Grit and Grind

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 15, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read


I could easily be throwing dirt over Oklahoma City’s coffin way too soon, but history suggests they’re set up for evitable doom as they now the Memphis Grizzlies 3-1. Teams that have been in Oklahoma City’s spot are only 2-32 in their previous series, 1-8 in the conference semifinals. Looking at the potential opponents for Memphis, Golden State and San Antonio, you still have to lean towards Memphis as being the favorites. Would the league be thrilled to see Memphis in the Finals? Probably not, but that’s not the point.

The Memphis Grizzlies being favorites to make a trip the NBA Finals? That’s crazy talk. Yes, a Russell Westbrook injury certainly changed the equation in the Western Conference, but Memphis isn’t necessarily taking advantage of the situation. It’s just a case where Oklahoma City has been exposed as a team that actually needs Westbrook and that they more guys who would be willing to give half the effort or production that Kevin Durant is giving in this series.

Back to the point, Memphis looks primed to make a serious run. It’s not a popular opinion, but I have enjoyed watching them play. Prior to matchups against Memphis, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has always mentioned that the Grizzlies play a “playoff style of basketball.” How does Dallas, or the rest of the league, look at this and do they adapt?

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, Memphis Grizzlies 85

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 4, 2012 under Recaps, xOther | 11 Comments to Read

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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 difficult to predict which Mavericks’ team will show up on any given night this season. The vacillation between an encouraging 2011-2012 Mavericks’ win and poorly played loss is both significant and frequent. Tonight’s game fell in the former category, as the Mavericks played arguably one of their most complete games of the season. No Maverick player’s performance stood out as particularly fantastic, but almost every player provided what was needed, and assumed their role to the fullest. Dirk Nowitzki (10-18 FG, 23 points, 10 rebounds) was in fine form from the onset, Shawn Marion (7-11 FG, 16 points, seven rebounds) scored and defended Rudy Gay (4-12 FG, eight points) with typical ease, and Jason Terry (6-14 FG, 15 points) gave the Mavericks a much needed scoring spark during times of stagnant offensive movement. The Mavericks’ defense gave the team the boost it has all season, frustrating both Marc Gasol (3-13 FG, 10 points) and Zach Randolph (2-6 FG, four points) to no end, but the difference in this game came when the Mavericks finally found an offensive rhythm late in the second and fourth quarters.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (3-7 FG, 8 points, five assists) had a nice little bounce-back game, if an unspectacular one. Rick Carlisle called on Beaubois to finish out the fourth quarter after a strong stretch of play, and Beaubois met the challenge. Carlisle’s decision to keep Beaubois in the game late is further evidence of Carlisle’s trust in Beaubois and situational rotations, as Delonte West (6-7 FG, 14 points, two assists) had scored efficiently during his time on the court. Beaubois was hustling terrifically, passing well, and giving Mike Conley quite a bit trouble defensively, and the result was a sustained Mavericks’ run in the closing minutes.
  • Marc Gasol (seven assists) had quite the no-look pass at the top of the key to a cutting teammate. I don’t remember who scored the basket, but I do remember thinking, “Cool pass, Marc Gasol. Cool pass.”
  • Ian Mahinmi’s ten rebounds in 24 minutes were absolutely essential to the win. When Mahinmi checked into the game, the Grizzlies second-chance opportunities almost immediately lessened.
  • The Grizzlies scored only 34 points in the second half, a poor offensive showing that the efforts of Mahinmi, Beaubois, and Marion were largely responsible for producing.
  • Tony Allen was a defensive stalwart in the first half, as he frequently is, and made perimeter ball movement difficult for the Mavericks. Late in the game, Lionel Hollins was faced with making a difficult choice between O.J. Mayo (6-10 FG, 17 points), who was having an excellent offensive night, and Allen, whose defense was paramount to the Grizzlies’ early success. Mayo earned the majority of late minutes, and while he can hardly be blamed for the loss, it’s interesting to ponder how the game would have gone if Allen had remained on the court. (Update: As pointed out in the comments, Tony Allen left the game with a lip injury in the fourth quarter.)
  • The Mavericks’ center rotation continues to vary from game to game, as Brendan Haywood (2-4 FG, five points, five rebounds) and Ian Mahinmi earned almost the entirety of minutes. (Brandan Wright did check into the game for two minutes.) It appears fit and matchup will determine who is more likely to get minutes between Wright and Mahinmi going forward. Considering both players are quality backup centers, it’s a nice luxury for the Mavericks to have.
  • Beaubois had one of the best saves I’ve seen this season, as he vaulted towards the scoring table late in the fourth quarter and threw the ball back to a waiting Jason Terry. The highlight only vaunted in quality after the play finished with a Shawn Marion dunk.
  • The Mavericks shot 50% from the field for the game, but only 26.7% from three. Given how rare it is that the Mavericks will shoot at such a high percentage without a barrage of threes falling, the numerous looks for the Mavericks’ at-the-rim and in the paint (especially in the fourth quarter) only add to the encouraging signs that can be taken from this game.
  • Shawn Marion dribbling the ball up the court is always an adventure, isn’t it?

