The Mavs’ game against the Warriors may seem like ancient history at this point, but there’s still plenty to glean from the loss. Despite all of their defensive improvements, the Mavs have shown two different shades of defensive failure against quick point guards (Monta Ellis, Chris Paul). Though other speedy guards have been contained, Ellis’ performance against the Mavs was a reminder that there’s still plenty of work to be done on the defensive end. In this installment of Moving Pictures, we’ll examine exactly what went wrong against the Warriors, point a few fingers on who’s to blame, and hopefully take away some possible adjustments for the future.
- Dirk Nowitzki on last night’s loss (via Tim MacMahon): “There are good losses and there are bad losses, and this is definitely a bad one…We just didn’t have it down the stretch. We were a step slow. Offensively, we looked lost. Defensively, they could get to the basket any time they wanted to and they hit some timely 3s. But it’s really our fault.”
- Whatever the opposite of a ‘silver lining’ is, Eddie Sefko may have found it: “They were going against a Warriors team that used only six players. Yet they got beat to every loose ball in the fourth quarter and couldn’t keep up with the Warriors’ motion offense. Worse, the Mavericks had to use all their heavy lifters for long, exhausting stretches. That certainly will have an impact on their legs at some point tonight in Houston.”
- Adam Lauridsen of Fast Break chimes in with the difference between the Stephen Jackson/Corey Maggette-led Warriors and the younger, more energetic model we saw last night: “With Jackson or Maggette on the court (and Nelson on the sideline), the response to the second-half adversity would have likely been to pound the ball in one or two mismatches while everyone else stood around. Instead, with Jackson gone and Maggette and Nelson out, Smart had the team stick with a simple attack — let Monta look for early shot-clock seams in the defense, and provide safety valves at the three point arc in the form of Morrow, Curry, and Radmanovic. The plan hit some rough patches, but it ultimately proved to be enough to bring home the win.”
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie has a fair assessment of last night’s perimeter dynamics: “With just six players on hand, while playing its fourth game in five nights, the Warriors looked as fresh and as active as they’ve looked in years. The ball movement was spot on, heaps of extra passes, and Golden State worked a quickness advantage. Actually, the Warriors didn’t really blow past the slower Maverick backcourt. It just turned out that Monta Ellis (37 points, eight assists, four steals, 11 turnovers; seriously) and Stephen Curry (18 points, six assists) went nuts on the Dallas D.”
- Dirk Nowitzki, community man.
“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret of disappointment.”
Somehow it’s only fitting that when the Mavs are on the cusp of elite status, some familiar demons push them down a peg. I couldn’t care less that they were wearing Warriors uniforms, but yet again, quick point guards had their way with the Dallas defense time and time again, and the results were downright depressing.
Nothing in this game quite turned out as it should. That much should have been certain from the opening tip, when the probable turned questionable turned out Shawn Marion found his way to the bench in a suit. That much should have been certain when the normally careful, deliberate Mavs offense was turning the ball over just for fun. That much should have been certain when the impressive Mavs defense suddenly collapsed on itself rather than on penetration, and when I was begging for Dallas to pick up someone, anyone, in transition. What should have been an easy win over an undermanned team turned out an ugly loss to just six players, and if that didn’t keep each and every Maverick up last night with nightmares of Monta Ellis layups, then we have a problem.
The first half was just sloppy basketball on both ends, which you can live with provided the Mavs show some second half intensity. But despite having a deeper roster and more talented personnel, Dallas very much looked the part of the inferior team for the latter half of the game. The offense was completely out of sorts by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, with the Warriors’ maniacal defensive strategy disrupting the Mavs’ flow plenty. It wasn’t as if Radmanovic was playing stellar defense on Dirk, or that the Warrior guards were locking down Terry; Golden State’s team defense (I know, it surprises me to type this as much as it surprises you to read it) just forced turnovers with help, double teams, and some sleight of hand (creating the illusion of a passing lane when there, in fact, was none).
The numbers don’t properly reflect just how out of sorts Dallas was when it mattered most, but Jason Terry’s infuriating turnover with the Mavs down four and just under a minute to play (video forthcoming) epitomized the night spectacularly. JET and Dirk, two machines created for the sole purposes of putting a ball in a hoop with no unexpected hiccups, combined for nine turnovers. Nine. As in, the titular Plan from Outer Space. The thing seven ate. Just to put things in perspective, before last night, Nowitzki and Terry combined to average just 3.2 turnovers per game.
