The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 114, Portland Trail Blazers 91

Posted by Kirk Henderson on November 6, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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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.

  •  That O.J. Mayo (32 points, 6-8 from three) guy sure is fun to watch when he’s rolling.  His jump shot really looks good from beyond the arc.  Mr. Mayo finally had a good game inside the arc as well, shooting 6-10.  It’s quite exciting to think what he might be able to do given the additional threat of Dirk once he returns from injury.
  • One cannot mention Mayo without mentioning his back court partner, Darren Collison (14 points, 13 assists).  Collison’s insistence on pushing the pace early and often got Dallas off to a fantastic start and got Portland rookie Damian Lillard into foul trouble.  When the game tightened in the second quarter and into the third it was Collison who took control of the tempo, both with his fluid pick and roll game as well as his constant lane probing for layups or kick outs.
  • Collison’s passing was clearly infectious - Dallas dominated the assist category 29 to 13.
  • Before moving on to more of the various positive aspects of the win, let’s discuss the glaring negative: rebounding, again. While Dallas was only beat 48-37 on the boards over all, they lost the offensive rebounding battle 23-2.  Over these first four games Dallas is giving up 18.25 offensive rebounds a game. The hot shooting in the three wins (57%) is covering up this problem, but it needs to be improved upon soon, simply because Dallas’ shooting will come back down to earth.
  • Chris Kaman (16 points on 8-10 shooting, 6 rebounds) had a second great offensive game in a row.  He seemed to have it all working; outside shooting and crafty moves near the bucket.  His defensive leaves something to be desired. He’s a step slow on most rotations and last night did not protect the rim with much authority.
  • Bringing Kaman off of the bench has allowed the Mavericks to keep the offensive intensity turned up to high. In the last 2 games Dallas has yet to score below 26 points in a quarter.
  • I recommend keeping an eye out for Jae Crowder on the bench. His joy at big plays is fantastic.
  • Elton Brand (8 points, 5 rebounds) finally had a decent game shooting the ball. His contributions aren’t showing up in the stat sheet, but his defense and hustle have been outstanding. I suspect when he sees more minutes against second unit players upon Dirk’s return his offensive numbers will improve.
  • Though Shawn Marion (8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks) missed a good portion of the second half with what’s being reported as a knee strain, he continues to be a vital cog for the team. His stat line is impressive for only 24 minutes of playing time.
  • Brandan Wright (10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block) is playing with such confidence right now. Every shot he takes looks confident and, while I’d love to see him rebound more, he’s holding his own on defense.  I also love the way he hedges screens.  His length and quickness really bothered the Portland back court last night.
  • Dallas centers are shooting 81% from the floor this season (38-47 for Kaman and Wright)
  • Last night was also the first time in franchise history that the team shot 60% from the floor in back to back games. They did this without one of the most efficient shooters in the league in Dirk. This is the sort of stat that will grow more impressive as the season goes along.
  • I continue to be impressed with Carlisle’s rotations.  Ten Mavericks played at least 14 minutes.  That sort of experience for the entire roster may prove invaluable as the season rolls along.
  • The depth of Dallas clearly wore Portland down.  Former Mavs assistant Terry Stotts was forced to go to his bench early and often, which had not happened yet this season. Though Portland boasts a fairly solid top 6 in their rotation, things start to get rather dicey quickly the deeper Stotts is forced to go into his bench.
  • I’m not sure how I made it thus far without mentioning the contributions of Dominique Jones (6 points, 6 assists, 3 steals).  He ran the offense with confidence, attacked the rim with a purpose and got his hands on a number of loose balls. Jones has not had an easy road as a Maverick and it’s nice to see him string together a couple of decent games.  In the pre-season it looked as if he had played his way out of Carlisle’s rotation but injuries and roster changes have made Jones a bit of a necessity.
  • Jae Crowder (9 points, 2 rebounds) posted a +22 in 14 minutes of playing time. When he is on the floor, good things seem to happen.
  • Portland rookie Damian Lillard (13 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds) had a rough shooting game (2-13 and many of his deep shots went in and out), but you could see the great player he should become.  Despite early foul trouble, he played aggressively, attacking the rim and getting 8 free throws in the process. He has great vision as well, making him an all around threat.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge was held relatively in check last night (20 points, 7 rebounds), but he makes shots that are Dirk-like.
  • Mayo and Wesley Matthews (20 points) engaged in a bit of a shootout last night.  While Mayo clearly won that battle, after last night Mayo and Matthews are 1-2 in the NBA in three pointers made.
  • Vince Carter’s (8 points, 3 rebounds, 3-9 shooting) shot selection left much to be desired. But I suppose with Vince, you take the good with the bad.
  • Roddy Beaubois was unavailable against Portland but was apparently able to make it through most of the walk through. I’ll bet on his return Wednesday against Toronto.
  • Are you following The Two Man Game on twitter? You should be. Great content like this and this is being posted daily.
  • Wednesday night look to round out their three game home stand with a win against the revamped Toronto Raptors and their exciting guard Kyle Lowry.  Visit us later today and tomorrow for continued coverage of the Dallas Mavericks.

