The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 113, Utah Jazz 108

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 25, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Sunrise

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGame 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.

  • Despite the relentless turmoil and mediocrity that preceded the break, the post All-Star Mavericks inspire belief. They contain a transcendent star, several valuable wing players, and an eccentric (but effective enough) center rotation. They’ve won 11 of 18 games against a somewhat difficult schedule, and rarely seemed daunted by their opponent – notwithstanding an awful blowout loss to Houston on March 3rd, every game has been at least competitive. The current Dallas’ squad does not necessarily proclaim greatness, but it does provide an undeniably strong case as being quite good. With a win tonight against the faltering Jazz, it’s becoming increasingly possible to believe in a Mavericks’ playoff berth, and whatever unlikely glory might come with it.
  • Tonight’s bizarre/typical iteration of ,”Who is the most effective Mavericks’ center?”, is a prime example of the simultaneous versatility and uncertainty the Mavericks face at the position on a game-by-game basis. Brandan Wright (3-11 FG, seven points, four points), the team’s best center of late, struggled as the contest began and progressed, and so Elton Brand (5-5 FG, 10 points, five rebounds) returned to the rotation after a game-long absence and provided a much needed offensive and defensive spark. Chris Kaman (2-3 FG, four points) made a curt, eight-minute appearance that brimmed with moderate effectiveness. Tonight, Elton Brand was the Mavericks’ best ‘center’ (an arbitrary term typically used to describe any Mavs’ frontcourt player not named Dirk Nowitzki), but next game, that title could easily shift.
  • I’ve really enjoyed the way O.J. Mayo (4-7 FG, 2-3 3PT, 10 points) has adjusted his game upon Dirk’s (7-13 FG, 2-4 3PT, 17 points, six rebounds) return to offensive dominance. Since the All-Star break, Mayo is attempting about three field goal attempts less per game (and averaging one less turnover per game), and it’s helped aid a slight return to form for him. Mayo’s still scoring about 10-15 points nearly every night at a reduced usage, but he’s doing so as a secondary, efficient option in flux within the ebbs and flows of Dirk’s nightly performances. When the Mavericks need Mayo to score and deliver, he’s done so, but he’s also managed to adjust and recede his game in a renewed, potent offense.
  • Despite the misleading allowance of 108 points, this was one of the better defensive games of the 2012-2013 Mavericks’ recent history. The Jazz scored 28 points in the final 5:26 after the game had reached a seemingly finished stage, but before that mental (and almost costly) lapse, the Mavericks had limited the Jazz’s interior presence nicely. The Jazz starting frontcourt typically scores willfully and appears at first glance to pose a significant matchup problem for the Mavericks’ nebulous range of post defenders, but Brand and company did a very good job of limiting Jefferson and Millsap to a quiet total of 30 combined points.
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the stellar night of somewhat maligned veteran guard Mike James (7-10 FG, 3-4 3PT, 19 points, five assists). On his best nights, James is a dangerous spot-up three-point shooter and a capable distributor, and tonight was surely one of those nights. As a parting note, I believe this is the highest I’ve ever seen Chris Kaman jump, and thus, Marvin Williams (1-6, 2 points) fittingly missed his dunk.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 104, Boston Celtics 94

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 22, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Clover

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.

