Los Angeles Lakers 100, Dallas Mavericks 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 14, 2010 under Recaps | 8 Comments to Read

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Los Angeles113.650.627.526.212.5

They’re certainly not the protagonists.
-Robert Thompson

Each Maverick game this season has been but another installment in the team’s plotline. There are ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and hopefully, a terrific climax following the rising action late in the playoffs.

But tonight didn’t feel like a Maverick game. Dallas was merely the backdrop of the latest Laker adventure, with the Mavs thrown out of the spotlight in favor of the night’s true protagonists. They showed resolve. They showed savvy. They fought nobly in the face of adversity, displayed teamwork and fellowship, and prevailed. The Mavs were simply the extras in the background while the celebration ensued, a footnote in the epic being written to log the exploits of the reigning champs.

From the very beginning, it seemed as if Dallas was fighting an uphill battle. The Lakers found plenty of early success by jumping on the back of Andrew Bynum (22 points, 8-11 FG, 11 rebounds). Erick Dampier’s (five points, four rebounds, two turnovers) return was supposed to provide a defensive counter to Bynum’s inside presence, but to no avail. Damp couldn’t slow down Bynum, much less stop him, and the interior D went from bad to worse when Dampier picked up two early fouls. Drew Gooden (eight points, five rebounds) is an able big against second units and small lineups, but against a gifted conventional center like Bynum, he could offer little in the way of resistance. The center rotation couldn’t even balance their poor defense with a bit of offense, leaving the rest of the Mavs to counter Bynum’s efficient night.

The defensive problems hardly stopped there. Ron Artest (16 points, 5-5 FG, 11 rebounds) was a bull inside, exploiting Josh Howard in the post with decisive moves and superior size. But perhaps the biggest slap of all came with the Mavs inability to get stops against the Lakers’ reserves; how is that a team of starters for a would-be contender fails to gain ground against a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Luke Walton, Josh Powell, and Andrew Bynum? That’s one starter (albeit on this night, a terribly effective one) with two rotation players and two deep reserves, and yet stops were a rarity and easy buckets were nowhere to be found. That is not the kind of team that the Mavs are supposed to struggle against, and though the Lakers’ margin of victory is relatively small, that stretch is surely representative of a larger deficit. The Mavs are struggling.

Kobe Bryant (10 points, two rebounds, one assist) was a virtual non-factor in the first half, as back spasms rendered him an observer on the court. The ball stayed out of his hands, and the Mavs failed to attack him when in the half-court offense. Bryant was matched up Marion, and while Shawn does not have an expansive offensive repertoire, would posting up Bryant be too much to ask? It’s hard for players with hurt backs to guard mobile opponents, but it’s also difficult for them to establish a base, bump, and contest down low. That should have been the Mavs’ primary directive early in the game, but Marion was hardly a factor in Dallas’ first quarter offense.

By the second half, Kobe seemed to be more comfortable. Maybe it was the considerable rest (he didn’t play at all in the second quarter, giving him thirteen minutes of rest in addition to halftime) afforded him by the Laker bench, or perhaps a change in approach by L.A.’s training staff. Or perhaps a recovery of some supernatural nature, a divine right given to the heroes of our story so that they may rise above. Bryant didn’t do much of the heavy lifting, but he managed to suck the air out of American Airlines Center with a go-ahead jumper with 29 seconds remaining. Dirk had just hit the biggest shot of the night to tie the game 95-all, but we should have known that the Mavs were simply setting the stage for their opponents’ victory. Josh Howard later had a chance to send the game to overtime on an open three-pointer, but leather hit nothing but rim. And instead of thinking that the Mavs fell short, all I could think was that the Lakers held on. From the opening tip on, this was their game. It was their story, and they played like it.