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

Setting the Table: Portland Trail Blazers (Game 4)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on November 5, 2012 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

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O.J. Mayo, who turned 25 on Monday, and Darren Collison will be half of the exciting duel between the starting guards as the Mavericks host the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland will start Wesley Matthews and early candidate for Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard. The four guards represent a nice peak into the future as all of them are 26 or younger and have tons of potential.

Roddy Beaubois, injured with a sprained left ankle, will once again be a gametime decision for Monday’s game against the Trail Blazers.

Here are some notes for the matchup against Portland.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 97, Portland Trail Blazers 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 14, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0105.453.612.039.022.8
Portland102.245.827.727.114.1

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

  • The Mavericks, in spectacular fashion, very nearly blew what should have been a walk-off win. The entire game had been a rather simple affair; a Blazer team without LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t really a Blazer team at all, and in their limited state Dallas was able to create great shots through easy offense (and consistent offensive rebounds), defend effectively without doing anything flashy, and gradually build up a 24-point lead by the tail end of the third quarter. Dallas had let off the gas just enough throughout the fourth to give Portland the slightest possibility for a comeback, but only with a three-minute stretch of lazy, fatigued, and ineffective play did the Blazers nearly capture some magic. During that stretch, the Mavs went 0-for-4 with five turnovers, as Dirk Nowitzki, Delonte West, Shawn Marion, and Brandan Wright each took turns committing blunders. Those miscues fueled the Blazers beyond token effort; most teams will run the court and put up points to close the gap as much as possible in the waning minutes of a double-digit victory, but that horrible, horrible stretch of Maverick basketball gave validation to the notion of a sincere comeback. So naturally, such a comeback came, and the Mavs ended up with a blowout win that wasn’t a blowout at all. In Jason Kidd’s absence, West (21 points, 10-17 FG, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals, six turnovers) logged over 44 minutes. Nowitzki (24 points, 8-14 FG, nine rebounds, five turnovers) and Marion (17 points, 8-10 FG, 14 rebounds, three assists, three turnovers) ran 37 minutes apiece, with Terry (10 points, 3-16 FG, three turnovers) not far behind at 34. Dallas dawdled when they should have separated and collapsed when they should have sustained, and a 24-point lead crumbled to three in a little more than a quarter. I think the appropriate response is likely still disappointment rather than disgust, but what Mavs fan could be blamed for feeling either?

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The Difference: Portland Trail Blazers 99, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 7, 2012 under Recaps, xOther | 4 Comments to Read

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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.