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.

Dallas Mavericks 106, Memphis Grizzlies 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 11, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

The average Mavericks game could be rewritten as a labor of Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk has the distinction of being the franchise’s one true constant, which has burdened him with an unfortunate weight: in the past, Dallas could only go as far as Nowitzki was able to take them. Other players chipped in when they could, but none — even a certain messianic French combo guard — proved to be the steady hand by which Nowitzki and the Mavs could depend. As a result, victories often came as a function of Nowitzki’s scoring alone. If he could put up enough points to counterbalance his teammates’ struggles and the Mavs’ spotty defense, Dallas notched a win. If not, then getting out with a W became a bit tricky.

This was not an average Mavericks game, and, if the first seven contests are any indication, this may not be an average Mavericks season. There’s still entirely too much basketball to be played for any team to make any kind of statement with their play, but Dallas is proving that they may be an interesting team, even if no one should be ready to label them a contending one.

The Grizzlies are in no way a golden barometer, but the fact that the Mavs put away this game so easily should offer some reassurance. Quality of opponent is obviously important, but Dallas’ execution, regardless of who the schedule put in front of them on this particular night, is paramount. Last night, the Mavericks were without Caron Butler, and thanks to a minor ankle sprain, were temporarily without Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Terry (25 points, 11-16 FG, four assists, three steals) didn’t blink, and I’m not sure he has all season. Every curl JET made was rewarded with a perfect pass, and Terry finished almost every opportunity with a smooth jumper, for the sake of aesthetic consistency if nothing else. From start to finish the Mavs’ offensive sequences were fluid and effective. Dallas totaled 30 assists — including 12 from Jason Kidd — on 46 field goals, and little more could be asked of the Mavs’ non-Dirk offense.

Shawn Marion’s night actually looked a bit reminiscent of his pre-Nash Phoenix days. Marion worked toward the front of the rim both as a driver and slasher, and he spun his way into layups and runners galore. He doesn’t have the softest touch, but Marion (20 points, 10-15 FG, seven rebounds, two blocks) worked hard to get good looks at close range and capitalized at a fairly high rate. Marion’s movements won’t soon be listed as textbook examples of athletic fluidity, but there’s a definite flow to his game when he gets into one of these zones. Shawn’s offense can turn stagnant when he relies too heavily on that fading hook shot, but his intermediate game is strong enough to work as a regularly featured element of the offense.

There should also be little question that as of today, DeShawn Stevenson (11 points, 3-5 3FG, four rebounds) deserves to be a starter. Dominique Jones’ potential combination of scoring (or at least what should be scoring, if he can figure out how to make his layups) and playmaking is intriguing, but Stevenson offers a more immediate utility. Playing Jones major minutes would require a patience that’s not necessary with Stevenson. DeShawn has made 5-of-10 from deep in his last two games, which lifts him from the “offensive liability” category. The Mavs now have their wing defender/designated corner man, and though it’s conceivable Stevenson could be marginalized upon Rodrigue Beaubois’ return from injury, for now he’s a welcome addition to the lineup.

Dallas didn’t win the game on the strength of their offense alone, though. Tyson Chandler (11 points, eight rebounds, one block) and Brendan Haywood (six points, eight rebounds, one block) did a superb job of protecting the basket. Memphis shot just 59.1% on their attempts around the basket. The league average on such shots is 61.2%, and yet Dallas was able to best that mark despite giving up some free layups to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. With such strength inside, the Mavs were able to defend well in both man-to-man and zone coverages. The perimeter rotations weren’t always as crisp as they could be, but overall, it was a nice defensive outing.

