Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 20, 2011 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

Jeff Caplan, ESPN Dallas: “In the first three quarters of both games, Nowitzki has scored 29 total points on 10-of-31 shooting and 9-0f-9 from the free throw line. In the fourth quarter, however, Nowitzki’s numbers are mesmerizing: 32 points on 6-of-11 shooting — 1-of-1 from 3-point range — and 19-of-21 from the free throw line. And he’s earning every one of them, pounding his body inside, absorbing contact and finishing strong. ‘This team is going to keep fighting,’ Nowitzki said. ‘I’m going to keep fighting.’”

Jason Quick, The Oregonian: “Brandon Roy has fought through a lot of things in his career, but never has he had to do what he did Tuesday in Dallas during Game 2 of the Trail Blazers’ first-round series. Brandon Roy, the face of the franchise, had to fight off tears. ‘There was a point in the first half, and I was thinking ‘You better not cry,’ Roy said. ‘I mean, serious. I mean, there was a moment where I felt really sorry for myself. Then I was like, nah, you can’t be sorry for yourself. I’m a grown man, but there was a moment there that I felt sorry for myself. Especially when I think I can still help…I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little hurt, or disappointed,’ Roy said. ‘But the biggest thing is to keep moving, to try and keep my spirits up. But it’s tough man. I just…I just always thought I would be treated better. That was a little disappointing for me.’”

Ben Golliver, Eye on Basketball: “Roy has maintained for the last month that his struggles are mental and that his knees feel fine after arthroscopic surgery earlier this season. He’s also talked at length, since before the surgeries, about his need to adjust his game to accomodate his physical changes. There is a clear disconnect for Roy. While his knees feel good that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the player he once was, nor even a productive player. A lack of swelling or pain doesn’t equal 25 points a night, or 10 points a night. Or, even, a single point on Tuesday night. Playing without pain doesn’t mean he’s playing well. Those two have long gone hand in hand for Roy in the past, but that simply hasn’t been the case for months now. When Roy says his struggles are purely mental, he’s either kidding himself or he hasn’t fully come to terms with his current abilities. Scouts, former players, media observers and fans see a player whose quickness and power off the dribble have disappeared, a player whose ball fake and dribble combinations no longer mesmerize, a player whose lift is gone, a player who has been a defensive liability — slow laterally, slow to rotate, slow to close out — for the entire season, and a player whose confidence is clearly shaken. ”

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Portland Trailblazers 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