Closing thoughts:

  • Dirk Nowitzki (30 points, 11-22 FG, 16 rebounds, two assists) and Jason Kidd (11 points, 3-8 3FG, seven rebounds, 11 assists) were sensational. But Kidd’s timely threes and Dirk’s heroics couldn’t overcome the Mavs’ defensive shortcomings. It was one of those nights where Dirk reminds you of just how fantastic of a player he is, and fittingly so, because Nowitzki notched his 20,000th career point. He’s 38th on the all-time scoring list, and while it’s easy to say that the Dallas Mavericks have never seen another player or scorer like him, I’d venture as far as to say that the NBA hasn’t, either. Dirk is a truly unique talent, a revolutionary, a franchise savior, and one of the best to ever play the game.
  • Jason Terry (seven points, 2-12 FG, three assists) didn’t offer much support, and the offense stalled because of it. Terry is so crucial to the offensive game plan, and when he’s not providing a scoring punch from the bench (especially on a night where Josh Howard moved into the starting lineup), he doesn’t offer much at all. That’s painful considering just how close the Mavs were to a victory, and when considering that the Lakers’ bench outscored the Mavs’ bench by ten points (31-21).
  • Lamar Odom did exactly what the situation called for – he drove to the basket (nine attempts at the rim), set up his teammates (four assists) and hit his open jumpshots (four of five from 16-23 feet). With Kobe stepping into a minor offensive role, somebody needed to use up shots. To Lamar’s credit, he certainly wasn’t passive, and although his 9-20 shooting and three turnovers aren’t terrific in regard to efficiency, it was exactly what the Lakers needed on this night.
  • Early in the game, the Mavs made the decision to put Josh Howard on Ron Artest and Shawn Marion on Kobe Bryant. I don’t meant to beat a dead horse here, but the way that Artest was bullying Josh inside made me wonder if Marion couldn’t do a little better job of standing his ground. Shawn is bigger than Josh and a more adept defender in the post, and putting Josh on Kobe would create more transition situations where Kobe is forced to guard Josh. Even if you don’t buy into the idea of Marion being able to punish Kobe in the post, Howard could at least provide offensive pressure on an ailing Bryant.
  • Two crucial plays that Rick Carlisle highlighted in his press conference took place at the end of the second and third quarters. To close the second, Ron Artest had a look at a running three-pointer, but Dirk Nowitzki mistimed his jump and ended up fouling with .2 seconds on the clock. Ron sank all three free throws, and what could have been a one-point deficit at halftime was four. Then, to close the third, the Mavs gave up an uncontested three to Jordan Farmar, pushing a two-point deficit to five. Both were pretty glaring mental mistakes, worsened by the fact that the clock was working against the Lakers in those situations, and yet they still found ways to get points.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 13, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Kelly Dwyer on the Lakers’ rough night last night: “The Lakers are beat to hell – Ron Artest, Jordan Farmar, and a guy named Kobe Bryant are in pain; Pau Gasol didn’t even play – and they were on the road. Topping that, they’re the champs. The last bit means teams have it out for them. It means teams get up for the best. And while Tim Duncan has never needed an excuse to rule the entire half-court defensively, he easily turned in his best defensive performance of the season against Los Angeles. Every angle was covered.”
  • And just in case you’re not quite getting it, here’s Brian Kamenetzky with a laundry list of Laker injuries: “Start with injuries. L.A.’s entered the game dealing with the slow burn of Kobe Bryant’s fractured right index finger and Pau Gasol’s improving hamstring. Over the ensuing 48 minutes, they added Ron Artest’s right hand- one he spent most of the second half clutching before leaving the game with 4:11 remaining- a hamstring injury for Sasha Vujacic  limiting him to 3:06 of playing time, a sore throat for Adam Morrison…oh, and did I mention Kobe spent the fourth quarter in the locker room getting treatment for back spasms? So easy to overlook the minor details, right?”
  • Josh Howard is expected to play tonight, but Erick Dampier and Tim Thomas are questionable. Dampier could be the biggest blow of all; we’ve had the distinct displeasure of seeing how the Lakers can dissect a Damp-less Maverick defense, and while the Lakers are even more banged up this time around (remember, that horrible loss was without Ron Artest and largely without Pau Gasol), I’d still much prefer it if Damp could find a way onto the floor. Knee effusions aren’t something you want to mess with, but the Mavs need Damp tonight.
  • The Mavs are projected to have a home record of 27-14, which would be among their worst of the decade. The players and coaches are saying all the right things, but this is one of those tricky psychological problems that’s easy to notice but far more difficult to solve.
  • John Hollinger, on Twitter (@johnhollinger): “Southwest Division: Five teams over .500. Entire Eastern Conference: Four teams over .500.” The Grizzlies and the Hornets are making a run at the playoffs, and from where I’m sitting, the Southwest is the best division inbasketball. The other two divisions in the West each boast some impressive teams, but they also have dead weight in the Timberwolves and the Warriors. The worst team in the West is a game over .500, and that’s beyond impressive.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is a hop and a skip (no jump necessary) away from 20,000 career points. Get ready for the standing ovation.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 7, 2010 under xOther | 6 Comments to Read

