Evolution of Leadership and Toughness

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on February 19, 2013 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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It was a rare site during All-Star weekend as the Dallas Mavericks organization was not really accounted for during the league’s weekend of celebration. You can count Dahntay Jones’ random participation as an assistant to Utah’s Jeremy Evans during the dunk contest, but it was still weird to not see Dirk Nowitzki rubbing shoulders with the league’s elite players in Houston. Prior to this year’s break in Houston, Nowitzki had been part of the last 13 All-Star weekends – as a 3-point shootout participant in two before his 11-year All-Star streak.

Even with that absence during All-Star weekend, Dirk still found a way to have his name mentioned during the break. The mention actually came from an unexpected source, one Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Wright took the opportunity to follow Jordan as he’s 50th birthday was approaching and chronicled the interesting story of his life and how he struggles moving forward. It’s highly recommended reading. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, let’s dig in on what MJ said about Dirk.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 109, Miami Heat 119

Posted by Connor Huchton on January 3, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box ScorePlay-By-Play Shot 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.

  • The Mavericks concocted one of their most complete performances of the season in Wednesday night’s overtime loss to the Heat. The only thing missing was the single additional point needed to gain a much-needed victory.
  • When pondering how the Mavericks’ ‘squandered’ a six-point lead in the final few minutes, a few reasons come to mind:
  • The Miami Heat, who actually played quite well, are an unbelievably talented and thoroughly overwhelming team. That much was apparent from the stellar play of LeBron James alone (11-20 FG, 32 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists), as he engineered impressive possession after possession in the final minutes. James found other Heat players for open corner threes with the precision of a well-practiced tactician. And when that failed, he simply curved and dodged his way to basket proximity and scoring success.
  • That goes without mentioning the terrific performance of Dwyane Wade (9-21 FG, 27 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), who seized several key overtime opportunities to seal the win for the Heat.
  • Wade glided to the perimeter, plucked an airborne Vince Carter pass, and assisted on a basket at the other end to give the Heat a very sudden and commanding seven-point overtime lead.
  • The Mavericks made far too many unnecessary mistakes down the stretch, as O.J. Mayo (12-21 FG, 30 points, six assists, six turnovers), Vince Carter (5-16 FG, 15 points), and Dirk Nowitzki (7-15 FG, 19 points, six rebounds, 29 minutes) each contributed to the Mavericks’ late-game turnover woes.
  • Nowitzki appeared the closest he has to pre-injury form, especially in regards to his confidence in releasing diffcult shots. It was very nice to see Dirk attempt and make jumpers from more than one impossibly guarded situation.
  • Beyond Dirk’s contributions, the Mavericks scored only 14 bench points.
  • The Mavericks have now loss six consecutive overtime games this season, and have only competed closely for a win in a few of those six. For whatever reasons (age, consistency, identity), the Mavericks have been completely unable to sustain any kind of high-level play for more than 48 minutes.
  • As Andy Tobo writes at Mavs Moneyball, one of the positive aspects of these recent games has been the reemergence of Darren Collison (4-9 FG, 11 points, three assists). If his moderate ascension can continue and the Mavericks collectively play near the level they did tonight, there’s hope for this Mavericks’ team yet.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, Miami Heat 110

Posted by Kirk Henderson on December 21, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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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.

