The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 111, Orlando Magic 105

Posted by Kirk Henderson on January 20, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Rabbit in Hat

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.

  • Continuing a theme from the previous edition of The Difference, mental miscues made this game unnecessarily close. With just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Mavericks leading 104 to 96, Vince Carter blocked Aaron Afflalo. The ensuing fast break possession saw O.J. Mayo try to force a pass to Elton Brand on the baseline which resulted in a turnover. During the ensuing TV timeout, Carlisle was… unhappy to say the least. Later, after Darren Collison’s back breaking corner three with 31 seconds left, the Magic drew up an in-bounds play for J.J. Redick. Miscommunication between Collison and Mayo resulted in Redick getting left wide open to drill the three which brought the Magic within two. These two mistakes didn’t cost Dallas the game, but they are the kind of mistakes a team cannot make if they hope to sneak into the playoffs.
  • For the longest time, the Oklahoma City Thunder would start games with a post up of Kendrick Perkins, who was usually their last offensive option on the floor. This season Dallas has insisted on doing something similar with Chris Kaman (13 points, 8 rebounds) by getting him the ball early and often. While Kaman is a much better offensive player than Perkins, it really bogs the Dallas offensive down when he’s the focal point. Kaman attempted six shots in the first seven minutes of play, making two of them. In related news, Dallas only scored eight points in those seven minutes.
  • Nice to see Darren Collison (11 points, nine assists) get a chance to play in crunch time against the Magic. After two close games where Carlisle subbed him in favor of Mike James down the stretch, Collison remained in the game late and knocked down the aforementioned corner three with under a minute left.
  • To date, my favorite front court line up has been Vince Carter-Dirk Nowitzki-Elton Brand. Carter’s ability to stretch the defense is usually huge. However, against the Magic the Marion-Nowitzki-Brand line up produced some excellent offensive basketball. In the second quarter, a Marion-Nowitzki pick and roll with Marion as the ball handler caused havoc for the Magic defense. With Brand sitting at the free throw line, Dirk rolled to the baseline after setting a screen and caught the Marion pass. The defense sagged in anticipation of his move and Dirk simply passed to the open Brand for a jumper. On another possession, Dirk slipped the screen he set for Marion, bringing his defender and Brand’s with him to the baseline. Marion whipped a pass to the wide open Brand for another jumper.
  • All of the Maverick guards could learn a thing or two about off ball movement from J.J. Redick (18 points, 4 assists). Since he’s a bit limited athletically in comparison to other NBA guards, he uses well timed cuts and textbook understanding of screens to get open. In the second quarter, he ran his man through two perimeter screens which freed him for a wide open baseline jumper.
  • The chemistry between Shawn Marion (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Vince Carter (15 points, six assists) is fun to watch. Though they don’t share the court that often, usually in the first quarter when Marion slides over to power forward for a few minutes, there’s often exciting basketball when they get to play together. The Maverick’s 99th and 100th points came from a Carter-Marion alley oop lay up. Marion spun and released off of Aaron Afflalo and Carter placed the ball where only Marion could catch it.

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 114, Oklahoma City Thunder 117

Posted by Kirk Henderson on January 19, 2013 under Recaps | 3 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.

  • 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: Week 12

Posted by Travis Wimberly on January 17, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Solar Flare

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)

FIRE

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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Ambiguous Architecture

Posted by Ian Levy on under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

Solid Foundation?

For the first time in awhile, things are looking up in Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki is healthy, and the Mavericks are on a four game win streak. In their wins over Sacramento, Memphis, Minnesota and Houston, Dallas put up points at the scorching rate of 112.4 points per 100 possessions. This is a tremendous bump for what has been the 18th most efficient offense in the league this year and, at just 100.9 points per 100 possessions, the least efficient Mavericks’ offense of the past 13 seasons.

Offensive firepower of great variety has been the defining characteristic of Mavericks’ basketball for more than a decade, so watching the team struggle so mightily this season has been somewhat disconcerting. The absence of Dirk Nowitzki has certainly made things difficult, but the problems have been so systemic it’s hard to lay them all at the feet of one giant German. Across the entire season the Mavericks have wilted in each of the offensive Four Factors. They rank 8th in the league TO%, but 13th in eFG%, 16th in FTA Rate and 27th in ORB%.

