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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The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 104, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 24, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-Play Shot Chart Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

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

  • This game was a demonstration of how incredibly simple basketball can be at times; although intense basketball observers attempt to break the game down into dozens of very complicated, interrelated factors, Dallas was ultimately bested by effort, the extra pass, and the open three-pointer. And now, I will proceed to give you 16 more bullet points that are by no means arbitrary, but nonetheless seem rather silly in a game like this one.
  • Manu Ginobili — as a defender — was two or three steps ahead of Rodrigue Beaubois for this entire game. It’s not uncommon to see a young playmaker be stifled by an older, craftier defender, but Ginobili’s ability to peg and deflect Beaubois’ moves was downright uncanny. It’s to Beaubois’ credit that he still managed to notch 10 points and five assists, but even that passable stat line doesn’t convey just how thoroughly marked Beaubois was throughout this particular game.
  • It was certainly noteworthy that even with Shawn Marion’s return to the lineup — and after expressing some concern about Rodrigue Beaubois’ minutes inflating as a product of being in the starting lineup — Rick Carlisle elected to keep Beaubois in the opening set. Lineup variants involving Marion, Beaubois, Jason Kidd, and Dirk Nowitzki haven’t really played enough minutes together this season to be judged for their merits, but matchups depending, this could be a very sensible starting five (save Ian Mahinmi’s substitution for an injured Brendan Haywood) going forward.
  • Dirk Nowitzki had an absolutely horrific game, in which he provided little impact aside from his willingness to seek out contact and put up shots. It was weary legs, it was San Antonio’s active, dynamic defense, and it was a stark contrast just to highlight Nowitzki’s usual efficiency, but most importantly from a game-specific context: it was an outright disaster. There’s simply no other way to look at his 5-of-21 shooting mark, his inability to make an impact on the defensive end, and his noncommittal work on the boards. I’m not saying Nowitzki wasn’t trying, but next to the exemplary effort that the Spurs put forth, it sure seemed like it at times.

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The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 109, Dallas Mavericks 93

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 22, 2012 under Recaps | 12 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.092.645.121.08.711.7
San Antonio110.654.012.528.613.8

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

  • The basketball gods had seemingly arranged a game for Andrew Bynum to dominate, and yet just about every Laker but Bynum (nine points, 4-5 FG, seven rebounds) dominated. Some credit goes to the Mavs for throwing an extra defender Bynum’s way quickly, but this was no defensive victory; as much as I would love to shower praise on Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright (who, to be clear, did play effective defense), Bynum’s lack of shot attempts was purely a product of the Lakers’ otherwise dominant offense. It certainly didn’t seem as if L.A. was too focused on establishing Bynum on the block via re-post — and it didn’t matter a bit, as the Lakers’ off-ball movement ended up deciding the game.
  • In Shawn Marion and Delonte West’s absence, Jason Kidd was forced to take primary on-ball responsibility against Kobe Bryant (30 points, 11-18 FG, five rebounds, four assists, four turnovers). He honestly did what he could; there have been games this season where Kidd’s defensive effort is fleeting, but this was not one of them. He bodied Bryant when he could, tried to deny him the ball as much as possible, and yet few of his efforts produced favorable defensive outcomes. There were many instances in which Kidd played textbook defense only to be bested by Kobe being Kobe — a demonstration of dominance that at once must be both maddening and shrug worthy. Bryant worked hard to free himself up for quality shot attempts, and though not all of his shots were carefully chosen, it was hard to fault this particular process (particularly when juxtaposed with Bryant’s occasional ball-dominating ways).
  • Both teams started this game with a ridiculous, extended rally of mid-range jumpers. The Mavericks merely failed to adapt once those shots stopped falling, and as for the Lakers — well, I’m not sure those shots ever did. It was just jumper after jumper after jumper, largely produced through quality play action.
  • Jason Terry (23 points, 8-14 FG, 3-6 3FG, zero turnovers) is a masterful practitioner of the pick and roll, and though his ball-handling judgment has been questionable in recent weeks, his approach was perfectly on-point on Wednesday. Los Angeles trapped Terry fairly hard in pick-and-roll situations, but he managed to play his way out of and around them. JET walked the line of aggressive scoring and steady playmaking with perfect balance, a fact betrayed by Terry’s misleading goose egg in the assist column. Don’t be fooled; Terry did an excellent job of messing up his teammates, even if some unfortunate misses robbed him of any box score glory.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 106, San Antonio Spurs 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 18, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