  • This could easily be called “The Brandan Wright Game” (23 points on 11 for 16 shooting, eight rebounds). Though his best offensive game as a Maverick was exciting to watch, I remain impressed by his growth as a help defender and rebounder. Early in the season he would challenge anything within 15 feet of the bucket, often leaving his man for the offensive rebound. Wright’s much more selective in his challenges as of late, and it has helped improved the Maverick’s rebounding ability. His on ball defense has improved as well. In the fourth quarter, Wright made a brilliant strip/steal of Jeff Green on a fast break attempt that he passed to Darren Collison as he was falling out of bounds. Collison drove the length of the floor for a pull up jumper. That strip/steal is not a play Brandan Wright makes at the start of the season.
  • Considering how hard I’ve been on the shot selection of Mike James this year, I feel it’s important to note that this may have been his best game as a facilitator of the offense. Though he recorded only six assists (and one turnover) in his 25 minutes, he drove the lane looking to pass instead of shoot and many Mavericks, particularly Vince Carter, couldn’t seem to convert the nice set ups provided by James. Hopefully, the pass-first Mike James is here to stay for the remainder of the season.
  • Though Coach Rick Carlisle downplayed Dirk Nowitzki’s small number of shot attempts over the last three games, the Dallas announcers made it a point of discussion throughout the first half. Though it’s good that something as basic as shots doesn’t become an issue in the locker room, the Maverick players seemed to respond to the rumblings, looking to actually get their best player the ball. Dirk had 11 field goal attempts in the first half and finished with 22 points and seven rebounds.
  • The Vince Carter circus was in full effect against the Celtics, as he took and made a few shots that only a player of his talent can make. Arguably, his best play was a miss in the fourth quarter. Carter drove from the right side, faded towards the middle of the lane and in an attempt to draw contact he threw the ball up on the rim. It took a number of bounces and came off the left side of the rim. None of the Celtics bothered to box Brandan Wright out, who swooped in from the left side of the base line, caught the ball as it was coming down and emphatically dunked the ball as three Boston defenders looked on in frustration.
  • Though it feels silly to point this out every time it happens, some instances are so egregious they must be discussed. On the final Maverick possession of the third quarter, Darren Collison and Dirk ran a high screen and roll with Collison driving left. Collison stopped just past the elbow for a great shot fake, which got his man up in the air and pulled Dirk’s man in his direction. At this point, Dirk was at the top of the key with no one within five feet of him. Collison has to see him and pass him the ball. Instead, he missed a long jumper. That play is why Darren Collison will not be a starting point guard in the NBA. You have to know where your best player is and what his strengths are at all times.
  • In July of 2009 I remember being thrilled at the signing of Shawn Marion (the best free agent signing of the Dirk Nowitzki era). I also remember thinking that there was no way he’d be effective or worth his salary by 2013-2014. Now? Outside of Dirk’s he is the second most important Maverick. Against the Celtics, he put up 11 points and 13 rebounds, five of them offensive. Dallas went 5-3 in his absence, yet one can reasonably wonder how his presence would have changed the two close losses to the Spurs and Thunder. Is he worth $10 million next season? I’m glad I don’t have to assign a monetary value to his contributions because they’ve been nearly priceless the last four years.
  • Watching Avery Bradley play man to man defense is incredible. I’d like to think that every basketball player can be taught to play defense in this fashion but the truth is what Bradley does is a gift. Watching his feet and the angles he takes on ball handlers, it’s clear Bradley is operating on a different defensive plane.
  • Marion’s return meant at least one Maverick would be seeing less floor time. That ended up being Jae Crowder, who had played admirable basketball over the last eight games. That said, Crowder would be best served by being locked in a room all summer with game tape of Shawn Marion and early career Josh Howard. Crowder is an athletic specimen who is also pretty good at basketball. Unfortunately, he doesn’t use his athletic gifts near enough on the offensive end, often content to stand and shoot. Shawn Marion’s simple baseline cut and dunk off of a Mike James pass in the first quarter is a prime example of a basic basketball play that Crowder could make if he learned to better move without the basketball.
  • On Thursday, Andy Tobolowsky at Mavs Moneyball wroteAAC welcomes home one of its best, one of its brightest. The hero, the personality. The only guy who never knew, no matter the circumstances, that the game, the Mavericks, the dream of a ring were over years ago. Jason Terry, the only one of us who turned out to be right.” As the season has marched on, one thing that’s occasionally missing from the Mavericks seems to be confidence. Too often, Dallas tightens up when the game gets close late. Terry gave the Mavericks, and all of us, the belief that they could and would come through in any situation.
  • Elton Brand received his first “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” of the season against the Celtics. As TMG’s own Bryan Gutierrez notes, Carlisle is not above sending a message to his players, as he’s done time and again with literally the entire team. Brand’s had a rough go as of late, and this is hopefully just Carlisle’s way of letting Brand know he demands more. Expect Brand to respond well the next time he gets an opportunity.

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: Week 21

Posted by Travis Wimberly on March 21, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Ice Melting
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

You wouldn’t know it from the game results (L, W, L, W, L), but the Mavs played at a fairly consistent level for the entire week (at least until the fourth quarter of the final game against Brooklyn). After being wildly inconsistent for most the season, the Mavs seem to have finally leveled out and settled into a groove.