  • This one was over at halftime. It was really, really over in the third quarter when the Miami lead ballooned to 36. The final score isn’t really indicative of the game at all because, with a brief exception in the second quarter when the Mavs third unit made a run, Miami controlled the entire game.
  • Though Dallas probably would have lost this game anyway, the Mavs missed an obscene number of shots at the rim. Though seemingly everyone missed a point blank attempt or two, Darren Collison’s three first half bricks at the rim stick out more than anything else.
  • Aaron McGuire over at Gothic Ginobli pegged this proclivity better than anyone else about a month ago: “He can get to the rim relatively easily, and he can get an open shot there without going through too much trouble. Having speed is useful that way. The problem — and the thing that differentiates him from other NBA speedsters like Tony Parker or Ty Lawson — is that he’s simply so bad at finishing (regardless of the duress he’s under) that his speed advantage impacts his game marginally at best and uselessly at worst. And, as stated, he balks at running a traditional set-play offense — he regularly dribbles himself into oblivion, ending the play far away from the screen that’s been set for him.”
  • This is the second national TV game in a row where O.J. Mayo (eight points, 3-for-14 shooting) has failed to live up to his newly acquired reputation. In Boston, he turned the ball over a season high nine times but was able to put up points, whereas tonight he failed to make a positive contribution to the game and in most circumstances hurt the team more than he helped it. The Heat successfully blitzed Mayo on all high pick and rolls, making him slow just a bit and clogging the Dallas offense. Mayo clearly became frustrated offensively as he began forcing shots, most of which were not even close. Later in the game he was able to have some success attacking the bucket, but it seemed his earlier mistakes were on his mind as he often made strange passing attempts or shot the ball minus the typical Mayo confidence we’ve become accustomed to.
  • The offensive struggle from Mayo is something that will happen from time to time; he’s clearly still learning and developing. It’s the defensive aspect to Mayo’s performance tonight that was really maddening. While no one can expect him to do much against Lebron James after a switch other than hope he miss and box out, Mayo got abused repeatedly by Dwyane Wade. Mayo bit on pump fakes from Wade three or four times in the third quarter alone, a few of which were from beyond the arc. He let Wade take an defensive rebound from him for a put back. Mayo must have more focus on the defensive end if he hopes to be a leader of the Dallas Mavericks.
  • To pick on Mayo alone wouldn’t be fair; at halftime Mayo, Chris Kaman, and Vince Carter were shooting a combined 15%. Kaman in particular was dreadful, with eight points and two rebounds, while also managing a team worst -27 while on the floor. I’m not sure who is more to blame here, Kaman for his incredibly poor shot selection or Carlisle for continuing to play him when the speed of the game was much higher than Kaman could deal with. I fully expected Kaman to attempt to establish himself on the block at some point and he settled for either a jump shot or fade away on most of his attempts. Really poor effort on his part.
  • Dallas has now lost eight games by double digits. Dallas has lost seven of those games by 15 or more points.
  • A brief rally from Dallas in the second quarter came from possibily the most unlikely five man group in Texas. Dominique Jones, Roddy Beaubois, Jae Crowder, Vince Carter, and Bernard James played with enthusiasm and, more importantly, effectiveness. Two second round rookies, a pair of end-of-bench role players, and Vince Carter nearly stole the momentum from the defending world champions.
  • The best Maverick, far and away, was Bernard “Sarge” James, putting up 12 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. Five of his rebounds were offensive as he relentlessly went after the physically weaker Miami big men. He rolls to the basket much better than he did earlier in the season and catches the ball very, very well. But defensively he has established himself as a true specialist. A second quarter block of Battier that lead to a Dominique Jones lay in displayed some unique timing. The TNT crew realized later in the game that James plays similarly to Joel Anthony, which is a reasonable comparison. James will probably never be a starter, but has played well virtually every time he has been given minutes.
  • Dominique Jones had a career high in assists with seven, five of them coming in the first half. Miami managed to close down a lot of the lanes he used in the first half, both passing and penetration. Still, nice to see him be effective, though I cringe when he shoots or tries a driving  lay in because he simply cannot finish with consistency.
  • Lebron James (24 points, nine rebounds, five assists) was brilliant in every facet of the game. His 13 first quarter points on 6-of-7 shooting made the game look unfair. Compared to the 2011 finals, James seems comfortable and confident doing whatever he wants with the ball. Defensively he’s a nightmare, covering ground laterally at a speed that defies common understanding.
  • Along that same vein, Miami is playing ideal position-less basketball. The main cog is James, but watching Wade, Bosh, and guys like Chalmers, Battier, Haslem, and Anthony, the Heat can guard any line up. Offensively they have different players like Mike Miller and Ray Allen who exploit the opportunities presented to Miami by simply knocking down open shots.
  • It’s disappointing Brandan Wright was injured tonight with a sprained ankle. Seeing him in a fast paced game where defensive help was a necessity could have made the game more interesting. Miami doesn’t expend energy crashing the offensive glass that often, so Wright’s main issue would have been hidden. But there’s always next game as Dallas plays Miami again in less than two weeks.
  • Seeing who Dirk nudges out of the rotation will be worth watching. Obviously, it’s great that he’ll be back soon, but with none of the Maverick big men playing well consistently (or in the cases of Wright and James, not seeing minutes consistently), who Carlisle opts to go with will be worth analyzing. The theory was Dirk and Kaman would see action together, with Brand being the main release valve. But with Kaman rebounding so poorly it’s hard to see that pair working out well for any significant stretch.
  • When looking at win loss records and including tonight’s game, the Mavs play the league’s 4th best team (Miami), 5th best team (Memphis), 6th best team (San Antonio) and the league’s best team (Oklahoma City) in a seven day span. That’s followed up by a match up versus the underwhelming but very talented Denver Nuggets, another game against the Spurs, a trip to the nations capitol, and then another meeting with the Miami Heat. Easily the most brutal stretch of games in the entire Dallas schedule.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

Setting the Table: Miami Heat (Game 26)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on December 20, 2012 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

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The challenges now begin to really ramp up as the Dallas Mavericks (12-13) host the defending champions, the Miami Heat (16-6). Starting with the Heat, the next six teams on the Mavericks’ schedule having winning records. Dallas is looking to continue their success against the Eastern Conference. With the victory over the Sixers at American Airlines Center on 12/18, the Mavericks improved to 6-0 against Eastern Conference teams at home.

The Mavericks will come into the game against the Heat somewhat short-handed. News came  on 12/19 that Brandan Wright sprained his right ankle late in Tuesday’s win over the 76ers. Both Wright and Elton Brand (strained right groin) will be game-time decisions against Miami. Derek Fisher (strained patellar tendon) is likely going to be out for the game. The team is still awaiting results of the MRI Fisher had on 12/19.

Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Heat.

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Oppenheimer’s Deadly Toy

Posted by Shay Christian Vance on November 16, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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LeBron James had become death, the Shatterer of Worlds. If July 8th, 2010 was the date that the bomb dropped, the NBA’s Manhattan Project had started long before. It has been said that while all three of Miami’s Superfriends were affable since their arrival in the 2003 draft class, it was the 2008 Olympics where their cabal was created and real plans forged. All of them passed on full contract extensions, went into free agency where any team could have them for the right price, but ended up with Pat Riley, who just happenstancely had decided to rebuild in the middle of Dwayne Wade’s prime and had the money to pay all three available. Jeff Van Gundy prophesied they’d win more than 72 games and the era of player-created teams began.

Mere days after the Decision, Carmelo Anthony’s wedding brought together many of basketball’s young superstars. It was there that Chris Paul declared to form his own “Big Three,” supposedly referring to Amare’ Stoudemire, Carmelo, and himself. For all those that had foreseen apocalypse in The Decision, it was now undeniable: the end was nigh. Small markets and less desirable locales would be destroyed by pillars of fire, prayers went up that Michael, Larry and Magic would be raptured before having to see a future where would-be rivals were teammates. These upstarts would rule the Earth soon enough, friendship and collusion would hold the basketball world in an iron grip. And the next shoe did drop shortly behind the first: Amar’e signed with New York in the off-season with Carmelo following in a mid-season trade.

Not all that was foreseen came to pass. Miami failed to live up to its immediate expectations and there was talk of Spoelestra being fired (not that anyone would be silly enough to fire a coach shortly after adding two star players…). The Heat lost in the Finals their first season after adding James and Bosh. As quickly as it had been declared they would set a new record of wins, their loss in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks brought about declarations that LeBron would never win a championship.

Praise was heaped on the Mavericks from every direction as all those who had foretold the demise of their beloved sport instead were reassured in the success of the previous status quo. The Mavericks won their sole championship on the back of a slow build through draft, trade and free agency, and the continuation of the trusted method of paying the luxury tax to win. Dallas had provided a reprieve with which to review how the NBA’s greatest teams of 2011 had been formed: OKC’s drafted nucleus, Dallas’ free agent and trade, Miami’s player-as-GM foray. One team was noticeably absent.

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Hushed

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 22, 2012 under Video | 2 Comments to Read

Video via ESPN.

I reckon it’s a good day to be a Mavs fan. Mark Cuban stopped by First Take to vent a bit about bland, diluted media coverage, and boy did he show out well. I’ll let netw3rk — one of Twitter’s few essential follows — play Skip Bayless off:

The Difference: Miami Heat 106, Dallas Mavericks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 30, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas93.091.448.116.715.415.2
Miami114.051.933.832.412.4

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 margin of this game exploded in a hurry; Dallas trailed by just seven points with about four and a half minutes remaining, but a combination of Miami’s starters and deep reserves finished the night on a 16-2 run. This loss — the second “blowout” by the hand of the Heat this season — certainly looks bad on face, the final verdict and sheer number of bullets in this post are incredibly misleading. The Mavs certainly had their second-half difficulties, but their late-game petering isn’t of monumental concern. They’ll be healthier, they’ll play better, and most importantly, they’ll largely keep these kinds of winnable games within reach. The fact that something not at all dissimilar happened at the tail end of the Mavs’ loss to the Spurs last week does offer the slightest reason for pause, but there’s no reason to believe that Dallas’ latest fourth-quarter troubles are suggestive of any legitimate trend.
  • Odd though it may seem, this still appears to be a specific matchup that the Mavericks are capable of winning — even if they would be considered extreme underdogs in a single-game event or a presumptuously hypothetical seven-game series. I highly doubt that we’ll have to weigh Dallas’ playoff odds against any Eastern Conference opponents this season, but it’s easy to see this game going very differently if only for a stronger second half from Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, three assist, three turnovers). It’s certainly not a good sign that the Mavs are struggling so much on the offensive end, but so long as we’re basking in hypotheticals, I don’t think the on-paper Mavericks would necessarily be doomed.
  • Miami won this game by plugging away; their second half possessions were interwoven sequences of driving and passing from every angle imaginable, pressuring the defense repeatedly until it gave way at a particularly vulnerable point. LeBron James (19 points, 8-16 FG, nine rebounds, five assists) and Dwyane Wade (16 points, 5-11 FG, five assists, three rebounds) deserve a lot of credit for their refusal to settle, and the entire offense followed the lead of their shot creation. Those who somehow doubt Miami’s half-court potency need only to watch tape from this game; James and Wade were creating shots in a consistent stream, and Dallas’ defense was stretched to its limits.

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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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The Difference: Miami Heat 105, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 25, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas100.094.043.328.018.217.0
Miami105.051.332.139.522.0

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

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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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