The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 110, Phoenix Suns 95

Posted by Connor Huchton on January 28, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment


Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

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

  • The Mavericks’ win on Sunday night could be described as a story of beginnings and endings (and that’s how I’ll describe it).
  • The starting unit began the game well, on the heels of precise ball movement and an active Shawn Marion (9-19 FG, 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists), and finished equally adeptly, as Dirk Nowitzki (7-14 FG, 18 points, seven rebounds) closed out the fourth quarter with the scoring precision of, well, Dirk Nowitzki.
  • Bernard James (1-2 FG, two points, three rebounds, 11 minutes) started the game at center for the Mavericks and performed well enough, though James’ 11 minutes may be indicative of the move’s dual purpose as a means of motivating Chris Kaman (2-4 FG, six points, five rebounds, two turnovers, 11 minutes). Neither James or Kaman served as part of the best pairing with Dirk, however.
  • That distinction lies with Elton Brand (6-10 FG, 12 points, three rebounds, 17 minutes), as it has much of the time in recent weeks.
  • I’d be remiss to write any further without mentioning that Dirk passed Allen Iverson for 18th all-time on the NBA’s scoring list. Well done, Dirk.
  • And hopefully his ascension towards further tiers of that list continues.
  • Though their numbers weren’t gaudy, the Mavericks’ guards deserve credit for a job admirably done. O.J. Mayo (4-9 FG, eight points, six assists), Darren Collison (3-7, eight points, five assists), Dahntay Jones (4-5 FG, 11 points), Vince Carter (5-8 FG, 2-3 3PT, 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals), and Rodrigue Beaubois (3-7 FG, eight points, three assists, three rebounds) collectively played quite well, and their overall decision-making radiated excellency.
  • That excellent decision-making propelled the Mavericks to 26 assists and only 13 turnovers, good for an aesthetically pleasing 2:1 ratio.
  • All 13 active Mavericks earned playing time, which in this case was indicative of a comfortable win.
  • Another key to the Mavericks’ victory was how well they spaced the floor.
  • Guards were able to make post passes into feasibly-sized windows, and areas of the floor were often carefully sectioned off for the sake of Shawn Marion, Dirk, or cutting guards (Mayo, Beaubois, etc.) on their way to the basket.
  • That element of movement and spacing is absolutely crucial for a team that’s been frequently mired in offensive stagnancy.
  • Four Mavericks’ centers played significant minutes tonight, which give some insight into the current revolving door of Mavericks’ center minutes.
  • Brandan Wright (1-3 FG, four points, three rebounds, three assists) was the fourth center used tonight. He first saw minutes in the fourth quarter and helped spark a momentous run with keen passes near the basket and an important finish.
  • Wright was also the only Maverick to make less than 42% of his shots, another mark of a thoroughly efficient offensive performance.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 107, San Antonio Spurs 113

Posted by Kirk Henderson on January 25, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment


Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • If one was to look at the final score without knowing anything about the game, it appears to be a real improvement from earlier Mavs-Spurs match ups. It was not. That the Mavericks whittled a 26 point Spurs lead to four is nice, but that they were down 26 at all is cause for alarm. With Tim Duncan out, Gregg Popovich not coaching, and Manu Ginobli only playing eight minutes, Dallas should have been able to stay with the Spurs. Instead, team defense was atrocious and the offense stagnant for most of the game.
  • I’m starting to get concerned about Dirk Nowitzki’s role. While he had 14 shot attempts against the Spurs, he often goes very long stretches of time without an attempt. Dirk took one shot to start the second quarter, then didn’t shoot again until just over a minute left in the period. While he was on the bench for some of that 10 minute stretch, I believe Dirk should be the focal point for consistent stretches as opposed to short outbursts. He is making a concerted effort to get his teammates involved, as evidenced by his four assists in the first quarter. But outside of the other starters and Chris Kaman, I don’t like Dirk passing up a shot to feed Mike James on the baseline as he did with 6:45 left in the fourth.
  • Dallas could not find an effective pick and roll coverage against Tony Parker (23 points, 10 assists) or Gary Neal (18 points, six assists). Carlisle attempted to trap the ball handler with Kaman in first half, which resulted in DeJuan Blair (22 points on 10 of 13 shooting) going off as the roll man. Both ball handlers were easily able to pass around any trap attempt.  In the second half, Carlisle elected to have Darren Collison (who still seems shocked every time he runs into a screen) trail Parker over the top of screens and Parker responded by hitting a variety of really tough shots.
  • Well would you look at that, a Roddy Beaubois (19 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and five free throws) sighting! He scored more points against the Spurs than he did the entire month of December (15). It’d be a boost for Dallas if they could somehow get some burn from Roddy. He’s incredibly athletic and instinctual, and his play can change the pace for a Dallas team that can be athletically challenged, particularly in the half court.
  • Someone needs to have an intervention for Jae Crowder and his shot selection. Every single shot he attempted was 17 feet or farther from the rim. In the first quarter he pulled up to take an uncontested jumper on a fast break when he had a clear attempt at the rim. He tried to make up for this in the second period by attacking the rim on a fast break, only to commit a turnover by running over Manu Ginobli. Later in the quarter he stole the ball from Tiago Splitter after a rebound and decided to shoot a three while at least two of his teammates were not yet past half court. In the fourth, when Dallas was making a fast and furious run, Crowder shot a contested 17 footer from the baseline that caused Jeff Van Gundy to question whether Crowder understands his role on the team.  He missed every single shot until a prayer three fell when the game was out of reach. Jae needs to spend a little more time modeling his game after Shawn Marion and a little less emulating Josh Howard.
  • If Dallas hopes to make the playoffs, losing games against short handed teams is no longer an option. Currently, eleventh in the West, Dallas still has an outside chance to make the playoffs. Portland and Minnesota are stumbling and the Lakers manage to keep lowering the bar. If the Mavericks take care of business and either Utah or Houston stumble down the stretch, the eight seed is still in reach. Some luck will be involved, but in order for that to be a factor, Dallas has to close out these winnable games.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.


