. They got real, consistent value from a wide net of contributors, largely forced the Thunder into difficult shots, and managed to negate some of their opponent’s greatest strengths. But someone had to lose this game, and the fact that it ended in a coin flip made the result no less cruel, and such assignments of blame no less arbitrary.
    .
    That final moment was the only time the game’s dynamic took any decisive shift whatsoever, and even then, only a ticking clock was able to provide the impetus for such a change. Otherwise, these two teams would have traded blows and well-executed sets and spectacular shots into eternity, with no victor save any lucky enough to be a part of the process. Those of us on this side of the fourth wall certainly were, and with any luck, will continue to be so fortunate.
    .
    But all individual games must end, just as this series will eventually succumb to its own lamentable finality. In the meantime, the stage has been set for a fantastic arrangement of call and return — supposing that the Mavericks manage to maintain even a remotely similar form in the games to come. Let’s hope that isn’t such a naive assumption in hindsight, and that those engaged by the possibility for highly entertaining basketball aren’t made to be fools. We know what the Mavs are capable of, and sadly, we’ve come to know how little the Mavs are sometimes capable of. This matchup seems to bring out the best in them and the best in a beautiful game, but if this bittersweet day and this nearly canceled season haven’t taught us to take nothing for granted, I’m not sure what in this sport possibly could.
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    I honestly have no idea what’s coming, nor the slightest clue of how to conclusively use the information we have to even take a shot in the dark. Yet if nothing else, we have this night of near-makes and infinite possibility. The Thunder and Mavs won’t play again until Monday, and in that lapse we have the invaluable and immaculate gift of tomorrow. For now — even if not for a second more — there are no disappointments. There is only the promise of greater basketball to come, without worry for letdown or regression.
    .
    So rest up. Tomorrow’s a big day.

The Two Man Game’s Official Dallas Mavericks Versus Oklahoma City Thunder Official Western Conference Quarterfinals Preview for the Official 2011-2012 Official NBA Post-Season

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 27, 2012 under Commentary, Previews | Read the First Comment

Screen Shot 2012-04-27 at 5.51.08 PM

No series in this year’s playoffs better illustrates the gulf between winning and winnable; the Dallas Mavericks begin their postseason journey against a familiar foe, and although they hold the potential for a hugely significant upset, there is an auspicious lack of logical explanation as to why the series might actually unfold along those terms. Based on the evidence we have, we can’t write the Mavs off completely, and yet the Thunder are simply too good to not be penciled in for the second round on the basis of their far steadier — and noticeably more superior — play on both ends of the court. The playoffs always bring the potential for a reset and subsequent upset, but we can’t rightly expect either without even the slightest justification.

There’s reason to think that the Mavs might be competitive in this series, but we lack the magic bullet that could throw any predictions over the top. There’s a chorus for good reason; “Oklahoma City in six,” is the most reasonable outcome at this point, although there’s a distinct possibility of this series breaking in virtually any which way. We shouldn’t be surprised to see the Mavs push this to seven or lose in four; there are too many variables at work to have a good feel for how either team might play over the course of this series, leaving us with questions on questions and OKC’s far more convincing regular season exploits.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Dallas Mavericks 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 2, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-02 at 9.58.03 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-Play – Shot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas100.086.038.129.820.013.6
Oklahoma City95.043.840.730.614.3

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

  • Not many teams on this side of the Orlando Magic have managed to put together the kind of inescapably horrendous shooting performance that sank Dallas on Thursday. The Mavs shot just 8-for-38 in the second half, with the occasional trip to the free throw line providing the only non-JET source of reliable scoring. It would be incredibly convenient if there just one element to blame for Dallas’ offensive implosion — disrupted ball movement, a lack of effort, a mere bad shooting night, or the tilt of a team missing its star. Unfortunately, the best explanation is “all of the above.” This was a true team effort, with every possible variable ganging up on the Mavs for a perfect storm of offensive impotency. (To put things in perspective: Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, and Rodrigue Beaubois combined to shoot 28 percent from the field. Ouch.)
  • A testament to how bad things have become for Nowitzki (eight points, 2-15 FG, eight rebounds): The Thunder aggressively trapped the ball handler on pick-and-rolls involving Dirk. Nowitzki is certainly trying his best to revert back to the player we all know he can be, but the impossible fadeaway jumpers are finally starting to live up to their billing. That bouncing ball has no mercy for Dirk whatsoever, and it simply refuses to cooperate with Nowitzki’s efforts to provide his scoring talents to the Mavs’ championship defense. He’s still making some smart passes, working hard on defense, and clawing for rebounds, but Nowitzki isn’t suited to be a glorified hustle player. This is one of the greatest offensive players the NBA has ever seen, and if anyone out there has any idea how to help him find his way home, I’m sure Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle would be all ears.

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