Dallas Mavericks 99, Boston Celtics 90

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 19, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images.

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas90.0110.060.335.312.916.7
Boston100.053.220.813.914.4

“The unpredictability inherent in human affairs is due largely to the fact that the by-products of a human process are more fateful than the product.
-Eric Hoffer

It’s getting to the point where the Maverick offense is almost impossible to predict. The Mavs were unable to get the ball in the basket for long stretches against the Toronto Raptors, who despite their improved play of late, are dead last in the league in defensive efficiency. In the first half last night, the Mavs were scoring relatively well, but were turning the ball over at an uncharacteristically high rate.

Then in the second half? A deluge. 58 points (which is notable considering the there were only 90 total possessions) dropped on the head of one of the league’s top defenses (currently ranked 3rd). The less surprising part was that Dirk Nowitzki (34 points, 14-22 FG, seven rebounds, three assists) was the primary bread-winner, scoring 22 of his 37 points in the second half on 9-15 shooting. He was 6 of 7 in the third quarter, when the Mavs scored 34 points on an insane 16 of 20.

Dirk was mismatched against the likes of Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine, but he abused any defender Doc Rivers assigned to him. But honestly, as brilliant as Dirk was in getting open off of picks and the like, Boston’s defense had a complete breakdown. I’d imagine that Nowitzki takes up a pretty substantial part of the scouting report, and yet he was frequently wide open for mid-range jumpers. He is the undisputed best player in a Maverick uniform, and yet the Celtics were leaving him open to double in the post or sending two defenders to rotate due to miscommunication. Even great defensive teams are due for some mental errors once in awhile, but the second half (and the third quarter, in particular) was just mistake after mistake after mistake.

What’s scary is how good the Mavs could have been offensively if Jason Terry (eight points, 3-12 FG) and Josh Howard (three points, 1-5 FG, three rebounds, four assists) had been in any kind of rhythm. JET didn’t score a single point within 15 feet of the basket (0-4 from that range), as he was denied at the rim and forced into tough jumpers after prematurely killing his dribble. Terry caught the ball looking to score, but simply failed to convert. But he kept his turnovers down, played some decent defense, and deferred at the appropriate moments. Josh, to his credit, kept his shot attempts down. But his play continues to frustrate. His recent play should already have him on thin ice, and every missed layup and long, contested jumpshot is another step closer to the freezing water beneath his feet.

But Dirk wasn’t carrying the offense alone. Erick Dampier (11 points, seven rebounds, four turnovers, two blocks), Drew Gooden (10 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks), Jason Kidd (13 points, 5-7 FG, 3-3 3FG, 17 assists, three turnovers), and Shawn Marion (16 points, 7-9 FG, eight rebounds, two blocks) provided ample scoring support. Damp’s performance was especially notable for just how explosive of a scorer he was; all 11 of Damp’s points came in the third frame, where he also grabbed five rebounds and went a perfect 5-5 from the field. He was also surprisingly versatile, dropping a free throw line jumper and what I only know to describe as a runner (maybe a walker?) along with a few layups and some post work. That’s the closest thing you’ll ever see to an Erick Dampier offensive clinic, and it was against a pretty solid defender in Kendrick Perkins.

Gooden had a similar role in the first half, but in my mind Drew’s offensive contributions are far eclipsed by those on the defensive end. I’ll be blunt: Drew Gooden is not a strong defender. The rhetoric that he often “floats” on that end of the court is certainly true, and his concept of defensive spacing is certainly not in line with Coach Carlisle’s. But last night was a pleasant surprise, as Gooden combined excellent anticipation, great hands, and a high activity level to put together one of his best defensive performances of the season.

The shocking thing about Kidd and Marion’s performances was that there was really nothing spectacular about them. Kidd simply made the right plays, again and again, and his teammates finished inside. He displayed that incredible efficiency from the three-point line, which has become a staple of his time in Dallas. He played tough defense (even when switched onto bigger threats like Paul Pierce), pressured shooters, and initiated the offense. His numbers are absolutely stellar, but Jason Kidd only did what Jason Kidd does.

Shawn Marion’s outing was similar, with one notable exception: he finished. Marion’s time in Dallas has already seen him miss plenty of layups and several dunks, but Shawn maximized his opportunities last night. He was excellent in transition, but even more impressive with what he was able to do in half-court sets. Plus, his defense on Paul Pierce was admirable, even though it wasn’t totally effective. That happens when your primary objective on the court is to contain the league’s best players night in and night out. And though Pierce still scored 24 points while shooting over 50% from the field, Marion is putting in the effort to deny, bump, and challenge, and on the whole it’s working.

It was certainly an impressive win for the Mavs, but they hardly turned a corner. We’ve seen this team put up the occasional dominant offensive outing, and in truth, this was only half of one. It came against a quality opponent and a quality defense, but don’t misconstrue the Mavs’ third quarter brilliance for some sort of grand revelation. This team still only goes as far as Dirk can take them, and until Josh Howard and Jason Terry become more efficient and effective parts of the offense, Dallas will continue to struggle on that end of the court.