  • One game removed from one of their best team performances of the season, the Mavericks turned in one of their worst. As disappointing as the final minutes of this game were, the far more significant failing came in the third quarter. The Mavericks played their worst 12 minutes of the season, and turned a 12-point lead into an eight-point deficit. In every basketball sense, the seemingly unending third quarter was a complete and total disaster. Ball movement was nonexistent, the effectiveness of the Mavericks’ pick-and-roll was completely neutralized, and the Mavericks’ interior defense was porous, if present at all. It was the best possible representation of this team’s seasonal inconsistency from game-to-game and quarter-to-quarter — two strong opening quarters fully erased by 12 minutes of uninspired, directionless play. The Mavericks played three fairly strong quarters on Thursday night, but it didn’t matter. Of course, Raymond Felton’s sudden offensive explosion (30 points, 12-18 FG, seven rebounds, six assists) didn’t help the Mavericks’ chances, but a good portion of his success stemmed from gifted wide-open jumpers and easy layups. The Mavericks fought back impressively from the unlikely Felton-led third quarter charge once the fourth quarter began, as they are wont to do, and forced overtime. After minutes of neutral overtime play, the game remained tied in the final seconds.
  • And so we arrive at the final two possessions of the game. The first possession, however, was hardly a possession at all. It was tragically brief. It began with a Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, 9-16 FG, 14 rebounds) rebound, and ended almost instantly with a pass sailing out of bounds. Dirk’s attempted pass to a streaking Shawn Marion (6-11 FG, 12 points, 11 rebounds) can’t be faulted on a decision-making level. It was the right play, and one that would have given the Mavericks a two-point lead if executed correctly. Unfortunately, the pass missed its mark by a good margin, and the Blazers were given a final possession in a tie game. On that climactic possession, the Mavericks played beautiful defense, until only 3.7 seconds remained. Jason Terry (7-14 FG, 18 points) began the possession fronting LaMarcus Aldridge (11-24 FG, 25 points, 12 rebounds) in conjunction with Brendan Haywood (1-5 FG, two points, six rebounds), but Aldridge was able to break free when Terry turned to chase a sprinting Nicolas Batum (3-9 FG, six points, nine rebounds, five assists). This left Haywood solely covering Aldridge, meaning a star post player was now in impeccable, isolated post position as the final few seconds ticked down to zero. I don’t tend to like the idea of Haywood covering Aldridge, as Haywood’s simply not quick enough to cover the sudden, instant movements of a power forward like Aldridge. Aldridge used that speed disparity to his advantage, along with a sneakily placed forearm push, and created enough space for an open jumper. The final shot fell as the buzzer sounded, and the Mavericks were dealt their 25th loss to a thoroughly scattered, average Blazers’ team.

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.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 97, Portland Trail Blazers 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 12, 2012 under xOther | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart – Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas105.092.450.022.622.719.9
Portland89.538.719.620.312.5

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

  • There are games so good they’re worthy of extra minutes, and then there was the painful war of attrition between the Mavs and Blazers on this particular Saturday night. Dallas typically pens a loving letter to the game of basketball with each perfectly executed late-game possession, but the final touches of this particular victory were predicated on seeing how many jumpers Raymond Felton (nine points, 4-17 FG, three turnovers) could be tricked into taking and how many tough, pull-up jumpers Delonte West (10 points, 5-11 FG, four assists, four steals, three turnovers) could convert in a row. That ended up working out just fine, but not before both teams missed and fumbled and effectively blew possession after possession. This wasn’t at all an unwatchable game (the Mavs’ first-half offense was actually quite productive, and the Blazers’ pressure D in the second-half kept things pretty interesting), but neither team played well, and the ticking clock turned the entire affair into a pressure cooker. Dallas ultimately ended up managing the chaos a bit better than Portland did, but I have a hard time saying that the Mavs really played significantly better basketball than their opponents.

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Now in Session

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 22, 2011 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

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This year’s preseason campaign may be more important than the lead-in exhibitions of a standard season, but there’s still only so much that can be digested from a mere prologue. Still, we can glean hints of the year to come, even in the context of games that don’t matter. With that, here are eight observations from the Mavs’ two preseason games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, laced with a nice balance of optimism and gloom:

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Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 30, 2011 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

