The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 102, Washington Wizards 92

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 1, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-02-01 at 3.00.09 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas88.0115.954.235.229.515.9
Washington104.542.422.127.58.0

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

  • At no point during this game were the Wizards denied access to what could have been theirs; the Mavs looked infinitely beatable throughout, and generally refused to erase the doubt in the result despite holding all of the cards. Dallas defended fairly well, had Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 7-11 FG, four rebounds) a step closer to normalcy, and attempted a whopping 37 free throws. Yet if Washington were, well, a better team than they are, the game could have tilted anywhere along the way. The Mavs won the game, but the Wizards certainly did their part to lose it.
  • Tyson Chandler (18 points, 5-10 FG, 18 rebounds, eight offensive boards, four turnovers) was again dominant, and forced another team with weak interior defense (though not without shot-blocking, it’s worth noting) to foul him repeatedly on deep catches and offensive rebounds. Chandler has attempted 11+ free throws in three of his last four games, despite playing fewer than 33 minutes in each. Think about that. Chandler is, on some nights, the consistent source of free throws that the Mavs have long needed. Dallas may not be able to dump the ball to him in the low post, but the team’s willingness to find Chandler and the Tyson’s creativity in finding open spots around the rim have created a pretty viable threat.
  • Brian Cardinal (nine points, 3-8 3FG, four rebounds) started in the spot formerly held by Sasha Pavlovic, and though I’m unsure of just how long a tandem of Cardinal and Dirk Nowitzki can coexist defensively, it worked well enough on Monday night. Then again, I’ve underestimated Cardinal almost every step of the way. I thought of him as a decent three-point shooter, but he’s become the Mavs’ best. He’s hustled at each of his NBA stops, but Cardinal really does do so many of those fabled “little things.” I figured any claims of his defensive adequacy were probably overstated, yet he manages to hold his own. Cardinal’s not a long-time starting option, but for the moment, he’ll do just fine.
  • Dallas’ ball movement was certainly notable. The Mavs assisted on 27 of their 34 field goal attempts, and Jason Kidd and Jason Terry combined for 19 dimes between them. This was really one of those holistic concepts, though; the ball movement around the perimeter was fantastic, and virtually every Maverick was giving up good shots for better ones. Kidd and Terry were particularly brilliant, but the entire team deserves credit for forcing the Wizards to commit and then exploiting their rotations.
  • It’s practically heresy to wish the Mavs to be less than they are, but every time Ian Mahinmi (seven points, two rebounds, one block in just eight and a half minutes) hits the court I think of what it might be like if this team were in a different place. Mahinmi isn’t a cornerstone, but his activity level is impressive. Mahinmi’s feel for the game isn’t natural. He’s worked hard to get to where he is now, and it’s unlikely that he’d ever evolve into stable, starting center material. But wouldn’t you love to know for sure? For now, Mahinmi is a better player than the Mavs can find minutes for, but he’s a terrific luxury to have.
  • Also, this:

  • The Wizards picked up their fifth team foul with 9:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. Dallas went on to attempt 17 free throws in the frame. Matters a little bit, no?
  • I wouldn’t say that Dirk is ready to resume business as usual, but this was by far his most comfortable game since his return from injury. Nowitzki took advantage of going to work against Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis, and Trevor Booker, who provided far less opposition in the post than Nowitzki has seen in recent games. He was able to back his Wizards opponents down, and shot fake his way to the free throw line on several occasions, which is far better than the desperate heaves we’ve seen from Nowitzki in the last week or so. It’s apparent that Dirk wants to recapture his potency, but this was his most legitimate advance toward that end.
  • Also: this isn’t a pass that Dirk could have made even as recently as two or three seasons ago, and not only because Tyson Chandler is a more capable finisher than Erick Dampier:

  • In case you didn’t know, Nick Young (6-20 FG) and Andray Blatche (4-17 FG) are remarkably skilled in firing up shots without a moment’s consideration. It’s as if every reasonably well-positioned catch transitions seamlessly into a shot attempt. It’s some kind of credit to them both that they play without doubt, but it’s a bit of a red flag that they play without discretion.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 104, Cleveland Cavaliers 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 3, 2011 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas89.0116.954.216.930.611.2
Cleveland106.753.79.925.715.7

