Thermodynamics: Week 1

Posted by Travis Wimberly on November 1, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Fire and Ice

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

Welcome to the first-ever installment of Thermodynamics, the newest weekly column here at The Two Man Game.

Don’t let the esoteric title fool you — this won’t be a physics dissertation. I’d be catastrophically underqualified for that. No, this here is a good old-fashioned basketball column. Each Thursday, I’ll be recapping the Mavs’ three hottest and three coldest performances from the previous week’s games (for our purposes, the game-week will span from the previous Thursday through the Wednesday night before publication). Let’s get to it.

Week 1 (@Lakers, @Jazz)

FIRE

1) Point Guards
It was a terrific debut week for Mavs’ newcomer Darren Collison, and a tantalizing faux-debut for Roddy “Fourth-Year Rookie” Beaubois. Taking over the starting point-guard role, Collison showed a skillset we haven’t seen since the Devin Harris era.  The Indiana Pacers transplant finished the week with very solid numbers: 17.0 PPG, 14-for-24 (58% FG) shooting, 5.5 APG, and just 1.5 turnovers per contest.  Meanwhile, Beaubois produced nicely as Collison’s backup. He chipped in 9.5 PPG, shot 7-for-13 (54% FG) from the field, and turned over the rock just once in over 30 minutes of total playing time. Both guys controlled the pace well, especially Collison (although he hit a bit of a wall in the second half in Utah). And to top it off, Beaubois produced two picturesque moments when he picked the pocket of 92-year-old Lakers guard Steve Nash for an easy layup, and then did nearly the same thing in Utah the next night.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 99, Los Angeles Lakers 91

Posted by Connor Huchton on October 31, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

 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 begins with defense. From season to season, as the Mavericks’ roster changes, grows, and bends, the theme of strong, systemic defensive style remains the same under the tutelage of Coach Rick Carlisle. Despite missing two of the team’s better offensive players in Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman, the team’s energy never waned defensively. Darren Collison (17 points, four assists, 8-12 FG) spring-boarded along the perimeter, harrying Steve Nash (seven points, four assists, 3-9 FG) to a dismal performance. Shawn Marion (5-11 FG, 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists) played like the defensive-focused Hall-of-Famer he is. And Elton Brand (eight points, 11 rebounds, 3-10 FG) served as a constant breath of isolation defense fresh air. Brand bothered Dwight Howard (19 points, 10 rebounds, 8-12 FG, 3-14 FT) at every turn, and managed to limit his and other Lakers’ bigs opportunities to dominate the game for any significant stretch.
  • The Mavericks’ offensive cohesion was a surprise of the most pleasant kind. Nine Mavericks’ players had seven points or more, and apart from O.J. Mayo’s late game struggles, almost no player’s production came with a dose of moderate inefficiency. The ball moved with crispness, best exemplified by a late-game play in which Darren Collison passed to a cleverly positioned Elton Brand near the elbow, who in turn quickly passed to a rolling Shawn Marion for a smooth dunk. This transition from a two-man game situation to an immediate matchup advantage, simply through an act of positioning by Brand and the team’s general offensive flow, was a brief, pretty moment of basketball, and one that nicely summed up a night of fun movement.
  • Jae Crowder (eight points, 3-7 FG) and Rodrigue Beaubois (11 points, five assists, 4-8 FG) provided a seamless transition between Mavericks’ rotations through their energized play, both offensively and defensively. Crowder and Beaubois are perhaps the two most exciting players on the team until Nowitzki returns, so their success provided a welcome sight of hope for concerned Mavericks’ fans.
  • Beaubois’ five assists actually led the team, highlighting a fairly strong performance in only 17 minutes of action.
  • It must be noted that this Lakers’ team is not yet fully formed and clearly lacks chemistry at the moment, but it is equally worth noting how much vitality a less-than-healthy Mavericks’ exuded in juxtaposition to the Lakers.
  • Eddy Curry (3-7 FG, seven points, four rebounds) and Brandan Wright (14 points, five rebounds, 5-5 FG) must also be commended for their efforts in the place of the injured Chris Kaman, as both filled in admirably in their own way. Wright finished gracefully and efficiently at the rim as he always does (while exceeding expectations, which he also has a knack for doing), and Curry provided a moderately effective defensive presence for stretches of the game.
  • An important key to the Mavericks’ victory was how well the team collectively played to its own strengths. Collison and Beaubois used their speed and mid-range game, Marion found space for those oft-used six-foot floaters, Wright demonstrated the advantages of wingspan near the rim, and Brand helped move the ball between the perimeter and key with quickness and alacrity.
  • How the Mavericks react to an unexpected victory will be very telling in regards to the team’s continued chances until Nowitzki returns. Rhythm existed on both offense and defense tonight to an almost astounding extent – is the team capable of producing a similar effort on back-to-back nights without the overwhelming talent needed to coast?

