The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 102, Milwaukee Bucks 76

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 14, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

[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.

  • Even a thorough scrubbing of the Mavs’ Friday night game against the Milwaukee Bucks would reveal few — if any — notable flaws. Dallas started fast, repeled Milwaukee’s advances, and finished strong. They played a dominant game on both ends of the court, and rested weary legs in anticipation of Saturday’s date with the Sacramento Kings. They left absolutely no doubt of the game’s verdict, a welcome occurrence in a season where doubt has become a recurring theme.
  • Vince Carter had his highest-scoring game in a Maverick uniform by way of a remarkably aggressive first-quarter performance. He had two nice dunks — both in the half-court offense, mind you — in the first five minutes of the game. Carter has brought an assertive scoring approach to each of his games as a Mav, but this quick start was notable if only because his performance was so efficient and so emphatic.
  • The first of those dunks:

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Truth in Perspective

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 13, 2012 under Commentary | 18 Comments to Read

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Lamar Odom’s integration in Dallas has been a slow, frustrating process for most parties involved. That much can be gleaned from Rick Carlisle’s disappointment in press conferences and Odom’s body language alone, before we even begin to dig into the specifics of his poor on-court performance. But even with that in mind, I don’t think many people expected Odom’s current perspective to be quite as dour as it came across in a pull-back-the-curtain piece by Chris Mannix of SI.com:

Ironically, it was a positive comment from Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle — “I thought Lamar played with a lot of energy,” he said — that brought a reporter to his locker. When told of Carlisle’s comment, Odom shrugged, his head dropping beneath his shoulders.

“I’m trying to,” Odom said, his voice trailing off.

Has it been tough?

“When you have relationships with people and there are hard times, you know how to deal with one another,” Odom said. “When you don’t, it’s obvious.”

The Mavericks desperately need an effective Odom if they hope to make a run at another title. At his best, Odom is among the game’s most versatile players, a two- or three-position big man who can score inside and out. He’s the reigning NBA Sixth Man award winner who, at 32, is still in his prime. His teammates genuinely like him, even if they don’t all necessarily know him.

Can Odom find a way to succeed in the Mavericks’ system?

“It’s hard for me to say,” Odom said. “I thought my game was equipped to play anywhere and everywhere. I’m not prepared, I guess, to play. I don’t know if there is anything more to say.”

By now, most players know the drill: hide the ego, stick to the safety of cliché, and avoid honesty at all costs.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 100, Detroit Pistons 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 11, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0111.158.029.017.215.6
Detroit95.647.829.013.922.2

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

  • Don’t look now, but Mavericks basketball is fun again. Delonte West turned his second game filling in for Jason Kidd into something special, as from the very beginning he was creating some truly spectacular shots off the dribble. West found Brendan Haywood in the right spots, turning the typically clumsy center into an occasional weapon. He created situations that put so much pressure on Detroit’s defense that Dirk Nowitzki was left wide open on the weak side. He worked the ball around, made a living off of his silky handle, and picked up six steals to just five points to make his Kidd imitation complete. It’s been a true pleasure to see West go to work for the Mavs this season, and this seems like a good a time as any to remind you that this guy is playing for the league’s minimum salary. I’m still not quite sure how that happened, but hot damn did Dallas get one of the steals of free agency.
  • Preface: garbage time, Detroit Pistons, etc. But Brandan Wright…wowza:

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The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 93, Dallas Mavericks 71

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 6, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas89.079.835.720.825.016.9
San Antonio104.548.810.518.09.0

