Shifty

Posted by Ian Levy on March 29, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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When you see measures of a team’s pace, it’s almost always listed as a single number – the average number of possessions a team uses per game. The addition of pace into the statistical lexicon was a monumental step forward, but discussions on the subject still lack oodles of nuance. The Mavericks are averaging 91.7 possessions per game this season, but those 91.7 possessions are not consumed in an equal distribution across 48 minutes. The game speeds up and slows down, alternately racing and lulling through to its conclusion.

Looking at pace only in the context of average possessions used per game leaves a lot of information by the wayside. For example, a team might play two games, using 90 possessions in each, for a pace factor of 90. Another team might play two games, using 70 possessions in the first and 110 in the second, also arriving at a pace factor of 90. Those two pace factors, although numerically identical, are far different in terms of functional significance. These fluctuations in pace don’t just happen across single games, but also across sections of games; teams will play at different speeds based on situations or the personnel that’s on the floor, all of which is muddled in a single pace factor.

Last season I tried to dissect pace in two slightly more defined ways. During the playoff series against the Thunder I looked at pace in smaller chunks of time, and found that the Mavericks seemed to struggle as the game got faster. I also looked at how the Mavericks pace changed when different lineups were on the floor.

What I was curious to look at next was how much the Mavericks’ pace fluctuated in settling on their average, and how that compared to the rest of the league. The tool I used to illustrate this change is variance, a numeric expression of how much a data-set varies from the average. For this analysis I looked at the ten most played lineups for each NBA team and calculated the variance for those ten lineups from the team’s average. The higher the variance, the more change there was in pace from unit to unit, the smaller the variance, the more consistent their pace was.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 90, Houston Rockets 81

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 28, 2012 under Recaps | 3 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.

  • Hopefully we can all look back at this game as the moment when everything turned around for Lamar Odom. The man donned a headband and everything changed; within seconds of coming into the game, Odom drove into the paint to set up Vince Carter with an open three, then made a huge block on the other end. A few possessions later, he forced the issue in semi-transition to create an open driving lane. This simply wasn’t the Odom we’ve sadly grown accustomed to watching this season (or that some have been accustomed to booing). He sprinted. He dunked. He defended. He was an excellent drive-and-kick shot creator. He was Lamar Odom, and in his best 23 minutes of the season, he reminded us all just how constructive of a force he can be.
  • Luis Scola was a mad man in the first half; he dropped 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in almost 18 first-half minutes, and seemed to thrive regardless of whether his shots were contested or not. But in the second half, the Mavericks were more diligent in their defense, and the Rockets backed off a bit; Houston was understandably ready to go to Scola on possession after possession in the first half, but Ian Mahinmi seemed to make it his particular goal to challenge Scola’s jumper, and Jason Kidd roved to make things particularly difficult for him in the post. Sometimes that’s all it takes to throw a certain player — and in this case, an entire defense — off-rhythm.
  • This was also a fantastic outing for Rodrigue Beaubois, who has possibly never looked more committed to getting to the basket. At the urging of the Mavs’ coaching staff, Beaubois appears to have fully embraced J.J. Barea as his spirit animal; watch enough tape of Barea’s fearless drives, and eventually you start to wonder what you might be able to accomplish as a faster, longer, more athletic player. Last night we saw some of the results, as Beaubois attacked relentlessly off the dribble with the intent to score, and ended up creating easy buckets for both himself and his teammates.