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume I

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 15, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

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The Las Vegas Summer League is a meal best consumed in buffet style — there is little order to the layering of flavors for the event, but one can nonetheless find plenty of tasty morsels, however disparate they may be. With that in mind, here is a closer look at a few of the notable prospects from Dallas’ first game in Vegas, assembled for you in the most edible form:

  • The Mavs’ stint in Vegas is very clearly an audition process of sorts for Dominique Jones, whose role in the upcoming season is an open question due to Dallas’ open roster. With Rodrigue Beaubois almost perpetually shaky off the dribble and Delonte West as of yet unsigned, there’s a distinct possibility that the Mavs will be forced to rely on Jones as a reserve ball-handler and playmaker.
    .
    It’s in that regard that Jones’ Summer League success becomes a bit tricky to translate. On this team, he’s the end-all creator, the primary scorer, and the bailout option. He has a lot to prove and a considerable weight to carry, giving these showings a notably different dynamic than what he has and will encounter as a member of the Mavs’ A-team. He did a tremendous job of pouring in points, but I’m not sure there’s much to take away from his shiny scoring total aside from the physicality and skill behind it.
    .
    There’s no question that Jones is a reasonably safe ball-handler with good driving instincts and imposing strength, but none of that is exactly new. What is new — or at least renewed — is his capacity to finish around the basket after drawing contact. That was the crux of Jones’ college success, but he hadn’t yet managed to convert that element of his utility to NBA defenses and NBA bigs. We may have seen the start of that transition with this kind of performance, even if the level of play makes for an imperfect comparison to standard NBA basketball.

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Rumor Mongering: Delayed Payoff

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 5, 2012 under Rumors | Read the First Comment

Oceans have dried up and mountain ranges have crumbled since the Dallas Mavericks drafted Nick Calathes in 2009, but the team’s specific circumstances — while entirely different — are eerily familiar. The Mavs are still in need of a successor to Jason Kidd (who is almost assuredly gone), could still benefit from a cross-matching playmaker to pair alongside Rodrigue Beaubois or Dominique Jones, and are — as is team custom — very thin in terms of developmental depth. Calathes could oblige in many of those capacities, and for the first time since Dallas drafted him, he’s contractually free to ply his trade stateside. Per Eurohoops.net, that’s precisely what he intends to do:

Nick Calathes’ contract with Panathinaikos ended, he is a free agent and he will try his best in order to get a roster spot in Dallas. That should be the natural evolution for him…Calathes is a 23 years old player, who believes that he learned all he could from European basketball and now feels that it’s the right time for him to try and achieve his childhood dream of playing in the NBA. He will play for the Greek national team at the FIBA Pre-Olympic tournament, but he wants also be present at the Las Vegas summer league and will chase his dream, something that can be done if Greece doesn’t qualify to London.

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The Difference: Chicago Bulls 93, Dallas Mavericks 83

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 22, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Screen Shot 2012-04-22 at 10.13.19 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas89.093.341.824.120.812.1
Chicago104.550.614.319.510.1

  • Talk amongst yourselves, all. As Jason Terry goes, so do I.
  • (That withstanding, a brief note: Dallas did a perfectly reputable job considering that both Jasons elected to sit this one out, and it was easy to be particularly impressed with Rodrigue Beaubois (for resiliency alone; returning after dislocating a finger can’t be fun) and Dominique Jones — both of whom did good work in considerable minutes. This rotation obviously looks very different when two candidates for 30+ minutes watch from the bench, but considering that fact — as well as how little the Mavs have to play for at this point — the result was quite favorable.

Tessellating Pieces

Posted by Ian Levy on April 13, 2012 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

Screen Shot 2012-04-13 at 10.37.17 AM

There are just under two weeks and seven games left for the Mavericks before the end of the regular season, time enough for a seemingly infinite number of potential outcomes. While a playoff berth is anything but assured (gulp), it seems like Dallas will at least be present in the first round to begin a title defense in the postseason proper. A year ago, the Mavericks finished the regular season by winning four in a row, then systematically built themselves into a seamless juggernaut through a series of progressively more astounding playoff victories.