  • Amadou Fall, the Mavs director of scouting, is officially leaving the team to head the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program in South Africa. Congrats to Amadou, and though his talents will be missed (Marc Stein cites Fall as a major player in the decision to draft Rodrigue Beaubois), he’ll be working for a terrific cause and will undoubtedly do some fine work.
  • Jason Terry on the significance of his hot shooting against the Pistons (via Tim MacMahon): “Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come.”
  • Shawn Marion’s high-energy bobblehead.
  • Sebastian Pruiti, my fellow TrueHooper over at NetsAreScorching, has launched a new blog entitled NBA Playbook. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and Sebastian broke down the Mavs’ “miscommunication” that led to a wide open, potentially game-tying three point attempt for Rodney Stuckey.
  • Where have you gone, Calvin Booth?
  • Dirk is a no-brainer for the best European player of all time, but could Pau Gasol eventually nab the honor? Dirk is two years Pau’s senior, so it could very well depend on just how long the two remain active and just how successful Pau and the Lakers can be. On an individual level, I’m not sure the two are even comparable; Dirk can simply do things on the offensive end that no other player can do, while Gasol, for all his talents, isn’t built to carry an offense in the same way. That said, if championships are part of the criteria, Gasol already has a ring on his finger and is in a good position to possibly win a few more. I’m not sure how much the ‘ships count in the context of this discussion, but that’s the one area in which Pau clearly trumps Dirk.
  • Now infamous former Mavs stat guru Wayne Winston on this season’s MVP (via Henry Abbott): “Surely Dirk. He leads the whole league in two of my categories, plus/minus points and impact (plus-26 points, plus-73% impact). Luol Deng, Ray Allen and LeBron James have also been great. People forget Kobe Bryant has great teammates, so I do not think he is up there.” High praise, albeit from a guy who has made his share of dubious claims.
  • On the surface, this is about a blogger who has long walked the realm of the NBA utterly team-less. But dig a little deeper, and you’ve got one of the most cogent, self-aware, and perceptive writers in the biz pinning down exactly what it means to be a fan. Lap up the praise, Moore, because this new era of your NBA fanhood has started with a bang.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 4, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Basketbawful: “About the only positive the Mavs could take away from [the loss to the Lakers] was that they didn’t slip on a banana peel and fall face first into a cream pie.”
  • Kobe Bryant’s motivation for killing the Mavs? “Payback for what the Cowboys did to my Eagles.” (via AP) Makes you wonder how much the Mavs will lose by when the Cowboys beat the Eagles next week.
  • Also from the AP recap, a classic Phil Jackson morsel: “Yes, you can expect this every night.”
  • Dexter Fishmore, of the excellent Lakers’ blog, Silver Screen and Roll: “As the cliché goes, this counts for only one win, but still: what a win. The offense was far and away better than it’s been at any time this season. The Mavs were playing out the string on an eight-day road trip and were missing defensive stalwart Erick Dampier, but all the mitigating factors you can think of can’t diminish tonight’s tour de force. The Lakers made 66% of their two-point attempts, 58% of their threes and 81% of their free throws. With everyone locked in – each Laker who played shot at least 50% from the field – the Dallas defense never had a prayer.”
  • Andy Kamenetzky, of the newish Land O’ Lakers Blog (part of ESPN LA), and formerly of the LA Times: “Jason Terry, Josh Howard, and Drew Gooden make the Mavs bench as potentially explosive as a David Hasselhoff at an open bar, breathing on a lit match. In the meantime, the Lakers’ bench has been largely unreliable. But, as the saying goes, that’s why games aren’t conducted on paper. Terry scored just 10 points and turned the ball over twice. Howard fared worse, his 2-11 effort cultivating just seven points. As I noted, he’s struggled on back-to-backs during this injury-plagued season, but some credit has to go the Laker D (outstanding all night). Whether by Andrew Bynum at the rim or Sasha Vujacic in space, Howard was harassed into misery. For his part, Gooden started in place of an inactive Erick Dampier, but judging by the abuse endured from Bynum on both sides of the ball, I don’t think it would have mattered when he checked in.”
  • A bit of a silver lining: Josh Howard’s health appears to be improving. Josh insists he’s “almost back to [his] old self,” which is wonderful news. Keep rehabbing, Josh. Your team definitely needs you.
  • Another tiny positive: Dirk Nowitzki tied Derek Harper for the second-most games played in franchise history, and will likely become the franchise leader next month.
  • Rick Carlisle on the disheartening loss (via Earl K. Sneed): “Just an embarrassing effort…We all own it, so I don’t know how else to put it. They played great and we played terrible. You know, it was atypical of the year we’ve had so far, but it’s very disappointing…It’s the first time all year we really didn’t put up the kind of fight we really needed to. That’s disappointing…It’s on all of us, coaches, players, everybody. It’s very disappointing.”
  • Erick Dampier missed last night’s game with a left knee effusion, which is basically an buildup of abnormal fluids in the knee. You can read more about joint effusion here if you’re curious.