The zone, in particular, seemed to really bog down the Grizzlies’ movement in the second half. Memphis had a hard time exploiting any of the zone’s weaknesses, and attempted several cross-court passes that were easily deflected or picked off. The Mavs need to be confident enough in their man defense to rely on it full-time with the zone used as a complement. Dallas has been using Jason Terry and J.J. Barea on the floor a bit together in the past two games, which leaves the Mavs a bit undersized up front. It’s no coincidence that Dallas zoned up with that lineup. Terry and Barea are easily taken advantage of if asked to defend a bigger player on the way to the rim or if consistently put in pick-and-roll situations. The easiest way to counter both is to remove them as options. A combination of JET and J.J. doesn’t make for a terrifying zone front, but it could be the most practical way to hide Barea defensively.

Rick Carlisle is figuring these things out. The Mavs are getting the ball where it needs to go (in sets and otherwise), and they’re tweaking their defense to better account for their own personnel and their opponents’ production. It’s an on-going process, but you have to appreciate where the Mavs seem to be headed.

With the defense clicking, Jason Terry shooting the lights out, Jason Kidd running the offense adroitly, and Tyson Chandler making a considerable impact on both ends, the Mavericks are looking more and more like a team they were never supposed to be. There’s no point in lauding the team too much today, but Dallas’ success this far has been no fluke. These are replicable efforts, the Mavs just have to, y’know, replicate them.

Closing thoughts:

  • For a night, the Mavericks’ turnover woes vanished. Dallas had just a 11.1 turnover rate, which brought their TOR for the season down to 16.1. Dallas had five turnovers through three quarters, and committed the majority of their other five turnovers while coasting out the game behind a double-digit lead.
  • Something a bit odd: Tyson Chandler, a career .603 free throw shooter, is currently leading the Mavs in free throw percentage (.909). He’s also third on the team in free throws attempted (22, or 3.1 per game), so there’s no foul play with the sample size.
  • Dallas can in no way take complete credit for this victory. The Grizzlies played some pretty miserable defense and their inability to defend the paint was startling. Not that O.J. Mayo (four points, 1-8 FG, three assists, two turnovers), Marc Gasol (10 points, five rebounds) and company didn’t fall apart offensively, too. Not the finest showing for the Grizz.
  • Dirk’s ankle sprain isn’t a cause for too much concern, but he did look a bit hesitant to go into the low post after returning in the second half. Can’t blame him.
  • Brian Cardinal played, and I’m not sure why. Nowitzki’s injury opened up some available minutes at power forward, but honestly I’d rather see a game of Ian Mahinmi — who played some decent defense in his four-minute stint — than Cardinal. Mahinmi is at least a plus rebounder, but Cardinal has been ineffective for nearly every minute he’s been in a Maverick uniform.
  • This was undoubtedly Brendan Haywood’s best game of the season, and yet he still put up some disappointing statistical totals. Still, his offensive activity was notable, and he was fighting hard for rebounds. Carlisle will take that, especially with Tyson Chandler playing well enough to account for the top of the center rotation.
  • J.J. Barea (10 points, seven assists, five rebounds, one turnover) was vital. He was terrific. He was everything that anyone that watches or runs this team could reasonably expect him to be. Barea has nights where he tries to force his own offense or becomes a defensive liability, but in yesterday’s game he was neither. He did an excellent job of setting up the half-court offense along with Jason Terry, and he ran the break well as both a distributor and a finisher.
  • The Mavs don’t typically get to the rim with such regularity, and that aspect of the game won’t necessarily carry over into Dallas’ future efforts. However, the discipline that the Mavs showed in their half-court offense was impressive nonetheless. There doesn’t need to be some kind of offensive revolution for this team to be successful. They just have to be a little better. Marion and Terry need to continue to make smart cuts. Nowitzki should keep looking for backdoor opportunities. Chandler should look for lob openings every chance he gets. A subtle offensive improvement coupled with a legitimate defensive stride could be all Dallas needs to really force their way into legitimate standing.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: Jason Terry. JET was asked to carry the offense when Nowitzki went down at the 3:31 mark of the second quarter, and he responded by scoring seven of the Mavs’ nine points in the frame. Dallas will continue to search for stability in their supplementary scoring, but I’m more and more convinced that such a search should conclude with JET being given even more offensive responsibility. Caron Butler may still be an interesting piece, but his scoring approach pales in comparison to Terry’s far more efficient style.