Although they don’t have the same components that completed last year’s title run, there still exists on this roster all the raw materials to build a similarly potent contraption. Over the last three and a half months, each of Rick Carlisle’s attempts to rebuild this machine have been derailed by injury, inattention, and periods of inexplicable individual futility. However, the nature of the project has changed with the departure of Lamar Odom.

Odom represented a large and potentially powerful piece of the puzzle, and until it was announced that he and the team were parting ways early last week, there was simply no question of his inclusion. Now that he’s out of the way, the slate is cleared and the job can be begun anew. No more accommodations or allowances need be made; Carlisle has 13 days to dabble and experiment, try new looks and new orientations, and decide what this team will look like when the playoffs finally, and hopefully, arrive.

Here are a few chemistry experiments Carlisle might be interested in trying.

TWIN TOWERS

Odom’s absence leaves a void in the Mavs’ front court, and judging from the two games since, Brandan Wright will be helping to fill that space. On Thursday night against the Warriors, Wright spent most of his playing time strictly as a center and backup to Brendan Haywood. He played admirably in this role crashing the glass, scored on found possessions, and did his best against the wily David Lee. However, on Tuesday night, we had the opportunity to see a few minutes of Wright on the court alongside Ian Mahinmi, which to me is a much more tantalizing possibility.

Mahinmi and Wright have alternated this season in playing backup center minutes, lifting fans with the athleticism and effort, before grounding them with their inexperience and lack of awareness. However a Wright/Mahinmi combo offers some the potential to be a devastating combo if deployed in the right situation.

The two have played just 37 minutes together for the entire season, but some very positive things have happened in those minutes. With both on the floor the Mavericks have posted a Defensive Rating of 77.2, holding their opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 35.7 percent. Stretched (and stretched they would be; 37 minutes isn’t much of a sample size) across an entire season, those numbers would be the best in the league by a wide margin. When Wright and Mahinmi are on the floor together, the Mavs have a total rebound percentage of 56.0 percent with an offensive rebound percentage of 37.5 percent –and accomplished all that defensive and rebounding dominance at a pace of 97.7 possessions per 48 minutes.

That said, having both players the floor together presents some serious problems. Offensive spacing would suffer dramatically, and polished post players like Andrew Bynum, Zach Randolph, and both Gasols would eat either Wright or Mahinmi alive. However, against an athletic up-tempo team like the Thunder, Spurs or Clippers, Wright and Mahinmi could help the Mavericks keep pace, disrupt pick-and-rolls, defend the rim against penetration, and control the glass. Games against the Warriors and Trail Blazers might be the time to try this combo out for an extended period of time and see what it might offer for spot duty in the playoffs.

THREE GUARDS

Small-ball lineups featuring multiple ball-handlers have been a staple of Carlisle’s cross-matching rotations the past few seasons. Vince Carter has played plenty of small forward this year, but what I’m really talking about here is some three-man combination of Delonte West, Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois and Jason Terry. The one that intrigues me the most would be the West-Beaubois-Terry grouping — that trio hasn’t played a single minute together this season, and while they present the most potential problems at the defensive end, they also present the most interesting combination at the offensive end.

If the playoffs started today, the Mavericks would be matched up in a series with the Los Angeles Lakers. Even with the addition of Ramon Sessions, the Lakers would have struggled against quick, athletic penetrators. West-Beaubois-Terry would allow the Mavericks to keep the floor spaced, attack from multiple angles, and put pressure on Gasol and Bynum to defend the rim. It could end up being a disaster, but almost every other combination of players has been tried by Carlisle this season. With seven games left, it might be worth giving this one a look to see if there’s anything there.

YINSANITY

I realize this suggestion may cause me to get laughed off the internet, but I think Odom’s departure may also make room for Yi Jianlian to make a meaningful contribution in the playoffs. Yi is best known for the disparity between his production against chairs and his production against NBA players, but he does have a few legitimate basketball skills; he’s a solid rebounder, can move the ball on offense, and most importantly: is a consistent shooter. Although he’s shooting just 38.0 percent on the season, Yi is averaging 1.03 points per possession on spot-up possessions. Looking again at that potential Lakers matchup, it would be nice to be able to keep Gasol away from the rim, and open space for the second unit when Dirk is on the bench. He’s certainly a liability defensively, but no more than Peja Stojakavic was last season, as he was busy shredding the Lakers from the perimeter.

