The Dallas Mavericks hit the halfway point of the season in a rough way as they moved to 1-8 in overtime games this season. Dallas suffered a 117-114 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City. The win gave the Thunder a league-best six-game winning streak. The loss put an end to the Mavericks’ season-best four-game winning streak. Kevin Durant scored a career-high 52 points, including nine points on 3-of-4 shooting, in the victory over the Mavericks.
Vince Carter tallied a team-high 29 points in 32 minutes. It was the most points he’s scored as a Maverick, previous high: 25 vs. New York Nov. 21, 2012. He led Dallas in scoring for the fifth time this season. It marked his fourth 20-point effort of the year. It was also his sixth game with at least four 3-pointers this season. Carter had only one game with four-plus triples last year.
Dirk Nowitzki started the game 1-of-11 from the field. He finished the game scoring 18 points on only 5-of-19 shooting from the floor. Darren Collison went 4-for-6 from the field before the break en route to 11 first-half points. He finished with 15 points to go along with four rebounds, six assists and three steals in 31 minutes. Collison scored in double figures for the 14th consecutive game. He once again sat on the bench during the final minutes of regulation and overtime in favor of Mike James.
With the Thunder up 116-114, Mike James had a mismatch with Kendrick Perkins and Dirk Nowitzki was being guarded by Russell Westbrook with less than 10 seconds to go in the game. James hoisted and missed a 26-foot jumper over an outstretched Perkins. That will be a play that will be dissected for the next day and a half.
Here is the quoteboard for overtime loss to the Thunder.
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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.
- Games this close are often decided by earlier events rather than just the final plays (giving up points to end every quarter but the 4th or giving up 18 offensive rebounds, to name two examples). However, the Mike James (10 points, three turnovers) contested three point shot at the top of the key with six seconds left was quite horrible. Obviously, that wasn’t the play Carlisle drew up, so why did James elect to take such a low percentage shot with six seconds left on the clock? Better yet, why did James get 22 minutes of playing time, including all of crunch time and over time? Darren Collison played an excellent game, contributing 15 points, four rebounds, six assists, and three great steals. Carlisle may point to the fact that James has better range than Collison, but at that late stage in the game, shouldn’t the Mavericks want their best distributor on the floor?
- Kevin Durant (52 points, 21-for-21 at the FT line) is a breathtaking basketball player. Durant managed this season’s first 50+ point game while shooting a rather poor 13-for-31 from the field. His final shot over Shawn Marion, a runner from about 12 feet out, was defended perfectly, but Durant is so big and graceful Marion never had a chance. In many ways he’s simply an evolutionary Dirk Nowitzki (with a healthy dose of Tracy McGrady). His mid post play is terrifying because with his length and quickness he seems to always make the right decision.
- The mental miscues are really exacerbated after close loss. The Mavericks forgetting to box out Russell Westbrook on the final shot attempt before the half. O.J Mayo missing a fast break lay in instead of waiting for the last shot, which lead to a Durant three to close out the third. Not fouling Serge Ibaka or Thabo Sefolosha instead of Durant when Ibaka got an offensive rebound with 18 seconds left in regulation. Mike James throwing the ball into the stands at the 2:26 mark of overtime. These are only the highlights. All of the mistakes added up and came back to haunt Dallas.
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.
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Last week, I called the Mavs the “winless warriors.” Since then, they haven’t lost a game. Coincidence? Surely not. Really, there’s only one reasonable conclusion: every single Mavs player reads this column religiously and was motivated to prevent me from concocting another disparaging, alliterative team nickname this week.
And prevent it they did. The Mavs went 4-0 this week, claiming just their second undefeated week of the season (Ed. note: for purposes here, we use a Thursday-Wednesday game week). It was, obviously, a marked improvement over their previous stretch of losing 10 of 11, and probably the most cohesive team play we’ve seen since very early November.
So what was the catalyst for this sudden turnaround? And which areas still need improvement? Let’s discuss.
Week 12 (@Kings, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Rockets)
1) Closing Games
For a team that’s had serious trouble finishing games all season, this week was a pleasant surprise. The Mavs outscored the Kings by 10 in the fourth quarter — in large part thanks to the clutch play of Vince Carter — and finally won an overtime game. Later, after allowing the Timberwolves to cut a big lead down to eight with just three minutes left, the Mavs promptly got a clutch three-pointer from Darren Collison and proceeded to put the game away. Finally, last night against the Rockets, the Mavs got clutch baskets, clutch free throws, and clutch stops (including an incredible block by Elton Brand on James Harden) to put away a close game. We’ll see where this leads, but for now, it’s nice to say that the Mavs have finally overcome some on-court adversity to win tight contests.