So, if the Mavs were so consistent, why 2-3? Why alternating wins and losses? Well, that’s just the thing — the Mavs’ “consistent” level of play sits pretty much right in the middle of the league. Their season-long ceiling (as opposed to their single-game ceiling, which is largely a function of variance) sits right around the 50th percentile. By playing consistently over several games, then, the Mavs make it very easy to see exactly where they sit in the league pecking order. They’ll beat bad teams regularly (Cleveland); they’ll beat decent teams sometimes (Atlanta); they’ll lose to decent teams sometimes (Brooklyn); and they’ll lose to elite teams almost always (San Antonio and Oklahoma City).

Hence, the week that was.

Week 21 (@Spurs, Cavs, Thunder, @Hawks, Nets)

FIRE

1) Brandan Wright

Wright’s offensive game is so fluid and efficient, it’s hard to imagine that he could barely get off the bench earlier in the year. Here’s how Wright’s key numbers shook out this week: 10.4 points per game, 24-of-43 (56%) shooting, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 1.0 blocks per game. It’s much more difficult to quantatively measure individual defense, but I thought Wright showed his continued improvement in that area. He’s got a long way to go, but his footwork in the defensive post has improved since November, and he’s being more judicious with his weakside defense (i.e., not wildly jumping around trying to block every single shot instead of boxing out). Wright earned numerous accolades during college while playing in the highly competitive ACC, and it’s easy to see why. His raw talent is undeniable. With hard work and on-point coaching (and I have no reason to suspect both won’t occur), his ceiling is fairly high.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 96, Brooklyn Nets 113

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 20, 2013 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

CautionNet

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.

  • Dirk Nowitzki (16 points on 8 of 10 shooting) has 10.3 shot attempts over his last three games. He’s shooting 23 for 31 over that period. Dallas is 1-2 in those games. What else is there to say?
  • Dallas fans and Mark Cuban got a great view of the player they missed out on signing this off-season in Deron Williams (31 points, six assists). After a 2 for 7 first half, he responded shooting 11 of 18 in the second, lighting any Dallas guard on fire who came near him. He’s been slowed by a combination of ankle injuries, weight gain, and hubris, but since getting his mind and body right over the All-Star Break, he’s looked exactly like a player worth a $100 million dollar contract. Dallas missed out in a huge way by being unable to sign the former Colony High School player.
  • After outscoring the Nets by 10 in the first quarter, Brooklyn out-scored Dallas by 27 points over the next 36 minutes of basketball.
  • I lied. We need to talk about Dirk not getting the ball more. That his first shot didn’t come until the 6:35 mark in the first quarter is one thing, as the Mavericks actually played really solid offensive basketball. But when Dirk didn’t even touch the ball in the third quarter as Deron Williams and Brook Lopez shot 11 for 12 for 26 points in the quarter, alarms have to go off on the Dallas bench.
  • In the 16 games since the All Star break, Dirk Nowitzki is shooting 51% from the field, 49% from 3 point range, and 96% from the line.
  • On the one hand, it’s nice that Rick Carlisle has faith in his team to run his system over set plays. The offense is essentially a read and react system based out of pick and rolls. On the other hand, why Carlisle would allow Chris Kaman and Mike James to get into a pick and roll duel with Brook Lopez and Deron Williams at the start of both halves is beyond understanding. Neither player is efficient and neither player is going to be a Dallas Maverick next year.
  • Brook Lopez seems to relish playing the Dallas Mavericks. His offensive display was amazing, scoring 38 points on 22 shots and doing so in a variety of ways. He opened the game running a series of strong pick and rolls. He built on that by punishing Chris Kaman with some back down post moves. Lopez then went to a bit of a dribble drive game, taking full advantage of any Dallas defender, using both hands to get to the rim.
  • It’s frustrating that Elton Brand (four points, five rebounds) is playing his most ineffective basketball in months over the last six games, right as Dallas needs him to be his best. Brand has been a phenomenal addition to Dallas this year and I hope the front office finds a way to keep him beyond this one season.
  • Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans combined for 33 rebounds. The Dallas Maverick team pulled down 34.
  • This was the first game in some time where Dallas fans witnessed the limitations of Brandan Wright (nine points, on 4 of 5 shooting). Wright actually had a fairly nice stat line, given his limited playing time. But the Nets took full advantage of Wright’s slight frame, punishing him in one on one defense and on rebounding opportunities. Wright has improved dramatically over the last third of the season, particularly in help defense and rebounding, but occasionally teams with strong post players will take advantage of the fact that he weighs 210 pounds soaking wet.
  • With Jae Crowder hitting yet another corner three against the Nets, this shot is a potential weapon for the Mavericks moving forward. Though the sample size is a bit small, Crowder has hit 50 percent of his corner threes this season, as opposed to a mere 28% anywhere above the break. Crowder had a reputation of being a stretch four in college, but the distance of the NBA three has proven a bit too much for him this season. Interestingly, all of his corner threes this season have been assisted.
  • TMG’s own Bryan Gutierrez tweets that Carlisle doesn’t buy into the notion of Dirk not getting shots being an issue during these two recent losses. However, ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted during the game that tonight he saw a top 5 on court anger moment from Dirk as he came to the bench during the fourth quarter. Something has to give.
  • There was an odd appearance in the first quarter of the rare 5-4 pick and roll. Kaman caught the ball on the right elbow and Dirk decided to set a screen for him in the middle of the free throw line. Dirk slipped the pick and Kaman fed him for a lay up, which Dirk missed, only to grab his own rebound and score.
  • Some rare playing time for Anthony Morrow (six points on 3 of 6 shooting). Looking oddly like the ghost of Jason Terry, Morrow played well on offense, hitting two tough shots and stealing an inbound pass for a third quarter ending lay up. Defensively, he seemed lost, as Joe Johnson got warmed up in the second with Morrow attempting to stick with him.
  • The shooting of Mike James by the quarter: 2 of 5, 0 of 1, 1 of 4, and 1 of 5 for a total of 4 of 14 for the game. He hits one shot and it seems to give him the confidence to keep shooting. When these shots come within the flow of the offense, as his fourth quarter corner three did, it boosts the Dallas offense, almost serving as a bonus. But when he hunts for his own shot, as he did through out the game, it actively hurts the Dallas offense.
  • Matt Moore of CBS Sports writes an interesting look into the death of the post entry pass as a NBA player skill. Given the Dallas woes to consistently get the ball to Dirk, it feels very timely.
  • After a strong 23 point win against the Timberwolves on March 10th, the Mavericks have gone 3-3 over their next six. With only 14 games remaining, the Mavs are now 3.5 games back from the eighth seed. However, they’re also too far ahead in the total league standing to benefit any from losing games for draft lotto positioning. Dallas currently stands in no man’s land.

