Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FT/FG ORB% TOR
Dallas 87.0 105.7 49.3 34.8 10.3 10.3
New Orleans 106.9 46.2 26.9 25.0 9.2
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin, only this time that margin is only one point, and the one corresponding bullet is really just a multi-paragraph bit that sticks to one basic theme.
If this were the Mavs’ first questionable performance in some time, this might be an understandable loss. After all, for whatever reason, professional teams are no strangers to letdown in a game like this one; Chris Paul watched from the sidelines, and a team that is so reliant on him for offensive stability seemed dead in the water against a quality club like Dallas. That clearly wasn’t the case, and while a one-point loss after a number of improbable Hornet makes isn’t the most torturous outcome for the Maverick faithful, this performance is an extension of the team’s depressed play of late. The Mavs are considered contenders because of what they’re capable of, but they certainly haven’t been living up to their top billing in recent weeks.
A slow, 82-game march toward the playoffs characteristically consists of wins and losses of most every type. There are blowouts in either direction, heart-breakers, momentum-shifters, near-losses, statement affairs, and everything else one can possibly imagine. Most teams don’t get through the year without experiencing them all, and thus all are a regular part of the in-season cycle. This is different. This is not a single loss or even a single pair of losses. It’s not a dropped game against a star-less team, or an underwhelming performance to wrap up a road trip. This loss is an indictment. It’s an indication of real weakness, and its a reason why I’m still hesitant to put Dallas on the same platform where San Antonio and Los Angeles currently reside.
The Mavs rank 28th in offensive rebounding rate and 13th in defensive rebounding rate, and they allowed themselves — Tyson Chandler aside — to be thoroughly out-muscled and out-hustled to rebound after rebound. That kind of thing doesn’t change against the likes of Tim Duncan, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol, and it’s likely among Rick Carlisle’s concerns for this team moving forward. As strong as they’ve been at times on defense, the Mavs allowed a team with Jarrett Jack as the initiator of its offense to produce at a rate of 106.9 points per 100 possessions, all while Jack cackled with every bucket or assist. Trevor Ariza missed every single one of his 10 field goal attempts, David West shot 5-of-12 from the field and had a respectable but underwhelming 16 points, and the Mavs still didn’t win. Dallas couldn’t quite make it out to the perimeter to contest Marco Belinelli, despite the fact that none of Belinelli’s teammates were really posing that much of a threat. Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler excluded, Dallas just didn’t have the firepower; those who were scoring somewhat efficiently couldn’t create more opportunities against New Orleans’ defense (or else weren’t given the opportunity), and those who tried (Rodrigue Beaubois and Jason Terry, primarily) didn’t have much success. Jason Kidd went 0-fer on seven attempts for good measure.
Wednesday night’s game wasn’t a spectacular failure on either end of the court, but it was an occasion where Dallas ceded too much ground in every regard to a rudderless team. Make no mistake — without Chris Paul, that’s what this Hornets squad becomes, and that’s who got the better of the Mavs. Things were as they should have been at points throughout the game, but the significance of this loss goes well beyond what it means today. Maybe we can all look back at this game in a few months’ time and laugh, but for now it seems a pretty fitting asterisk on the team’s success: this year’s Mavs are very beatable, their defense is strong but not impenetrable, and their offense stable but not universally consistent.