The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 104, Memphis Grizzlies 83

Posted by Kirk Henderson on January 13, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment


Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • When Dallas managed to start the game by making three of their first 12 shots, I assumed it was going to be another long and painful game. Sometimes, though, being a nattering nabob of negatism means relishing a suprising win — as was the case on Saturday night  when the Mavericks turned on the offense and build up a thirty point lead by the end of the third against a team that’s won more than 70% of it’s games prior to tonight’s win.
  • Granted, playing the second night of a back-to-back clearly challenged the Grizzlies. After a tough overtime win against the Spurs, Memphis looked exhausted early and it showed in the box score as they simply weren’t able to hit a shot, finishing the game shooting 38% from the field.
  • Tonight was a tale of two Kamans. In the first quarter alone, Kaman managed to get up seven shots in around six minutes, only making three in the process. His early shots were rushed and it showed as he wasn’t able to convert a few easy looks right around the rim. He did, however, manage five rebounds in the period.
  • Third quarter Kaman came out playing like a man on a mission, scoring eight points in four minutes in a variety of ways. He started with a back-down hook shot, followed with a 15-foot jumper, then followed by a crafty up-and-under finish near the rim, and finally a pick-and-roll lay-in created off a pass from Darren Collison.
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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, Miami Heat 110

Posted by Kirk Henderson on December 21, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment


Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • This one was over at halftime. It was really, really over in the third quarter when the Miami lead ballooned to 36. The final score isn’t really indicative of the game at all because, with a brief exception in the second quarter when the Mavs third unit made a run, Miami controlled the entire game.
  • Though Dallas probably would have lost this game anyway, the Mavs missed an obscene number of shots at the rim. Though seemingly everyone missed a point blank attempt or two, Darren Collison’s three first half bricks at the rim stick out more than anything else.
  • Aaron McGuire over at Gothic Ginobli pegged this proclivity better than anyone else about a month ago: “He can get to the rim relatively easily, and he can get an open shot there without going through too much trouble. Having speed is useful that way. The problem — and the thing that differentiates him from other NBA speedsters like Tony Parker or Ty Lawson — is that he’s simply so bad at finishing (regardless of the duress he’s under) that his speed advantage impacts his game marginally at best and uselessly at worst. And, as stated, he balks at running a traditional set-play offense — he regularly dribbles himself into oblivion, ending the play far away from the screen that’s been set for him.”
  • This is the second national TV game in a row where O.J. Mayo (eight points, 3-for-14 shooting) has failed to live up to his newly acquired reputation. In Boston, he turned the ball over a season high nine times but was able to put up points, whereas tonight he failed to make a positive contribution to the game and in most circumstances hurt the team more than he helped it. The Heat successfully blitzed Mayo on all high pick and rolls, making him slow just a bit and clogging the Dallas offense. Mayo clearly became frustrated offensively as he began forcing shots, most of which were not even close. Later in the game he was able to have some success attacking the bucket, but it seemed his earlier mistakes were on his mind as he often made strange passing attempts or shot the ball minus the typical Mayo confidence we’ve become accustomed to.
  • The offensive struggle from Mayo is something that will happen from time to time; he’s clearly still learning and developing. It’s the defensive aspect to Mayo’s performance tonight that was really maddening. While no one can expect him to do much against Lebron James after a switch other than hope he miss and box out, Mayo got abused repeatedly by Dwyane Wade. Mayo bit on pump fakes from Wade three or four times in the third quarter alone, a few of which were from beyond the arc. He let Wade take an defensive rebound from him for a put back. Mayo must have more focus on the defensive end if he hopes to be a leader of the Dallas Mavericks.
  • To pick on Mayo alone wouldn’t be fair; at halftime Mayo, Chris Kaman, and Vince Carter were shooting a combined 15%. Kaman in particular was dreadful, with eight points and two rebounds, while also managing a team worst -27 while on the floor. I’m not sure who is more to blame here, Kaman for his incredibly poor shot selection or Carlisle for continuing to play him when the speed of the game was much higher than Kaman could deal with. I fully expected Kaman to attempt to establish himself on the block at some point and he settled for either a jump shot or fade away on most of his attempts. Really poor effort on his part.
  • Dallas has now lost eight games by double digits. Dallas has lost seven of those games by 15 or more points.
  • A brief rally from Dallas in the second quarter came from possibily the most unlikely five man group in Texas. Dominique Jones, Roddy Beaubois, Jae Crowder, Vince Carter, and Bernard James played with enthusiasm and, more importantly, effectiveness. Two second round rookies, a pair of end-of-bench role players, and Vince Carter nearly stole the momentum from the defending world champions.
  • The best Maverick, far and away, was Bernard “Sarge” James, putting up 12 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. Five of his rebounds were offensive as he relentlessly went after the physically weaker Miami big men. He rolls to the basket much better than he did earlier in the season and catches the ball very, very well. But defensively he has established himself as a true specialist. A second quarter block of Battier that lead to a Dominique Jones lay in displayed some unique timing. The TNT crew realized later in the game that James plays similarly to Joel Anthony, which is a reasonable comparison. James will probably never be a starter, but has played well virtually every time he has been given minutes.
  • Dominique Jones had a career high in assists with seven, five of them coming in the first half. Miami managed to close down a lot of the lanes he used in the first half, both passing and penetration. Still, nice to see him be effective, though I cringe when he shoots or tries a driving  lay in because he simply cannot finish with consistency.
  • Lebron James (24 points, nine rebounds, five assists) was brilliant in every facet of the game. His 13 first quarter points on 6-of-7 shooting made the game look unfair. Compared to the 2011 finals, James seems comfortable and confident doing whatever he wants with the ball. Defensively he’s a nightmare, covering ground laterally at a speed that defies common understanding.
  • Along that same vein, Miami is playing ideal position-less basketball. The main cog is James, but watching Wade, Bosh, and guys like Chalmers, Battier, Haslem, and Anthony, the Heat can guard any line up. Offensively they have different players like Mike Miller and Ray Allen who exploit the opportunities presented to Miami by simply knocking down open shots.
  • It’s disappointing Brandan Wright was injured tonight with a sprained ankle. Seeing him in a fast paced game where defensive help was a necessity could have made the game more interesting. Miami doesn’t expend energy crashing the offensive glass that often, so Wright’s main issue would have been hidden. But there’s always next game as Dallas plays Miami again in less than two weeks.
  • Seeing who Dirk nudges out of the rotation will be worth watching. Obviously, it’s great that he’ll be back soon, but with none of the Maverick big men playing well consistently (or in the cases of Wright and James, not seeing minutes consistently), who Carlisle opts to go with will be worth analyzing. The theory was Dirk and Kaman would see action together, with Brand being the main release valve. But with Kaman rebounding so poorly it’s hard to see that pair working out well for any significant stretch.
  • When looking at win loss records and including tonight’s game, the Mavs play the league’s 4th best team (Miami), 5th best team (Memphis), 6th best team (San Antonio) and the league’s best team (Oklahoma City) in a seven day span. That’s followed up by a match up versus the underwhelming but very talented Denver Nuggets, another game against the Spurs, a trip to the nations capitol, and then another meeting with the Miami Heat. Easily the most brutal stretch of games in the entire Dallas schedule.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

Thermodynamics: Week 7

Posted by Travis Wimberly on December 13, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Fire Ice

Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

As the great philosopher Randy Quiad once said, just before he courageously kamikaze-dived his F/A-18 fighter jet into the alien mothership: “I’m back.” My week-long hiatus from The Two Man Game, which was filled with all sorts of illicit activities (e.g., work, eating in between work breaks, sleeping a bit between work breaks), is over. My sincerest thanks to my colleague and good friend Bryan Gutierrez for filling in last week on very short notice. Cheers to you, BG.

So about those Mavericks. They had a strong week, notching a 3-1 record and falling only to the Boston Celtics last night in a double-overtime road pseudo-thriller. A couple more made free throws or a couple fewer turnovers in Boston and it would have been not just a “strong” week, but an excellent one. So it goes.

Let’s do what we do each week. Three hot Mavs performances, and three cold ones. Hit it.

Week 7 (@Suns, @Rockets, Kings, @Celtics)


1) OJ Mayo

Other than his brief apperance on the cold list in Week 5, Mayo has consistently lived in the Thermodynamics fire this season. He’s right back at it this week. He started this seven-day stretch with a strong performance in Phoenix, notching 23 points on 9-of-17 (53%) shooting and hitting the go-ahead jumper with 35 seconds left in the game. In Houston two nights later, Mayo had by far his best performance as a Mav and arguably the best of his young career. He tied his career high with 40 points –outdueling James Harden’s 39 — on 15-of-26 (58%) shooting while going 6-of-9 (67%) from deep. Sixteen of Mayo’s points came in the decisive fourth quarter, when the Mavs erased an 11-point deficit and took control. At home against the Kings, Mayo did about what you’d expect, tallying 19 points on 6-of-9 (67%) shooting in just 28 minutes as the Mavs cruised to an easy victory. Finally, in Boston last night, Mayo was the Mavs’ leading scorer with 24 points on 10-of-19 (53%) shooting, including several clutch baskets in the fourth quarter and first overtime. Unfortunately, Mayo’s otherwise strong performance in Boston was marred by nine turnovers, a missed free throw late, and a few poor shots during the OT frames. Still, the Mavs’ leading scorer did what he does best this week. And he even rebounded to boot, averaging 6.5 boards per game and twice leading the entire team in that department. Speaking of which…

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Lessons of Youth

Posted by Jonathan Tjarks on under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.58.42 AM

Jonathan Tjarks is the managing editor of SB Nation Dallas. He writes about basketball and all that it implies at RealGM and SB Nation, and is a guest columnist here at The Two Man Game. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @JonathanTjarks.