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.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 127, Atlanta Hawks 113

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 19, 2013 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Clouds

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGame 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.

  • How many teams have lost in NBA history after scoring 127 points in regulation?
  • Not many, if any, and the Mavericks didn’t join that barely existent or nonexistent group on Monday.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (7-11 FG, 2-2 3PT, 22 points, six rebounds, five assists) has been fantastic since the All-Star Break. Nothing emphasizes that more than watching him make difficult, long jumpers that anyone else would have absolutely no chance of making.
  • There are few basketball sights more comforting than seeing Dirk pump-fake, create no separation, wait, and drain a long-two regardless of any normal reality otherwise embodied.
  • As I noted the other day, the success of the Mavericks exists in a purely offensive context at this point, and the key to achieving that context is threes.
  • The Mavericks made 13 of 22 attempts from beyond the arc and did so with some unusual style.
  • O.J. Mayo (7-11 FG, 3-4 3PT, 17 points, four assists, one turnover) took the open looks the defense allowed and smartly rejected the ones they didn’t.
  • Mayo made several uncharacteristic passes to open cutters and used his pump-faking ability wisely. When he flows and decides carefully within the offense, few defenses can contend with the Mavericks’ offensive potency.
  • Tonight also displayed how easily Darren Collison (10-14 FG, 24 points, five assists) can decimate an opponent off the pick-and-roll and in transition when the stars align correctly. Collison’s pull-up-from-mid-range game emanated basketball lethality tonight and duly expressed the importance of transitional space in regards to his skill set.
  • The Hawks radiated listless lethargy tonight, striving clumsily to find consistent stops but failing upon the presentation of nearly every key moment.
  • Teams that don’t get back in transition or defend perimeter opportunities tend to struggle against this iteration of the 2012-2013 Mavericks, and the Hawks’ performance falls nicely in line with that category.
  • The Chris Kaman (7-11 FG, 14 points, seven rebounds) situation remains an intriguing oddity, as Kaman may play virtually no minutes or 21, like tonight, if he’s scoring well and the game trends in an offensive direction.
  • He and Brandan Wright (5-9 FG, 12 points, eight rebounds) are a perfect scoring center tandem for a fast-paced contest like this one – they combined for 26 points and 15 rebounds in 42 collective minutes.
  • Finally, if anyone wants to caption this, I’d love to read such a response. Beard battles don’t get much better than Nowitzki-Johnson.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Oklahoma City Thunder 107

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 17, 2013 under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

Strike

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.