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The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 104, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 24, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-Play Shot Chart Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

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

  • This game was a demonstration of how incredibly simple basketball can be at times; although intense basketball observers attempt to break the game down into dozens of very complicated, interrelated factors, Dallas was ultimately bested by effort, the extra pass, and the open three-pointer. And now, I will proceed to give you 16 more bullet points that are by no means arbitrary, but nonetheless seem rather silly in a game like this one.
  • Manu Ginobili — as a defender — was two or three steps ahead of Rodrigue Beaubois for this entire game. It’s not uncommon to see a young playmaker be stifled by an older, craftier defender, but Ginobili’s ability to peg and deflect Beaubois’ moves was downright uncanny. It’s to Beaubois’ credit that he still managed to notch 10 points and five assists, but even that passable stat line doesn’t convey just how thoroughly marked Beaubois was throughout this particular game.
  • It was certainly noteworthy that even with Shawn Marion’s return to the lineup — and after expressing some concern about Rodrigue Beaubois’ minutes inflating as a product of being in the starting lineup — Rick Carlisle elected to keep Beaubois in the opening set. Lineup variants involving Marion, Beaubois, Jason Kidd, and Dirk Nowitzki haven’t really played enough minutes together this season to be judged for their merits, but matchups depending, this could be a very sensible starting five (save Ian Mahinmi’s substitution for an injured Brendan Haywood) going forward.
  • Dirk Nowitzki had an absolutely horrific game, in which he provided little impact aside from his willingness to seek out contact and put up shots. It was weary legs, it was San Antonio’s active, dynamic defense, and it was a stark contrast just to highlight Nowitzki’s usual efficiency, but most importantly from a game-specific context: it was an outright disaster. There’s simply no other way to look at his 5-of-21 shooting mark, his inability to make an impact on the defensive end, and his noncommittal work on the boards. I’m not saying Nowitzki wasn’t trying, but next to the exemplary effort that the Spurs put forth, it sure seemed like it at times.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Denver Nuggets 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 20, 2012 under Recaps | 11 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas99.0113.159.517.914.314.1
Denver96.047.024.111.113.1

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

  • Kenneth Faried (nine points, five rebounds) is a good player and an incredibly active defender, but he had the incredible misfortune of being pitted against a most dominant Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 12-19 FG, 11 rebounds, six assists). What, precisely, would you have any defender do against Nowitzki at the top of his game — much less one with relatively limited NBA experience and far less matchup-specific experience? Dirk maneuvered too well to be blanketed, shot too accurately to be stopped, and passed too effectively to be doubled. Faried was damned before he even had a chance to consider his options, as Nowitzki triggered his usual array of fades and jumpers en route to one of his most spectacularly efficient performances of the season.
  • Dallas’ 33 assists were a season high, and the furthest thing from an empty total; the Mavs’ ball movement was the most successful and consistent force in this game, and sustained even during the roughest offensive stretches. The shots didn’t fall, but to the Mavs’ credit, they never abandoned the process. That commitment is more important than any series of makes or misses, wins or losses — it’s the backbone of successful offense, and that the Mavs are relying on a replicable formula to generate points bodes well for their future this season.
  • This particular matchup made for a fascinating watch due to the fact that size was a uniquely irrelevant factor. Nowitzki demands a certain size and length in defensive response, but Dirk aside, both teams were free to play whichever players gave them the greatest chance for success, regardless of the opponent’s configuration or traditional positions. The Mavs largely stayed “conventional,” if you could really term their usual lineups so ridiculously. The Nuggets, on the other hand, toyed with all kinds of combinations, most of which used Denver’s army of wing players in a futile (in retrospect, anyway) effort to get the jump on Dallas. Faried split time with Al Harrington as the only big on the floor for long stretches of the game, and though Denver couldn’t use their wing-heavy lineups to create any in-game leverage, it was still a hell of a sight.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 106, San Antonio Spurs 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 18, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