The defense, as I mentioned before, was an abomination and hopefully an aberration. Though the Warriors themselves had plenty of turnovers, they more than made up for them with frequent and effective drives to the basket as well as the sweet outside shooting of Anthony Morrow (6-8 3FG) and Stephen Curry (2-4 3FG). Morrow simply had one of those games where you’re shocked to see any misses at all in the box score, as his confidence level and on-court positioning were pitch perfect. All the while, Monta Ellis had his way with just about every Maverick defender, in particular exploiting J.J. Barea on the left side of the zone defense. The only Mavs player that showed any effectiveness in guarding Ellis was rookie Rodrigue Beaubois, who managed to slow Ellis on a few drives while the Mavs were in man-to-man sets. Otherwise, the perimeter defense was a turnstyle, the rotation D nonexistent, and the interior D simply a means to the end of an Ellis three point play.
This loss isn’t the end of the world, but it should sting like hell. And it’s a shame, too. Dirk Nowitzki had an excellent night scoring the ball (28 points on 9-18 shooting), despite only getting a few touches during the game’s crucial closing stretch (Dirk had just three shot attempts in the fourth, none over the final 4:28). Jason Kidd (13 assists, 10 rebounds) had a spectacular night offensively, even if he had trouble with the quickness of the Warriors defensively. And Drew Gooden (14 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks) again filled in well for the ill Erick Dampier, providing the low post scoring the Mavs have always lacked against Golden State. But it was all for naught, and worse, the momentum the Mavs had been building over the last five games has essentially been shattered.
- File this game away as Exhibit A for why Rodrigue Beaubois should be eating into J.J. Barea’s minutes. Though Barea’s +/- on the night isn’t bad at all, he was clearly the weakest point of the Mavs’ D last night, and as such, the entry point for a lot of Golden State’s drives.
- I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see more James Singleton, especially considering Quinton Ross missed the entire second half with back issues. The Mavs missed Ross’ D (and Marion’s, and Howard’s, for that matter), and probably could have used Singleton’s energy at either forward spot to ditch the woefully ineffective three guard lineup.
- Tim Thomas is playing pretty well. I haven’t seen anything to worry about in terms of his shot selection or defensive intensity, though his mobility is pretty clearly limited by that knee injury. He looks rusty, but he’s still converting from the post and got his first look at a made three last night. Once the real, healthy rotation falls into place, I definitely see a few minutes for Thomas.
The Golden State Warriors visit the Dallas Mavericks
Just in time for your post-Boston Massacre chronic depression, the powers that be just so happened to schedule a nationally televised game against Golden State followed by a weekend game against Miami. Call it “The Ghosts of Playoffs Past” week. Why don’t we just invite New Orleans and make an event of it?
I really do like watching this year’s Warriors play, and no, I don’t feel like a traitor for saying that. Baron Davis was the engine that made this outfit go, and the idea of them running without him is just too delightfully contrarian for a guy like me to not appreciate. I always did love “Helter Skelter.” Or maybe I was looking for a reason to like them all along, but Baron was too much “the face of the enemy” for my senses to overcome. I also have yet to watch Monta Ellis since his return to action last week, and I’m anxious to see if his future as a “real point guard” is as nebulous as it seems.
The thing about being part of a playoff series that made history is that no one will ever let you forget it. Since Warriors over Mavs was the first and only time an eighth seed has beaten a first seed in a seven game series, the event has attached itself as an epithet to the two most relevant players. Dirk Nowitzki will forever be “Dirk Nowitzki, the leader of that Mavs team that blew it against the Warriors,” and Baron Davis will forever be “Baron Davis, the noble leader and people’s champ who defeated Goliath.” Baron was definitely the talent of that team, and on the court he turned the Warriors into a swag machine that could do no wrong against Dallas. But while Baron was wearing bullet fedoras and giving a grassroots movement a face (and a beard), Stephen Jackson was, for lack of a better term, the heart of the team. Do I find Jackson more pallatable because I’ve identified him as a Spur/Champion and a Pacer-turned-brawler? Or similarly, because while Baron Davis’ contributions with the Hornets were largely shadowed by doubt and injury, his renaissance with the Warriors was the defining moment of his career? Could be. But the fact remains that although the Warriors’ best player bolted for the Clippers this summer, the heart and soul of “We Believe” is still very much in Oakland.
This game will be marketed as an exorcism of demons, and to an extent that’s true; there’s always something cathartic about beating Golden State since The Fall, and the Mavs have plenty of new, internal demons they have yet to conquer. The fact that Jackson, and Monta, and Nellie are all still staring down the Mavs from across the court is meaningless aside from the fact that this is a team that the Dallas Mavericks are going to engage in a basketball game against, and that they desperately need to win this game to save themselves from themselves. I know the purpose of No Game Is an Island is to provide significance through context, but this is one situation that should truly be viewed in a vacuum. Golden State at Dallas. No asterisk. No footnote. Just a dangerous offensive team coming to American Airlines Center, and hopefully a Mavs team ready to respond.