  • Expect the lack of shot attempts for Dirk Nowitzki (23 points on 8 of 10 shooting) to become a narrative for the Mavericks in the coming days, though it’s something I’ve been concerned about since Dirk returned to form. Against the Thunder, he started off 8 for 8 from the floor off of a variety of different looks. His final make came at the 8:22 mark of the third quarter. He took two more shots in the quarter, then didn’t have a field goal attempt for the remainder of the game. Credit must go to the Thunder defense, but the responsibility falls to Dirk, the coaching staff and his teammates. His teammates are the biggest problem, as Mike James, Darren Collison, and O.J. Mayo seem bewildered as to how to get the big German the ball. Dirk posts up well, sets good screens and is the league’s most dangerous trailer. He’s had to resort to calling for the ball more and more often this season as his guards don’t seem to see him unless he’s yelling at them. He’s big, he’s blond, he even has an insane beard.  He’s also a former MVP and an NBA Champion. If this team still thinks it can make the playoffs it’s not going to do so on the backs of anyone other than Dirk Nowitzki. Get Dirk the ball.
  • Contrast Dirk’s stat line to that of once and future scoring champion Kevin Durant (31 points, nine rebounds). Prior to the fourth, Dallas had managed to keep Durant in check with 12 points while forcing a variety of turnovers. In the final period, Durant scored 19, taking full advantage of his size mismatch and demanding the ball from Russell Westbrook. In most cases Durant simply got the ball at the top of the key and went to work, very similar to the way Dallas used to use Dirk.
  • The development of Jae Crowder (11 points, four rebounds) has been a roller coaster. I greatly enjoy his man to man defense, but he has brief lapses in judgement that really hurt the Mavericks. Kevin Martin scored two layups on simple back door cuts when Crowder got caught watching the ball. Additionally, each of his turnover were very frustrating to watch; he somehow failed to see a Thunder player between him and his teammate. Each lead to easy fast break points in a tightly contested game.
  • The offensive rebounding from the Thunder, particularly from Serge Ibaka (18 points 16 rebounds including seven offensive) badly hurt the Mavericks. Due to the threat of Russell Westbrook (35 points, six assists), the Dallas big guarding Ibaka was forced to cheat over for additional help defense when Westbrook got a Maverick defender in an isolation situation. As a result, a smaller player usually had to rotate down to try to box out Ibaka which did not work.
  • In recent weeks, I’ve been a big fan of how O.J. Mayo has let the game come to him. He’s made smart choices and put himself and his team in a position to win. Though Mayo didn’t hurt Dallas against the Thunder, his nine points and three assists are not enough from a player many consider to be the second offensive option. Despite his growth as a player this season, he doesn’t give Dallas enough on a consistent basis.
  • We’ve most likely seen the last of Roddy Beaubois in a Dallas Maverick uniform. He broke a bone in hand in a rather strange play involving Kevin Durant. Though he’s out indefinitely at the moment, we here at the Two Man Game wish him a speedy recovery.

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.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 91, San Antonio Spurs 92

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 14, 2013 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Storm Clouds

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.