Over the last decade, the Mavericks and the Spurs have been the most consistent winners in the NBA. However, while San Antonio is renowned for an excellent scouting and player development operation, Dallas has always preferred getting veterans in either trades and free agency. For years, Dirk Nowitzki’s individual excellence and Cuban’s checkbook have papered over their inability to develop young players. In 2012, those chickens have come home to roost.

When Deron Williams decided to stay in Brooklyn, Dallas had to scramble just to fill out their roster. Aside from Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, they had no one else they could rely on to fill consistent minutes. The result of that turnover has been an unbelievable lack of continuity; with their two star forwards dealing with injuries, there are many stretches of games where all five Mavs on the court were wearing different jerseys a year ago.

It’s not a coincidence that Rick Carlisle has used 10 different starting lineups in their first 21 games, but nothing represents the Mavs’ desperation more than the  in-season signings of Derek Fisher, Troy Murphy and Eddy Curry. All three have names familiar to basketball fans, but it’s been years since any of them has been a functional NBA player. Curry hasn’t had a PER above 10 since 2008, Fisher since 2009 and Murphy since 2010. Since Dallas released them, neither Curry nor Murphy has gotten even a sniff from another NBA team.

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Dallas Mavericks 90, Los Angeles Clippers 112

Posted by Connor Huchton on December 6, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Silbury Hill

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

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

  • It’s difficult to say 22 things about a game as disheartening as Thursday night’s debacle, but I’ll do my best.
  • The Clippers executed a perfect storm of exposing the Mavericks’ weaknesses. The Mavericks failed noticeably in the following areas: perimeter defense, three-point shooting, rebounding, turnover control, and any sense of cohesion systemically on the defensive end. So, pretty much everything.
  • The Mavericks even squandered an unlikely effort from Derek Fisher (15 points), who was the only Maverick other than Vince Carter (16 points, seven rebounds) who appeared comfortable with his jumper. Oh, what a journey it’s been over the last few weeks.
  • O.J. Mayo’s recent shooting struggles continued, but his inevitable regression shouldn’t worry the team too greatly. This was always bound to happen, and Mayo couldn’t carry the team forever. As long as he continues to make threes at a reasonable rate, he’ll remain the team’s most productive player.
  • What should worry the Mavericks is how thoroughly inconsistent and unsure Darren Collison’s (8 points, 2-5 FG, two assists, five turnovers) recent play has been. Collison is still the Mavericks’ best point guard option and has enough talent to maintain a competent offense, but he seems to have lost some sense of confidence in recent weeks, compounded with a lack of aggression that has submarined his production.
  • With Collison playing as he did, Fisher deserved every minute he played tonight.
  • Jae Crowder is being asked to do far too much for a second-rounder in his rookie season, as was apparent tonight. Crowder has earned a spot in the rotation, but he’s not able to sustain success from game to game, especially when thrust into a starter’s role.
  • 13 Mavericks played tonight, which usually indicates a blowout of some kind. This wasn’t the good kind.
  • How many analytic statements is that now?
  • As poorly as he’s played this season, I’m of the belief that Rodrigue Beaubois, who played four minutes tonight, might as well get an opportunity to run the team, however briefly. Until Dirk Nowitzki returns in ____ weeks, this team lacks identity. Beaubois has enough talent to give taking a chance with minute allocation some credence, and the offense simply isn’t flowing under the direction of any other Mavericks’ point guard.
  • The ease with which Chris Paul (14 points, 13 assists) navigated through the key doomed the Mavericks from the very beginning. Very few Clippers’ baskets could be classified as ‘tough’, and Blake Griffin’s double-double (19 points, 13 rebounds) was recorded all to easily at the rim.
  • Though point guard defense isn’t overly consequential in the grand scheme of the game, it can hold a significant impact when the defensive efforts at the position are terrific or the opposite. The latter is too often true with the Mavericks’ personnel – Fisher and Collison aren’t quite Rondo and Paul in that respect.
  • I’d like to see Chris Kaman receive more opportunities in the post on nights like tonight, when little else is working, but that also requires better perimeter passing than the Mavericks showcased.
  • 123-149. That’s the record of Mavericks’ opponents this season, and an 8-10 record against that level of competition might be the most discouraging statistic of all.
  • Of course, things were not always so morbid. But winning four of the last thirteen games can certainly make one forget the 4-1 streak that preceded it.
  •  It’s interesting how much better the Mavericks have been with Derek Fisher on the floor in limited minutes thus far. According to, the Mavericks are 23.7 points better per 48 minutes with Fisher playing.
  • Of course, further research reveals that the area where the Mavericks are significantly better with Fisher on the floor is the defensive end. Though it’s possible Derek Fisher is leading a defensive revolution, it’s highly unlikely.
  • His impact was minimal tonight in 12 minutes of playing time, but Brandan Wright likely deserves a stronger presence in the rotation. The Mavericks are simply better with him on the court – he’s part of the Mavericks’ best heavily-played lineup (Collison-Mayo-Marion-Brand-Wright), and he often outproduces his competition, though his defensive issues remain.
  • But paired with a player like Brand, who can counteract some of Wright’s deficiencies, Wright’s production is well worth its possible defensive price.
  • The Mavericks play the Suns and Kings in two of their next three games, so a couple of necessary winning performances are on the essential horizon.
  • And we made it to 22 statements. Thanks for reading.

