The Difference is a new feature here at The Two Man Game, in which I’ll provide a bit of instant analysis on games shortly after they occur rather than the following morning. The longer, more detailed recaps will be up as soon as they’re available, but consider these morsels your post-game snack to hold you over until then.
For this feature, I’ll offer one bullet point for each point in the margin of victory. That makes this first installment fairly simple, but fun will be had when the blowouts come. Let’s not have another 50-point win though, eh?
- After a 20-point, five-assist, four-rebound first half in which he shot 72.7% from the field, Chris Paul went 1-for-5 for two points and four assists in the game’s final 24 minutes. There are three individuals to credit/blame. Paul himself was kinder to the Mavs in the second half, as he traded his weaving, probing style for a less audacious approach. Tyson Chandler deserves a heap of credit for challenging Paul’s jumpers aggressively, and showing well on almost every pick-and-roll he was involved in. The third player who deserves some sort of nightly hardware? J.J. Barea. Everyone’s favorite scapegoat got a bit of a raw deal at times from the officiating crew, but he fought hard from the top of the zone to keep Paul covered. New Orleans clearly had plans to exploit him, but Barea scrapped, Paul faded, and Dallas won.
- Peja Stojakovic turned back the clock with a throwback performance, but Willie Green turned the very laws of the universe. Long-time Mavs fans should be quite familiar with Stojakovic’s shooting potential give how good he was for the Sacramento Kings earlier in the decade, but Green has never and still is not a very good basketball player. He’s also not a particularly efficient shooter. The stars just aligned. Then they collapsed, merged into a giant black hole, and pulled all of us through an NBA wormhole. Apparently, we are now in the dimension in which it makes perfect sense for Green, who is shooting 18.2% from three this season, to make three of his four attempts from deep.
- The Mavs’ decision to match up Tyson Chandler with David West and Dirk Nowitzki with Emeka Okafor may seem like an odd one, but it was quite effective. Nowitzki’s interior defense is strong enough to challenge the robotic, predictable Okafor inside, and Chandler did a fantastic job of challenging West all over the court. The Nowitzki-West matchup — a red herring in the Mavs’ 2008 playoff loss to the Hornets — is no more, and in its place is something far less dramatic but far more beneficial for Dallas. New Orleans’ two starting bigs combined to shoot 7-of-24 from the field for the game and turned the ball over five times.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that lost by not trying.”
I’m torn. On one hand, there is no more painful way to lose a game than at the free throw line. They are theoretically gimme points that a player must simply reach out and take, and yet they seemed anything but as four crucial free throws clanged off the rim during the last minute of the fourth quarter. But then on the other hand, it’s hard to discount the Mavs’ effort. They were right there. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Jason Kidd had pretty bad games offensively, and the Mavs were right there, with the ball in their hands and the game in the balance. It may not mean all that much when considering the final score, but that’s something.
I know moral victories don’t mean much for squads that fancy themselves to be in the championship hunt, but this one comes close. I know that sounds odd for a game that was choked away via missed free throws, but it still rings true. The Mavs were tired and Dirk-less, they were coming off a draining win against Utah and they still had to find a way to guard Chris Paul. I’m not all that surprised that they lost, or that they fought valiantly only to fall short.
I’ll keep this brief: Jason Terry (35 points, 12-18 FG, 4-8 3FG, 3 assists) is the reason why the Mavs were even in the game last night, and his arrival (when paired with Dirk’s outburst the night prior) should inspire confidence in the Mavs’ offense once again. That ship will inevitably turn around, and one can only hope that a return to offensive prominence doesn’t coincide with a disinterest in defense or a disregard for the attacking mentality that has brought the Mavs three wins thus far.