  • I was hoping to get to rave about the brilliant play of Brandan Wright (10 points, eight rebounds, two blocks), who had an amazing all-around performance against a top notch front court. But with the sixth Dallas loss by three points or less this season, the missed opportunities against San Antonio are a harsh reminder of why this team is an extreme fringe playoff contender at best. The decision making from an offensive standpoint was baffling. Why is O.J. Mayo pulling up for a jumper on a three on one fast break? Why is Chris Kaman taking the ball up the court on a fast break after a steal? Why doesn’t Dallas get the ball to Dirk more often in the high post like they did during the 2011 Championship run? The Spurs managed to score on the final possession in each of the first three quarters while Dallas was unable to do so a single time. Defensively the Mavericks bickered with each other for much of the first half as seemingly every Dallas player was slow to rotate, particularly in instances of ‘helping the helper’ after a rotation had already occurred  The Mavericks also spent far too much time chasing players around screens as a San Antonio player caught a pass moving towards the rim, forcing Dallas to foul or rotate to help early in possessions. Kahwi Leonard snuck in a back door lay up from a high post feed by Jae Crowder because Crowder’s back was to the ball, a defensive cardinal sin. Tim Duncan (26 points, 19 rebounds) bullied Dallas from pillar to post. Finally, the final shot by Vince Carter left much to be desired. As TMG’s own Bryan Gutierrez pointed out on twitter, behind or tied within three points, Vince Carter has taken the final shot six times to Dirk Nowitzki’s one since Dirk’s return. The main reason for this, I suspect, is that Carlisle knows not a single Maverick guard can reliably get a pass to Dirk. There wasn’t enough time for a Carter-Dirk pick and roll in that situation, and even though Carter is the best in the NBA from that particular spot, the Mavericks have to get something going towards the rim when the margin is a single point. Tim Duncan told David Aldridge in the post game interview that a step back fade away is exactly the shot San Antonio was hoping to force. That Dallas was in this game at all with Dirk, Carter, Mayo and Elton Brand shooting a combined 36% from the field is impressive, but the small mistakes Dallas makes throughout the course of the game keep catching up to them.

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: Week 20

Posted by Travis Wimberly on under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Fire Ice
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

An undefeated week. 3-0. Say it aloud, because we’ve had little occasion to celebrate such things this season.

Okay, so admittedly, it was a weak schedule (the Mavs’ three opponents this week have a combined record of 77-115), and two of the games went down to the wire. But let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about the 2012-2013 Mavs, not the Mavs of yesteryear. For this squad, it’s no small feat to win three straight road games against any three NBA teams. And given that this team’s playoff hopes are slim, I for one plan to enjoy the small victories here and there for the remainder of the season.

Week 20 (@Pistons, @Timberwolves, @Bucks)

FIRE

1) Vinsanity

When the Mavs refused to move Vince Carter at the trade deadline, several observers questioned that decision, and perhaps rightfully so. But since then, Carter has made the Mavs’ front office look very prescient. He’s firmly cemented himself as either the Mavs’ second or third-best all-around player (depending on where you would put him relative to Shawn Marion), and he’s done so with excellent efficiency and irreplaceable leadership. This week, Carter averaged exactly 15.0 points per game, shot 18-of-31 (58%) from the field cumulatively, and pulled down 6.3 rebounds per game. That’s terrific, but it hardly tells the full story. Carter’s tenacity and willingness to take (and make) big shots was on full display this week. If you were one of the lucky few who watched the Mavs-Bucks game on NBA League pass with Milwaukee’s broadcast crew, you had the pleasure (as I did) of listening to them bemoan Carter’s bevy of clutch shots late in the fourth quarter. In net points per 100 possessions, three of the Mavs’ four most productive lineups on the season include Carter.  Carter now carries a player-efficiency rating (PER) of 17.7, the third-highest on the Mavs. Guess which Mav ranks number one by that metric?

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Timing is Everything

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 12, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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You can look at what the Mavs have to do if team X, Y and Z have a certain record over their last remaining games. You can do that, but all that really matter is what the Mavs do on their own over the last 20 games of the season. Win as many games as you can and the rest will sort itself out. Dirk Nowitzki is firmly back and showing signs he can be the old Dirk that everyone remembers. O.J. Mayo has shown that he actually can be a creator and facilitator, despite what his coach said just over a week ago. Shawn Marion is still known as the defensive stopper for the team. Elton Brand is going to do his part to be the defensive anchor and a presence off the bench. Despite the team’s record, Vince Carter is going to continue to be a massive bargain for the Mavs by showing he’s one the league’s best reserves off the bench.

Dallas has an elite coach, veteran leadership and pride that they will rely heavily on as they make their final push for a playoff spot. There is one player though that could really put them over the top and really put their push into overdrive.

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The Rundown, Volume XVII

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 11, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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The Rundown is back. Every Monday (unless there’s a better feature to run with), The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavs, 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 Mavs continue to still have a chance to make the playoffs, somehow. The bottom half of the playoff picture continues to see teams floundering, allowing Dallas to keep their chances somewhat alive. Dallas now holds the 10th spot in the West, via a tie-breaker over Portland. They’re now three games back of the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth seed in the West. They showed some pride against the Rockets, O.J. Mayo came alive and a Mav was let go. Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.

Did THAT Really Happen?