Memphis Grizzlies 91, Dallas Mavericks 90: Abridged

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 30, 2010 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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We know how bad we feel. We know they feel the same way.
-Craig MacTavish

Ed. note: For those of you who are new ’round these parts, here’s how this dance goes: every “weekday” (meaning Sunday-Thursday) game gets the full recap treatment, while “weekend” (you guessed it, Friday-Saturday) games are broken down in easily digestible bullet form.

  • This won’t be the worst loss of the season, but it’s still a pretty bad one. Losing to Memphis is one thing; the Grizz are a pretty decent team, even if the Mavs are a better one. Losing to them without Zach Randolph is another; Zeebo is an integral part of Memphis’ attack, and a primary source of both scoring and rebounding. Losing to them without Randolph on a blown box-out and two subsequent horrible inbound attempts…well, that’ll put a damper on your weekend.
  • Though the Mavs managed to lose this one in spectacular fashion via Tyson Chandler’s lack of a box-out/foul and Jason Kidd’s back-to-back poor inbound passes, their second half defense wasn’t victory-worthy. The effort on the defensive glass was poor all night (a fact exploited by Gasol, who had six offensive rebounds including a game-clinching one) but Dallas’ perimeter defense was consistently weak as well. Chandler and Brendan Haywood did a good job of contesting attempts around the rim when in position, but they weren’t always in a place to challenge shots. Part of that is a flaw in the Mavs’ scheme and execution, but the blame lies more with Kidd, Jason Terry, and Caron Butler than with the Maverick bigs.
  • Turnovers were a problem. The Mavs lost the turnover battle on a per-possession and by raw total, with Kidd (five giveaways) as the primary culprit. That said, the Mavs as a whole made an inspired team effort to turn the ball over as frequently as possible, with Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, and J.J. Barea all chipping in two turnovers of their own. A 19.8 turnover rate isn’t awful in the grand scheme of things, but for a team that relies so heavily on their ball protection? It’s fairly damaging.
  • Jason Kidd isn’t shy about being a three-point shooter. He’s ready to fire while spotting-up, in a high screen-and-roll, off the dribble, off the catch, etc. He took seven three-point attempts last night, and while that’s not necessarily too many considering Kidd’s sterling shooting percentage from distance and his lack of other scoring, it’s a notable difference from Kidd’s mentality this season. He seems ready to contribute more in terms of scoring this season, and while that isn’t paying dividends just yet, it could pay off down the line.
  • Dominique Jones again got some early burn, making his first appearance late in the first quarter. Jones only had one point (off of a split trip to the line), but he grabbed a pair of assists by setting up Kidd for a spot-up three and Marion for a runner on the baseline. If it’s not abundantly clear by now, I’m a fan of Jones’ instincts. He isn’t forcing things even though his opportunities have been limited, and that discretion is invaluable for a rookie looking to earn playing time under Rick Carlisle.
  • Dallas again started the game hot, only to surrender that lead later in the first quarter. Honestly, I think the angle concerned with how the Mavs start games is a bit overplayed. One team usually starts out looking better than the other. The previously struggling team eventually makes a run. Both teams exchange runs throughout. One team wins. It’s cool when Dallas runs out to a 16-0 lead as they did in their season opener against Charlotte, but ultimately, that run is no more influential than the subsequent runs at other points in time throughout the game.
  • Caron Butler isn’t a very good finisher around the rim. He had a nice and-one layup in this one, but also a blown attempt at the rim or two. Butler’s shooting percentage at the basket last season was a bit low, and I hoped it was attributable to being in a bit of a funk. That may not be so.
  • Jason Terry’s defense has been hit and miss, but he’s doing a good job of looking for his teammates, particularly when Kidd is on the bench. It’s nice to have two creators out there when Barea is running the point, and passing has long been one of Terry’s more underrated additions to Mavs teams in recent years. He’s primarily a scorer. That doesn’t make him only a scorer.
  • Fouling is Tyson Chandler’s religion.
  • Nowitzki was, again, pretty phenomenal. He finished with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting along with seven boards. Beautiful, beautiful efficiency. Also: the man still loves his that trailing three on the break.
  • The opener against the Bobcats was brilliant, but it’s clear that the Mavericks are far from a finished product. These games happen. They bring up a few questions, but shouldn’t necessarily shake your confidence in how good of a team the Mavs can be. They’re not there now and they may never be, but Dallas has the potential to be a pretty solid squad.