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 was just a pristine performance by the Mavericks. Dallas performed well in virtually every area — they drained their shots, curbed their early defensive troubles, kept their turnovers way down for the second straight game, kept a scoring balance that allowed for some fantastic offensive synergy, hit the glass, and got to the line frequently. It’s hard for such a holistically excellent performance to inspire anything but optimism; most of the worries that survived the Mavs’ Game 1 win were surely vanquished in their Game 2 explosion. So much still depends on the accuracy of Dallas’ perimeter shooters, but let that be a concern for another day. On Tuesday, the Mavs feasted, and for the moment that’s all that matters.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge is playing Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 9-22 FG, seven rebounds, four assists) well on the defensive end, and it hasn’t meant a damn thing. He stays grounded, contests shots, and generally tries not to commit on any of Nowitzki’s fakes. Yet Dirk was able to attack both Aldridge and a slew of other defenders by spinning into the lane and setting up on the low right block, both of which paid off in free throw attempts and close-range looks. At this stage, I’m not even sure how Aldridge could possibly defend Nowitzki more effectively — the effort is there, and his D is fundamentally sound, though perhaps too aggressive in spots. If the Blazers are less physical with Dirk, they’ll concede more easy jumpers. If they throw more double teams at him, he’ll simply find Jason Kidd, Peja Stojakovic, or Jason Terry spotting up on the perimeter. Aldridge is doing his best to make Nowitzki’s looks as difficult as possible, and yet Dirk still finished Game 2 with 33 points on 22 shots while only recording a single turnover. There are some forces in this world which are just not meant to be stopped or deterred.
  • Jason Kidd (18 points, 7-11 FG, 3-6 3FG, eight assists, four rebounds) reprised his role as unexpected three-point marksman, and even made a layup just for the hell of it. Again: it’s not important that Kidd, specifically, produce like this on offense every night out, but it is important that someone does. If not Kidd then Terry, and if not Terry then Shawn Marion, etc. For now, it’s simply great to see Kidd performing at an elite level in the playoffs, something he’s never done in his Maverick career. Fresh legs are only the half of it; Kidd is flat-out playing better ball than he did for large stretches of the regular season, and his scoring has added a fantastic new dimension to the Maverick offense. Expectations based on Kidd’s late-season performance, fatigue, and age be damned — Kidd has been a pillar for Dallas in the playoffs thus far.
  • The Mavs’ lack of turnovers against a team as (typically) defensively active as the Blazers is a huge story. Dallas didn’t turn the ball over a single time in the second half, which is about as rare as it sounds; according to NBA.com’s StatsCube, Dallas is just the second team to pull off a no-TO second half in playoff history. For them to do so against the second best team in the NBA in opponent’s turnover percentage is flat-out ridiculous. The Mavs ball-handlers are settling into their offense really well, but Nowitzki is also doing a great job of passing out of double teams.
  • Peja Stojakovic (21 points, 8-13 FG, 5-10 3FG, five rebounds) validated his acquisition with a single game, and the playoffs are just getting started. At the time of Stojakovic’s signing, I was admittedly skeptical of what he could offer; Sasha Pavlovic was converting 43.8 percent of his threes for the Mavs while riding out 10-day contracts, and his defensive pedigree made him a more appealing role player option in my mind. Yet it’s hard to imagine Pavlovic would have been able to pull off the kind of performance Stojakovic did last night, even if the Blazers are a bit slow to get their hands in the faces of perimeter shooters; the former simply isn’t as proficient in coming off of curls for catch-and-shoot opportunities, nor was Pavlovic well-suited to fire under duress on those occasions that Portland did close out hard on the three-point shot. Not that the comparison between the two players even matters at this point — the important thing is that Stojakovic is earning his keep and his playing time, and on Tuesday his shooting gave Dallas a huge lift.
  • Those who had incredulously discussed (read: mocked, doubted) Gerald Wallace’s status as a series x-factor after Game 1 can kindly bite their tongues. Wallace was a demon in the open court, which should be no surprise; the man has turned the fast break leak-out into an art form over the course of his career, while somehow maintaining solid defensive rebounding numbers. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Wallace’s only utility came in the open court, though. Crash also established his hard-cutting style in the Blazers’ half-court offense, and found his teammates for easy scores. Obviously Wallace wasn’t the difference-maker in Game 2, but he certainly made a difference. If Portland is going to rebound at home in Games 3 and 4, he’ll likely be a critical part of their formula.
  • The odd thing for the Blazers: none of their players had an especially poor game. Aldridge was dominant for stretches and less so for some, but still efficient. Andre Miller hit a few jumpers and got to the rim off the dribble while running the offense effectively. Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews hit their shots. Wallace chipped in with his dynamic slashing. Yet none of it was enough; Portland was relatively efficient in its shooting, but surrendered modest advantages to Dallas on the offensive glass and in the turnover margin without gaining any offensive ground. With the way the Mavs were scoring, those kinds of extra opportunities were enough to create a substantial buffer between the two teams, a painful threshold constructed by the combination of minor differences. It can be hard for some to understand why their teams lose in occasions like these, and the result is typically some recycled sound bite about toughness or closing games. The Blazers lost because across the board they just weren’t as good as the Mavs. The difference in performance between the two teams wasn’t huge, but it was significant.
  • J.J. Barea: 2-of-7 shooting, two turnovers, but several critical drives to the hoop in the fourth quarter. Barea correctly identified the Blazer overplays on the Nowitzki pick-and-roll, and attacked the rim fearlessly against a stilted defense. Great recognition, and an excellent job of finishing the play or drawing a foul. Plus, Barea — and the Maverick guards on the whole — defended the post well. The Blazer guards’ post-up play was a non-story in Game 2, even after that element of Portland’s offense had found some success in limited Game 1 application. Kudos to J.J. for his work on both ends.
  • Jason Terry still hasn’t made much of an impact on this series, but he’s also not acting as a detriment. For the second game in a row, Terry contributed 10 points without using too many possessions, didn’t turn the ball over, and offered some offensive spacing. Considering the lack of scoring Dallas is getting from Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler, those 10 points are a tremendous help. It’s not an issue of shot selection, either; JET took good attempts on Tuesday, but his looks just couldn’t find the net. It’s just a matter of time.
  • Nate McMillan made the mistake of overplaying Brandon Roy down the stretch in Game 1, but perhaps the pendulum swung a bit too far the other way in Game 2. Roy logged just eight minutes of playing time as a deep reserve, and went scoreless in his time on the court. Patty Mills even managed to log four minutes of playing time, at least some of which could have gone to Roy. It’s an odd, depressing situation to say the least; Roy is battling his own physical limitations and trying to deal mentally with the transition from star to role player, and neither fight seems to be going particularly well. Regardless, Roy remains painfully oblivious to his shortcomings, and that doesn’t bode well for his status with the team nor his future as a productive player. I haven’t the faintest idea of what the rest of Roy’s career holds, but here’s to hoping he finds balance going forward, even if all of us in Dallas wouldn’t mind him remaining a non-factor for the remainder of the series.
  • Credit to the Maverick bigs for their work on the offensive glass: Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood combined for eight offensive rebounds, which was more than the Blazers had as an entire team. If not for those offensive boards, Chandler’s impact on that end would be negligible, though his presence is certainly more accommodating to the offense than Haywood’s. To Chandler’s credit, he did defend Aldridge in the post relatively successfully, particularly in the fourth quarter. Those defensive stands on the block were huge, and if Chandler can provide a similar defensive front against Aldridge in the games going forward, Dallas should have no problem dealing with whatever else Portland throws their way.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 107, Los Angeles Clippers 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 9, 2011 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Los Angeles100.053.918.425.021.9

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.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 104, Minnesota Timberwolves 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 25, 2011 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin, give or take a dozen or so considering the ridiculous scoring margin of this game.

