After a quick shuffle of third parties, the Mavs again appear ready to jettison Lamar Odom’s contract westward (and in a way, homeward); as originally reported by Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News – and later clarified by Brad Turner of the LA Times – Dallas will deal Odom in a four-team trade that will also move Mo Williams to Utah and the draft rights to Furkan Aldemir to Houston, while scoring the Mavs a trade exception, cash, and an additional $2.4 million (the price of an Odom buyout) in sweet, sweet salary cap savings.
That brings the total savings of the past 24 hours to (roughly) a cool $3.8 million, between ditching Odom, trading Kelenna Azubuike, and saving on the rookie scale difference between the 17th pick and the 24th pick. There’s no need to hash out the specifics of the Mavs’ cap number until we get a better idea of what might become of Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and a slew of minimum salary players that currently have cap holds against Dallas’ total, but we have the pleasure of watching first-hand as Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban take their quarters to the free-agent slot machine.
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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Wins against the Clippers may be all but assumed, but don’t take this one for granted; Dallas needed a W pretty badly for both the sake of their collective psyche and their place in the standings, and bounced back from a poor defensive performance in the first quarter to win this one outright. Dallas forced a ton of turnovers, which acted as a catalyst for their transition game. The Mavs rounded into form once they got out on the break, as the influx of easy fast break buckets relieved enough pressure on their half court offense to keep it stable. It’s wonderful to see the defense power the offense again, and the Mavs — though unlikely to create turnovers at this rate in the postseason — will need to establish a similar level of offensive/defensive flow. The success of one end should carry into the other, provided that the effort and execution are there.
- Sub-plot of the game: Jason Terry had some kind of “tirade”/“heated exchange”/fit at the beginning of the second quarter, apparently aimed at J.J. Barea. The confrontation wasn’t exactly spotlighted on the broadcast, but Terry was certainly frustrated, and Barea’s slightly off-target pass to a curling Terry — an exchange which resulted in a turnover and a fast break layup for Los Angeles — apparently made him boil over. The team intends to deal with the matter internally, but I’m sure it’ll be hinted at in the coming weeks, particularly if Terry’s frustrations continue into the postseason. For now, it’s nothing more than an asterisk; Terry didn’t play after his outburst, but he’ll be back soon enough, likely in good (enough) spirits.
- More relevant sub-plot of the game: Corey Brewer (20 points, 8-16 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, four steals, one huge block to prevent a fast break layup) did it big — again. The case is certainly mounting for Brewer to have a spot on the Mavs’ playoff roster, though his inclusion would likely mean that one of DeShawn Stevenson or Brian Cardinal would be left out. Normally that would be a tough call to make, but Brewer has been playing tremendously well over the last two games. His breakout game against the Nuggets seemed slightly fluky; Brewer just isn’t going to convert his jumpers at that reliable of a rate every night. That doesn’t devalue his defense or hustle, but expecting such a high point total from primarily perimeter looks is a bit questionable. That said, Brewer’s performance on Friday was a bit more in line with his skill set, even if it exceeded expectation. He slashed to the bucket, finished fast breaks, and cut backdoor. These are the kinds of things that Brewer can do nightly, independent of whether his jumper is actually falling, and it’s one reason I saw him succeeding in a Marion-esque capacity for the Mavs.
- All of which ignores Brewer’s incredible defensive effort. He’s endeared himself to his teammates rather quickly, in no small part due to the fact that Brewer is going hard at all times, looking at every element during a possession as a chance to make a play. Henry Abbott wrote the following concerning Brewer over a month ago, and I’ve had the sentence bouncing around my head during every minute that Brewer’s been on the floor over the last two games:”Once you clue in to the guy, it’s glaringly obvious that no one on the court is defending like him.”
- One last note for BrewerFest 2011: the guy is an unexpectedly smooth playmaker. He can’t run an offense, and if you give him the ball at the top of the key and tell him to go to work, your possession could end in shambles. But swing the ball to him on the weak side against a stilted defense, and Brewer seems to not only know exactly how to drive in order to maximize his potential to score, but also to set up for a little bounce pass or drop-off to an open big man. Brewer’s four assists were a huge help to the Mavs last night.
- Dallas did some incredible work on the offensive glass. Posting an effective field goal percentage of 52.9 percent doesn’t leave all that many caroms, but the Mavs did a terrific job of scrapping for rebounds and keeping loose balls alive. I lied about the finality of my last Brewer praise: He was the leader in terms of offensive rebounding effort and collection, but Shawn Marion (13 points, 5-10 FG, 10 rebounds, four offensive boards, four assists) was also huge in that regard, as was Tyson Chandler — who wasn’t credited with many offensive boards but tapped quite a few out to the Maverick guards. The height of the Mavs’ rebounding dominance was in the third quarter, when the Clippers were only able to collect five boards for the entire 12 minutes.
- Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points on 16 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, and notched seven assists. Nothing to see here, folks, just one of the best players in basketball, looking about as brilliant as one could expect.
- It was mentioned briefly above, but the Mavs’ first quarter defense was fairly horrendous. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have a way of making opponents pay for their slow rotations on the back line, and the Clips exploited the Mavs to the tune of 35 points (on 15-of-23 shooting) in the first frame. Dallas then went on to hold L.A. to 61 points over the final three quarters while forcing 18 turnovers along the way.