Johnny Ludden, Yahoo Sports: In a lot of ways, Nowitzki is not unlike David Robinson before Tim Duncan joined his side. Robinson waded through the same torrent of criticism each year the Spurs went out early in the playoffs. Many times, it should have been an indictment on the supporting cast around him rather than his own shortcomings. The soft label has never really fit Nowitzki, no matter how many times someone tries to hang it on him. He plays tough. He plays clutch. This series offered more evidence. In three of the Mavs’ four victories, Nowitzki scored 18, 14 and 14 points in the fourth quarters. On Thursday, the Blazers’ Chris Johnson raked Nowitzki across the face, a flagrant foul that left Nowitzki sprawled on his back. After a few moments, Nowitzki picked himself, made both free throws then promptly stuck a step-back jump shot. The next time down the floor, he drove for a reverse layup. ‘Toughness doesn’t always mean throwing a punch back,” Chandler said. “It means getting up and going at ‘em even tougher. … Dirk got up. Instead of getting in some dumb altercation, he said, ‘All right, I’m going to punish you.’’”

Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: “As the Mavericks were leaving the court after ending Portland’s season, some of the Blazer fans were understandably yelling at them. But the message wasn’t one of anger. ‘They were great,’ Dirk Nowitzki said of the fans. ‘When we won and were walking off the court, a lot of them were yelling ‘go beat LA.” The Mavericks will give that their best shot, of course, but they understand that it will not be easy. They went 1-2 against the Lakers in the regular season and everybody knows that beating the two-time defending champions is going to be a huge challenge.”

The Brothers Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: “Zone Defense. The Mavs play a ton of it, and with a great deal of success and, unlike many other squads, a great deal of pride. Rick Carlisle has used it to take advantage of their frontcourt length and protect his smaller lineup, too, all with positive results. Dallas finished the season just behind the Lakers in defensive efficiency (102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions), and while they don’t dominate in any particular statistical category, the Mavs are a top 10 bunch in opponent’s field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throws allowed, and defensive rebounding percentage. The Lakers, a mediocre jump shooting team often too easily seduced into taking them, will need to show discipline offensively in attacking it.”

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 103, Portland Trailblazers 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 29, 2011 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas82.0125.653.824.431.611.0
Portland117.147.526.635.78.5