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

  • Nothing like playing against the Cavaliers’ defense to get the offense going sans Nowitzki, Butler, and Beaubois. Dallas did their part to execute, but there’s no question that playing against a defense without shot-blockers or capable defensive bigs did wonders for the Mavs’ inside game. Lots of productive cutting, driving, and ball movement, which generated good looks both inside and out. The offense was simple, but that’s fine against the Cavs, especially without Anderson Varejao in the lineup. It wasn’t a dominant offensive performance — and those expecting anything of the sort in the Mavs’ current circumstances best be scanned for brain damage — but Dallas held modest advantages in each of the four factors.
  • The defense was another story. A win is a win is a win is a win, but the back line of the zone was sloppy, and the pick-and-roll coverage was generally a mess. Defensive breakdowns are inevitable, but the frequency of open Cleveland dunks and layups in their half-court offense was pretty depressing. Definitely not one of the Mavs’ finer defensive performances, and I’m not sure injuries provide a valid excuse.
  • A possible caveat, though: because of Nowitzki and Butler’s injuries, plenty of Mavs are playing out of position in the zone. Those that had been manning the top of the zone are now on the wing in some cases, and while the principles are the same, the execution is different. Even those changes shouldn’t have resulted in so many open looks at the rim, but it’s something to consider.
  • Butler’s absence ushered Jason Terry (18 points, 8-14 FG, four assists) back into the starting lineup, where Shawn Marion (22 points, 11-16 FG, five rebounds) also stood in for Nowitzki. Kidd-Terry-Stevenson-Marion-Chandler is a very weird offensive lineup, but JET found his jumper at the bottom of his travel bag, DeShawn Stevenson (21 points, 6-13 FG, 5-12 3FG, four assists, three rebounds) was absolutely tremendous from deep but was far more than a spot-up shooter, and Marion moved well in the Mavs’ half-court offense and on the initial and secondary break. Toss in double-digit scoring efforts from Jason Kidd (10 points, 3-13 FG, eight assists, four rebounds, four turnovers) and Tyson Chandler (14 points, 6-6 FG, 14 rebounds, three turnovers), and you have a one-game, completely unsustainable blueprint for makeshift success.
  • Mavs fans should already be quite aware of Antawn Jamison’s (35 points, 14-22 FG, 3-6 3FG, 10 reobunds) scoring savvy, but games like this one bring Jamison’s creativity around the basket to the forefront, if only for a moment. Jamison has been pegged as a “stretch 4,” but I’m not quite sure why; he’s an interior player with range, not a Rashard Lewis or Troy Murphy-like talent that works from the outside in. Reducing Jamison to a perimeter threat erases the dimensions of the game in which he’s been the most successful, and as he showed against the Mavs, Jamison is still plenty capable of piling up points with an array of flips, hooks, counters, and tips.
  • Dominique Jones (nine points, 2-10 FG, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks) was recalled from the Legends after Butler’s injury status became grave, and played 21 minutes as a creator/scorer. Rick Carlisle actually ran a decent amount of the offense through Jones, who proved himself a capable drive-and-kick player if nothing else. His vision isn’t transcendent, but Jones is unselfish and capable of making all kinds of passes. Jones still struggles to finish after getting to the rim — odd considering how strong of a finisher he was in college and at Summer League — but that limitation seems nothing more than a temporary hurdle. Jones will be a quality driver/slasher in time, and for now, he’s showing the quickness to get around his man, the vision and willingness to make smart plays, and a veteran knack for drawing contact.
  • Marion scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 15 second-half minutes. Those buckets weren’t exactly tide-altering (though the final margin was less than impressive, the Mavs’ offense kept them in control throughout), but valuable nonetheless, particularly with such talented scorers riding the inactive list.
  • None of us should expect Rick Carlisle’s rotation to be constant given his current personnel, so take the significance of Brendan Haywood’s return to semi-prominence with a grain of salt. Haywood could end up glued to the bench again by midweek, but for now, he’s playing right behind Tyson Chandler once more.
  • Sneakily absurd performance of the night: Ramon Sessions finished with 19 points (9-13 FG), 12 assists, and seven rebounds. Sessions benefited from the confused Dallas defense on more than a few occasions, and got up for a couple of dunks. Still, the full volume of Sessions’ production escaped me, and the fact that he nearly registered a pretty impressive triple double seems crazy, even if it shouldn’t.

No Game Is an Island: Paper or Hardwood?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 2, 2009 under Previews | Read the First Comment

The Dallas Mavericks visit the Orlando Magic
6:00 CST

When boiled down to a purely theoretical framework, I think the Magic might have the best team in the NBA.  They don’t have the best players and they’re not the most complete, but in terms of approach and personnel I’m not sure there’s a better way to do things.  That could be because I see a little bit of the Spurs in the Magic.

As far as big men go, I don’t know that there are more philosophically different players than Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard.  Duncan supplants technique and precision over athleticism and strength, a shockingly lethal array of bank shots, footwork, and baby hooks.  His game reeks of calculation and blueprints, not gunpowder and rocket fuel.  On top of that, his high post mastery has marked the free throw line extended as his kingdom.  Dwight Howard has no such jurisdiction, but that doesn’t change the way they function within the offense.  The San Antonio triumvirate functions because each individual brings something unique to the table, and because they can give defenses fits without stepping on each other’s toes.  Beyond that, many a role player has found themselves on the receiving end of an open three-pointer or a hundred because of those three.

In a sense, Orlando is a dignified and yet deeply flawed San Antonio.  Jameer Nelson is a point guard who’s quick enough to get where he needs to go on the floor, and yet shares some of Parker’s defensive limitations.  Like a young Parker, Jameer has a singular midrange talent (jumper versus teardrop).  Hedo Turkoglu provides offensive movement and a creator away from the point.  He doesn’t have Manu’s explosiveness, but he supplements his talents with considerable size and a nice passing touch.  Rashard Lewis is, for all intents and purposes, the super-scorer/role player that may have kept the Spurs from exploding into a ten year dynasty.  The Magic are decidedly Bowen-less, and maybe that’s what separates them from the cream of the crop (possible).  Or maybe it’s the difference between Howard and Duncan (likely).

We all know that Dwight Howard with a legit low-post skill set would be something to behold, but is it possible that his transformation could usher in a more far-reaching evolution of lovable, innocent Magic into the infinitely more exciting and smiley neo-Spurs?