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

  • What began as a great offensive performance by Dirk Nowitzki (who finished the first half with 19 points) turned into a wonderful overall performance by the Mavs’ offense. Nowitzki (27 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers) was absolutely brilliant in both a one-on-one capacity and as a spot-up shooter, but when San Antonio began to throw hard doubles at Dirk on the catch, he wasted no time in finding open shooters on the weak side. Throwing a pass to a shooter in the opposite corner off of a double team is a bit of a risk, but Nowitzki’s height and experience with this kind of swarming coverage make him uniquely suited for that kind of play. Nowitzki was only able to notch three points in the fourth quarter (when the Spurs made their defensive shift), but Dallas shot 5-of-9 from three-point range to the frame, with many of those makes coming off of double-team exploitation.
  • Another thing that’s abundantly clear: Nowitzki takes his matchup with Stephen Jackson — he of that infamous 2007 playoff letdown — incredibly seriously. Gregg Popovich wasted no time in getting Jackson acclimated, and pitted him against Nowitzki almost immediately, despite the fact that more conventional Nowitzki foes (Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter) were also on the floor. From that moment, Nowitzki’s entire approach shifted; he sought to back down Jackson relentlessly, and noticeably increased the physicality of his pre-shot maneuverings. Jackson did what he could to deny Nowitzki early position and fight him for every inch, but, well, it’s not 2007 anymore.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 8-16 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) will naturally receive praise for the quality of his performance, but in truth this was a nice outing for the entirety of the Mavs’ guard core. Jason Kidd lived up to everything that could possibly be expected of him and more, as he connected on four threes out of five attempts, racked up double-digit assists, and played great help defense to indirectly force a few turnovers. Jason Terry put up 17 points on just 10 shot as a continuation of one of his strongest stretches of the season. Vince Carter, too, put up 10 points on 50 percent shooting, just to complete the picture. The fact that all four of these players were able to positively influence the game is a wonderful sign for the resurrection of the Mavs’ depth, particularly considering how heavily the Mavs were leaning on this group in the absence of both Delonte West and Shawn Marion.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Charlotte Bobcats 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 16, 2012 under Recaps | 2 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.

  • For the moment, Dallas is one of the shallowest deep teams in the league — or at the very least, one of the least consistent. The Mavs’ lackluster first-half showing wasn’t solely the fault of the subs, but the very notion that Charlotte’s second unit could so thoroughly cook a group consisting of (in part) Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Ian Mahinmi is a bit strange. Earlier in the season — those dark days when Dirk Nowitzki was nothing but a pick-and-pop player — the Mavs were only able to tread water because of their depth. Things look very different these days, which could in part be traced back to the fact that Delonte West’s absence hurts this team in ways that we never could have known.
  • It’s always a very distinct pleasure to watch Nowitzki (27 points, 9-21 FG, six rebounds, five assists) go to work from any of his favorite spots on the floor, but he seems to have particular fun with the Bobcats’ antsy shot-blockers. Nowitzki’s very basic ball fake looked like an entirely new move on Thursday night, as the slightest pump would sent a Bobcats defender flying. I don’t think it’s even worthwhile to chastise the ‘Cats for their lack of discipline; that’s Dirk Nowitzki, and when he rises to shoot — or even pretends to rise and shoot — a futile contest may be the best defensive option available.

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The Difference: Golden State Warriors 111, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by James Herbert on March 11, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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.

  • There aren’t a lot of positives to take from a loss like this, except for the fact that it’s probably not all that representative of anything. The reality: the Mavs are now the third team this season to lose all three games of a back-to-back-to-back. At 23-20, they’ve dropped eight of ten and would occupy the West’s final playoff spot if the season ended today. Fortunately, the season doesn’t end today. This brutal stretch of nine games in 12 nights is over and I’m closer to the Mark Cuban “these losses are meaningless” school of thought than the “Dallas is a disaster” stance that clean-shaven Sam Mitchell took on NBA TV Friday night. Brendan Haywood will be back soon, Delonte West after that, and we’ll look for incremental improvements over the next month or so.
  • Oh, Jason Kidd will be back soon, too. He was a late scratch. No need to play the soon-to-be 39-year-old on three straight nights. This meant we were treated to a starting backcourt of Jason Terry and Dominique Jones, with Rodrigue Beaubois and Vince Carter theoretically adding scoring punch off the bench. For JET, it was his first start since last January. For Jones, it was the first of his career. Also, this was Terry’s 1000th career regular season game.
  • For the second night in a row, Dallas looked old and slow and fell behind early to a non-playoff team. The Warriors scored the first six points of the game and Rick Carlisle took his first timeout with 6:31 left in the first, down 11-5. The Mavs’ legs were dragging from the opening tip, while the Warriors, who hadn’t played since Wednesday, were full of energy, even if it wasn’t always channeled correctly. The Mavs started the first quarter shooting 2-13 and finished it 6-22.
  • That energy I talked about? Much of it came from Ekpe Udoh, who was running and jumping and contesting shots all over the place. Early in the first, he challenged a Dirk Nowitzki jumper, then blocked Ian Mahinmi’s follow attempt. He blocked a Nowitzki shot a few possessions later. He should become a Serge Ibaka-like league-wide fan favorite as soon as the Warriors are relevant.
  • The first quarter wasn’t all one-sided and it wasn’t just the Mavericks being sloppy — both teams had six turnovers in the opening frame. After that timeout with 6:31 left, Rodrigue Beaubois and Lamar Odom checked in. Both immediately hit threes and tied the game at 11. But in the last 3:31, Golden State went on a 13-2 run. For the rest of the game, Dallas was playing catch-up.

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The Difference: Phoenix Suns 96, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 9, 2012 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

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.

  • Needless to say, this was not the start Dallas wanted for its lone back-to-back-to-back of this season. Though there is much we could discuss in a game that saw both teams take double-digit leads, this one was lost in the third quarter. Dallas had trouble all game with the Phoenix pick and roll, and when the Mavs’ hot shooting finally cooled in the third, the Suns sprinted ahead with an 18-4 run. Dallas allowed 34 points in the second quarter after only allowing 44 in the entire first half. Moving forward, Dallas has to get more out of Jason Terry (six points, two rebounds, one assist), a more efficient Vince Carter (18 points on 21 shots, no free throws attempted, five rebounds, four assists), and better game-to-game consistency from Rodrigue Beaubois (five points, two rebounds, two assists).
  • Despite the final outcome, there were many bright spots for Dallas. Lamar Odom (15 points, four rebounds, two assists) played his second-straight solid game, contributing throughout the box score and making his presence felt.  The real surprise of the night came from Sean Williams.  With Brendan Haywood still dealing with a high ankle sprain, when Mahinmi picked up his second foul with just under six minutes to go in the first half, Williams stepped in and played an admirable game (including two excellent blocks).  Shawn Marion (whom, as Rob Mahoney reminds us, must be managed carefully) continued his incredibly consistent play on both ends of the floor (12 points, eight rebounds), and by the end of the first half, he had guarded a Suns player of every position. (On a Suns note, its really, really impressive to see Grant Hill doing much of the same thing Shawn Marion does, only at age 39). It’s easy to overreact when the team loses a winnable game like this one; just remember that the season-long slate is a grind. All we can do is look for signs of improvement in every game.

Kirk Henderson is a member of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Kirk on Twitter: @KirkSeriousFace.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, New York Knicks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 7, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas96.099.043.137.521.314.6
New York88.541.727.428.016.7

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

  • Execution is always a matter of great importance, but from opening tip this game came to be defined by the Mavs’ energy. Dallas came out of the gates with an insistence on beating New York in transition on offense and curtailing fast break opportunities on defense, perhaps best showcased by Ian Mahinmi (nine points, six rebounds, three steals, two blocks) flying back and forth across the court (for a block in transition, for a soaring rebound, for a gliding dunk, etc.). As Dallas’ energy waned, New York’s defense picked up and capitalized. The Mavs’ most successful stretches of basketball were dictated by their energy and assertiveness, and though those things were indicative in small differences in approach (Shawn Marion being more aggressive as a fast-break ball-handler, Rodrigue Beaubois looking to get to the rim, Jason Kidd not being gun-shy) than consistent, over-arching tropes, they were still very evident nonetheless.
  • It’s in that vein that I do have praise for Lamar Odom, in spite of a miserable shooting night and an otherwise neutral stat line. If nothing else, Odom played hard — and considering where he and his mind have been in the last few weeks, I think that’s an acceptable step. It doesn’t make 1-of-9 shooting okay, but under the circumstances the bigger issue is Odom’s commitment to the team and to the game. He has the talent to produce more, and if he’s engaged, he will.
  • Shawn Marion and the Mavs’ collective defense did a great job against Carmelo Anthony. It felt as though Anthony was actually getting to his favorite spots on the floor with some ease, but once at the rim or in his pet zones, rarely did he put up a shot attempt without a hand in his face. This was particularly true inside, where the Mavs’ interior defenders swarmed Anthony as early as possible. He was blocked from behind, forced to contort, and ultimately, held to six points on 12 shot attempts. Some of that is the natural process of the Knicks’ offense feeling itself out, but the Mavs did an outstanding job of capitalizing on some of the disarray and made Anthony a non-factor.

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Forever Job

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 6, 2012 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

At this point, Odom stands as much for that flicker of humanity, that trace of sympathy or identification in the climate of pro basketball, as he does one of the most memorably gifted players of the last decade. Odom doesn’t have baggage. He’s the one who, simply by walking into a room, reminds us that we all do. It’s not the portend of reality show drama, but the right he has earned to take things personally in a sport where business conquers all.

Odom isn’t quite a tragic figure. Mostly, he’s guy who just can’t catch a break. He played AAU ball with Elton Brand and Ron Artest, a documentary just waiting to happen. Odom was supposed to suit up for UNLV, until he was implicated in a players-getting-paid scandal (or, as some would say, was one of the few who got caught). Instead, he enrolled at Rhode Island, taking a year off before taking a single year to prove he was lottery pick material. Of course, he was drafted by the Clippers, where his obvious on-court brilliance was offset by a series of weed-related suspensions (again, just one of the few dudes who got caught) and a strange inability to exert the full extent of his talent. Between Magic and LeBron, there was Odom; sentimental hyperbole, maybe, but he could handle, make plays, rebound, drain threes, penetrate, and do everything other than assume that leading man role.

Nathaniel Friedman/Bethlehem Shoals broached the ongoing trials of Lamar Odom. Although I think the reactions to Odom’s weird circumstances have been a bit more negative than is implied, Friedman somehow found a way to both trace the outline of Odom’s tale while digging down into its core — all with his usual (and much appreciated) eloquence. Worth a read in its entirety.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 102, Utah Jazz 96

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 4, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

Clouds

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot 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.

  • The story of this game begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki (14-21 FG, 40 points, six rebounds, 29 minutes), as is so often the case. It’s a rare treat to watch Dirk play an offensive game so full of efficiency, production, and unheeded will. Dirk was at his best throughout Saturday night’s matchup with the Jazz, taking advantage of poor defense and open opportunities to sink jumpers at his discretion. Dirk’s signature, elusive mid-range jumper made a welcome return back to its typical successful form, and a myriad of Jazz defenders were unable to hinder Dirk’s rhythm and improved lift. Quite simply, it’s fantastic to watch him play such a unique, terrific brand of basketball. Following four consecutive losses, a Mavericks’ victory and Dirk’s return to superstar output certainly felt important to righting the proverbial franchise ship with the Western Conference playoff race reaching a frantic pace.
  • In his first game back with the Mavericks, Lamar Odom (3-5 FG, nine points, five rebounds, three assists, 18 minutes) displayed both an impressive amount of energy and skill. Odom has been faced with considerable struggles this season, both on and off the court, and it was nice to see a positive crowd reaction to Odom’s strong play on Saturday night.
  • I was initially puzzled by Rick Carlisle’s decision to insert Vince Carter (3-8 FG, nine points, four assists) back into the starting lineup for Rodrigue Beaubois (1-4 FG, three points, two assists). Carlisle’s comments after the game indicated he was looking to keep Beaubois’ minutes to a low after he logged 31 minutes yesterday against the Hornets. It’s a reasonable concern, given the busy upcoming schedule for the Mavericks, and Carlisle has consistently managed lineups and minutes effectively throughout his coaching career. Still, it’s an odd decision after such a stellar game from Beaubois only one night before, and a clear display of Carlisle’s willingness to constantly tinker with the starting lineup. However, Beaubois did little to invalidate Carlisle’s decision, as the attacking, effective style Beaubois utilized so impressively Friday night was replaced with a more passive and jumper-filled regimen, resulting in a generally underwhelming performance.
  • The defensive strengths of Brendan Haywood remain intriguing. Haywood seems to struggle with lateral, instantly moving centers, as evidenced by Brook Lopez’s recent dismantling of Haywood during a 38-point scoring output, but he seems to shine against shooting, gradually moving centers, as evidenced by tonight’s strong effort against Al Jefferson (4-12 FG, 11 points). It’s a logical separation, as Haywood isn’t exactly fleet of foot and doesn’t possess great reactive ability, but it’s still interesting to intake the dichotomy of Haywood’s matchup-reliant failure and success, within only a few brief nights.
  • A Mavericks’ victory appeared in hand when the Mavericks surged to a 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but a series of turnovers and stalled offensive movement allowed the Jazz a brief comeback attempt. Dirk Nowitzki was forced to return along with the Mavericks’ primary unit, and the Jazz comeback was eventually quelled behind Dirk’s ten points in the final five minutes.
  • Jason Terry (8-15 FG, 22 points) had a confident, natural bounce back game. Terry remains, and will remain, the Mavericks’ second most important player. The Mavericks’ defense has been impressively strong this season, but the scoring output of the team has become a significant issue. As a result, Terry is even more essential to the Mavericks’ continued success.

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