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows and HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Golden State Warriors 103

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2012-04-13 at 9.09.33 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0121.755.122.730.410.9
Golden State112.051.228.433.317.4

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

  • Considering that every NBA team should be expected to make a run at some point or another, this game went quite well. One could demand better maintenance of a double-digit margin, want particular players to score more effectively against such lackluster defense, or pick nits here with Dallas’ occasionally odd execution, but in a general sense it’s hard to look down on an effort where Jason Kidd (nine points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, two turnovers) made a real impact, Rodrigue Beaubois (11 points, 5-9 FG, five assists, one turnover) was among the more constructive forces on the floor, the reserves managed 57 points, and Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, 10-23 FG) was Dirk Nowitzki. This certainly wasn’t a spotless performance, but it was another quality outing at a time when Dallas can’t afford anything less.
  • For the pessimists out there: the Mavs’ execution of the pick and roll seemed fairly lazy at times, as Kidd and Delonte West in particular were completely derailed in their pocket-pass attempts. Things will certainly have to get crisper in that regard, and the transition defense could still use plenty of improvement. Neither of those shortcomings was enough of a problem to put Dallas’ efforts in serious jeopardy, but they could prove more costly if they persist against better competition.
  • In their current form, the Warriors are a perfectly miserable basketball team. There were some decent individual efforts on Thursday, but overall the team’s operation is reminiscent of a confined gas; they’re objects floating within the limits of a particular space, toward no end in particular and without any coherence of movement or purpose. The Mavs’ defensive inattentions afforded the Warriors the space to make their random bounces seem constructive, but this is a team in disarray, to say the least.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 110, Sacramento Kings 100

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 11, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2012-04-11 at 12.04.49 AM

Box Score Play-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

[Game-specific advanced stats forthcoming.]

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 steam coming from Rick Carlisle’s ears in the opening minutes may have dissipated by night’s end, but in-game improvement isn’t reason enough to like Dallas’ transition defense. The Kings have the benefit of having three ball-handlers capable of pushing the break, but they were only able to generate easy points on in transition because the Mavs’ effort was decidedly lacking. Things will have to be more consistent against an opponent like Oklahoma City or San Antonio, and fortunately Dallas has some time to remedy their lead feet.
  • That said, when the Mavs actually forced the Kings to execute against a set defense in a half-court setting, things went predictably well. The bigs rotated effectively, none of Sacramento’s three talented perimeter players were allowed to really explode, and although the overall defense wasn’t anything spectacular, I suppose these Mavs might settle for “good enough,” at this juncture.
  • With Lamar Odom erased from Maverick existence, we saw the three components of his piecemeal replacement: an extra dose of Shawn Marion, a dash of Yi Jianlian, and a bit of a different look for Brandan Wright. Wright and Ian Mahinmi have played together sparingly this season, but it seems as though that combination may be a fair bit more common from here on out — if the initial returns are worth much of anything, Wright’s energy should be a valuable resource, even at the cost of spacing. Either way, it seems an appropriate time for Brian Cardinal to be placed firmly behind glass in case of emergencies; the Custodian managed to finally hit a few three-pointers in March, but that 21-percent mark from long-range should still leave Carlisle wary. Cardinal isn’t long removed from being a decent reserve, but his most useful NBA skill — his three-point shooting, particularly from the corners — has either rapidly decayed or temporarily escaped him. I’m not sure the Mavs are really in a position to find out for sure, but they may yet if Carlisle elects to keep their in-game mascot in the rotation going forward.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, Memphis Grizzlies 85

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 4, 2012 under Recaps, xOther | 11 Comments to Read