Los Angeles Lakers 131, Dallas Mavericks 96

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

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Los Angeles137.972.019.520.712.6

Life, death and rebirth are inevitable.”
-Rig Veda

So yeah. That happened.

Last night’s contest was an oh so pleasant reminder that the NBA will break you. There are simply too many games, too many hungry opponents, and too many talented players out there for a team to go through the season without being thoroughly humbled. Luckily for the Mavs, they have 82 (82+, if you count preseason) tries to get this thing right before the playoffs begin, and they’ll likely need every one of the remaining contests to tune up.

I think it’s safe to say that losing by 35 points to the Lakers is an aberration. Los Angeles is undoubtedly the class of the West and one of the best squads in the league, but to be so completely and utterly embarrassed requires a very special level of futility. So special a level that we haven’t seen anything close from the Mavs all season, and hopefully won’t again. This game was absolutely a statement for the Lakers, but the Mavs have the benefit of moving on, trying to forget, and preparing for next week’s rematch.

The Mavs just weren’t ready for the Lakers, physically or mentally. They failed to play their game, L.A.’s game, or anything resembling any type of game. And as such, they allowed the Lakers to post 137.9 points/100 possessions, which is beyond gaudy. The Lakers’ effective field goal percentage was a blistering 72%. Dallas’ offensive impotence in the first quarter gave the game an air of desperation from the very beginning, and every defensive gamble (I’ve never seen the Mavs make so many attempts at steals in the backcourt) and quick three-point attempt only added fuel to L.A.’s fire. They didn’t need Ron Artest (despite the remarkable season he’s had thus far), and they didn’t even need Pau Gasol (ditto), really. Andrew Bynum (19 points, 8-8 FG, four assists) went to work on the low block against the undersized Mavs (get well soon, Damp), Kobe Bryant (15 points, eight assists, four turnovers) and Lamar Odom (15 points, 15 rebounds, six assists) facilitated the offense to perfection, and the full cast and crew of Lakers’ role players took turns pummeling the nonexistent Maverick defense. Jordan Farmar (24 points, 6-8 3FG) had a marvelous game, and laughed in the face of the Mavs’ zone defense.