Dallas Mavericks 106, Memphis Grizzlies 102

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 1, 2010 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images.

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Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.
-Orison Swett Marden

The debate over the importance of point differential is essentially a debate over the the value of winning close games. On one extreme is the camp that operates under the assumption that close victories are games of skill; better teams execute at a higher level than others, and ultimately it’s a combination of that execution and overall talent that decides who wins games, no matter the margin. The group firmly entrenched on the other side of the dividing line insists that close games are a product of chance; there are so many variables from opening tip to the final buzzer that a slim margin of victory proves little more than which way the ball tended to bounce.

Somewhere in the middle lies the truth, and we saw both the power of skill and the power of chance at work in the Mavs’ improbable victory over the Grizzlies on Wednesday.

Dirk Nowitzki (28 points, 9-23 FG, five rebounds, six assists) made just three of his first 15 shots, a big reason why Dallas trailed for a majority of last night’s game. It wasn’t to last, though. Dirk is one of the best clutch performers in the game, and when he smelled blood in the water in the fourth quarter, his instincts kicked in. He chipped in 19 points in the fourth quarter and overtime on 6-of-8 shooting, digging himself and the Mavs out of a slump just in time to save the day and grab the win. The 50th win, which as you may have heard, is kind of a big deal.

Dirk doesn’t get a chance to play hero without being given that opportunity, though. If Mike Conley doesn’t leave three points at the free throw line, maybe Memphis never has an opportunity to completely botch their final play of regulation. If Zach Randolph doesn’t come up just short on one of his trips in the lane, we’re looking at a verdict in just 48 minutes. If Marc Gasol doesn’t leave the game early with a shoulder injury, I’m probably writing a much more solemn piece this morning.

Likewise, if the Mavs don’t hit the offensive boards hard in the first quarter while firing blanks, maybe they never have a shot at pulling a win out of nowhere. Part of those rebounds is chance, but just as important is the Mavs’ consistent effort on the glass. Memphis actually leads the league in rebounding rate, but Dallas outpaced them on the boards until late in the game. If we’re preaching the “every play counts” mantra, the Mavs’ performance on the boards — even if they ended up a few shy of the Grizzlies’ total — certainly qualifies as a game-altering play.

Brendan Haywood gets called for a questionable foul call, Dirk hits an incredible fadeaway jumper from the baseline. The ball goes through Erick Dampier’s hands, Jason Terry connects on an impressive pull-up jumper. DeMarre Carroll goes 0-for-2 at the free throw line, Jason Kidd hounds O.J. Mayo into an impossible shot attempt. A team can do so much to help its cause in games such as this, but even the fine works of hardwood greats need the added benefit of a little luck. Sometimes it’s the baseline referee seeing (or not seeing) enough contact to make a call, and sometimes it’s a Rudy Gay three-pointer being off by a matter of centimeters.

For that reason, winning like this on a regular season Wednesday night doesn’t mean all that much. Winning like this on a regular season Wednesday night after proving all season long that late-game execution is a Maverick trademark means a great deal. It’s still troubling that Dallas isn’t capable of dismissing inferior opponents in more dominating fashion. That would be nice to see, but the success the Mavs have had in rallying back from deficits late in games this season has evolved beyond mere happenstance. This isn’t a quaint trend, but the way this team operates. When it comes down to winning time, the Mavs get it done. Some of their success is derived from luck, and it would be foolish to debate that, but I refuse to accept the idea that the late-game execution we’ve seen from the Mavs this season is anything less than a basketball truth.