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

  • It’s hard to be too shocked over the Mavs’ Game 6 victory given the way they’ve performed in this series, but relief certainly seems apt at this point. Kindly disregard the “playoff demons” pseudo story; that relief has nothing to do with 2006 or 2007, doesn’t feature the word “finally,” and honestly has nothing to do with anything save for this year’s Mavericks and this year’s Blazers. Brandon Roy’s emergence as a factor in this series was rather unlikely to begin with, but his supernatural effectiveness on his home court did introduce some reason for uncertainty. Dallas’ general reluctance to work through Shawn Marion as much as they should have (particularly when Gerald Wallace was off the floor or matched up with someone else) had the potential to create problems if Jasons Kidd and Terry had coinciding poor performances. Dirk Nowitzki’s slightly low shooting percentages in the majority this series weren’t a problem, per se, but could have been. I saw all of these things — along with an evaporating lead, stints of fantastic team defense followed by lackluster stretches, LaMarcus Aldridge facing up and attacking Brendan Haywood, Gerald Wallace being, frankly, dominant in Game 6 — and wondered if Dallas and Portland weren’t due for a Game 7. Apparently they weren’t. The Mavs got the stops they needed (though they essentially played chicken with Wesley Matthews’ three-point stroke to do so –  it’s not a strategy I’d necessarily recommend), and got huge buckets from Kidd, Terry, Marion, and naturally, Dirk. The stars didn’t align to extend the series, the better team did what was necessary and took the ball out of the hands of Portland’s most capable scorers as much as they could, and things unfolded in the manner the first five games of the series predicted they would. It’s great to be wrong.
  • Nowitzki’s point total had the benefit of some late-game padding, but he was sensationally effective in the first half, and…oddly unneeded for most of the second. Nowitzki didn’t score a single point during the Mavs’ third quarter run, as Kidd played a masterful 12 minutes (four points, 2-3 FG, four assists), Terry scored eight points in just over six minutes, Marion cleaned up where he could, and Chandler finished inside. The franchise centerpiece functioned as an effective decoy, as the Mavs managed to build a 17-point lead without Dirk having to lift a finger on offense. There was some good semi-transition action to facilitate Dallas’ flow, but even their halfcourt play during the third quarter gives reason for optimism in the second round; the Mavs need those multiple points of attack if they’re going to hang with the Lakers.
  • The zone is still looking strong. It didn’t “stop” the Blazers’ offense, but it did generate empty possessions. Portland had a lot of trouble hitting any of their jumpers against the zone, and though Dallas naturally went back to their man-to-man coverage, Portland never could find their rhythm against the zone. The shift to man defense came of the Mavs’ own volition, a fact which shouldn’t be overlooked; Dallas was able to control the game with their choice of defensive strategy.
  • Tyson Chandler (nine points, seven rebounds, one block) and Brendan Haywood (zero points, three offensive boards, four total rebounds) again defended LaMarcus Aldridge effectively in the post. Aldridge eventually established a good offensive rhythm by facing up against the Maverick bigs on the wing, but those jumpers and drives are shots Dallas could — and did — live with. Obviously one would prefer that Chandler and Haywood contest those attempts as best they could, but the fact that Dallas almost completely removed Aldridge from the game as a post-threat was, and is, pretty significant.
  • Gerald Wallace (32 points, 10-17 FG, 12 rebounds, one turnover) played a tremendous game, and I’m curious how Dallas would have fared had Wallace been available in the second quarter. Wallace’s back seized up after his initial run, and he retired to the locker room for the duration of the second frame. He returned, naturally (I’ve never known mortal injury to even deter Wallace), but not before the Mavs had outscored his Blazers 33-16 in the second. Wallace had 16 points and six rebounds in the first quarter, seven points and four rebounds in the third, and 12 points and two rebounds in the fourth. Considering how poorly Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez played and have played in this series, Wallace’s 12-minute unavailability could be seen as a back-breaking moment for Portland. Dallas fully recovered from their early deficit during that crucial second quarter, and established the momentum they carried through the third. Playoff “what ifs” are a futile exercise to a degree, but Wallace’s absence was conspicuous, and his production (not to mention his defense) sorely missed.
  • If you’re of the opinion that J.J. Barea may have played a bit too much, I’d encourage you to reconsider. He did introduce some defensive difficulties at times (the Mavs were forced to double down when Barea was being attacked in the post, for example) but he had productive stints in the second and fourth quarters. Seven points, four rebounds, and four assists without a turnover is pretty solid production in a game of this pace, and the quality of looks he generated — particularly in the second quarter — was impressive. Regardless, I’m sure his minutes will dip a bit as Rodrigue Beaubois is reintegrated into the rotation.
  • Pour one out for Portland — the Blazers are a fine team, a well-run organization, and an opponent worthy of respect. They didn’t quite have the depth nor the defense (What on earth happened to the Blazers’ turnover-inducing ways?) to extend the series, but this was a hell of a way to kick off the playoffs, regardless of the outcome. LaMarcus Aldridge is a legitimate star, and taps into the basic basketball desire for a do-it-all big man. Brandon Roy provided the postseason’s best individual narrative blip, and turned in as dominant of a fourth quarter showing as I’ve seen. Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews are the kinds of entertaining, effective, and relentless players that any team would be lucky to have. Andre Miller and Marcus Camby are somehow still criminally underrated, and managed to fly under the radar in this series despite making a genuine impact. It’s been another long, trying season for Portland, but for us basketball fans enjoying from afar, it’s been a treat to watch the franchise-wide resilience. Keep on keepin’ on, BlazerNation.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 93, Portland Trailblazers 82

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 26, 2011 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas83.0112.042.933.341.714.5
Portland98.845.918.923.714.5