- Mike James made his first start of the season (264th career) against Houston on Wednesday. It was his first start since Mar. 25, 2009 vs. Charlotte (with Washington). Brandan Wright also got a spot-start as he filled in as the starting center.  The Mavericks used their 19th different starting lineup of the year. Having Mike James start over Darren Collison can’t be a promising sign for Collison’s long term future with the Mavs.

- Rick Carlisle was surly, in his own comedic way. During the team’s shootaround in Detroit, Carlisle was very matter of fact to reporters in regards to the ever-changing starting lineup. “I’m tired of hearing about 19 starting lineups being a lot,” Carlisle told reporters. “I had 31 one year, so you guys can all go f— yourselves and I mean that in the most endearing way.” Maybe it took some self-reflection time to realize a better approach would work. “As you can tell this year, nothing is permanent,” Carlisle told reporters about the lineup changes. “Nothing is going to be set in stone.” You have to love Rick Carlisle. The Mavs used their 20th different starting lineup of the season at Detroit. Jae Crowder started at small forward in place of Shawn Marion (left calf contusion). Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo and Mike James joined Crowder in the starting lineup.

- Shawn Marion missed the games against the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves as he was dealing with a left calf contusion. He suffered the injury during the first quarter against the Houston Rockets in the second game of the home-and-home series. It’s a tough break for the Mavs as they desperately need all hands on deck as they continue to make their frantic push for the playoffs.

- Well, they don’t need ALL hands on deck as the team announced over the weekend that they had released guard Dominique Jones. Prior to the start of this season, the Mavs opted not to pick up the team option for next season in Jones’ rookie contract, making it clear that he didn’t fit in the franchise’s future plans. A first round pick in the 2010 draft, Jones never really made an impact on the Mavs’ roster during his time in Dallas. Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that patience with Jones had been dwindling for some time. When the Mavs wanted to send Jones back to the D-League for another assignment with the Texas Legends in Frisco, sources said that Jones balked, prompting the team to let him go Saturday. Why he figured he had the clout to say no to an assignment in Frisco is beyond me. It does take me back to the time I covered a game in Frisco during his rookie year and he was assigned to the Legends. I spoke to him after the game and he clearly appeared like he wasn’t happy being there. He’ll likely be remembered as the guy who simulated being LeBron James during the team’s series against the Miami Heat during the 2011 Finals. He’s an NBA champion, so there’s that. With his departure, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Roddy Beaubois remain the lone Mavs from the championship roster.

- News circulated during the weekend that the Mavs nearly acquired Paul Pierce at the trade deadline. There might have been a logjam of wings (if Vince Carter was still on the roster) and there might have been a chemistry issue early on between Dirk and Pierce, but it’s a clear upgrade in talent if you get Pierce for the suggested pieces that were involved. Yes, Jae Crowder is playing well as a second-round draft pick, even better as of late, but he is nowhere near an untouchable player when it comes to a trade. The Mavs would have gotten older in the process. The goal in a trade isn’t to get younger, it’s to get better. With Rick Carlisle coaching the team, it’s fair to believe the Mavs would have gotten better with that trade.

- O.J. Mayo had a relatively clean week in terms of turnovers. Just over a week after Rick Carlisle said that he wasn’t a creator, Mayo proved he could find a way to be a distributor and do so while protecting the ball. His last turnover before his turnover at the 4:54 mark of the second quarter against Minnesota was at the 5:37 mark of the fourth quarter of the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Mar. 1. He went nearly 115 minutes of game action without a turnover.

- Once again, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Mavs plan to sign point guard Chris Wright, point guard of the Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League, to a 10-day contract before the team’s game against Milwaukee on Tuesday. Wright, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder averaged 15.5 points, 7.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 37.0 minutes per game for Iowa, earning a spot in last month’s D-League All-Star Game in Houston. A product of Georgetown University, Wright actually was in New Orleans’ camp during the preseason, but he was waived days before the team’s season opener. The book on him is that he’s a strong guard with a stronger motor. He can get to the rim and finish (unlike someone else). He can be a pesky defender and also can play in transition. He still needs to show more consistency as a shooter and the ability to lead an NBA team, but the team could certainly do a lot worse than Wright. If signed, he will represent the 21st player brought on board for the Mavericks, tying the second-highest total in franchise history (1980-81 season). The franchise record for most players in a season is 27 during the 1996-97 season.

Note: Wright has a very interesting outlook on life that he will bring with him to the Mavs. For more, go here.