It obviously doesn’t come into effect every night, and on numerous occasions this season the Mavs have surrendered insurmountable leads to their opponents, likely by keeping their own impressive comeback track record in mind. There’s no problem with Dallas having the ability to come from behind, but knowing that they have that ability…aye, there’s the rub. Dallas will surrender early leads to opponents (not that they did in this one) knowing that they’ve lived through similar circumstances before. Sometimes they come back just like they probably think they will, and other times it bites them in the ass.

This time it didn’t, and bringing up that scenario at all isn’t exactly fair. The Mavs were working on defense and working to get good shots offensively, it just wasn’t their day. Dirk was ice cold, Shawn Marion (one points, 0-6 FG, four rebounds, two turnovers) couldn’t hit anything, the entire team had their fingers sufficiently buttered (18 turnovers for the night, 13 in the first half), and the only reason the Mavs were able to hang in this game at all was due to a series of well-timed runs to keep themselves within striking distance.

Most of the credit for those runs goes to Jason Terry (29 points, six assists, four steals, three turnovers), also known as The Only Maverick Who Could Score For the First Three Quarters. I know JET is known around these parts as a great fourth quarter performer, and he is. Last night, he had just two points on 0-for-5 shooting in the fourth (with an additional four points in overtime to be fair). I don’t say this to point and laugh at Terry or even to point out some flaw, but to indicate just how important his 29 points were or more specifically, the 23 of them that came in the game’s first three quarters.

Most of the credit for those three quarters goes to O.J. Mayo (27 points, 10-16 FG, five rebounds), Zach Randolph (24 points, 8-21 FG, 12 rebounds), and Mike Conley (25 points, six rebounds, five assists, no turnovers). Mayo’s shooting stroke looked damn good, and he was a one-man offense in the third (in terms of his production, not any implied selfishness) when the rest of the Grizz started cooling off a bit. No performance should impress more than Conley’s though, who looked surprisingly dominant against the Mavs guards and actually made layups. If you’ve watched much of Memphis this season, you know how much of a minor miracle that is. Randolph simply did what he does, although Brendan Haywood did a nice job of making Zach’s life difficult. Not every jumper was heavily contested and not every shot from deep in the paint completely smothered, but Haywood did a decent job on a tough cover.

And even though Shawn Marion didn’t have one of his better offensive nights (did he have an offensive night at all?), he did force Rudy Gay (11 points, 5-18 FG, eight rebounds, four turnovers) into some difficult looks. That said, it wasn’t all Shawn; Rudy had plenty of opportunities to hit open jumpers but just couldn’t convert, which you can chalk up to Marion “knocking him off his game” or Gay just having a rough night. Anyone’s guess is as good as mine. All we know is that Gay had plenty of chances to hit but didn’t, and some of that is because of Marion.

That’s really the story of the night. The Grizzlies had plenty of chances to win this game but didn’t, and some of that is because of the Mavericks. Some of that is solid fundamental defense, good rotations, and solid rebounding. Some of it is Memphis giving the Mavs the opportunity to come back, which is both an indictment of their finishing ability and some bad breaks. Having success in the playoffs is going to take a similar mix of skill and luck, and though the latter is as frustrating as it is uncontrollable, the former happens to be a Maverick strength.

Closing thoughts to come.

Dallas Mavericks 106, Memphis Grizzlies 101: Abridged

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 26, 2009 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.

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Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.
-Alex Noble

*A quick programming note. From now on, the four factors values will be precise, empirical calculations rather than estimations. The calculated values are courtesy of‘s more detailed box scores, which will also be linked (when available) as the game box score.

  • While this afternoon’s game was night a contest of great statistical achievement on the defensive end (the Mavs’ defensive efficiency on the night was 11.4 points/100 possessions lower than their season average), something must be said about the Mavs’ ability to limit Zach Randolph after his early domination. A tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is not one that’s easy to counter, due to their high/low post interchangeability and the combination of strength and touch. Both players can show a little range and can certainly get things done on the low block, and though Gasol had merely a productive first half, Randolph was off the charts. Zeebo had 19 points in the first quarter and five early in the second, but over the game’s final 33:40, Randolph managed to score just six points. While it only slowed the Grizzlies enough for the Mavs to scrape out a lead, it took away Memphis’ most dominant offensive weapon at the time. That kind of thing completely changes the flow of the game, and the nine point deficit at the time was reversed into a five point positive margin.
  • Shawn Marion (10 points, seven rebounds) bounced back from his worst game of the season by playing a very productive 25 minutes. That said, his minutes didn’t necessarily come easy, as Rudy Gay (22 points on 22 shots, 10 rebounds) simply could not be denied. Marion had good defensive positioning time and time again, made a little contact to push Gay away from his shot of choice, and yet Rudy would lean or elevate before finishing possession after possession with a make. What’s a bit odd is that Marion left the game with 3:27 left in the third quarter and never returned, despite throwing down a pair of dunks and creating extra possessions with his hustle.
  • A lot of the Mavs’ early defensive sequences ended tragically: Dallas would play 10-20 seconds of pretty incredible defense (nice on-ball pressure, ball denial, perfect rotations) before one of the Grizz would force up a shot, only to see Gasol, Gay, or Randolph pull in an offensive rebound for a clear bucket or a fresh shot clock. Considering that the starting lineup features four solid to great rebounders by position, that’s not a result I would expect on a regular basis. Still, this isn’t the first time the Mavs have been shown up on the boards (the final margin was 49-40 in favor of Memphis, who also won the offensive rebounding battle 20-10), and while I’m not quite ready to call it a recurring problem, it’s something to keep under your pillow.
  • Drew Gooden missed the game with back spasms, and as a result, Dirk saw some minutes at center and Kris Humphries was pulled out from beneath the couch. Hump can be such a positive force for this team, but the man is simply the master of the anticlimactic possession. I appreciate his efforts on the boards, but it’s a bit disheartening to watch all of his work end in a blown layup attempt. Keep doing what you do, Hump, but hopefully next time you’ll be doing what you do just a little bit better.
  • The Mavs looked completely incapable of defending the rim without Erick Dampier in the game. I don’t know if it’s primarily a shift in coverages or just a perceived shift on part of the opposition, but Rudy Gay danced down the lane for slams whenever Damp took a breather on the bench.
  • Promising offensive nights from both Jason Terry (23 points, 7-18 FG, five assists) and Josh Howard (11 points, 4-6 FG). JET took every touch as a personal invitation to attack the rim, and Terry and the Mavs reaped the benefits later as a more confident JET made plays of consequence. In addition, Jason looked to expand his on-court contributions beyond the points column, and his playmaking in the two man game or after penetration opened up new wrinkles of the Maverick offense. All of a sudden Shawn Marion was wide open and in position to score, and Dirk Nowitzki was left all alone at the top of the key or out on the wing. Josh’s totals don’t demand your attention, but his 25 minutes were an exercise in minimalism. He didn’t over-dribble, he didn’t hold the ball too long, and he didn’t think too much after receiving the ball. Howard looked completely in the flow of the game without feeling the need to dominate the ball, and while the Mavs should certainly expect more raw production out of Howard, they can still appreciate his discretion.
  • The Mavs shot and scored at a terrific rate, but they simply did not get to the free throw line. Excluding six late FTAs during the game’s final moments, the Mavs attempted just 14 free throws on the game, less than half of the Grizzlies’ 29. That said, it’s not safe to assume that the discrepancy is attributable to the Mavs’ shot selection; against the Grizz, the Mavs shot 22 attempts at the rim (with 15 makes), which is comparable to their season average of 24.6 attempts (with 14.7 makes).
  • The Mavericks took care of the ball. 9.9 is a pretty ridiculous turnover rate (As a reminder, TOR is equal to the percentage of a team’s possessions that end in a turnover. Atlanta is the most careful team in the league, and their average is 20.3.), and it’s a testament to the Mavs’ efficient offense that they were able to finish with such a number in spite of Dirk’s abnormal four turnovers.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 10-16 FG, four rebounds, three assists) was as wonderful as you’d expect, even if he was a bit more turnover-prone than usual. But for those of you looking for a storyline, this game wasn’t about what Dirk did, but what he didn’t have to do. Seven Mavericks scored in double figures, and Dirk didn’t score a point over the game’s final 15 minutes. Terry, Howard, and company were ready and willing to take over, and they closed the game beautifully.
  • Only two teams in the Western Conference have yet to lose ten games. One of them is Los Angeles (23-5), reigning champions and resident “team-to-beat.” The other is Dallas (21-9).

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