Falling Back Towards Earth

Posted by Brian Rubaie on November 29, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read


After soaring out of the gates, the Mavericks have sunk back towards Earth. No Dallas player has been immune to bouts of poor play but some have experienced particularly steep and enduring regressions — the most pronounced of which belongs to Rodrigue Beaubois, who has struggled to find his rhythm after suffering a spate of injuries that kept him out of almost half the games in the Mavs’ early schedule.

Beaubois has underwhelmed on both ends of the floor, even in areas where he once excelled. Once a reliable slasher and passable shooter, he has struggled to return to form. While never known as a defensive specialist, Roddy’s performance on that end has reached new lows. What’s bad for this goose has poisoned the gander: the Mavericks bench unit can no longer be relied upon to sustain leads and often struggles to stay afloat. Injuries, while the most common explanation for Roddy’s struggles, are only one piece of the puzzle.

Not all of the errors committed by Beaubois are physical. Being a step behind isn’t responsible for erratic, poor and undisciplined shot selection, resulting in a very challenging November. Only one in four Beaubois jumpers has reached the mark throughout the season and even fewer still in the second half. On the other end of the floor, Beaubois has continued to struggle and it is difficult to attribute these consistent defensive struggles to injury alone. Defensive challenges following Beaubois aren’t shocking but the offensive challenges confronting Beaubois are both surprising and steep.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 78, Chicago Bulls 101

Posted by Kirk Henderson on under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Storm Clouds

Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • Having lost seven of their last 10 games, including their last two, Dallas entered this game needing to show some sort of fire. An injury to starting point guard Darren Collison meant Dallas faced an uphill battle against an up and down Bulls team. The Mavericks did not show up, and barely put up a fight when things got ugly in the second quarter. It’s hard to know where to begin.
  • Similar to the Laker game over the weekend, it would be easy to look at the box score, see the field goal percentage (a hair under 35%) and attribute the loss to the poor shooting. If it were only that easy; the poor shooting is a start in terms of explaining their atrocious play on both ends of the floor.
  • There has to be a change in defensive philosophy regarding the pick and roll. Against the Lakers and the Knicks, getting punished made some sense; it’s a huge part of each team’s game plan. But against the Bulls? Who are playing an assortment of guards who are not in the upper echelon of NBA talent? It’s rather ridiculous. Dallas does not have the personnel to be defending the pick and roll in this fashion. At first it seemed an issue of timing and effort. Effort does play a part, but most of the big men on the roster cannot recover in time.
  • Early in the second quarter, Chris Kaman (10 points, four rebounds) “showed” high on a Joakim Noah screen and lazily waved his arms. Noah (13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) slipped the screen quickly and Nate Robinson (14 points, six assists) fed Noah for an easy layup. Noah repeated this course of events again in the third.
  • Dallas also needs to spend a great deal of practice time in getting through screens while playing defense. It’s too much to see every guard on the Dallas roster get hung up on a screen from nearly every opposing big man.
  • Roddy Beaubois (six points, three assists) was particularly horrible on defense. He lost his man in half court sets repeatedly, forcing rotations and often fouls. Early in the second quarter, he got hung up on a screen and while trying to recover, bit on a terrible Nate Robinson pump fake, then decided to try to block his shot from behind and picked up an obvious foul as Robinson sank the shot. Nate Robinson, he of the cheer leading and dunk contests from a few years ago, looked like a legit back up point guard due to Roddy’s defensive effort.
  • Remember when Roddy was labeled as untouchable? I’ve stepped away from the ledge and finally agree with Connor Huchton that he can be serviceable, but he’s been terrible this season, shooting just under 32% on the year. He’s working the offense fine, but with the few occasions where he strips his man and scores on a fast break attempt, we’ve seen almost none of the dazzling speed and athleticism that made him so intriguing. He still makes the same baffling bad decisions he did as a rookie. It’s really disappointing.
  • Of course, Roddy was not alone in his lack of defensive awareness. In the second quarter, O.J. Mayo lost the ball while rising to shoot a 17 footer. On the ensuing fast break possession for Chicago, Mayo lost Marco Belinelli (11 points) who hit a wide open three. Later in the third, Mayo let Rip Hamilton (four points, four assists) get wide open on a flare off a screen. These sorts of plays are bound to happen, that’s the point of an offense. But Dallas seems completely incapable of doing anything to limit an offense when it involves heavy screening.
  • While we’re on the topic of awareness, is Rick Carlisle aware of just how terrible Troy Murphy (seven points, two rebounds) is playing? By my count, Taj Gibson (eight points, eight rebounds) took three rebounds away from Murphy. Murphy played 18 minutes, yet was bullied all over the floor. He was often simply taking up space while doing nothing productive. It’s time for Troy to see his minutes reduced severely.
  • Did I mention Troy Murphy got beat to the basket by Vladimir Radmanovic? Or that he let Luol Deng take two rhythm dribbles towards the elbow to shoot a jumper? Both those things happened, and more!
  • One play in the third quarter defined the entire game. Down 16 with a little under two minutes left, Taj Gibson rebounded his own shot while surrounded by four Mavericks: Mayo, Murphy, Roddy, and Brand, who actually fought for the board with Gibson. The struggle for the board saw Brand hit the deck. The other three Mavericks simply watched from the paint as Gibson fed a wide open Luol Deng for a three pointer. Brand was the only Maverick who made any attempt to challenge the shot, and he had been on the floor.
  • The rebounding issue has become almost comical. There are so many instances of Mavericks simply watching the ball and doing nothing to put a body on an opposing player. Murphy and Kaman are particularly guilty of this but the guards play a big role as well. With a little under eight minutes in the second quarter, Nazr Mohammed missed a layup that Gibson cleaned up with a put back. No effort was made from Dominique Jones or Mayo, who simply stood near the three point line.
  • To start the second half, there was no Dallas Maverick with more than two rebounds. The Bulls shot well (49%) from the floor, but not so well so that there weren’t rebounds to grab. No Maverick finished with more than six rebounds.
  • The NBA is one of the only professions that I can think of where one can get a label for something that one isn’t any good at. Troy Murphy is a “stretch four” who can’t actually stretch the defense out at because he can’t make open shots; he’s a shooter who can’t shoot. In a similar vein is Dominique Jones (1o points, five assists). He is a “finisher” who cannot finish. His layups are thrown up with a hope and a prayer. I appreciate his hard work and the minutes he’s giving a struggling team. But he’s not very good and the more he plays the more clear it becomes.
  • The engagement level of Chris Kaman is something that needs to be more heavily examined. He relishes taking on a weaker match up, as he took advantage in games against Toronto, Washington, Cleveland and Golden State. But against teams with strong post defenders, like New York, Los Angeles, and tonight with the Bulls, he seems to settle for lesser quality shots. Tonight he took seven shots outside the paint and only attempted two free throws.
  • Dallas needed a top flight scorer tonight and O.J. Mayo (four points, five rebounds) seemed inclined to take the night off. Marco Belinelli and Kirk Hinrich either played the defensive game of their lives on Mayo, or he simply did not assert himself much on offense. While it was nice he didn’t force his shot (2-for-9 from the floor), it’s rather confusing he didn’t do more while on offense. He played 35 minutes. Part of the can be attributed to a lack of Collison, but Mayo disappearing cannot happen.
  • There should be cause for concern with regard to Jae Crowder (two points, three rebounds). I’ve often considered his energy and effort to be similar to a rookie contract Josh Howard, who managed to contribute everywhere without needing the ball very often. Crowder played 26 ineffective minutes and took a number of long jump shots. Only one of them fell, as he was 1-for-7 from the field. Sounds a lot more like 2008 Josh Howard, unfortunately. Crowder needs to get back to what made him a summer league and pre-season favorite: hard nosed play, defense, rebounding.
  • It’s uncomfortable to question a coach as knowledgeable and accomplished as Carlisle. But right now his rotations are concerning. Brandan Wright saw no playing time. Bernard James (one point, two rebounds) only saw action in the fourth. Why? The Mavs as an organization have a healthy respect for data and numbers and Dallas is in no way, shape or form, better with Murphy on the floor over either of these two. If Dallas is going to lose, at least do so while letting the players who have a future get some experience.
  • First round selection Jared Cunningham saw four minutes of action and managed to hoist up six shots. Impressive display of gunning, yet he failed to show any inkling of why Dallas selected him in the first round while there were other more accomplished players on the board.
  • The Dallas bench does it’s best work when the game is close or Dallas is ahead. Vince Carter (10 points on 10 shots) was asked to do too much, again. He’s 35 years old. He is battling hard, but asking him to be the savior when there are other more talented players at this point in their careers (hey, O.J. Mayo) on the roster is silly.
  • Elton Brand (four points, six rebounds, four assists) and Shawn Marion (18 points, 3 rebounds) were the only two Mavericks who played with any sense of urgency or pride. After a solid night against his former team, Brand again struggled with his shot. His post defense is still not very good, but its not for a lack of trying. Marion does so much while needing the ball so little. While he obviously could have contributed more on the defensive end, his positive offense effort was the only one worth mentioning for Dallas.
  • News broke after the game that Dallas signed Derek Fisher. It’s unclear why, as he brings next to nothing to the team other than another veteran presence. The point guard position is shaky to say the least, but he doesn’t help with that other than the fact that he can dribble it past half court without falling down (something Roddy nearly does once a game). Who gets cut (or sent to the D-league) is unclear. Options include Troy Murphy, Dominique Jones, and Roddy Beaubois.
  • Dallas gets two days of rest and possibly practice time with their new addition before they welcome Detroit Saturday night.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace 