  • 50 wins is a big deal or something, right? Seriously, though: Savor these incredible seasons. I know everyone within the Maverick organization will downplay the significance of 11 straight 50-win seasons, but it’s a remarkable accomplishment and has been an incredible gift to this fan base. Title or not, good basketball is good basketball, and that’s been the Mavericks’ #1 export for a little over a decade.
  • Anthony Randolph, who had been in hibernation for the last 10 months, was roused from slumber to thoroughly dominate a would-be contender. Last I checked, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. With Kevin Love out, the Mavs were supposed to go about their business and check out with a ho-hum, double-digit win. They weren’t supposed to allow a player without a meaningful basketball performance in months completely tear apart their defense from inside and out. Dirk Nowitzki couldn’t stay with him. Tyson Chandler wouldn’t step out far enough to contest his jumper. Shawn Marion was undersized around the basket. No Mav could stick Randolph, and though he’s admittedly a unique basketball specimen, let’s just mark this game down as another blemish on Dallas’ defense. Good on Randolph for his new career highs (he finished with 31 points, 14-20 FG, 11 rebounds, three assists, and two turnovers, for the record), but this — and the fact that Randolph’s night wasn’t the sole representation of Dallas’ defensive problems — doesn’t bode well for a team entering the playoffs in a matter of weeks.
  • The Mavs’ offensive execution wasn’t that bad. Not where it needs to be, mind you, but certainly not deserving of substantial criticism. The turnovers are still a bit too high, but quality attempts were there all night. That’s to be expected when facing the league’s 25th ranked offense, but it still deserves a note considering how poorly the Mavs shot from the field. Dallas made just eight of their 25 field goal attempts in the first quarter, including a horrendous 1-of-11 mark from three-point range. That shooting normalized as the game went on (and really, had already done so by halftime, as the Mavs shot 13-of-19 in the second quarter), but Dallas’ shooting numbers were sandbagged by the dead weight of that first frame.
  • Fine, fine work by Shawn Marion (17 points, 8-14 FG, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks) and Peja Stojakovic (16 points, 6-10 FG, 4-8 3FG, four rebounds) on the offensive end. Both were dynamite in their movement without the ball, and the Wolves’ defenders often got lost on curls and cuts. When Marion and Stojakovic can function this efficiently, it gives Dallas a brutal level of offensive versatility. They won’t both be rolling every night, but their performances in this one weren’t merely indicative of Minnesota’s defensive lapses; this was solid offensive play. Dirk Nowitzki (30 points, 12-26 FG, 11 rebounds, four assists) and Jason Terry (18 points, 7-12 FG, three assists) did their thing, but the former is expected and the latter is unsurprising. Enjoyed every high-arcing jumper nonetheless, but this is just what Dirk and JET do.
  • An interesting wrinkle to the Corey Brewer situation we saw manifest itself last night: when healthy, Dallas doesn’t even really have room for him on the active roster. Last night’s 12-man roster: Kidd, Beaubois, Marion, Nowitkzi, Chandler, Terry, Stojakovic, Haywood, Barea, Mahinmi, Cardinal, Stevenson. Brewer has been able to rock the warm-ups lately because of minor injuries to Marion and Stojakovic, but when both are active, I’m not sure where exactly Brewer fits at the moment.
  • Not a great night for some of the other Maverick regulars, but let’s dig for the silver lining amidst all the gloom naturally emanating from this game. Rodrigue Beaubois finished with just three points on 1-of-5 shooting, but did make a handful of nifty passes (several of the around-the-back variety), even if he doesn’t have the assists to show for it. Tyson Chandler didn’t have a great game, but he neared double-double territory while playing some nice defense in the second half. Jason Kidd had 13 assists and six rebounds, and isn’t that enough, really? J.J. Barea picked up six assists in 16 minutes, Brendan Haywood played passable basketball, and DeShawn Stevenson got to step on the court for four seconds of actual game action.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 118, Utah Jazz 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 24, 2011 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin…except this time, only kind of, and not really.

  • Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the league, and his absence for the Jazz — as he currently resides in trade limbo and will soon make his debut for the New Jersey Nets — significantly changed the way this game progressed and the way we should view it. If Utah had their complete roster (with Devin Harris and Derrick Favors) to work with, the Mavs would have faced significantly more resistance. However, a team with Earl Watson running the show is just a bit different than one with Williams or Harris at the helm. The Jazz had been pretty inconsistent this season with their team more or less intact, but to take away their best player and starting point guard — while Utah transitions into life after Jerry Sloan, no less — remove some of this win’s significance.
  • Still, a game is a game, and there is some insight to be gleaned from 48 minutes against any team out there. Dallas had some trouble early on offense (primarily due to their eight turnovers in the frame, which were more their own doing than Utah’s), but really cranked up their production as the game went on. It’s the balance of this team that continues to surprise me; again, the Mavs had an impressive number (seven) of double-digit scorers to complement Dirk Nowitzki’s 23 points on 15 shots. The starters played well enough to keep their minutes down, and the reserves were rewarded with some extra playing time. High fives all around.
  • The temptation to read too far into wins like this one is always present, and should put an asterisk on any conclusions you or I try to draw from this particular game. That said, I can’t help but wonder if the Mavs have finally found an offensive formula that really works. They don’t have that second star on-par with a Pau Gasol or a Paul Pierce, but by adding Rodrigue Beaubois (10 points, 4-6 FG, four assists) and Peja Stojakovic (18 points, 7-9 FG, 4-5 3FG) to the rotation while benefiting from more impressive contributions from J.J. Barea (13 points, 5-8 FG, five assists), Dallas has created an interesting scoring framework. I’m not sure all of Dallas’ scorers can be contained on a nightly basis, and though it’s not entirely necessary for opponents to systematically seek and destroy every scoring threat on the floor, there’s comfort in knowing that the Mavs will have most teams beat in scoring depth.
  • Another interesting wrinkle to that idea is that it makes the Mavs much more difficult to scheme against. The San Antonio Spurs, for example, teched specifically against Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in last year’s playoffs. Their plan worked to great effect; the offense stalled when the pressure increased on Kidd, and San Antonio ensured that Terry wouldn’t provide Nowitzki with the scoring complement he so sorely needed. However, the Spurs looked positively puzzled when trying to defend Beaubois, and Caron Butler was able to explode for a few big scoring nights. Teams can try to take away certain elements of the Maverick offense, but if any team invests too heavily in trying to stop any player aside from Dirk, Rick Carlisle can call an audible and shift the offensive flow.
  • Interesting note: Dallas shot 50% from the field or better in every quarter, and 57.9% from the field overall. That total is a season high.
  • Stojakovic is a much better fit with this team than I imagined he would be. Considering his age and injuries, I expected Stojakovic to be a relatively stationary element of the offense; he seemed destined to be tethered to a corner and spot up ad infinitum. But what’s impressed me most has been Stojakovic’s movement. He’s not content to rely on others to create shots for him — he actively looks to create new passing angles and new open zones from the floor. His release is much quicker than that of, say, DeShawn Stevenson, and thus he’s a much better catch-and-shoot option than Stevenson when he’s running around screens or coming off a curl cut. Stojakovic is more than just a spot-up option, and his movement in the offense adds a pretty interesting dimension to this team.
  • You’ll have to forgive me: the trade deadline beckons, and this installment of The Difference will have to be cut well short of its point-differential quota. Just imagine there are 12 more bullet points here, each a tribute to one of Brendan Haywood’s 12 on Wednesday. The guy is playing his best basketball of the season, and instilling new confidence in the non-starting end of the Mavs’ D5 rotation. Tyson Chandler, a motivated Brendan Haywood, and Ian Mahinmi — it doesn’t get much better than that.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Phoenix Suns 106