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

  • The Mavs have certainly wasted no time this season in rattling off some truly awful losses. The opening night thud against the Miami Heat was practically expected, even if the magnitude of the beatdown the Mavs suffered was a tad surprising. Hitting a terrific Denver Nuggets team on the next night was a recipe for disaster as well, and the fact that Dallas ran out of gas — especially after struggling in their track meet against Miami in the opener — was fairly predictable. And most recently: though the Mavs were lucky enough to play a Spurs team without Manu Ginobili, they’re struggling against a brutal schedule that practically demands inferior basketball at some points. That doesn’t excuse the loss — much less the blowout — but it does meet a game like this one with a bit of a shrug. Requisite patience, yadda yadda yadda, but the clock is only kind for so long, Mavs.
  • Jason Kidd left in the first quarter with a lower back injury, and did not return for the rest of the game. Though the offense certainly could’ve used his help, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; Kidd started the game by leaving Gary Neal (12 points, 4-7 3FG, five rebounds, two steals) — one of the league’s most prolific outside shooters — open on virtually every possession. That’s never sound policy, and Neal’s quick start was a big reason why the Spurs were able to decimate the Mavs in the first half.
  • Now, if Kidd’s injury becomes a lingering problem and forces him to either miss court time or play through considerable pain, that’s a huge setback. Send him your well wishes, painkillers, and ice packs if you have any interest in the Mavs playing well this season.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 100, Oklahoma City Thunder 87

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

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas87.0114.951.921.327.513.8
Oklahoma City100.043.526.028.614.9

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

  • This game was a prime demonstration of Vince Carter (14 points on nine shots, three assists) as a post-up option. It’s not about the buckets scored, but the opportunities created; Dallas ran their offense through Carter on the block in the second and third quarters, and VC was able to respond by drawing fouls, getting to the rim, and attracting plenty of defensive attention. Carter was such a convincing post threat that the Thunder left Dirk Nowitzki wide open in the opposite corner in order to blitz him down low. That kind of rotation barely seems possible, but mismatches like the ones Carter was able to create often force opponents into drastic measures.
  • Nowitzki (26 points, 10-16 FG, 1-5 3FG, six rebounds) may not have matched last year’s playoff performance in magnitude, but Monday night was a return to normalcy. The last time these teams met, Dirk looked rushed and uncomfortable. He hesitated before shooting open jumpers, and didn’t put much effort into establishing position at “his spots” on the floor. This performance was “vintage” Nowitzki, if they do indeed make months-old vintages. His footwork, ball fakes, and spins were all in playoff form, and though Dallas didn’t lean on Nowitzki’s offense as heavily as they did in the postseason, he was every bit as efficient as the Mavs could have expected him to be. I hope you enjoyed the first of what will undoubtedly be many brilliant showings for Nowitzki this season.

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The Difference: Minnesota Timberwolves 99, Dallas Mavericks 82

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 1, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas94.087.242.222.114.018.1
Minnesota105.348.220.037.017.0

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 is just the way of the season’s early going, apparently. The Mavericks more closely resemble themselves for a few games, but then dissolve completely on offense against a pretty poor defense just a few days later. We knew to expect struggles. We knew it would take time for the new Mavs to work their way into the system, and time for the old Mavs to work their way into game shape. But now we also know to expect complete inconsistency, as there are no assurances at all of which Maverick team will show up on a particular night. In this one? A team that scores 87.2 points per 100 possessions, and will wither away even against the most questionable defenses.
  • Dallas managed a brief return to normalcy with a fourth quarter combination of the zone defense and Dirk Nowitzki (21 points, 9-20 FG, four rebounds) attacking from all angles, but a timeout gave Rick Adelman a precious opportunity to calm down a jumpy young team. Ricky Rubio (14 points, 2-3 3FG, seven assists, four turnovers) drew the attention of defenders and hit spot-up shooters in the corners and bigs rolling to the rim, attacking the Mavs’ zone at two particular points of weakness. Kevin Love (25 points, 9-16 FG, 5-8 3FG, 17 rebounds) took over from there, and the Wolves finished the game on an uncontested 15-point spurt that left several minutes on the clock but no doubt in the game’s result. This year’s Timberwolves are every bit as entertaining as the manic team that ran up and down the court last season, but this year they’ve traded the unintentional comedy of a Michael Beasley-driven offense for a more sensible, balanced attack driven by pace and Rubio’s guile. It may not result in a playoff berth, but Minnesota is more than capable of “stealing” a game like this one against a supposedly superior team.