The eFG% is especially troubling. Making shots is what Mavericks do, and under Rick Carlisle in particular, the team has shown a razor-sharp focus on the craft of creating quality open looks. This season however, their miraculous ability to manipulate and manufacture open space has largely fizzled. As dark as things have been, some fragrant Four-Factor-blossoms bloomed in their three most recent wins. They posted an eFG% of just 45.3% against Sacramento but pushed the bounds of offensive efficiency with just nine turnovers and 35 free throw attempts. Against Memphis and Minnesota, Dallas scorched the nets with eFG%s of 55.6% and 66.3% respectively. Against Houston, shooting was again a problem but 10 turnovers and 43 free throw attempts did the job. Those eFG% numbers are exciting to type; they feel like a thick, down sleeping bag with the potential to fend off the long winter weeks still to come. But I’m not sure they are truly a reflection of problems solved.

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Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 105, Houston Rockets 100

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

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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 Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Houston Rockets 100

Posted by Connor Huchton on under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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.

  • Never has Elton Brand’s (4-9 FG, 11 points, 10 rebounds) importance been more clear than as he denied James Harden (5-23 FG, 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) on two consecutive attempts in the closing moments of the fourth quarter. Brand carefully blocked Harden during the most important possession of a close game, as Harden soared into the air with the game tied and momentum on the Rockets’ side. But Brand waited and precisely leaped, and the resulting Mavericks’ fast break points (from O.J. Mayo free throws) were enough to seal a Mavericks’ victory.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (7-14 FG, 19 points, eight rebounds) led the Mavericks in scoring, as he has so many times in the past. The most encouraging aspect of Dirk’s performance was its overcoming nature: Dirk began the game slowly (1-6 FG), but made six of his last eight shots and steadied the Mavericks’ offense throughout a turbulent fourth quarter.
  • O.J. Mayo (3-14 FG, 12-13 FT, 18 points, eight assists, six rebounds) really struggled to find his jumper but did find a nice replacement vein of scoring: free throws, and many of them. It was nice to see Mayo find a way to help the Mavericks in a significant way on a night when he couldn’t simply pull up from beyond the arc. Instead, Mayo passed, rebounded, and free-throw(ed) his way towards a solid contribution.
  • And again, Mayo only had two turnovers in a Mavericks’ win. It’s fair to call this a trend.
  • Tonight’s game serves as a keen example of winning on a night defined by adversity. Despite struggling mightily from the field, the Mavericks drew fouls (43 free throws), passed well (22 assists, 10 turnovers), and played strong closing defense on the way to a hard-fought, four-game winning streak-continuing victory (that’s a lot of adjectives).

Being in the Moment

Posted by David Hopkins on January 15, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

inthemoment_hopkins

“Human suffering is irrelevant to me!” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

I took my family to the game last night. My wife and daughter sat on either side of me, as we watched from the cheap seats (the proof via Instagram). We had a good time, each in our own way.

My wife quietly observes the game. She doesn’t get pre-occupied with the trivia, the history, or the box score like I do, but she always has a good sense for the flow and momentum of a game. She disapproves of me booing the opponent during their foul shots and is annoyed by fans who yell the same thing during every play. For instance, several games last season, we sat next to “Set it up!” guy in section 328. We were tired of “Set it up!” and privately cherished those moments when “Set it up!” would leave for prolonged smoking and drinking breaks during the middle of the game. This is not to suggest that my wife prefers a civil sporting contest. When I commented on J.J. Barea flopping, my wife had a more direct way of describing it: “Barea needs to stop playing like a little [expletive deleted].” I love my wife.

My daughter is concerned mostly about getting on the jumbotron and snagging one of the t-shirts being shot into the crowd. I try to explain that the odds are unlikely for fans in the 300s, but she remains hopeful. She loves the half-time entertainment, the crazy antics of the mascot Champ (also his cousin, Inflatable Champ), and the contests during timeouts. She loudly participates in the chants. “De-fense! De-fense!” She likes to dance and to yell. She protests and pouts until she can have a soft pretzel. My daughter is happy when the Mavs win, apathetic when they don’t.