But what choice did Dallas have? With Bynum in full effect on the block, the Mavs had to adjust, and with Erick Dampier out of the lineup, they had few options. So the Lakers dumped it inside, and Bynum went to work. When the Mavs came with help, he kicked it out. It was sequence after sequence of brutal simplicity. The Mavs have the talent to theoretically hang with almost any team in the league, but without Erick Dampier in the middle, they looked absolutely hopeless. L.A. outsized and outclassed the Dallas last night, and there is absolutely no getting around that.

One can only hope that the next time these teams meet (which is the 13th, by the way), the Mavs perform at a respectable level. Hopefully the Lakers won’t be allowed to waltz down the lane for uncontested dunks and layups. Hopefully the Mavs will be able to make a damn jumpshot to save their lives, or at least execute some semblance of an offensive game plan. Hopefully the Mavs can show a little heart and a little pride, and prove that they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the Lakers. Hopefully all of these things will happen because we know that the Mavs are capable of them. Dallas is better than this. The defense is better than this. And hopefully nine days from now, they can prove it.

It’s still January, and though the Mavs’ point differential may be wrecked beyond repair, there’s no reason to panic over a game that is clearly an outlier in terms of effort and performance. Kudos to L.A. for the whoopin’, but the Mavs were a no-show.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 17, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • As far as shoes go, I liked the look of Kevin Durant’s KD1s, and I’m particularly fond of the inside/outside colorways. But last night, Durant and the Thunder unveiled the truly awful, traffic cone orange “Dreamsicle” KD2s. It’s a definite downgrade, and although the kicks don’t make the man, I can’t help but feel that these shoes don’t do Durant justice.
  • Last night’s game didn’t sit well with Royce Young of Daily Thunder: “…I’m not going to lie, I’m a little upset about this one. Not because OKC lacked effort. Because boy howdy, these guys busted it. But when it really mattered, the seasoned, veteran team took over and made the plays. The young, inexperienced group didn’t. In areas the Thunder are normally very good, they weren’t. An uncharacteristic 14-23 from the free throw line. A couple defensive breakdowns late. Poor shooting from their best players. Maybe it was the pressure of the night, the lights of ESPN or something else. But the fact is, Oklahoma City just didn’t perform.”
  • Those of us who watch Dirk Nowitzki on a nightly basis are fully cognizant of his excellence. And for national columnists, it’s easy to overlook the footwork, the pump fakes, and the jumpers in favor of the more obvious talents of a LeBron James or a Dwyane Wade. All the more reason to appreciate Kelly Dwyer, who makes note of Nowitzki’s play almost nightly in his ‘Behind the Box Score.’ His words on Dirk’s performance last night were short and sweet, but to me ring with a sincerity and appreciation that’s not as easy to find among basketball scribes as one might think: “In the end, I think my favorite part of this game was listening to Hubie Brown slowly fall in love with James Harden. Either that, or the way you keep falling in love with Dirk Nowitzki’s game. Ten years later. Night after night. So glad this guy is still around, playing at a level like this.”
  • Skeets and Tas loved the Mavs-Thunder game last night, even if Tas isn’t too fond of Dirk’s headband.
  • As of yesterday, Kevin Durant was shooting just 30 of 80 (37.5%) in six games against the Mavs. As of this morning, he’s shooting 34 of 98 (34.6%). That, my friends, is a bonafide trend.
  • Over their next fifteen games, the Mavs play the Lakers (twice), the Celtics, the Cavs, the Nuggets, the Jazz, the Spurs, the Blazers, the Rockets (twice), the Thunder, the Kings, the Grizzlies, the Pistons, and the Raptors. The total W-L of those teams (weighted appropriately for opponents that appear multiple times) is 225-150, or a .600 win percentage. That means that for the next fifteen games, the Mavs will play an average opponent of the Utah Jazz.
  • In an “impromptu dunk contest” at practice today, Kris Humphries showed off some between-the-legs dunks, while assistant coach Darrell Armstrong tried his hand at the high-flying game…by doing a between-the-legs layup. It’s a sad reminder of Armstrong’s actual dunk contest appearance, which featured one of the worst dunks (or non-dunks) in contest history.
  • According to Mark Cuban, there are four factors which have been instrumental in the Mavs’ success over the last decade: a dedicated fan base, Donnie Nelson, Dirk Nowitzki, and keeping a consistent core.
  • Henry Abbott goes to work debunking the myth that Kobe Bryant is the best clutch player in the NBA, and goes to the numbers to reveal some clutch Mavs: “Every which way people slice and dice crunch time numbers — field goal percentage, plus/minus, you name it — Bryant is not the NBA’s best in crunch time. A glance at last year’s crunch time numbers on 82games.com makes clear Bryant shoots more than anyone else in the NBA in crunch time, but is he more skilled at making those shots? That’s what we’re trying to judge, right? In crunch time field goal percentage, last season Bryant finished 92nd in the League, right behind Michael Beasley. Others ahead of him include Kevin Garnett, both Gasols, Zach Randolph, Carmelo Anthony, Jason Terry, Jameer Nelson, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, Eric Gordon, Brandon Roy, Andre Iguodala, Jason Kidd, Ben Gordon, and Chris Bosh. You can remember Bryant hitting all those clutch baskets, stat geeks say. But you’re forgetting all the misses. (And if you are learning about Bryant from highlights, then you’re not even seeing most misses.)” Emphasis mine.