Closing thoughts:

  • Rajon Rondo (seven points, 12 assists, two steals) is tremendously improved as a shooter. He was 3 of 5 from 16-23 feet last night, and he’s managed to virtually eliminate one of the holes in his game. That shot doesn’t need to be his bread-and-butter, but being able to hit from that range consistently can really complicate things for the defense.
  • Oh, and Rondo’s okay at passing, too. A lot of the Mavs’ defensive trobles came from collapsing too hard on Rondo’s lane penetration, which gave players like Kendrick Perkins (14 points, 12 rebounds, three turnovers, two blocks) all kinds of easy buckets. Not that Perk wasn’t a beast in his own right. The Celtics routinely sent him to work on the low block, and his array of turnaround jumpers was a clear homage to teammate Kevin Garnett.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki. He scored 37 points on 22 shots…isn’t that good enough for you?

All shot distribution data courtesy of HoopData.com. Efficiency rankings courtesy of ESPN.com.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Draft Ranges

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 30, 2009 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

The Mavs don’t have a very good track record when it comes to finding value late in the draft, though selecting Josh Howard with the final pick in the first round back in 2003.  But the stakes have never been higher, with the Mavs’ few young assets weighing their options in free agency and the Mavs’ 2010 pick in the hands of the New Jersey Nets.  This one counts big time, and it’s up to the management and the scouting team to find the diamond in the rough.

It’s tough, but hardly impossible.  Quality players pass right under the noses of many a team year after year, leaving latent value late in the draft.  The Mavs pick at 22, which is just a shade closer to the lottery than to the Mavs’ customary position at the draft’s tail.

Here are the picks at 22 this decade:

2008 – Courtney Lee
2007 – Jared Dudley
2006 – Marcus Williams
2005 – Jarrett Jack
2004 – Viktor Khryapa
2003 – Zoran Planinic
2002 – Casey Jacobsen
2001 – Jeryl Sasser
2000 – Donnell Harvey

Three of those players (Courtney Lee, Jared Dudley, Jarrett Jack) have shown rotation player chops.  Lee is the most notable as the starting 2 guard of an impressive Orlando team just one win away from the Finals.  In fact, if the Mavs could magically re-draft Lee this year, they’d be in pretty good shape.

Just for fun, here are picks in the late first round (20+) :

2008
Courtney Lee (22)
Nicolas Batum (25)

2007
Wilson Chandler (23)
Rudy Fernandez (24)
Aaron Brooks (26)

2006
Renaldo Balkman (20)
Rajon Rondo (21)
Kyle Lowry (23)
Shannon Brown (25)
Jordan Farmar (26)

2005
Jarrett Jack (20)
Nate Robinson (21)
Francisco Garcia (23)
Jason Maxiell (26)
Linas Kleiza (27)
David Lee (30)

2004
Jameer Nelson (20)
Delonte West (24)
Kevin Martin (26)

2003
Boris Diaw (21)
Travis Outlaw (23)
Kendrick Perkins (27)
Leandro Barbosa (28)
Josh Howard (29)

2002
Tayshaun Prince (23)
Nenad Krstic (24)
John Salmons (26)

2001
Brendan Haywood (20)
Gerald Wallace (25)
Jamaal Tinsley (27)
Tony Parker (28)

2000
Morris Peterson (21)

It’s certainly worth noting that even the 2005 draft, predicted to be a weak draft class among pundits and largely looked at as a failure in comparison to its contemporaries, still produced productive players late in the first round.  Blake Griffin is no Tim Duncan and the consolation prizes may have their flaws, but that doesn’t mean true commodities can’t be found late in the first.

Next week I’ll start examining potential picks for the Mavs, starting with those rumored and confirmed to have scheduled workouts with the team.  Some of those players seem poised for success on the pro level, and others may not even be top competitors in the D-League.  As fans, we can only hope that MGMT not only makes the right decision in assessing the talent of a potential pick, but also in picking talented players to fill holes in the Mavs’ rotation.

Boston Celtics 99, Dallas Mavericks 92

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 13, 2009 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.
-Albert Einstein

Well, I’m glad we can all go into the All-Star break without a care in the world.  I’ve got a smile on my face, and nothin’ in the world is gonna get me down!  I’VE GOT SUNSHIIIINE, ON A CLOUUUDY DAAAAAY…

Dammit.  Dammitdammitdammit.

Dammit.