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 18, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Kudos to the Mavs for not letting their focus stray during these final two games before the All-Star break, but the defense is clearly already on vacation. First, the Mavs allowed the Kings (sans Tyreke Evans) to put up some competitive offensive numbers, even if they sprinted away during the third quarter by getting a few stops. Then on Thursday night, the Mavs surrendered 110.4 points per 100 possessions to the Suns. Phoenix is, of course, a very good offensive team. Even without Amar’e Stoudemire, Steve Nash has this club clicking with the seventh best offense in the entire league. That said, Dallas is due for a good defensive win. The D has wavered in the last two months or so, and though the Mavs are still defending well enough to win, they’re likely not defending quite well enough for the coaching staff to sleep well at night. Pats on the back for another victory (the 40th this season), but this team needs to come back after the break with a focus on improving its defense to those early-season levels.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (35 points, 13-18 FG, 3-3 3FG, four rebounds) has never been a kind matchup for the Suns, but this wasn’t just another exploitation of a mismatch. If there were any lingering questions concerning Nowitzki’s health, they were promptly dismissed each and every time Dirk graced the net with his jump shot. This was a far more focused Dallas offense in terms of scoring production (as opposed to the community effort against Sacramento), but even then, five Mavs (Nowitzki, Terry, Marion, Stojakovic, Chandler) scored in double-figures. It’s hard to evaluate this team properly over their last two games given the quality of defenses faced, but there are some great omens in the box score entrails.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (nine points, 4-10 FG, 1-4 3FG, two assists, two turnovers) again played around 20 minutes of action, but wasn’t quite as productive this time around. Carlisle threw Beaubois into the starting lineup, which could certainly be interpreted as a positive sign. However, in addition to the conditioning issues which will limit Beaubois in the immediate future (as well as any minute restrictions he may be under), it’s worth keeping an eye on his foul totals. Beaubois was known to get a little foul-happy last season, though his foul troubles were unique occasions rather than part of a trend. So far this season though, Beaubois is averaging 8.1 fouls per 36 minutes. He totaled five on Thursday night while playing less than half the game.
  • Somehow, Steve Nash (15 points. 6-10 FG, 14 assists, five rebounds, three turnovers) has entered that strange phase in his career where people have a general conception of how good he is and used to be, but generally refuse to acknowledge him due to his team’s perceived irrelevance. Nash is playing as well as ever despite Stoudemire moving on, and truly hasn’t been lauded for that fact enough. He was as irrepressible as ever on Thursday; the impossible passes in traffic, the absurd layups that make Nash seem like a scholar in geometry, and the jumpers that — like that of a certain Maverick — seem to have no business going in. “Freeing Steve Nash” would be great and all, but I’m perfectly content to watch a great player be great, no matter the area code or win percentage.
  • J.J. Barea missed the game with the flu, so Beaubois and Jason Terry (16 points, 5-12 FG, seven assists, three steals, two turnovers) each took care of the ball when Jason Kidd (six points, 2-8 FG, 12 assists, eight rebounds) rested. The offense overall returned to order, as Kidd transformed back into a primary playmaker, and the Dallas offense calmed down from their turnover-happy performance against Sacramento. The Mavs have always done well offensively by maintaining control, and Thursday night’s 12.5 turnover rate is much more in line with the expectation for this team.
  • Another great game for the Mavs’ big-man tandem: Tyson Chandler (12 points, 5-8 FG, 12 rebounds) resumed his season of offensive import, while Brendan Haywood (seven points, five rebounds, one block) capitalized on the Suns’ poor interior rotations in limited minutes (11). That said, Carlisle elected to go small for significant portions of this game, and utilized both Nowitzki and Shawn Marion (12 points, 6-10 FG, eight rebounds) as the primary big. Against Phoenix, that’s not much of a problem, and Dallas had some success in those configurations, particularly with a Kidd-Terry-Stevenson-Marion-Nowitzki lineup that made a 9-0 sprint late in the third quarter.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 116, Sacramento Kings 100