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To Better Men and Better Basketball Players

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 31, 2011 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

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“It’s humbling. It’s a humbling game. It’s a humbling experience. Life is the same way. You can win the jackpot, and then lose somebody close to you. Basketball is life. I’ll continue to live, be a better man, and be a better basketball player as well.”
-Lamar Odom, being Lamar Odom

Happy New Year, everybody. Live and be better in 2012.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 99, Toronto Raptors 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 30, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0110.049.338.917.511.1
Toronto95.650.019.413.218.9

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

  • I won’t fully subscribe to the hyperbole and say that Ian Mahinmi (19 points, 6-6 FG, five rebounds, two blocks) was the best Maverick on the floor on Friday, but he was likely the most active and — at the very least — the most surprisingly effective. Mahinmi did some solid work on the defensive glass, but he impressed most in his cuts to the rim off of pick-and-roll sequences and as a weak side counter to double teams in the post. It was a blast to see Mahinmi provide a legitimate offensive impact, but let’s not go overboard: Mahinmi was only so effective because of the Raptors’ inability to cover for their own defensive overloading.
  • The Mavs managed an efficient offense without offensive flow, effective shooting, or superior ball control. Offensive rebounding was the crutch early (Dallas grabbed an offensive board on 45.5 percent of their misses in the first quarter), and frequent free throw shooting carried them throughout. The shooting finally came around, but only after the Mavericks amassed 37 free-throw attempts in a 90-possession game.
  • Andrea Bargnani (30 points, 11-18 FG, seven rebounds) didn’t look new and improved — he just looked improved. Subtle changes in approach translated into a highly productive and efficient outing for Bargs, as virtually all of the Mavs’ big men struggled to defend him on the perimeter. His pick-and-pop game with Jose Calderon was deadly; Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd both managed to look a step slow in their efforts to defend it, resulting in a disappointing number of wide-open jumpers. Bargnani capitalized, and used his pick-and-roll success as a launchpad for a terrific all-around shooting performance.

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Interstitial Space

Posted by Ian Levy on December 29, 2011 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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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.

The first two games of the Mavericks’ title defense have been ugly — like “Eric Stoltz in Mask” ugly. After two games the Mavericks have an Offensive Rating of 93.8 (26th in the league) and a Defensive Rating of 110.4 (23rd in the league). Both numbers are a huge disappointment, especially when viewed in the context of what was accomplished last season. For now, though, we’ll set aside defensive concerns and focus on efficient scoring.

Ball movement and offensive execution were the premium fuel that drove the Mavs through the playoffs last year. During the regular season, the Mavericks recorded an assist on 63.7 percent of their made baskets — the highest rate in the league. Through their first two losses, they’ve recorded 38 assists on 73 made baskets, good for just 52.1 percent. That mark would have ranked dead last in the league last season. But this is just a symptom, not the disease; the Mavericks are moving the ball, just not to the right spots. When the ball does end up in the right place, the movement of bodies has often ensured that an open shot no longer resides there.

On some level, early season difficulties are understandable. But some big questions remain: Why, with abbreviated training camp and new faces being the standard around the league, have the Mavericks’ struggles have seemed uniquely harsh? Are we  watching kinks that can be worked out, or more worrisome and fundamental changes from the glorious contraption we witnessed last season?

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The Difference: Denver Nuggets 115, Dallas Mavericks 93

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 27, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas98.094.947.427.611.919.4
Denver117.355.734.223.815.3

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

  • Give the Mavericks credit: they didn’t lose this game solely on offense or defense alone, but managed to clam up and crumble simultaneously. They turned the ball over on nearly a fifth of their possessions. They started with a well-intentioned transition defense, but spend most of the game lightly jogging in the Nuggets’ dust. They allowed 117.3 points per 100 possessions. These first two games have been ugly in a way this franchise hasn’t seen in a long time, and hopefully those universal struggles don’t persist for too long.
  • Delonte West (two points, four assists, three steals) grabbed his first formal start after becoming the de facto starter for the second half of the opener against the Heat. In theory, it was a good move; West is the hands-down best defensive option the Mavs have against Ty Lawson (27 points, 10-15 FG, 3-6 3FG, four rebounds, four assists, three steals). That theoretical decision didn’t do much good against the Nuggets’ outright fast breaks and transition-induced mismatches, but West was still the right call for starting responsibilities.
  • Turnovers aside, the Mavs actually looked much improved offensively in the game’s opening quarter. There were some productive sets, and various players worked well together in strong-side action. It wasn’t anything resembling the offensive sophistication that earned Dallas their first title, but in such dire times, Mavs fans should take what they can get.

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