I mutter to myself while watching the game. I clap my paper fan noisemaker to signal that the Mavs are playing well. I sigh and groan at bad calls, usually punctuated with a “Come on!” If the three-pointer is open, I urge them on (“Take it!”). A fast break culminating in a slam dunk almost always elicits an “Oh yeah!” and/or “That’s it!” from me. Sometimes I forget to breathe if the Mavs haven’t scored in a while. I lean forward in my seat, hand to face, during close games.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 113, Minnesota Timberwolves 98

Posted by Kirk Henderson on under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Clockwork

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 is the second straight opponent the Mavericks have beaten on the second night of a back-to-back. The tired legs of the Minnesota Timberwolves were evident from their shooting (41%), and as the game wore on, the Wolves simply couldn’t keep up with the constant pressure of the Mavericks both offensively and defensively (Dallas forced 15 turnovers). However, the poor shooting created lots of offensive rebounds for the league’s best rebounding team, which was the main reason this game was relatively close in the fourth quarter.
  • Of course, a great way to combat giving up 20 offensive rebounds is to shoot nearly 60% from the field as Dallas did.
  • The ball moves faster via pass than through the dribble, which enabled the Mavericks to keep the Wolves’ defense off-balance all night long with crisp ball movement to the tune of 33 assists on 46 made field goals.
  • The offense of Elton Brand (20 points on 10-for-13 shooting) is no longer hesitant. After posting a shooting percentage in the high 30′s for October and November due to his shot often falling short, Brand has been incredibly consistent. Looking at his shot location against the Wolves, one finds that nearly all of Brand’s makes came from his sweet spots at the 10-to-18 foot mark. Coincidentally, over the 10 previous games, Brand has shot 73% from this range.
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Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 104, Memphis Grizzlies 83

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on January 13, 2013 under Interviews | Read the First Comment

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Don’t look now, but the Dallas Mavericks are on a winning streak. They defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in convincing fashion, 104-83. The Mavericks have now won consecutive games for the first time since they won three in row from Dec. 6 through Dec. 10. Dallas used a 34-13 outburst from the 5:04 mark of the first quarter through the 6:14 mark of the second period to turn a three-point deficit, 14-11, into an 18-point advantage, 45-27. The Mavericks defeated the Grizzlies by 21 points on Saturday. It was the Grizzlies’ second-largest margin of defeat this season, lost by 25, 121-96, at Houston Dec. 22. Dallas scored 104 points in the win over Memphis on Saturday. It marked just the third time this season that Memphis has allowed 100-plus points in a game.

Shawn Marion scored a season-high 20 points to go along with four rebounds in 26 minutes vs. Memphis. He put up a season-high point total for the second consecutive game, 19 at Sacramento. Prior to the game at Sacramento on Jan. 10, the most he had scored in a game this season was 18 at Chicago on Nov. 28.

Dallas tied a season-low with nine turnovers against the Grizzlies (9 on three other occasions). The Mavericks have recorded 13-or-fewer turnovers in eight of their last 10 games. The Mavericks outscored the Grizzlies 54-39 in the opening half. The 39 points were the fewest Dallas has allowed in the first half of a game this season, previous low was 40 on two occasions: at Memphis Dec. 21 and vs. New Orleans Jan. 5. Memphis managed 40 first-half points in the meeting with Dallas earlier this season, Dec. 21.

Here is the quoteboard for the impressive victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

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Grabbing the Reins

Posted by Brian Rubaie on January 9, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

TakingTheReins

Dirk Nowitzki is unselfish to a fault. That unselfishness can, in the right moments and with the right teammates, make Dirk an admirable, unique leader. As the Mavericks playoff chances dwindle, however, his selflessness is harming Dallas on the floor. The reconstructed roster lacks a clear go-to player at the end of games and needs Dirk to demand the ball. Even as he struggles to regain his form and find his shooting touch, the former MVP irreplaceably changes the complexion of the game when he plays aggressively by creating better opportunities for his teammates.

To his credit, Dirk hasn’t always had to control the reins to guide Dallas to success. There is some historical precedent for the Mavericks winning games without Dirk being dominant; he willingly ceded the leadership role on the floor during crunch time to Steve Nash during their time together in Dallas and in the locker room to the likes of Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler during the championship run. He has been equally willing to cede the floor to his younger teammates this season, telling our own Bryan Gutierrez recently that, in his own view, he is “not helping that much.”

It is impossible, however, to imagine this Mavericks team finding their way without Dirk willingly taking the ball and embracing the risk of failure. His deference to Nash, Kidd, and Chandler aside, every great Mavericks run in recent history has revolved around Dirk demanding the ball and refusing to allow his team to lose. The lasting image of the 2006 playoffs is of Dirk willing his way past Manu Ginobli for a three-point play that in turn led Dallas past the Spurs. Nowitzki’s reputation as a great player who feared big moments was shattered as he went toe-to-toe with Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James in 2011 and ceded only three of the 15 contests along the way.

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