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 17, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Dallas won by a wide margin, but Dirk Nowitzki scored just 13 points. Jason Kidd was the Mavericks’ leading scorer. J.J. Barea and Brendan Haywood were the only Mavs with double-doubles. This game was interesting for reasons that stretched far beyond the return of Rodrigue Beaubois (13 points, 6-13 FG, six assists, three steals, three turnovers), and the Mavs’ dominance was far greater than the impact of their young hope. Beaubois’ return was noteworthy for his individual efforts, but the Mavs played a pretty dominant offensive game overall. We can pick nits — the turnovers got a bit out of hand at times and Dallas rarely got to the line — but it’s hard to ask for more than eight double-digit scorers and a 62.8 effective field goal percentage. Bellissimo.
  • Barea has was easily the Mavs’ most impressive player. The 10 assists don’t mislead in the slightest; Barea’s vision was truly special in this one. He made phenomenal feeds to cutters, to shooters, to open dunkers — this was a remarkable playmaking performance unlike anything we’ve seen from Barea in recent memory. He’s done fine work as an efficient scorer in the last few weeks, but this showing was of an entirely different grain.
  • Another funny thing about Barea’s fantastic game? He wasn’t even supposed to show up to work on Wednesday. Barea had been held out of practice because of a groin injury and a case of the flu. Ain’t no thang, apparently.
  • 20-point performances from Kidd are always notable, as are games where any player — Kidd or otherwise — goes 6-of-7 from three-point range. And surprising though it was that Kidd was such so accurate, it was just as unusual that he kept firing away. Kidd took six three point attempts in the third quarter and though it’s a good thing for the Mavs that he did, that’s not a frequency in shot attempts that can be found on a game-by-bame basis.
  • Dallas’ final defensive numbers turned out just fine, but overall this was not one of their finer outings on that end. There were some notable individual efforts — Tyson Chandler, in particular, did a great job on DeMarcus Cousins (16 points, 6-19 FG, 12 rebounds, four assists, seven turnovers). It just didn’t add up to anything more. The offense was in gear for most of the game, but this was far from a complete game.
  • That’s one reason why Jermaine Taylor rattled off a career-high 17 points on just 12 field goal attempts, with five assists as the cherry on top. The Mavs aren’t far removed from the team that used to allow opposing wings to have career nights like Taylor’s on a frequent basis, but this season that’s been a bit of a rarity. Dallas’ defense hasn’t been air-tight throughout the year, but it’s certainly been more effective in limiting those singular, explosive performances.
  • The Mavs’ rotation looked as deep as ever. Not only did Beaubois’ return give Dallas a solid scoring boost, but Haywood’s (12 points, 5-8 FG, 10 rebounds) activity level was off the charts relative to his usual performance this season. His righty hook might still cue an arena’s worth of winces, but when he’s moving on offense and rebounding this consistently, Haywood gives his team a huge boost.
  • The Mavs made the most significant run of the game — a 9-0 spurt at the tail end of the third quarter — came with Dirk Nowitzki sitting on the bench. Nothing quite like fresh air, eh?
  • We’re still feeling out how Peja Stojakovic (12 points, 5-11 FG, 2-5 3FG, four rebounds) will function as a member of this team, but the early signs are pretty positive. His defense has been fairly competent for the most part, or at least competent enough that it hasn’t caused significant problems. His shooting stroke seems to be coming around, and this type of performance gives even more reason to hope for improvement. I’m not sure how the shot distributions will shake out once Beaubois becomes a regular, but if the ball winds up in Stojakovic’s hands for about 10 attempts a night, the Mavs could gain plenty from his contributions.
  • Keep in mind, though, that Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki only attempted 10 field goals apiece in this one. Those numbers are going to rise, and though more shots can be reallocated from other places, the offense can’t be expected to be quite so balanced nightly.
  • Plenty more to come on Beaubois’ evening a bit later, but something should be said of his patience. Beaubois’ attempts were high-percentage looks. He took threes, but only open ones. He didn’t settle for mid-range jumpers, instead opting to put pressure on the Kings’ defense. He attacked the basket frequently in transition, often triggering the one-man fast break a la Tony Parker and Devin Harris. For a player facing heavy expectation on his first day back, it’s commendable that Beaubois stuck so steadfastly to efficient offense.
  • In terms of actual skill, Beaubois barely showed any rust at all. He phased out on defense at times, but he was guilty of that during his rookie season as well. Conditioning was certainly an issue, albeit a temporary one. As Beaubois works up to NBA speed, he’ll become more effective on both ends and — one can hope — a candidate for more significant minutes. Still, 21 minutes in his debut is a pretty great sign for Beaubois’ place in Carlisle’s rotation.
  • It’s hard to pinpoint the exact nature of the Mavs’ turnover problems (five different Mavs had three turnovers apiece), but the easiest diagnosis is simple sloppiness. Some plays were overly ambitious, others lazy. Overall it’s not too much to worry about, but even veteran teams with experienced point guards running the show can fall into these ruts for games at a time.
  • That said, the same willingness to share the ball that burned the Mavs on many occasions is also what pushed the team to a total of 34 assists despite Kidd functioning as a gunner.
  • Another notable thing about Beaubois’ return: Rick Carlisle wasn’t shy in the slightest about putting the ball in his hands to trigger the offense. Even with Kidd on the floor, it was Beaubois who ran the pick-and-roll, initiated plays, and brought the ball up-court.
  • On the New York Times’ Off the Dribble blog, I outlined why starting in the NBA isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and cited DeShawn Stevenson as a part my explanation. Stevenson starts, and the role he plays on the Mavs is important. However, getting that nod at the beginning of games doesn’t mean much concerning the worth of Stevenson’s game, nor the quantity of his minutes. As of Wednesday, Stevenson had started 20 games in which he played fewer than 15 minutes. Make that 21, as Stevenson logged just 13 and a half minutes of action last night. Beaubois may eventually usurp Stevenson from his starting role, but regardless, DeShawn’s moment has passed. He made some threes for the Mavs, but his minutes will likely continue to hover around the 12-13 mark as long as the rest of the rotation remains intact.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 99, Cleveland Cavaliers 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 8, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The Mavs’ 105.3 points per 100 possessions wasn’t an outstanding mark, but Dallas actually executed rather effectively on offense. The turnovers were a bit high, but the patience, pressure, and ensuing high-percentage looks were there. Quality looks were had around the basket and on uncontested jumpers, but something hiccuped during the transition between the notion and actualization of the Mavs’ shots. Dallas missed their first eight field goal attempts, and though they had more productive offensive sequences, that early stretch encapsulated the game nicely. Ian Mahinmi (11 points, 4-6 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) was the only Maverick to shoot more than 50% from the field, but don’t mistake Dallas’ inability to score for an inability to execute. Do, however, take that as an indicator of Mahinmi’s effectiveness. He leapfrogged Brendan Haywood (DNP-CD) in the rotation, and stayed in the game with his constant activity. Mahinmi even went to work in the low post on a pair of possessions, where he showed surprising polish. It’s getting more and more difficult for Rick Carlisle to keep Mahinmi off the floor, which makes Haywood’s situation rather bleak and the team’s cap situation even bleaker.
  • I’m not sure what it is in Ramon Sessions’ (19 points, 6-12 FG, 13 assists, six rebounds) game that makes him so capable of attacking the Mavs’ defense, but in two games this season he’s seemed shockingly effective against this particular competition. Sessions is good. He’s a starting-caliber player, if surrounded with the right pieces. Yet against the Mavs he looks the part of a legitimate franchise cornerstone. Sessions essentially duplicated the 19-12-7 line he put up the last time these two teams met, and fault rests up and down the roster. Neither Jason Kidd nor J.J. Barea seemed able to hang with him, and once Sessions got past the initial defender his path to the basket often went undeterred. Dallas struggled defensively in many regards (J.J. Hickson went hog wild with 26 points on 18 shots, Antawn Jamison had it far too easy scoring inside, and Christian Eyenga somehow managed 15 points despite being a Jamario Moon’s Jamario Moon), but several of their failings are summed up nicely by Sessions’ simple, unbothered, straight-line path to the rim.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (12 points, 5-11 FG, six rebounds, five turnovers) injured his right wrist in the second quarter, and looked understandably hesitant to act as the Mavs’ primary shot-taker. It doesn’t appear to be serious, but should Nowitzki look to take a step back offensively until his shooting motion is relatively pain-free, the rest of the Mavs will need to be a bit more accurate. Mahinmi, Shawn Marion (17 points, 5-15 FG, 10 rebounds, seven offensive), and Tyson Chandler (10 points, 11 rebounds, four offensive) were able to salvage a ton of those misses on Monday night with offensive boards, and the bench created enough scoring to avoid what could have been a hugely embarrassing lost. Peja Stojakovic can also hopefully be a bit more helpful in the scoring column as Dallas moves forward; his Maverick debut came with some inevitable rust, but Stojakovic moved well and found open looks. Now he — and the rest of his new teammates — just have to make them.