Hometown Heroes

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 10, 2009 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

The first all-star balloting returns are in, and there’s plenty of good news for the Mavs. Here are the Western Conference tallies by position:

Kobe Bryant692,518
Tracy McGrady281,545
Steve Nash272, 135
Chris Paul248, 049
Jason Kidd 207, 247
Jason Terry131, 422
Carmelo Anthony588,958
Dirk Nowitzki366,300
Pau Gasol280,758
Tim Duncan271,321
Kevin Durant177,205
Trevor Ariza168,167
Amar'e Stoudemire447,776
Andrew Bynum299,484
Marc Gasol75,765
Greg Oden73,874
Al Jefferson48,676

Vote counts via NBA.com.

Shawn Marion actually ranks 7th among forwards, not that it matters all that much. But the strong showings by Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry are indicative of not only the Mavs’ solid start, but the nice voting bump given to players of the hometown team. Not that Dirk and Kidd don’t deserve their respective places in the polls, but the precedent just isn’t there to expect such fan support for Terry or Marion.

Tracy McGrady, who hasn’t played a NBA game since the early 1800s, is the big surprise. And the good news is that supposing the voters come to their senses (as they typically do by the second or third returns), Jason Kidd has a legit shot at a reserve spot. Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul figure to be the starters when all is said and done, and Steve Nash is well-deserving of a reserve selection. But aside from those three, which guard is more deserving than Kidd? The other elite guards of the West have struggled in one way or another, and though there’s a solid list of candidates (Ginobili, Williams, Roy, Parker), there’s no clear front-runner. Kidd’s Dallas affiliation would also win him a bit of favor as a reserve selection, as the coaches tend to do the hometown players a solid (a la David West in New Orleans). If that’s the case, it would be the first time the Mavs have had two players in the All-Star Game since 2007, when Josh Howard was chosen by the coaches.

Dallas Mavericks 94, Los Angeles Lakers 80

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 31, 2009 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
LA Lakers87.043.811.128.320.7

Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.
-Boris Pasternak

Well…did you see that one coming?

You could attribute the Mavs’ biggest (and, well, only) win of the young season to a variety of factors. The first, and in my mind this is almost undeniable, was some favorable refereeing. I hate to play this card and hate even more to have it leave the preview, but the Mavs caught a break or seven last night.

