You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Before Friday night’s game against the Hornets, Dirk Nowitzki (7-19 FG, 19 points, nine rebounds) said, “We consider this a must-win.” Though I agree this game felt important after three consecutive discouraging losses, it’s important to remember the extent of a long season, and how these losses, however painful, strike against even the best of teams. All the same, tonight’s game was possibly the worst loss the Mavericks have endured since facing consecutive blowouts to open the season. The Mavericks trailed for almost the entirety of a game against a generally dismal opponent, and were rebuffed consistently upon attempting various comebacks. For a moment, it seemed as though the Mavericks might escape with a close victory, but Jarrett Jack’s (5-12 FG, 15 points, six assists, five rebounds) difficult jumper with less than twenty seconds remaining gave the Hornets an insurmountable four-point lead.
- Perhaps more concerning than this possibly isolated bad loss are Dirk Nowitzki’s recent shooting woes. Dirk has now shot 33-85 from the field over the last five games, a stretch in which the Mavericks have posted a predictable 1-4 record. Tonight’s performance fell in step with those recent struggles. After a decent first half performance (3-6 FG), Dirk’s jumper looked flat throughout the second half (4-13 FG), and several shots, many of them well-defended, barely grazed the front of the rim. Oddly enough, Dirk only looked comfortable shooting tonight from an area in which he’s struggled to thrive all season: behind the three-point line (5-8 3PT). When Dirk can’t find a scoring groove, the Mavericks are capable of struggling to beat even the worst of teams. This game illustrated that idea both succinctly and painfully.
- On the positive side of things, Rodrigue Beaubois (11-17 FG, 25 points, four steals, three assists) was a joy to watch. Beaubois is at his best when he chooses to attack the basket willfully and carefully. The speed of Beaubois often proved too much for Greivis Vasquez (1-6 FG, two points, seven assists, six rebounds) and Jarrett Jack, who are definably on the slower side of NBA guards. Beaubois’ game often succeeds or fails on the basis of his lofty floater, a shot that he executed perfectly time and time again. The Mavericks’ guard rotation remains an undefined work in progress, but Beaubois will earn himself a consistent place if he continues to play the effective and imitable style of basketball he embodied Friday night.
- More befuddling and damaging than Dirk’s struggles was Jason Terry’s (1-9 FG, two points) complete inability to find a semblance of rhythm. Terry has appeared out of sync in recent weeks, and this performance felt like a culmination of poor shot selection and questionable spacing. The scoring punch of Terry has become increasingly necessary with Delonte West injured and Vince Carter struggling, and his inability to provide this necessity simply served as another inescapable detriment to the Mavericks’ chances of victory.
- What the Hornets lack for in talent they do their best to make up for in effort and coaching. Monty Williams has quickly garnered a reputation as a strong defensive coach, and rightfully so. The Hornets swarmed the Mavericks’ ball movement for the large part of the game, and did a great job of harrying both Terry and Dirk with defensive traps. It’s impressive to see a team destined for a high-lottery choice give such impressive effort, and it’s this energy that has propelled the Hornets to victories in five of their last ten games.