2) OJ Mayo
Mayo has made the Thermodynamics hot on several occasions this season, but this time is a bit different. Previously, Mayo has earned a spot here due mostly to torrid shooting and scoring numbers. This week, he’s here because of his all-around game, which has improved drastically of late. Mayo averaged a commendable 18.3 points per game this week on 23-of-46 (50%) cumulative shooting, but more important were the other things he did. He averaged 6.5 rebounds per game — including a whopping 10 in Sacramento — and matched that mark with 6.5 assists per game. To put these numbers in perspective: Mayo has had two 18-point, eight-assist, six-rebound games in his entire career, both of which came this week. Further, he dramatically improved his ball security, totaling just five turnovers in four games. Over at ESPNDallas, Tim MacMahon has an interesting article about Rick Carlisle pushing Mayo to become a better all-around player. At least for the past few games, those efforts are paying dividends.
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It’s not in the quad, but the Mavericks have gone streaking. Dallas used a 19-0 run in the first quarter en route to their 105-100 victory over the Houston Rockets. With the victory, the Mavericks recorded their ninth consecutive win against the Rockets. It’s Dallas’ longest active winning streak against any team. The Rockets have not defeated the Mavericks in the regular season since Dec. 31, 2009, defeated Dallas 97-94. The Mavericks scored 100-plus points for the fourth straight game. Dallas is averaging 109.8 points per game over its last four games.
According to Mavericks statistician Dave Keeney, the Mavericks won for only the fifth time since 1986 when shooting under 39 percent from the field but scoring at least 100 points. They had at least 33 free throws made in all five games. Dallas shot 38.4 percent from the field in the win. The 33 free throws made marked a new season-high for the Mavericks, previous high was 30 at Sacramento on Jan. 10.
Elton Brand recorded his fourth double-double of the season (400th career) with 11 points, a team-high 10 rebounds and a team-high two blocks in 27 minutes vs. Houston. He scored in double figures for the fifth time in his last seven games. Shawn Marion tallied 18 points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes. He scored 18-plus points for the third time in his last four games.
O.J. Mayo recorded seven points, four rebounds, five assists and one steal in the first quarter. Mayo finished with 18 points, six rebounds, a game-high eight assists, two steals and a block in 33 minutes. He went 12-of-13 from the line, setting new career highs for free throws made and attempted. He recorded eight-plus assists for the second consecutive game, season-high 9 vs. Minnesota 1/14. Vintage Dirk Nowitzki also arrived as he scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
Here is the quoteboard for victory over the Rockets.
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The Rundown is back. Every Monday, The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavericks, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks completed their brutal stretch of 16 out of 23 games on the road. They didn’t exactly come out of it smelling like daisies. They did come out of it with a roster tweak, though. The week brought new players, fines, late game breakdowns, trade speculation, growth and regression. Through all of that, the week saw a little glimmer of hope. There truly is never a dull moment for the Mavericks. Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.
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The Mavs have been linked to the Wizards and their number 5 pick in the draft for sometime now, with Jordan Hill’s name making the rounds. Most indications point to Hill being a solid basketball player, but he’s hardly bound for stardom; Hill’s strengths are matched by sizeable limitations, indicators that Hill may be a contributor on the next level but won’t sniff the glory his price tag suggests. If the Mavs can snag Hill for a combination of expiring deals, that’s spectacular. But with Washington poised to make a run at the playoffs with a healthy Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood, how does that even seem like a remote possibility? Dumping the contracts of a player like Etan Thomas may seem like an attractive possibility, but does a pure salary dump really make any sense with the Wiz over the cap for the foreseeable future and almost certainly above the luxury tax line?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the incentive from a financial perspective. For Abe Polin and the Wiz’s ownership, saving a dollar is saving a dollar. But does it really make sense to sell out the 5th pick for only the slightest of profit margins? Unless Josh Howard or Jason Terry are involved, a swap for the no. 5 just doesn’t seem to make much sense at all for Washington.
Beyond that, what sense does it even make for the Mavs? Hill will be able to play immediately, but he can’t be expected to be an especially effective starter. Playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, and Jason Terry would seem beneficial to any rookie, but we still can’t expect Hill to make a tremendous amount of noise during his rookie campaign. Maybe the thought process is that he doesn’t have to for the Mavs to be successful. I wouldn’t be too sure. If the Mavs move either Terry or Howard for Hill, it’s certainly a step down. If they move Erick Dampier for Hill, it’s likely a lateral move for the first year at best. The only exception would be a salary dump deal centered around Jerry Stackhouse, but that seems like an impossibility given the value of such a high pick (even in an off year). Jordan Hill isn’t the type of talent that’s worth setting the team back, especially during the later stages of Dirk, Kidd, and JET’s careers. He’s likely not going to turn into an otherworldly force that could justify that commitment and that sacrifice, and trading members of the current core for him would be a pretty big mistake.
All that said, what if Hill really isn’t the apple of the Mavs’ eye? What if, in a bit of pre-draft shenanigans, the Mavs are insistent upon raising a Jordan Hill smokescreen?