The Difference: Weekend Edition

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 6, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

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Dallas Mavericks 101, Boston Celtics 97

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

  • When you go toe-to-toe with the best team in the entire league, you tend to take wins any way you can get them, even if they turn out a little bit flukey. Dallas had two very strange plays go their way: an errant pass from Jason Terry to Dirk Nowitzki that was somehow converted into a Jason Kidd go-ahead three-pointer, and a shockingly off-target lob from Rajon Rondo to Kevin Garnett on the ensuing inbound play. The probability of both of those plays unfolding in such favorable fashion is insanely low, and yet the Mavericks managed to steal one from the almighty Celtics.
  • The last time these two teams met, Dallas willingly gave Rajon Rondo a chance to win the game with an open three-pointer, a strategy which paid off when Rondo — a career .252 three-point shooter — caught rim on an attempt at late-game heroism. A similar event unfolded on Friday night, when Rondo found himself wide open from 17 feet with a little over a minute remaining and his team up three points. Rondo again fired away, and again he played right into the Mavs’ hands. Dallas scored seven straight points to end the game, and Rondo jumper marked the unwitting end of Boston’s offensive production.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (29 points, 9-14 FG, four rebounds, three assists) was back to his old hyper-efficient ways, but what impressed me most about the Mavs’ offense was their usage of Nowitzki as a central scorer, but not as their sole option. Looking past a pair of free throws to close the game, Nowitzki scored just three of the Mavs’ 10 points during their tide-turning run, largely due to the effectiveness of Jason Terry (17 points, 7-15 FG) off the dribble. JET was terrific in curling around defenders and pulling up off the bounce, and his sound night — in addition to other scoring contributions from Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, and J.J. Barea — led to a terrific offensive night against one of the league’s best defenses.
  • Speaking of: though Dallas also boasts an effective defense of their own, this was not one of their finer defensive performances. The Mavs let entirely too many cutters get open looks around the rim, and the Celtics’ interior passing was fantastically effective in picking apart the Mavs’ D from the inside. Toss in a standout performance from Ray Allen (24 points, 9-18 FG, 3-7 3FG, two blocks) and a solid showing from Kevin Garnett’s (16 points, 7-16 FG, five rebounds) turnaround jumper, and it’s no surprise that Boston matched Dallas at every turn, even in spite of the Mavs’ offensive variety.