Now, that, in and of itself, wouldn’t have even come close to securing a Mavs’ victory. The more telling display was the aftermath of those…interesting calls. The reigning champs completely unraveled when the balls and calls weren’t bouncing their way, and barking at officials soon became the Lakers’ transition defense of choice. It’s entirely too early in the season to start diagnosing teams, but if I’m a Lakers’ fan, that worries me. There are going to be tough games and there are going to be impossibly tough games, even for the premier squads in the league. You’d like to know that Kobe, Lamar, Ron, and Bynum can keep their heads on straight when the going gets tough. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. And more than anything, that lack of composure is what derailed any chance of a late Lakers comeback.

That, and, oh I don’t know, a completely dominant stretch run by Shawn Marion. In just over two fourth-quarter minutes, Marion alone went on a 8-3 run. As Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea found Marion for an array of runners down the middle of the lane, the Lakers turned the ball over three times and managed just one shot attempt. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve naturally assumed that Jason and Shawn had been long-time teammates, especially when considering that their offensive chemistry elevated them to first offensive option status down the stretch. For a team that has long relied on the dark two man game arts of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, that level of confidence and offensive consistency is a godsend. To have it come from Marion, who has been a Maverick for all of a few months, is even more so.

That’s the difference between the two teams who stayed pretty close for an entire half. Whenever the Lakers needed to dig in and find something on offense, their very visible frustration prevented them from operating at their usual level. Whenever the tides turned against the Mavericks, they either held strong on defense or responded with timely offense. The Mavs played far from a perfect game, but it’s nice to see a bit of resourcefulness translate to a huge victory when Dirk and JET couldn’t quite find the bottom of the basket.

Speaking of Dirk, he had a bit of an interesting night. Though his final numbers aren’t awful (21 points, 10 rebounds), his shot clearly isn’t in regular season shape. Dirk warned us that he may start slow, and he’s done just that, shooting just .385 from the field over his first two games. That’s shocking for a super-efficient star like Dirk, who hasn’t shot worse than .459 since his rookie year. But there’s no reason for alarm; it’s no more than a temporary slump, a slight delay in Dirk’s true arrival for the regular season. Plus, with Dirk totaling 55 points over those two affairs (and 24 FTAs!), there’s no real sense of urgency.

In theory, Kobe Bryant should have completely eclipsed the Mavs during Nowitzki’s time in the shadow. But for whatever reason, Bryant disappeared during the game’s crucial third quarter. Kobe went 1 for 6 in the frame, with a whopping zero assist, despite playing all twelve minutes. The Mavs’ defensive efforts in that quarter were a huge reason why Kobe Bryant was sufficiently shackled to just 20 points (6-19 FG), which just so happens to be Kobe’s lowest scoring output against Dallas since 2003. (For the record, Kobe missed all five of his shot attempts while being guarded by Shawn Marion).

Closing thoughts:

  • Kris Humphries (8 points, 7 rebounds) had a productive 20 minutes off the bench. That’s exactly what the Mavs need from him until Drew Gooden (2 points, 0-4 FG, 1 turnover) figures out how to be a Maverick. J.J. Barea also continues to impress, and he continue to put pressure on the defense with 12 points (3-7 FG) and 2 assists.
  • There was an interesting exchange to end the first half, where Humphries appeared to be talking of big game to Kobe Bryant. I fully expected Hump to talk a big game out of Kobe Bryant, but it may have actually added to the frustration that turned out to be Bryant and the Lakers’ downfall.
  • Two games in, the Mavs are making a considerable effort to get the ball inside and to the free throw line. I know it’s been a theoretical point of emphasis for just about every Mavs squad passed, but for 96 minutes it’s been put into practice. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will.
  • Jason Terry isn’t taking any of the point guard minutes, but he’s playing like more of a point guard. His shot also has yet to show up for the regular season, but JET is moving the ball as deliberately and effectively as he ever has during his time with the Mavs.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Shawn Marion, for essentially ushering the Mavs into the W column. Shawn’s combination of interior offense and lockdown defense meant all the difference in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers attempted some semblance of a last ditch effort.