I’ll keep this brief, so let’s shift into single sentence/semi-cryptic mode. Chris Paul rocks my, yours, and just about everyone else’s socks. Dirk’s numbers were lower than they should be because New Orleans, unlike Utah, actually threw some double teams his way. Jason Kidd can shoot again, but he shouldn’t attempt a layup for the rest of the year. Shawn Marion looked like a guy who hasn’t played basketball in months, and must have gotten a hand transplant from Kwame Brown. I am in the process of creating a homemade medal for Erick Dampier, who kept the Mavs afloat with his offensive rebounding and put-backs. Rodrigue Beaubois can play a little basketball if given the opportunity. Peja Stokajovic hit one field goal in the entire game, and it was a game-tying three that sent the game into overtime. Four missed free throws, one tough loss, and let’s move on.
Photo by AP Photo/Bill Haber.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
If the ‘new’ Mavs were birthed in the explosion that was the game against the Phoenix Suns, they met their first significant roadblock against the Hornets Sunday afternoon. For what it’s worth, they came up a bit short.
Worse things have happened. The numbers didn’t turn up in the Mavs’ favor, but the game was definitely acted as an extension of the new Mavs rather than a reversion to the old ways. When you win, you don’t always demonstrate progress, and when you progress, you don’t always win. The Mavs were within three points with a minute and a half to play, but James Posey made a smart pass on an out of control drive to set up Peja Stojakovic in the corner for a three (he was 1-7 on threes prior to the shot). It turned out well for New Orleans, kept the Mavs at arm’s length, and essentially sealed the game. I’m disappointed that the ball didn’t bounce the other way, but that doesn’t mean I’m at all displeased with the Mavs’ effort or overall performance.
No one wants to hear excuses at this point, but when your team isn’t in that upper echelon, they come with the territory. On the road, on the second game of a home-and-home in which the Mavs won the first game, on a night where nobody but Dirk was hitting whatsoever, with Chris Paul and David West both going insane offensively…and yet the game was very winnable. There were small leads both ways throughout the game, but both squads clawed back and forth for almost the entire game. Maybe you’d like to dig deeper and analyze why the Mavs didn’t gut it out, but I would think the 13-point difference in field goal percentage (42.5% for the Mavs, 55.6% for the Hornets) would make that painfully obvious. The Mavs matched the Hornets point-for-point in the paint (both teams ended with 40), but Dallas went 11 for 27 from midrange and 6 for 22 from three. Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, and Jason Terry combined to go 18 for 43. Enough said.
Chris Paul was every bit the dynamo that he was in the last contest, totalling 31 points, 17 assists, and 9 rebounds, not to mention 2 steals and a few three pointers. David West followed his ‘good, not great’ game on Friday with a ‘great, not just good’ night: 31 points (14-21 FG) and 6 boards. They abused the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop, they abused the Mavs’ one on one defenders, and Chris Paul created for West and others out of the trap. Chris Paul already has his way with the defense, but when he and West are hitting practically everything they throw towards the rim, it’s going to take an inspired offensive effort from the Mavs to hang with them.
That there was: the Mavs had another excellent offensive rebounding night. What they lacked in that old-fashioned ability to put the ball in the damn basket, they made up for in positioning, timing, and craftiness. Kidd, Howard, Erick Dampier (who had 12 rebounds overall) and Brandon Bass created all kind of second looks for the Mavs, ultimately netting 18 second chance points for the good guys and posting an impressive 29.2% in offensive rebounding percentage. If you want a real reason (other than Dirk, who finished with 29 and 14) why the Mavs were able to hang around despite a miserable shooting night, look no further than the offensive rebounding column of your box score.
- The first quarter was awful. The Mavs scored 13 points and made just 5 shots in 23 attempts. Brandon Bass even missed a dunk.
- Bass had an otherwise commendable night, though. He played tough in the paint, finished strong at the rim, and scored 13 points on 6-9 shooting. He was the primary reason that Erick Dampier couldn’t get off the bench in the fourth quarter.
- Again, Chris Paul goes to the bench to start the second quarter, and the Mavs go on a 9-0 run until his return. That’s gotta suck.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki, who carried the Mavs’ offense in the second and third quarters. He only had 4 points in the fourth quarter, but Dirk’s full arsenal was on display with David West, James Posey, and others playing the victim.
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