- Mo Williams (29 points, 10-18 FG, 5-9 3FG, five rebounds, six assists, seven turnovers) scored quite well, but he was making everything. He worked his way into good looks from short and mid-range, but also took some of his pet pull-up three pointers (the Chauncey Billups special) when bringing the ball up court. The Mavs certainly could have closed out better on Williams and not doubled Blake Griffin quite so often in the post (Tyson Chandler is a pretty formidable interior defender, and the help wasn’t exactly all that helpful), but the Clipper guard was hitting easy and difficult looks alike. It was just his night, and if I’m Rick Carlisle, I’d be far more pleased with Eric Gordon’s (11 points, 4-12 FG, six assists, five turnovers, four steals) relative invisibility than Williams’ outburst.
- The problem isn’t that Rodrigue Beaubois is incapable of playing point guard, but that he apparently doesn’t feel comfortable being an aggressive scorer when asked to fill in for Jason Kidd. Skill-wise, he’s a competent replacement, yet you don’t see the same drives or even shot attempts in general from Beaubois when he’s a “point guard.” I can appreciate that he wants to facilitate the play of his teammates, but Beaubois isn’t precise enough with his passing to impact a game the way Kidd does. His greatest impact will come through scoring for the conceivable future, and that potential to create offense for himself will open up opportunities for his teammates.
- Peja Stojakovic (10 points, 4-7 FG, 2-5 3FG) and J.J. Barea (15 points, 4-13 FG, four rebounds, five assists, six turnovers) performed well in supporting roles. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, both offered their designated contributions on offense — three-point shooting and dribble penetration, respectively — without hurting the team’s defensive concept. That’s all one could reasonably ask.
Photo by Danny Bollinger.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“It’s not every day that you get to see an implosion.”
Completely disgusting. The Mavs have had embarrassing losses this season (on national TV, no less), but they hardly stack up to the horror that was Sunday’s game. If every member of the roster and coaching staff isn’t thoroughly mortified by their performance, I don’t even know where to begin.
It wasn’t the usual lackadaisical defense that put the Mavs in a hole early; the Mavs’ first quarter was one of their more dominant runs all season. This was unlike any loss I’ve seen all season from this team. The Mavs proved that they know every main road, street, path, and backwoods trail that leads to a terrible loss.
Let’s start from the beginning, if for no other purpose than that of contrast.
In the first quarter of the basketball contest between the Dallas Mavericks and the Cleveland Cavaliers on this fair Sunday morn, the Mavs stormed out the gates to a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter, and a 15-point lead early in the second. Dirk had 8 points and 3 assists in the first alone. Dampier had 8 points and 5 rebounds, after blitzing the Cavs play after play on the screen-and-roll. Jason Kidd was utterly brilliant in setting up the offense, chipping in with 5 points of his own (2-2 FG) and 3 assists early. It seemed clear that the screen-and-roll would be an essential tool for Dallas all night long given Cleveland’s inability to shut it down. The shots were falling (46.8% FG) for the Mavs, and things couldn’t look brighter, especially considering just how difficult things were for the Cavs (26% FG). Credit the Mavs’ D, which was active, limiting, and lucky. They did their part in contributing to Cleveland’s poor shooting, but it didn’t hurt that the Cavs were missing very makeable shots by the slimmest of margins. Balls spun out of the hoop, rimmed out, and narrowly missed on attempt after attempt, and that coupled with great defensive rebounding and good job contesting on jumpshots might be enough to crush the confidence of lesser teams. But as we all know, this Cavs team could never be described as a lesser team.
The first, second, and third concerns for any team playing the Cavs is how to make LeBron James’ life difficult. In the first frame, the Mavs did just that. Jason Kidd actually drew LeBron as his “primary” defensive assignment to start the game, though LeBron was double-teamed practically on the catch. That meant a few forced shots and passing over the top, and on the whole the Cavs couldn’t take advantage. He still had big contributions in the first (5 assists, 4rebounds, 2 blocks), but was 0-3 from the field. Antoine Wright eventually slid over to cover LeBron, but the Mavs’ team defense seemed to be in slow motion on their rotations, doubles, and contests. It’s one thing to do that solely against a scorer; a scorer of LeBron’s skill simply cannot be stopped. But with James’ ability to establish his teammates and still find his own offense, the lack of effort defensively was magnified ten-fold.
The second quarter showed signs of the apocalypse, as the Mavs were outscored 27-19 but held on to a slim lead. The symptoms of the Mavs’ inevitable demise were in full view, though. The defense crumbled when the starters hit the bench, partially because Cleveland remembered how to play. On one side of the court, the ball moved to the open shooter, penetration came with ease, and the defenders looked utterly foolish. On the other, the over-reliance on jumpshots started to slide into the spotlight, and a squad with no offensive options really clicking was exposed by one of the league’s elite defenses.
The problem isn’t that the Mavs lost to the Cavs. The Cavs are a better team, and if the Mavs did sneak out of Cleveland with a win, it would’ve been a shocker. The real issue is that the team showed no sense of dignity, and no real desire to compete in the second half. No one is absolved from blame. The Cavs give Dirk trouble, but that doesn’t excuse his mailed-in effort. Jason Terry needs to find ways to contribute meaningfully when his shot isn’t falling, because his defense was miserable. Jason Kidd started off strong, but our primary play-caller refused to capitalize on the basics in the second half, and let the offense devolve into a jumpshooting frenzy. Rick Carlisle and the entire coaching staff should be held responsible for how lazy and uninterested the Mavs looked on the defensive end. At this point in the season, they should really know which buttons to press, and the fact that they still have trouble keeping this team motivated is troubling.
The Mavs allowed Mo Williams and Joe Smith to blitz them, and fully volunteered themselves for complete dissection and dismemberment by the hands of the Cavs. Cleveland sliced and diced Dallas in every conceivable way, and not much remains other than a bloody pulp, assorted skeletals, and dust where a proud team used to be.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Kidd, I guess. I don’t feel good about that selection, though, and I’m tempted (yet again) to give it to no one.