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

  • Let this game be known henceforth as the “Oh, the Mavs have Tyson Chandler” Game. TC has been a crucial part of this team all season, and his heralded work on the defensive only constitutes part of his success. This was the full Chandler experience, something unfelt and unseen in the first four games of this series due to foul trouble, a lack of emphasis on establishing Chandler as an offensive option, and TC’s own offensive complacency. Rick Carlisle and the Mavs coaching staff clearly identified that problem and sought to correct it, as Dallas consciously made an effort to get the ball to Chandler early and often. From there, Chandler built on his touches with one of the finest offensive rebounding performances I’ve ever seen, and the most prolific in Maverick playoff history. He was single-handedly responsible for Dallas’ monstrous 41.7 offensive rebounding rate, and demonstrated a complete mastery of the tap-out; every board that Chandler couldn’t claim outright was tipped, pushed, or swatted in the direction of a teammate. On Monday night he was able to secure the board or redirect it to a teammate 13 times in an 83-possession game, which sounds impossible but apparently isn’t. Just insanely effective board work from Chandler on top of great scoring (14 points on four shots) and fantastic post defense.
  • About that defense: Chandler and Brendan Haywood both did a tremendous job of limiting LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, marking the third game in a row that the tandem was able to hold Aldridge to under 43 percent shooting from the field. Aldridge’s point totals have dropped in each game of the series so far: from 27 to 24 to 20 to 18 to most recently, just 12. I wouldn’t expect Aldridge’s scoring production to get any lower than his Game 5 total, but the Mavs’ defensive improvement in that matchup has been remarkable, particularly when considering just how prolific Aldridge was in the first two games of this series and against Dallas in the regular season. Halting Aldridge isn’t always enough, but it’s a valuable foundation for building up the team defense on the whole.
  • Aside from Andre Miller’s mind-boggling drives to the rim and Gerald Wallace’s uncontested opportunities in transition, the Blazers really didn’t have much offensive success at all. Aldridge was, as noted above, limited by terrific defense. Brandon Roy wasn’t given the same free rein to drive and kick that he was in Game 4. Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and Rudy Fernandez had their opportunities limited against both the Mavs’ oppressive zone and swarming man-to-man configurations. There was little rhythm to anything Portland did on the offensive end, and Dallas refused to bail them out with purposeless fouls and free trips to the free throw line. 98.8 points per 100 possessions is a fantastic defensive mark, and the Mavs rightfully earned it with their effort and execution. This is the kind of performance that renews faith — not only in the fact that Dallas can win another game in this series and advance to the second round, but that they’re capable of competing beyond the ending of this series.
  • Jason Kidd scored four points, but as is usually the case, it didn’t matter. His 14 assists and seven rebounds more than made up for any perceived scoring deficit, and made those three-point-heavy outings to start the series seem like a thing of the past. I’m sure the Mavs are pleased that the offense need not rely so heavily on Kidd for scoring; team-wide scoring balance is just more fun, and having so many players producing efficiently gives Dallas much greater operational latitude. Plus, while those scoring outbursts from Kidd were quite helpful in the Mavs’ early-series cause, Kidd also had a tendency to chase shots. Even veterans are vulnerable to heat checks, and Kidd was attempting two or three rushed attempts a game in an attempt to hold on to whatever jumpshooting magic had enchanted him. Those heat checks are gone — as are most of Kidd’s shots — because the Maverick offense has returned to a more natural state, and is functioning as efficiently as ever.
  • Dirk Nowitzki didn’t allow Portland to double team him. He was incredibly decisive, and on the catch, almost immediately committed to a full-on drive towards the rim or a pull up jumper. There’s a certain elegance to Nowitzki’s slow-motion game; the way he measures up defenders, ball fakes into open space, spins, and counters is an artful dance. Yet when Nowitzki takes this more direct, aggressive approach, he sacrifices a bit of the artfulness in his game in order to maximize production. It’s a shame, but a necessary shame; Dallas needs wins and they need Nowitzki to be highly effective, and attacking the defense before it has a chance to double is a terrific way to achieve both ends.
  • I’m still shocked at how little of an impact the size of the Blazer guards has had on the series overall. Those matchups have been problematic for moments, but they’re clearly not go-to options; as much as Miller, Roy, Matthews, and Batum would love to pick on J.J. Barea in the post, Portland just hasn’t gone to that strategy with any frequency. Part of the reason is that Jason Terry has done a fantastic job of fronting, contesting the entry pass, and even bothering shots in the post. He’s been a passable post defender, which is all Dallas really needs him to be; with JET removed as a defensive liability down low and Beaubois still having yet to play a game in this series, Barea is the only clear matchup disadvantage in post-up guard play. Throw in the time that Barea spends guarding Rudy Fernandez (who doesn’t have the frame nor the proficiency to operate from the block), and it’s a bit more difficult for the Blazer guards to post up the Mavs than many — including myself — anticipated.
  • I still don’t understand why the Blazers have been so willing to switch and muddle their matchups. Dallas — particularly due to Jason Kidd’s patience — works diligently to exploit mismatches, and Dirk Nowitzki’s versatility makes those efforts especially worthwhile. Those switches don’t appear to be by design, but it’s certainly curious that they happen so frequently.
  • A really smart, effective game from JET. His three-point stroke was a bit errant (1-of-5 from that range), but he scored 20 points on 18 shots, made smart passes, found open space, and played defense. This wasn’t Terry as Fourth Quarter Hero, but simply Terry doing exactly what his team need him to do in an efficient manner. Jumpers from the short corner don’t make the highlight reel, but you have to appreciate these kinds of performances from JET.
  • Dallas didn’t solve their turnover problems, but they did eliminate Portland’s marginal (a word used as literally as possible) advantage. The offense “improved” by virtue of the defense; the Blazers and Mavs posted identical 14.5 turnover rates, negating any disadvantage that Dallas’ giveaways once held.
  • J.J. Barea had one of his better games of the series, despite scoring just four points on 2-of-6 shooting and picking up a single assist and a turnover to match. It’s just been that kind of series for Barea.
  • Much ado has already been made of a hard screen that Brian Cardinal set on Patty Mills in the closing moments of the game, with the verdict already set in stone. It’s a non-issue, honestly. Cardinal appears to have gotten in a bit of a cheap shot, sure, but Mills was also guilty of that same zeal in his full-court press. Plus, as is usually the case with the biggest hits on screens, the problem is largely one of communication; Mills wasn’t hit so much as blindsided, and the fact that Cardinal put a little more into it than was necessary is really secondary to the fact that no one told Mills he was about to get creamed. Cardinal’s pick was hardly out of line in the grand scheme of things, even though that fact matters little; the Blazers were already frustrated, and it’s understandable that they (and their fans) are looking for a rallying cry after a loss like this one. Now they have it. Remember the hard pick that no one bothered to tell Patty Mills about! Never forget the injustice of a halfcourt screen!