rocks and clouds

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot 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’s difficult to predict which Mavericks’ team will show up on any given night this season. The vacillation between an encouraging 2011-2012 Mavericks’ win and poorly played loss is both significant and frequent. Tonight’s game fell in the former category, as the Mavericks played arguably one of their most complete games of the season. No Maverick player’s performance stood out as particularly fantastic, but almost every player provided what was needed, and assumed their role to the fullest. Dirk Nowitzki (10-18 FG, 23 points, 10 rebounds) was in fine form from the onset, Shawn Marion (7-11 FG, 16 points, seven rebounds) scored and defended Rudy Gay (4-12 FG, eight points) with typical ease, and Jason Terry (6-14 FG, 15 points) gave the Mavericks a much needed scoring spark during times of stagnant offensive movement. The Mavericks’ defense gave the team the boost it has all season, frustrating both Marc Gasol (3-13 FG, 10 points) and Zach Randolph (2-6 FG, four points) to no end, but the difference in this game came when the Mavericks finally found an offensive rhythm late in the second and fourth quarters.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (3-7 FG, 8 points, five assists) had a nice little bounce-back game, if an unspectacular one. Rick Carlisle called on Beaubois to finish out the fourth quarter after a strong stretch of play, and Beaubois met the challenge. Carlisle’s decision to keep Beaubois in the game late is further evidence of Carlisle’s trust in Beaubois and situational rotations, as Delonte West (6-7 FG, 14 points, two assists) had scored efficiently during his time on the court. Beaubois was hustling terrifically, passing well, and giving Mike Conley quite a bit trouble defensively, and the result was a sustained Mavericks’ run in the closing minutes.
  • Marc Gasol (seven assists) had quite the no-look pass at the top of the key to a cutting teammate. I don’t remember who scored the basket, but I do remember thinking, “Cool pass, Marc Gasol. Cool pass.”
  • Ian Mahinmi’s ten rebounds in 24 minutes were absolutely essential to the win. When Mahinmi checked into the game, the Grizzlies second-chance opportunities almost immediately lessened.
  • The Grizzlies scored only 34 points in the second half, a poor offensive showing that the efforts of Mahinmi, Beaubois, and Marion were largely responsible for producing.
  • Tony Allen was a defensive stalwart in the first half, as he frequently is, and made perimeter ball movement difficult for the Mavericks. Late in the game, Lionel Hollins was faced with making a difficult choice between O.J. Mayo (6-10 FG, 17 points), who was having an excellent offensive night, and Allen, whose defense was paramount to the Grizzlies’ early success. Mayo earned the majority of late minutes, and while he can hardly be blamed for the loss, it’s interesting to ponder how the game would have gone if Allen had remained on the court. (Update: As pointed out in the comments, Tony Allen left the game with a lip injury in the fourth quarter.)
  • The Mavericks’ center rotation continues to vary from game to game, as Brendan Haywood (2-4 FG, five points, five rebounds) and Ian Mahinmi earned almost the entirety of minutes. (Brandan Wright did check into the game for two minutes.) It appears fit and matchup will determine who is more likely to get minutes between Wright and Mahinmi going forward. Considering both players are quality backup centers, it’s a nice luxury for the Mavericks to have.
  • Beaubois had one of the best saves I’ve seen this season, as he vaulted towards the scoring table late in the fourth quarter and threw the ball back to a waiting Jason Terry. The highlight only vaunted in quality after the play finished with a Shawn Marion dunk.
  • The Mavericks shot 50% from the field for the game, but only 26.7% from three. Given how rare it is that the Mavericks will shoot at such a high percentage without a barrage of threes falling, the numerous looks for the Mavericks’ at-the-rim and in the paint (especially in the fourth quarter) only add to the encouraging signs that can be taken from this game.
  • Shawn Marion dribbling the ball up the court is always an adventure, isn’t it?

Connor Huchton is a contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm, an editor of Rufus On Fire, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Connor on Twitter: @ConnorHuchton.

The Difference: Los Angeles Clippers 94, Dallas Mavericks 75

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 3, 2012 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

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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.

  • Jason Kidd missed Monday’s game — and is sidelined for the next three, as I understand it — with a groin strain. That’s a bummer, but it’s a valuable opportunity for Delonte West to quickly work himself back into game shape. It’s a trial by fire (or by burn?), sure, but getting a fully effective West back into the regular rotation is a top priority at this point. Dallas needs his shot creation, shooting, and defense badly, and although West was brilliant on Friday against Orlando, Monday was perhaps a more accurate reflection of his game.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois struggled even more mightily. Rick Carlisle seems fully prepared to take the bad with the good when it comes to Beaubois, but it’s these kinds of performances that will likely change his mind. Beaubois’ overdribbling was a big problem, and on a night when Dallas was already struggling to establish consistent ball movement, having the ball lodged on one side of the floor as Beaubois looked to break his man down was pretty painful. Also: in the first quarter, Beaubois threw one of the worst swing passes I’ve ever seen, missing a wide open Jason Terry by a good five feet.
  • At no point did this particular game look good for the Mavs. Even their more adequate runs were laced with turnovers and defensive lapses, and their very occasional buckets weren’t really created as a result of any kind of offensive process. It’s good to know that Dallas can still put up 75 points with every bit of beneficial offensive structure burned to the ground, but I don’t suspect they’ll win many games with offensive execution so lackluster and defensive effort so wanting.

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