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Dallas Mavericks 101, Charlotte Bobcats 92

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

  • Dallas hit a few snags in their offense about midway through the fourth quarter, but even in their more limited moments they appeared to have this game firmly under wraps. A few much-needed buckets from Shawn Marion (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks, three turnovers) and plenty of near-turnovers (as opposed to actual turnovers) from Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 10-19 FG, four rebounds, four blocks) kept things pointed in the same positive general direction, even if they weren’t on track. There were a few disappointing letdowns on the defensive glass during that stretch as well, but the Mavs at least did a good job of blanketing the Bobcats on their initial attempts (Charlotte posted an effective field goal percentage of just 39.9%). Defensive possessions weren’t played to their conclusion, but at least the effort was there in earnest…initially, anyway.
  • J.J. Barea (15 points, 7-14 FG, three rebounds, two assists) started — and thrived — again, and one can help but wonder if this short-term arrangement couldn’t become a bit more permanent. Dallas doesn’t have an obvious replacement to fill the spot in the starting lineup once occupied by Caron Butler and then by the since-departed Sasha Pavlovic, and before anyone touts Peja Stojakovic as any kind of solution we should probably see how he’s capable of playing. Additionally, Stojakovic and Stevenson are both spot-up options without a ton of other offensive potential, which puts a lot of pressure on Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd to create offense in that hypothetical lineup. Barea not only gives the Mavs another ball-handler on the floor (the gains of which can be measured in the Kidd-Terry tandem), but also gives them a player who can put pressure on opposing defenses with his ability to dribble penetrate.
  • In the first quarter, Nowitzki went to a pair of righty hooks on back-to-back possessions. The first came as he was sweeping across the lane against Boris Diaw, and was shorted. The second came in a more set post possession form the same block, and looked pretty natural. One of the most unusual things about Nowitzki’s post game is that although he has a vast assortment of fakes and counters to free himself up for shots, everything he does is essentially a variation of the same fadeaway jumper. Nowitzki has dabbled with hooks like these in the past, but it could be a nice wrinkle for him to incorporate on a more regular basis, if only for variety’s sake.
  • D.J. Augustin (21 points, 7-17 FG, 3-8 3FG, two assists) is a fine player, and should have a fairly successful career. That said, he’s such a natural scorer, but has never had much aptitude as a playmaker. Augustin can create opportunities for his teammates and will have some decent assist totals from time to time, but the Bobcats really need to pair Augustin with another player who can initiate the offense. Freeing up Augustin to catch and shoot or attack the defense from different angles could really open up his game, and would go a long way toward salvaging Charlotte’s offense. Stephen Jackson is not that guy. Although he has a reputation as a competent all-around player, Jackson is exactly the kind of ball-holding, low-percentage-shot-taking partner that Augustin shouldn’t have. I realize the Bobcats don’t have a ton of options at this point, but finding a suitable complement for Augustin should be pretty high on their list of priorities, should they be committed to making him a part of their core for the future.
  • Brendan Haywood (three points, 1-4 FG, seven rebounds, one block) seems to lack any touch whatsoever in finishing in the paint; he’s Dampier-esque in his need to dunk immediately off the catch, lest he commit a turnover or find new and exciting ways to make his shot attempts go “clang.”
  • Former Mav Eduardo Najera played 22 minutes (!) while Tyrus Thomas watched in sartorial splendor from the sidelines, and his stint served as a reminder that Najera should never really play that many minutes. If a team is in need of an energy big for five minutes here and there, Najera could be the guy. If the gig requires something more, teams should really look to invest elsewhere.
  • The Bobcats switched on a lot of the Mavs’ screens, and it was nice to see Jason Terry (21 points, 7-14 FG, three assists, three turnovers) and Marion take advantage of a one-on-one matchup with Brown or another of Charlotte’s bigs.
  • Tyson Chandler (nine points, 4-10 FG, 15 rebounds, two blocks) made it work. His teammates made a continued effort to get him the ball, but plenty of those possessions ended with botched passes or bobbled catches; the Bobcats were well aware of the Mavs’ intentions, and did their best to take away Chandler as an offensive option. So Chandler created his own scoring opportunities by grabbing eight offensive rebounds, and finishing in particular style on a pair of clean-up dunks. Teams really looking to focus their defense can take away Terry’s impact or Kidd’s impact, but I’m not sure any team in this league can tech Chandler out of a game. It honestly may not be possible.
  • It’s unfathomable to me that any team in the NBA could allow Dirk Nowitzki to get so many open looks, but this season’s Bobcats are a continued exercise in facepalm-worthy decision making. When Dirk had the ball in his hands, the Bobcats obviously paid him mind. But when the ball was swinging from side to side or Terry attracted multiple defenders on a drive? It was somehow Nowitzki who was standing wide open. Truly odd.

Dallas Mavericks 98, New Orleans Hornets 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 16, 2010 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Comfort was allowed to come to them rare, welcome, unsought: a gift like joy.
-Ursula K. LeGuin

Jason Terry curled around a screen. He streaked by his teammate and his defender. He rose. He fired. With the gradual click of grinding gears, the Mavericks’ universe balanced itself. With each give goes a take, with each reaction an equal and opposite reaction.