The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 89, Los Angeles Lakers 115

Posted by Kirk Henderson on November 25, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment


Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • It would be incredibly easy to simply chalk this loss up to excellent shooting by the Lakers (48.8%) and horrid shooting by the Mavericks (37%). The shooting played a part, yes, but the Lakers did a phenomenal job of exploiting every single weakness of this Dallas team.
  • With Shawn Marion (10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals) covering one of the league’s best in Kobe Bryant (19 points, five assists), O.J. Mayo guarded Metta World Peace (19 points, six rebounds) and clearly he took his assignment too lightly. MWP hit his first open three with Mayo nowhere in sight, followed that up with a pair of driving layups, and then hit another three Mayo challenged late. World Peace scored all ten points in the first four minutes of the game. That lack of attention to detail set the tone for Dallas for the remainder of the night.
  • Dallas cannot find a way to effectively guard the pick and roll as of this point in the season. Recently, Carlisle has opted to have the big man, usually Chris Kaman (four points, three rebounds), show high on the pick and roll to slow down the ball handler.  Unfortunately, he does not have the lateral quickness to recover when the opposing screener rolls or slips the screen,  forcing a rotation from the baseline which essentially breaks down the entire Maverick defensive structure.  When that screener is someone like Pau Gasol (13 points, nine rebounds, three assists) it wreaks havoc on the Dallas defense as there is often not anyone to protect the rim when these defensive rotations occur.
  • To be fair to Kaman, he’s not the only Dallas big man who is having this issue. Elton Brand (four rebounds, one assist) and Troy Murphy (two rebounds) are all well past the point to where they can consistently recover on a constant barrage of pick and rolls. Brandan Wright (six points, one rebound) and Bernard James (seven points, five rebounds, four blocks) are each much better about showing and recovering, but Carlisle has been reluctant to use them for larger stretches.
  • I’d like to be wrong about this, but it seems as if Darren Collison (two points, four assists, four turnovers) is always shocked when he runs into a screen on defense. One and a half minutes into the game he was knocked down by a Dwight Howard (15 points, seven rebounds, five steals, two blocks) screen that Elton Brand was clearly calling out. Collison seems to get hung up on most of the screens set by opposing offenses. Pair that with the Dallas big men being unable to recover fast enough, and we see Dallas getting exploited in the paint with alarming regularity as of late.
  • The Lakers marginalized Collison, as he shot one for ten from the floor and made some silly turnovers in the process. The Lakers limited his ability to penetrate on the right side of the floor with his strong hand where he is most productive. As a result he mostly able to penetrate on the left side of the floor with his off hand where he was often met by Dwight Howard and had to adjust his shot accordingly. Collison’s outside shots were mostly uncontested and they simply wouldn’t fall.  Oddly enough, this season Collison has been brutal in the 10-15 foot range, shooting 24%.
  • The Lakers picked up the Dallas ball handlers just after half court with intense pressure, seeming to dare the Maverick guards to drive.  The result was that Dallas struggled to get into their offense in a timely manner. Collison, Dominque Jones (two points, three assists), and Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, six assists) all acted as if they hadn’t dealt with half court pressure before.
  • Dallas also has an offensive screening problem.  I need to see more film, but O.J. Mayo (13 points, three rebounds) does a very poor job coming off screens to get the ball out of initial offensive sets. In theory, one is supposed to run one’s man into the screener by running off him, even rubbing shoulders with the screener if need be. It’s how someone like Ray Allen can play into his late 30′s.  Mayo often (but not always) runs without purpose, and the screener is often forced to step towards his man, which is a great chance to pick up an offensive foul. Mayo needs to run his man into the screener so he can have more time once he catches the ball on the wing.
  • The fault doesn’t purely lie with Mayo, however.  Outside of Bernard James, the current Dallas bigs are not excellent screeners. This is one area Dirk does not get near enough credit for, and one area where he’ll help immediately upon his return (that he’s able to roll, slip, and flare for the league’s prettiest jump shot also helps in that area).
  • Not to keep picking on Mayo, but his inability to operate out of a pick and roll where he is the primary ball handler is confusing. Though he only accounted for two turnovers, I counted four separate occasions where he attempted to split a hedge trap from the Lakers, only to fall over, dribble off someone’s foot, or make a bad pass.
  • Part of this can be attributed to the Laker defense and some can be attributed to Mayo trying to force the issue since Dallas was down big.  But this isn’t the first game I’ve seen this.  I was confused by the “hero ball” in the Golden State overtime loss; Mayo scored all of his points in transition or playing one on one, there was no chance of a two man game.  Mayo will have to get better at working out of pick and roll opportunities in order to thrive in Carlisle’s offense.
  • It’s a bit odd that Vince Carter(16 points on ten shots) has become a stabilizing influence off the bench. There were times last year where I’d cringe as he’d enter the game.  Carter helped make the game seem manageable in the first quarter with five points coming within the flow of the offense. He was the only guard who had no trouble dealing with the Laker defensive pressure early in the game.