Ramblin’ Rose

Posted by Ian Levy on April 25, 2011 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. He’ll be bringing his intelligent brand of — mostly quantitative — analysis here on a weekly basis. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

After Games 1 and 2, we met two lineups, The Grays and The Longs, and identified the utilization of each as an example of the approach the Mavericks and Blazers were bringing to this series. The part played by each unit changed dramatically over Games 3 and 4, again revealing a lot about the status of each team.

The Longs have essentially disappeared from Portland’s rotation, playing less than a minute together over the past two games. Nate McMillan obviously has some player combinations he likes better. He might want to take a look at these numbers, because despite taking both games in Portland, most of what he’s been trying hasn’t worked very well. The table below shows the five-man units Portland has used for at least three minutes over the past three games.

LineupMinutesPoss. ForPoss. OppPts. ForPts. OppORtg.DRtg.Net
Miller - Matthews - Wallace - Aldridge - Camby53.1791909698105.5108.9-3.4
Fernandez - Roy - Batum - Wallace - Aldridge15.6528273341117.9151.9-34.0
Miller - Matthews - Batum - Wallace - Aldridge19.103233263981.3118.2-36.9
Miller - Roy - Matthews - Wallace - Aldridge11.6322203218145.590.0+55.5
Miller - Matthews - Batum - Aldridge - Camby9.8016172025125.0147.1-22.1
Fernandez - Roy - Matthews - Batum - Aldridge5.2289108125.088.9+36.1
Fernandez - Roy - Batum - Wallace - Camby3.06655550.0100.0-50.0

Over that stretch, only one lineup has consistently hurt the Mavericks. It’s the Andre Miller – Brandon Roy – Wesley Matthews – Gerald Wallace – LaMarcus Aldridge combination, which has outscored the Mavericks by 14 points across 11 minutes. Interestingly enough, this lineup only played 2 minutes and 48 seconds together during the Blazers fourth quarter comeback on Saturday.