Blake Griffin will be off the board, and Ricky Rubio and Hasheem Thabeet could likely be as well. The Kings have been linked to Rubio, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Jonny Flynn, and Alf. So who exactly may be left at 5? Better players than Jordan Hill, that’s for damn sure.
Personally, I’d like the Mavs (supposing a trade up in the draft can actually be had) to take one of two players.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.
The first is James Harden. Harden is essentially what the Mavs crave in a shooting guard, but he’s way out of their league pick-wise. Harden’s a surefire top 5 pick in my eyes, combining a tenacious ability to score from long-range or around the basket with tough, physical defense and good size (6’5”, almost a 6’11” wingspan). He’s as close to NBA-ready as any prospect in the draft, especially those on the wings, and in my opinion he’d have a seamless plug-in into the starting lineup alongside Kidd and Josh Howard. He’s not lightning fast and he’s not oversized, but Harden’s style offensively and defensively and his size would make him an ideal candidate for a franchise 2-guard to succeed Terry.
Photo from BrandonJennings.net.
The second, and to me the more intriguing, is Brandon Jennings. It’s dubious as to whether or not Jennings will even be available at 5 (although the same is true of Harden, who has been linked to the Thunder and even the Grizzlies), but Jennings being gone at 4 means that one of the other top prospects (Rubio, Thabeet, Harden…not Griffin) would have to fall to the 5 spot. Good news, meet good news.
Jennings is a real deal, fast as hell point guard. He’s confident, he’s skilled, and he once rocked the high top fade. He’s bold (even brash) and clearly a willing risk-taker. Jennings could be exactly the type of athlete that could usher in a new era of Mavs’ success, and I’m not alone in thinking he’ll be something truly special. He’s got the bravado and the skills to bring some serious star power to the franchise, and it’s time the Mavs start planning for life after Kidd. Whether or not that life begins this summer or in summers to come is up to the Mavs and Jason to decide, but assuming he can’t keep playing forever, a realistic successor needs to be waiting in the wings. He has the potential to be one of the league’s best point guards, and a playing style that would make him a killer off the bench in the short-term. Others may see the risk in Jennings, but from the tape I’ve seen of him, he’s a sure thing. This guy could be absolutely stellar as a NBA point guard, and I can only hope the Mavs can leap up the draft to nab him.
With either Jennings or Harden likely available, the logic behind picking Jordan Hill doesn’t stick. If you want an instant contribution, Harden is the man. He’s a cure-all at the 2, bringing the shooting that Antoine Wright lacks, the defense missing from JET’s game, and the size Barea can never fully compensate for. If you want star power, Jennings has it in spades. His game is tremendous, he’ll sell jerseys, and he’ll be your point guard for the next decade. There’s plenty to like in either candidate, and plenty to prefer over Jordan Hill. Can Hill be productive in the NBA, and, can he even compete at the center position? The Mavs already have enough of a minutes problem at the 4 with Dirk and Brandon Bass, and if Hill doesn’t pan out as a good enough interior defender (the evidence, but statistical and anecdotal, doesn’t go in his favor), the Mavs are put in quite a pickle. It’s one thing if Hill is simply a Brandon Bass insurance policy, safeguarding the team from a compensation-less departure from Bass. But it’s another entirely if the Mavs plan on making Dirk, Bass, and Hill coexist peacefully in the minutes column and on the defensive end. Why take that chance when there are better prospects available? Why force Hill to play out of position when a natural 2-guard and the point guard of the future are right at your fingertips? The answer lies either in a smokescreen or under layers of psychosis in a Mavs front office deluded into false prophecies of Hill’s success alongside Dirk. Some of that success may be found, but at what cost?
Jonathan Givony of Draft Express:
Another interesting tidbit of information coming out of the NBA Combine in Chicago revolves around the Dallas Mavericks and potential interest they may have in Arizona power forward Jordan Hill. The rumor mill indicates that Dallas is seriously considering making a move to acquire the ultra athletic junior, and views him as exactly the type of tough, active rebounder they are missing in their frontcourt rotation at the moment. Brandon Bass currently fills that role for them, but they may not be able to keep him and still maintain ample cap space for 2010…Hill’s measurements (6-9 ¼ without shoes, 7-1 ½ wingspan, 9-0 standing reach) in Chicago confirmed the notion many people had that he will have no problem seeing minutes at center in today’s NBA…One team that could reportedly help Dallas move up high enough to pick Hill is the Washington Wizards at #5, a team they already have a history with making draft-day deals…Dallas can offer either the non-guaranteed contract of Jerry Stackhouse to help the Wizards reduce payroll next year (while taking someone like Mike James or Etan Thomas off their hands) or they can help the Wizards by providing a veteran like Josh Howard or Jason Terry if it’s experience and scoring punch they are after. Either move would allow the Mavericks to stay flexible from a financial standpoint as they look towards the free agent class of 2010. They can also dangle their first round pick (#22).