Statistically speaking, Dallas’ defense is the strength on which they’ve built their season, but it’s the improvements in the offense that give just as much reason for hope. Jason Kidd won’t score 16 points every game, but other than that, Dallas didn’t do anything out of character. Dirk Nowitzki faced up and hit over his defenders. Jason Terry found the ball when plays needed to be made, and had a fantastic second half to balance a crummy first one. Other than that, Kidd knocked down spot-up attempts, J.J. Barea got to the rim a few times with mixed results, and Tyson Chandler finished a few inside. There’s nothing to see here, other than Dallas’ offense executing against one of the best defenses in the league, doing nothing apart from what they do on a nightly basis.

The Mavs have been haunted in the past by their predictability, but this is one case in which familiarity offers sure comfort. Opponents should know that Dirk and JET are central to the Mavs’ offense, but Rick Carlisle and his staff have done a great job of freeing up both players in a variety of ways. This year, it’s been Dallas that meticulously picks apart opposing defenses with smart cuts, well-planned picks, and expert shooting. From a taglined perspective, it’s still Nowitzki and Terry, but their ability to get open consistently and execute against defenses like Boston and New Orleans is promising.

Of course, what happens to that offensive balance and flow when Caron Butler is reintroduced to the lineup is still a concern. Wednesday’s rematch with the Hornets could end up being an interesting case study on Caron’s impact, for better or worse.

As I mentioned in The Difference, Dallas’ second-half defense on Chris Paul (or on pick-and-rolls in general) should be commended. It’s not just the decision to put Tyson Chandler on David West, which turned out to be a fantastic strategic call, but the execution against the pick-and-roll by the team defense was top-notch. It was Chandler, it was Barea, it was Terry, Kidd, Nowitzki, Marion…every Maverick on the floor was rotating well, and the chosen concession was to give three-pointers for Willie Green, Peja Stojakovic, and occasionally Trevor Ariza. Those players get a pat on the head for hitting their open shots, but that was an excellent choice considering the alternatives. Paul was corralled, West was smothered. The ball was put in the hands of New Orleans’ lesser talents, and that’s something Dallas can live with, even if Green decided to be an above-average NBA player for a night.

Well-planned, and well-played, Mavs. Now do it all again on Wednesday.

Closing thoughts:

  • The Hornets lost, and it doesn’t really matter. I’m sure they’d prefer to still be undefeated, but New Orleans is a damn good basketball team.
  • I could watch Tyson Chandler hedge on pick-and-rolls all day.
  • This wasn’t Shawn Marion’s game. His five turnovers were killer, and to make matters worse, he wasn’t all that successful defensively. Marion can easily get lost on a night like this one, in which the opponent has no clear scoring option on the wing. Marion isn’t the type of defender the Mavs want chasing Peja Stojakovic down the baseline. He’s the type of defender you want to blanket a superstar wing scoring in isolation. Matchups like these negate Marion’s strengths, and though he did some good things on the court, the circumstances didn’t exactly help him along.
  • Jason Terry deserves much more credit than he received in this recap, but rest assured, more is coming on JET’s performance. The same goes for Dallas’ fourth-quarter defense.
  • I’m not sure there’s a more infuriating player to defend in the NBA than Chris Paul. He’s sickeningly good, and that makes the task of D-ing him up a tough one in itself. But factor in the fouls he draws both in the half-court offense and in transition by exaggerating contact, and it’s a miracle that anyone guarding Paul can keep their head. Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups are just as crafty with their manipulations of perception, but neither combines CP’s blend of top-level production and infuriating extracurricular activity.
  • Jason Terry’s defense really is much improved this season. Not only is he covering better in general, but it seems as though he’s somehow improved his anticipation in the passing lanes. Maybe JET is just more selective with his more blatant steal attempts, but he can really disrupt ball movement on the perimeter.
  • Brendan Haywood. Yeesh.
  • Dallas has actually run plays designed to get Shawn Marion mid-range jumpers this season, and they’re working. My guess is that they’re sets frequently used by the starting lineup to free up Caron for a jumper at the free throw line extended, and Marion is benefiting from sliding into Butler’s role. Regardless, Marion is making them, and he’s 3-of-3 in such sequences by my highly unofficial count.
  • The zone will give up threes, but opponents would be smart to put their most prolific three-point shooter on Dirk Nowitzki’s side of the zone. Dirk got burned a few times in this one by corner shooters, and given his responsibilities to collapse in the lane and his relatively slow recovery speed, I’d say that Nowitzki’s corner (usually the right one) is one of the zone’s more vulnerable points.
  • This was just a wildly entertaining game. If you didn’t have a chance to watch it, I highly recommend tracking down the game via League Pass Broadband, etc. The fourth quarter alone was one of the more entertaining frames in any NBA game this season.
  • J.J. Barea finished with three shot attempts at the rim, five rebounds, four assists, and no turnovers. I’d say he’s settled in nicely after his early struggles, wouldn’t you?
  • DeShawn Stevenson and Brian Cardinal finished with two threes apiece. I don’t buy into the “Cardinal doing the little things” rhetoric on most occasions, but I can definitely understand using him as a stopgap when he’s hitting his open shots.
  • Something needs to be said about Dirk Nowitzki’s passing. Dirk hit a game-tying three-pointer with a little more than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but he gave up a three in transition — a Nowitzki favorite — so that Kidd could get an even better look in the corner. Then, within the final minute, Dirk set up Terry out of the two man game for an open jumper. Nowitzki would love nothing more than to have taken a shot in both situations, but he deferred, and it paid off.