The Blazers’ 20-point advantage in that quarter was built mostly by two other lineups. The Rudy Fernandez – Roy – Nicolas Batum – Wallace – Aldridge configuration was +7 over the first 6:28 of the 4th. The Roy – Matthews – Batum – Wallace – Aldridge lineup was +8 over a one-minute, 43-second span towards the end of the quarter. However, those two lineups have played another 18 minutes together across the rest of the series, in which they were outscored by Dallas by 13 points. The Blazers didn’t run away with the fourth quarter because they stumbled into an effective new lineup. Rather, a method they had tried previously began to click. For one quarter, Brandon Roy turned into Jerry West and Jason Terry turned into Darrick Martin, triggering a sudden change in the performance of a familiar lineup.

That the Blazers were able to come away with two wins at home will obscure the fact that they still aren’t playing very well. If we take away Brandon Roy’s magical fourth quarter in Game 4, we find that the Mavericks outscored the Blazers by 13 points over 7 quarters of play. The Blazers are still left with just one lineup that has been successful over a significant stretch in more than one game.

The table bel0w shows the same lineup information for the Mavericks, covering the last three games.

LineupMinutesPoss. ForPoss. OppPoints ForPoints OppORtg.DRtg.Net
Kidd - Stevenson - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler26.134241413797.690.2+7.4
Kidd - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler17.0630323645120.0140.6-20.6
Barea - Terry - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Haywood18.3031314739151.6125.8+25.8
Barea - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Haywood9.7518191814100.073.7+26.3
Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Chandler11.0021193119147.6100.0+47.6
Kidd - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Haywood9.0017141913111.892.9+18.9
Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Haywood7.551313101276.992.3-15.4
Kidd - Barea - Terry - Nowitzki - Haywood7.201212158125.066.7+58.3
Kidd - Barea - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Haywood4.37891113137.5144.4-6.9
Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Chandler4.598771187.5157.1-69.6
Barea - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler5.2391031133.3110.0-76.7

The Grays (the Jason Kidd – Jason Terry – Shawn Marion – Dirk Nowitzki – Tyson Chandler lineup we identified as a key factor in Game 1) have been ineffective to say the least, being outscored by nine points over a span of a little more than 17 minutes. This is one of the player combinations Rick Carlisle relies on in crunch time, which makes it unsurprising that Dallas has struggled late in games (the Mavericks have been outscored by 22 over the last two fourth quarters).

That ineffectiveness shouldn’t be a huge concern for the Mavericks. Most of their negative differential comes from a roughly five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter of Game 4, when they were outscored by 13 points due to Roy’s hot hand and their own failures to execute on offense. Over that stretch, Roy scored 12 points and assisted on two other baskets, while the Mavericks couldn’t create a single shot attempt for Nowitzki, turned the ball over twice, and attempted five long jumpshots.

Roy’s explosion has changed the series, but that doesn’t mean it’s a permanent course correction. The Mavericks have still been the better team for most of the four games, narrative intrigue be damned. Additionally, his performance could have some unintended side-effects. When Roy was producing less, his role in the Blazers’ offense was defined. Tonight, Nate McMillan will have to decide how much to let what happened in Game 4 change the way the Blazers attack the Mavericks. This could potentially be good news for Dallas; Roy seems unlikely to produce at the same level, but will probably see more minutes and use more possessions. He’s has been a shell of his former self for all but the most recent 15 minutes of this season. He was largely the difference the Blazers were able to even the series, but those 15 minutes are not a large enough sample size to convince me he’s ready to pull that off two more times.

I realize I’m looking at two tough losses with rose-colored glasses; I can’t help it. After two close losses in Portland, everywhere I look I see roses.