  • The Laker defense was tremendous, particularly in the paint.  Though Dallas actually committed fewer turnovers than Los Angeles (15 to 19), Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol changed so many shots in the paint they effectively became turnovers. Go look at the shot chart again. The Mavericks had to earn every point in the lane.
  • Elton Brand’s lack of shooting touch is bordering on “Lamar Odom in 2011-2012″.  Last year, Brand shot about 45% from three feet all the way to just inside the three point line.  This year he’s struggling from the ten feet to three point line range, shooting just 13-46 for the year.
  • He missed two free throw jumpers early in the first quarter, each wide open.  If Brand is able to hit those shots, he changes the way the Lakers defend.  Without Dirk, the only player who has shown himself capable of hitting that 15 footer is Brandan Wright (of all people), and he usually does so while moving towards the bucket.  I really do think Brand figures it out, but it’s so painful to watch and he’s an offensive liability at the moment.
  • Speaking of liabilities, there has to be some sort of explanation as to why Troy Murphy saw fourteen minutes tonight.  He did not match up well with any member of the Lakers front court defensively and Pau and Antawn Jamison (19 points, 15 rebounds) simply owned him.  The theory on offense is that he adds some aspect of a stretch four. While he has hit 10 three’s this season, seven of those came in two games; the other seven games Murphy is 3-19 from deep. Until Dirk comes back, we should start seeing more Wright and Sarge and less Murphy.
  • Jae Crowder (15 points, four rebounds, four steals) was one of only four Mavericks to not post a negative plus-minus.  Considering all thirteen Mavericks saw at least ten minutes, this is fairly impressive when one factors in the blowout.  His spot up shooting has been solid, but I’m more impressed by the way he attacks the rim. Most of the Dallas players seemed to dreading contact tonight whereas Crowder seemed to relish in it.
  • I’d be curious to know if Crowder’s shot selection is by design. As you can tell from the shot chart, he takes most of his threes from the free throw line extended area.  It’s challenging for teammates to establish position for offensive rebounds as missed shots from that angle can go a variety of places even if its an on target shot. Given that corner threes are the most efficient three point shot, I’d expect to see him taking more in those locations.
  • Chris Kaman is the lone Maverick who can consistently score with his back to the basket. Tonight as the game wore on, he clearly became frustrated by the Laker defense and drifted farther and farther away from the goal.  Five of his eleven shots came from 15 feet or more from the rim.  Kaman has to force the issue and get to the foul line against talented front lines if Dallas hopes to establish consistent offense.
  • While you can count me among those who think Brandan Wright needs more playing time, its clear why he doesn’t get time.  In his thirteen minutes, he grabbed one rebound.  Wright tries to block some shots which he won’t get to, thus putting himself completely out of rebounding position.  In the fourth there were a couple of occasions where he wildly tried to block a shot only to see his man get an offensive rebound and put back.
  • On ESPN Insider David Thorpe characterized Bernard James as “a legit shot-blocking specialist” after a series of games where Sarge saw time and made an impact. James blocks shots from guards which are made in an attempt to avoid a shot blocker entirely.  His timing and effort were fantastic and he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise horrible night.
  • That the Lakers were able to put up 115 points without Steve Nash is impressive. The Lakers got 107 points out of their top eight rotation players. Antawn Jamison in particular dominated, with 19 points and 15 rebounds. His 12 defensive rebounds were two less than the entire Dallas starting five.
  • Dwight Howard played an impressive game and yet he still looks fairly slow.  Well, slow for him. With Andrew Bynum out until further notice, the gap between Dwight Howard and any of the other league’s centers is so wide it doesn’t matter if Dwight is only at 80%.  I expect Howard will continue to regain his explosiveness as the season moves along. If that happens and D’Antoni actually opts to use Dwight in pick and roll situations the league is in trouble.
  • The clear difference in the first match up between these teams was the free throw shooting; Dallas shot 14 of 18 while LA managed 12 of 31.  The Lakers managed to nearly double that number tonight, shooting 23 of 34.  The Mavs, on the other hand, struggled mightily, shooting 12 of 22. Particularly strange was the Jae Crowder-Dominique Jones combo shooting zero for seven from the charity stripe. Both players have earned minutes in the rotation, but not hitting free throws is one way back to the bench. Dallas has to hit their free throws against top tier teams.
  • It was nice to see Roddy Beaubois contribute, even in a blow out.  He’s not seen much time as of late, and to dish out six assists and eight points in around eighteen minutes is a good sign, particularly after not playing in two of the last three games.
  • Why Laker fans insist on wanting to trade Pau Gasol is beyond me. He’s easily one of the best pivot men of a generation. Outside of Dirk, there is not another modern European player who has been better. He’s been slow to get going, but I fully expect Pau to have an All-Star caliber season.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family.  Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace