The Difference: Minnesota Timberwolves 105, Dallas Mavericks 90

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

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

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

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

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

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On The Ground Floor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 93, Phoenix Suns 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.098.945.735.818.811.3
Phoenix92.641.026.528.817.0

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 was certainly more of a defensive win than an offensive win, though Dallas had a way of playing to the extremes on D. The Mavs did a good job of pressuring shots, clogging passing lanes, and preventing penetration in a general sense, but were periodically victimized by Steve Nash’s (eight points, 2-9 FG, 12 assists, three turnovers) typical pick-and-roll brilliance. The defensive execution on those high screen-and-rolls improved as the game went on, but as late in the third and fourth quarters we still saw the occasional breakdown in coverage that led to a wide open attempt for Marcin Gortat within five feet of the basket, or an open three-point look for a Suns shooter without so much as a mild contest. Dallas’ final defensive numbers were pretty solid, but it would be reassuring to see some steadiness in their execution. It’s easy to settle for improved effort and play in the second half en route to a win, but when a team is posting elite defensive marks for the season, they deserve a bit more scrutiny than an “all’s well that ends well” outlook would typically provide. Bravo for the rebound, but those first-half quirks can’t become too common.
  • Although Dallas struggled offensively overall (45.7% eFG%; 99.9 points per 100 possessions), this was an oddly dominant performance by the Maverick bigs. Brendan Haywood  (5-10 FG) scored Dallas’ first two buckets and finished with 10 on some pretty aggressive moves to the rim, Ian Mahinmi (4-7 FG, 9-12 FT) scored 17 points on just seven shots, and Brandan Wright came off the bench in the first half to play some productive minutes alongside Mahinmi rather than behind him. There was a stretch in the second quarter when every positive play on the floor seemed to be due to either Mahinmi or Wright, and their energy on both ends was crucial as Dallas figured out how to adjust their defensive coverage.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 83, New Orleans Hornets 81

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

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

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

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

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

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 94, Utah Jazz 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 20, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

[Game-specific advanced stats forthcoming.]

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

  • Dallas has long been a team that systematically creates and exploits mismatches, but the most crucial possessions of Thursday’s game didn’t go to Dirk Nowitzki (12 points, 5-12 FG, five rebounds) as he backed down a hapless defender, nor to Jason Terry (10 points, 3-14 FG) as he sized up a big man on the perimeter. Shawn Marion — a walking mismatch if there ever was one — acted as the stabilizer for Dallas’ offense in the second half, even after also doing much of the heavy lifting with smart cuts and creative finishes in the game’s first two quarters. Terry or Jason Kidd fed Marion (22 points, 10-17 FG, seven rebounds, four turnovers) on the left block, let him go to work against C.J. Miles, and benefited when Marion either hooked his way into a score or kicked the ball out to create an open look on the perimeter. That sequence may not have the same magnetism of an impossible Nowitzki fadeaway, but Marion’s post work was effective enough to anchor the Mavs’ late-game offense. That said, I’m curious why we didn’t see Dallas work through Lamar Odom — who had generated some good possessions from the right block in similar mismatches — prior to Marion’s takeover. With Nowitzki clearly unable to bear his customary fourth-quarter scoring load and Terry having a rough night with both his shooting and decision making, why not utilize Odom’s (11 points, 4-5 FG) post-ups as the mirror and counterpoint to Marion’s work on the block?

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Good Grip on a Southpaw

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 19, 2012 under Video | Be the First to Comment

Lamar Odom still isn’t playing very good basketball, but he nonetheless manages to add in a decent highlight almost every night out. This particular layup isn’t anything spectacular, but that one-handed catch? The one so gracefully transitioned into a smooth, effortless release? Not bad at all, Lamar.

The Difference: Los Angeles Clippers 91, Dallas Mavericks 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.098.947.522.232.616.7
Los Angeles101.147.119.537.215.6

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

  • Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Mavericks played poorly, inexplicably managed to keep things close, and then lost a game they could have — though shouldn’t have — won. It’s a bummer of a story to have to follow twice, but Dallas fittingly used their trip through Hollywood as an excuse to reuse the same tired plot line. In theory, this was a perfect chance for the Mavs to fine tune their offense; the Clips have been pretty miserable on the defensive end this season, and with Chris Paul — L.A.’s top perimeter defender and resident turnover-generating machine — out of the lineup, the Mavs’ opponents looked more like hapless prey. That (theoretical) opportunity was squandered, as the Dallas offense officially segued from patient to stagnant. The Clippers played some terrific preemptive defense (they had every one of Jason Terry’s pet moves completely pegged), complacency took over, and the Mavs frittered away the good looks that they were actually able to create. They’ll get better on that end, if only because they’ve reached a baffling level of offensive inefficiency. The flow of the offense is capable of producing so much more than it is, at present. Dirk Nowitzki (17 points, 6-18 FG, seven rebounds) is an excellent shooter capable of hitting open shots. Terry (12 points, 5-13 FG, five assists, four turnovers) is a better decision maker than he’s shown recently. Jason Kidd (five points, 10 assists, four turnovers) and Lamar Odom (five points, 1-4 FG, seven rebounds) are still very good NBA players, even though they’ve done little to warrant that status of late. These are very basic truths, and even the Mavs’ sloppy play against the Lakers and stunted performance against the Clippers can’t undo their empirical validity. It’s useless to ask anyone to be patient at this stage in the season, but we can all recognize that the offensive fluidity only improves from here.

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Never Left

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 17, 2012 under Video | Be the First to Comment

The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 73, Dallas Mavericks 70

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.077.837.520.022.416.7
Los Angeles81.138.825.013.612.2

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

  • Let’s get one thing straight: Derek Fisher’s game-winning three-pointer was a stroke of mercy. A competitive game is not necessarily a good one, and though the Mavs put themselves in a position to sneak a win on a tough night on the road, Fisher’s spot-up three saved us all from (at least) five more minutes of basketball misery. I’m sure Dallas would love to have a mulligan on a few of their more pitiful possessions, but perhaps a game of this ilk is better left dead. The defensive activity displayed by both teams was excellent, but energetic D against unstable O makes for a horrid mess. Nothing about either team’s total performance should be glorified; there’s simply too much for both the Mavs and the Lakers to figure out about the workings of their respective offenses, and too much muddled by terrible play to really determine anything meaningful and specific about either team’s defense. Poor shooting is the great equalizer, and though one could certainly build a case in support of the defensive efforts of either team, I have a hard time seeing this outing as anything other than Dallas and Los Angeles attempting to out-miss one another. I guess the Mavs won.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 99, Sacramento Kings 60

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 15, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart GameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas95.0104.250.030.926.117.9
Sacramento63.226.720.925.417.9

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

  • Back-to-back games against the struggling Milwaukee Bucks and the perpetually befuddled Sacramento Kings weren’t going to test the Mavs’ competitive fiber, but they did end testing the Mavs’ limits. In two straight games, we got to see exactly what kind of dominance this Mavericks team is capable of, and though the level of competition gives these two huge wins a certain disclaimer, demolishing lesser teams does have a decent correlation with long-term success. More importantly: after being on the receiving end of a couple of routs to begin the season, Dallas is finally making legitimate strides in their efforts to create balance.
  • It’s fantastic and reassuring and all kinds of confusing that the Mavs are able to be this good with Dirk Nowitzki averaging just 12.5 points in the last two games. Some of that is a function of playing time (particularly because of the Mavs’ tendency to work through Nowitzki late in close games), but the marginal nature of Nowitzki’s involvement has been apparent irrelevant of his production. Dirk’s still doing work, he’s just doing substantially less than he did at any point last season.
  • Congratulations to the Kings, who now have the honor of posting the lowest point total for any Maverick opponent in a half, the lowest point total in a half in Kings franchise history, the lowest point total for a Maverick opponent in a game, the fewest field goals made by a Maverick opponent, the lowest single-game field goal percentage in Kings franchise history, and the lowest single-game field goal percentage mark for any Maverick opponent overall. Gold stars all around.

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