Okay, I’m putting the plaster smile away.  This one got ugly.  One good half had the Mavs nursing a double-digit lead, but a complete lack of scoring on the floor when Dirk went cold turned the game on a dime.  The Mavs went six minutes without a made field goal, and all the while Paul Pierce had a field day.  It literally came down to Dirk vs. Pierce, but after an entire game of shouldering the bulk of the Mavericks’ offensive production, it’s perfectly understandable that fresh legs won out.  That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Josh Howard, Dirk’s sidekick, was enjoying the finale from the bench after picking up his sixth foul with almost four minutes left.  Yes, he was 6-19.  But the rest of the team was drawing nothing but iron, and if nothing else Josh gives the illusion of an offensive threat.  That may have been enough to prevent a double/triple team or two down the stretch, which can go a long way in a game this tight.  Dirk was passing out of doubles well and trying to assert himself against the pressure at times, but everything was in-and-out in the 4th.  Howard was nowhere in sight, Kidd’s jumper was slightly reminiscent of the plot twist at the end of The Village, and Dampier and Wright were Dampier and Wright.  It turns out that when the road of life without Terry isn’t paved with Beno Udrihs, things can get a little bumpy.  And just a little tip from one traveler to another: having J.J. Barea switch onto Paul Pierce on the pick-and-roll is a bit of a pothole.  It’s hard to keep the offense afloat when Pierce can’t even see the guy ‘guarding’ him.

What’s miserable is that a terrible fourth quarter just so happened to ruin a good stretch of basketball and a great effort from the Mavs.  Josh wasn’t hitting, but his shot selection was greatly improved.  Brandon Bass was threatening to rip down the rim every time he took a single step in the paint.  Erick Dampier was protecting the rim.  J.J. Barea and Matt Carroll were hitting their shots.  Garnett was neutralized by nature of fouls and Damp for almost the entire game, and battled a brief bit of insanity in the 3rd.  KG’s ‘tude was met with a knowing smile from Dirk, and more than a few whistles from the refereeing crew.  Well played, sir.

Also: Rajon Rondo out-Jason Kidded Jason Kidd with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 14 assists, and I still don’t know how anyone hopes to guard Ray Allen when he’s running around staggered screens.  Is it possible?  Is it even imaginable?

All in all, a pretty frustrating night.  Quite a build-up for quite a disappointment.  Is another fourth quarter meltdown justified with JET out of action?  Probably not.  There will be nights (and there have been nights) when Terry isn’t pure Drain-O, and we can’t always count on Dirk to score hang 37.  If last night’s thriller was a test of the Mavs’ mental fortitude, we didn’t learn anything that we didn’t already know, or at the very least, that we didn’t deeply fear in the very back of our minds.  For better or worse, these are our Mavericks, and though their recent success has inched them up the Western Conference ladder, they still have a long way to go before they’re ready to hang with the big dogs.  Woof.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night is Dirk’s to lose.  37 points, 8 rebounds, 2 threes, and our only hope.  *tear

Boston Celtics 124, Dallas Mavericks 100

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 26, 2009 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Photo from AP Photo/Winslow Townson via ESPN.

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“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
-Chuck Palahniuk

Oh, so that’s what good ball movement looks like.

The Dallas Mavericks reminded us that that they can forget to show up for a game any time they want to, and apparently came to a unanimous decision to stink it up against the defending champs in front of a national audience.  On some level, I’d like for the Mavs to retain a certain sense of a national respect, but that’s not the real issue here; the Mavs had a chance to not only establish some momentum and wow the ABC viewers, but they literally had a chance to redefine the way their season is evaluated.  One of the beautiful things about having an up-and-down team is that as infuriating as it is, the team’s play fluctuates towards the cream of the crop and the bottom of the barrel ad infinitum.  In doing so, it’s hard to determine exactly where they they fall in the basketball continuum, giving them a mysterious potential for unspeakable power when you least expect it.  You feel like they could all of a sudden open up a 30-point can of utter destruction on a bonafide championship contender.

The Mavs are as up-and-down as they come, but they aren’t that team anymore.  Sunday’s loss (yes, I know, it was just one game) effectively shackled this team’s upward potential once and for all.  To be honest, the offense wasn’t terrible.  Dirk had an awful shooting night; just another merit badge on Kevin Garnett’s vest, and perhaps a nomination for Brian Scalabrine to make an All-Defense team.  But the rest of the team shot over 47% from the field, an effort that might be good enough to get a Dallas win on some days.  Needless to say, this was not one of them.

The Celtics just managed to pick out almost all of the Mavs’ significant weaknesses and attack them simultaneously.  They attacked Jason Kidd with Rajon Rondo, one of the quickest point guards in the game.  Dallas’ D got absolutely slaughtered on any play that involved a pick; the typical results were an open Ray Allen jumper, a good look at a J from Kevin Garnett over a smaller defender, or a wide open three on one of the wings.  It was brutal.  You could certainly say that the Celtics hit a ridiculous amount of their shots (notably a ridiculous 16 of 27 from three).  That said, there’s a reason why the Celtics hit at almost 54% on the night: there often wasn’t a defender within ten feet.  I hear that helps.  Throw in the fact that Garnett played some killer, active defense against a lackadaisical offense and blitzed everyone that tried to guard him, and you’ve got the makings of a blowout.  I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, and in a sense I guess it kind of is — not many teams have the talent on both ends that the Celtics have.  That doesn’t mean we won’t see one of these weaknesses attacked each and every night, whether it’s Chris Paul making Jason Kidd look like a guy with a peg leg trying to catch a squirrel covered in vegetable oil or the Spurs making the Mavs’ heads spin.

No ‘Gold Star of the Night.’  Just…no.