Box Score Revelations

- In his “best game of the year” according to Rick Carlisle, O.J. Mayo recorded his second double-double of the season (fourth career) with 13 points, six rebounds, a career-high 12 assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes against Houston on Wednesday. His previous high assist total was 10 (at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009). Seven of Mayo’s 12 assists came in the first half, including five in the first quarter alone. The seven first-half assists were tied for the most assists he’s recorded in any half in his career (7 in first half at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009; 7 in second half vs. Golden State Feb. 9, 2013). He must like dishing the rock against the Warriors.

- The Mavs dished out a season-high 35 assists in the win over the Rockets on Wednesday (previous high: 33 vs. Minnesota Jan, 14). It was the most assists Dallas has recorded in a game since Apr. 12, 2010 at the L.A. Clippers (37). The Mavs recorded 30-plus assists for the fifth time this season (4-1 record).

- Dallas shot 52.6 percent (41-of-78) from the field in the win at Detroit on Friday. It marked the third time in their last four games (15th time this season) that the Mavs shot at least 50 percent from the floor. Dallas is 13-2 this season when they shoot 50-plus percent from the field.

- With a 100-77 victory over Minnesota, Dallas had their biggest margin of victory on the road this year. Their previous high was by 10 in Phoenix on Feb. 1. Dallas led by double-digits for the last 34:26 of the game. Dallas also had their largest rebounding margin of the year (59-40) in the game against Minnesota.

- Dirk Nowitzki had four turnovers against the Wolves. He had four, but there will be one that stands out more than the others. (Credit: CJ Fogler) That will surely be featured on TNT’s Inside the NBA (specifically Shaqtin’ a Fool). Poor Dirk.

Check Your Calendar

- The Mavs hit the second half of their four-game road trip with a trip to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks on Tuesday. Upcoming restricted free agent Brandon Jennings will have another chance to “audition” for the Mavs. News came out over the weekend that Jennings is considering signing the qualifying offer in order to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2014. That would be a gutsy move, but it does have a chance to pay off in a big way for the dynamic point guard. The game will mark the first of a back-to-back for the Bucks. They will head to Washington to take on the Wizards on Wednesday.

- The road trip will conclude with a trip down I-35 to take on the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have had to play without the services of Tony Parker since the start of the month. He sprained his left ankle and will be out for about a month. That might hurt the Spurs’ chances of claiming the top seed in the Western Conference but that likely won’t mean much to them as they’re a squad that can play against just about anyone.

- Dallas will have two games at home to finish the week, starting with a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. When facing the Cavs, it begins and ends with Kyrie Irving. The dynamic guard has taken his game to a new level. You could easily make a case that Irving could be considered a top-five point guard in the league. As the head of the snake, the Mavs will need to be ready to throw multiple weapons at Irving in order to try to slow him down. The Mavs might catch a break as Irving might have to miss the game. He suffered what is being classified as a shoulder contusion. Irving will be re-evaluated this week. The game will mark the first of a back-to-back for the Cavs as they will take on the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.

- The week concludes with a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s clear that the Thunder’s rolling on cylinders right now. Despite it being a tough game, this is one Dallas needs to try to steal as they continue to push for the eighth seed. The fact that it’s a home game should help for the Mavs. Both teams should be healthy and well-rested so neither team should have an excuse if they don’t bring their best game.

BG’s Baller of the Week

Baller status has been granted to one Brandan Wright. He scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game (18th time this season) with his 13-point performance against Minnesota. Wright averaged 24.7 minutes, 13.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks during the week (all wins). He also shot 79.2 percent from the field during the week. The 24.7 minutes is a considerable and consistent uptick in action for Wright. He’s also seen some time at the power forward position during that time. No matter what portion of the year it is, Wright continues to have nice performances in spot duty. Rick Carlisle must be encouraged by the fact that Wright continues to perform well despite sporadic appearances from Wright.

Dallas needs Elton Brand’s aggression and tenacity. They need Chris Kaman’s versatility on offense. They need Bernard James’ energy in spot duty. Wright is showing that he can bring efficiency from the field when he’s on the floor. He still has work to do as a rebounder and as a on-man defender (though he is a decent team and weak-side defender). It’s obvious now that Dallas will try to beat their opponents with their depth. Over the week, Brandan Wright stated his case that he deserves to be a vital part to the team’s rotation.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.