Heard It Through the Grapevine 4-2-09

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 2, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • If it worked against Wade, then why not Kobe?  The Mavs’ aggressive double-teams late in last night’s game completely took Wade out of the game, and you have to wonder how that would work against L.A.’s star among stars.  From Tim MacMahon of the DMN Mavs Blog: “If the Mavs can’t climb out of the 8 seed, that might be a wise strategy against Kobe Bryant during winning time. Or maybe not. ‘I think Kobe’s got better teammates,’ Dirk said last night. ‘We had to scramble and [Udonis] Haslem was open, [Michael] Beasley was open, a lot of their guys were open. I don’t think we can do that with the Lakers. They’re just too good.’”  Tim comes to the conclusion that he’d rather have Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, or Derek Fisher taking the big shots than Kobe, and on that note I agree.  But I don’t know if I’d rather them shoot wide open shots, which seemed an inevitability last night even with the Mavs doing their best to rotate.  You just don’t give Fisher open threes with the game in the balance, and Gasol combines a nice spot-up shot with good court sense and an ability to finish around the rim.  It’s definitely an approach worth considering, but it’s an entirely different ballgame with the Lakers.
  • Eddie Sefko shares an anecdote of an exchange he had with Assistant Coach Terry Stotts on the DMN Mavs Blog: “…first, he handed me a sheet of paper. It had points in the paint for each NBA team, with all the playoff teams highlighted. The Mavericks, of course, are ahead of only three teams in that department. But one of the teams they are ahead of is San Antonio. ‘There’s more than one way to win games,’ Stotts said.”
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wants to remove all doubt regarding Josh Howard’s crucial defensive play: “…yes, it most definitely was a charge. A text-book charge. Case closed.”
  • I don’t wanna say I told you so, but I told you so.  From the post-game quotes at Mavs Moneyball:
    “14 points in 22 minutes last night, 20 points in 29 minutes tonight.  What do you attribute you getting back into the groove so quickly too?
    [Josh Howard]: Darrell Armstrong.  That’s who I’ve been working out with. He’s just a great guy for our locker room and off the court.  He keeps me going and keeps this locker room going.”
  • Rick Carlisle on Dirk, via Jimmy Shapiro of SportsRadioInterviews.com: “He’s a great player, he’s a great player. I can’t begin to tell you what he means to our team, I just know I’ve been around some great players in my career. I got a chance to play in Boston in the mid-80’s when Bird was MVP 3 consecutive years and McHale, Parrish and Bill Walton were Hall of Famers; Dennis Johnson should be a Hall of Famer. Now I have a chance to work with two – Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd…It’s amazing to me that a guy like Dirk is underappreciated. He’s a 25 point scorer and if our record was better right now, he’d be in the conversation as a possible MVP candidate or in the top 5 or 6 at least.”
  • I hope this is the very last that I hear of Howard’s wrist this season, or we could have troubles in paradise yet again.
  • Remember that quote a month back or so from Devean George about the Mavs defensive failures being linked to a lack of communication?  I certainly do, and couldn’t help but smile a bit when I read this (via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News): “‘Great team defense,’ Howard said. ‘Guys communicated, and it was great to see us flying around like that with a lot of energy, a lot of life.’”

Mark Cuban Is More Influential Than You

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 23, 2009 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

As of this second, Mark Cuban is ranked #88 on TIME Magazine’s rankings of the world’s 100 most influential people.  Some notables in Cuban’s neighborhood:

84. Oprah
85. The Pregnant Man
88. Mark Cuban
90. Lil’ Wayne
92. Kobe Bryant

For what it’s worth, firing Avery and getting Jason Kidd are listed under his profile’s ‘Pros’, while the ‘Cons’ section has this zinger: “He also made Erick Dampier a gazillionaire. Nice move!”