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

  • What began as a great offensive performance by Dirk Nowitzki (who finished the first half with 19 points) turned into a wonderful overall performance by the Mavs’ offense. Nowitzki (27 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers) was absolutely brilliant in both a one-on-one capacity and as a spot-up shooter, but when San Antonio began to throw hard doubles at Dirk on the catch, he wasted no time in finding open shooters on the weak side. Throwing a pass to a shooter in the opposite corner off of a double team is a bit of a risk, but Nowitzki’s height and experience with this kind of swarming coverage make him uniquely suited for that kind of play. Nowitzki was only able to notch three points in the fourth quarter (when the Spurs made their defensive shift), but Dallas shot 5-of-9 from three-point range to the frame, with many of those makes coming off of double-team exploitation.
  • Another thing that’s abundantly clear: Nowitzki takes his matchup with Stephen Jackson — he of that infamous 2007 playoff letdown — incredibly seriously. Gregg Popovich wasted no time in getting Jackson acclimated, and pitted him against Nowitzki almost immediately, despite the fact that more conventional Nowitzki foes (Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter) were also on the floor. From that moment, Nowitzki’s entire approach shifted; he sought to back down Jackson relentlessly, and noticeably increased the physicality of his pre-shot maneuverings. Jackson did what he could to deny Nowitzki early position and fight him for every inch, but, well, it’s not 2007 anymore.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 8-16 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) will naturally receive praise for the quality of his performance, but in truth this was a nice outing for the entirety of the Mavs’ guard core. Jason Kidd lived up to everything that could possibly be expected of him and more, as he connected on four threes out of five attempts, racked up double-digit assists, and played great help defense to indirectly force a few turnovers. Jason Terry put up 17 points on just 10 shot as a continuation of one of his strongest stretches of the season. Vince Carter, too, put up 10 points on 50 percent shooting, just to complete the picture. The fact that all four of these players were able to positively influence the game is a wonderful sign for the resurrection of the Mavs’ depth, particularly considering how heavily the Mavs were leaning on this group in the absence of both Delonte West and Shawn Marion.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, Charlotte Bobcats 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 16, 2012 under Recaps | 2 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.

  • For the moment, Dallas is one of the shallowest deep teams in the league — or at the very least, one of the least consistent. The Mavs’ lackluster first-half showing wasn’t solely the fault of the subs, but the very notion that Charlotte’s second unit could so thoroughly cook a group consisting of (in part) Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Ian Mahinmi is a bit strange. Earlier in the season — those dark days when Dirk Nowitzki was nothing but a pick-and-pop player — the Mavs were only able to tread water because of their depth. Things look very different these days, which could in part be traced back to the fact that Delonte West’s absence hurts this team in ways that we never could have known.
  • It’s always a very distinct pleasure to watch Nowitzki (27 points, 9-21 FG, six rebounds, five assists) go to work from any of his favorite spots on the floor, but he seems to have particular fun with the Bobcats’ antsy shot-blockers. Nowitzki’s very basic ball fake looked like an entirely new move on Thursday night, as the slightest pump would sent a Bobcats defender flying. I don’t think it’s even worthwhile to chastise the ‘Cats for their lack of discipline; that’s Dirk Nowitzki, and when he rises to shoot — or even pretends to rise and shoot — a futile contest may be the best defensive option available.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 107, Washington Wizards 98

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 14, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Sunrise

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.

  • When a team as talented as the Mavericks defeats a cellar-dwelling team like the Wizards by single-digits, it’s typically not considered much of a triumph. But following a dismal 2-8 stretch and a complete lack of team cohesiveness, it was comforting to watch the Mavericks build and sustain a lead, though not too comfortably. The Mavericks play an inordinate amount of games in the coming weeks, but games against the Wizards and Bobcats offer a nice opportunity to win without any particular strain on the Mavericks’ aging core.
  • The Mavericks’ offense was revitalized by the confused, scattered defensive efforts of the Wizards. The Wizards allowed almost every viable Mavericks’ scoring option to focus on their individual offensive strength. Jason Terry (10-20 FG, 24 points) was able to drive right and pull up for jumpers, Dirk  Nowitzki (10-14 FG, 27 points) easily earned position on the high block, and Rodrigue Beaubois (8-14 FG, 19 points, four assists, four rebounds) darted into the lane with little problem.
  • This Mavericks’ team is so much different when Jason Terry is playing well. Terry’s been in a weird funk lately that’s led him to commit 2-4 perplexing turnovers a game. Terry returned to early-season form Wednesday night, and managed to avoid the overly frenetic, rushed play that’s troubled him so greatly in recent games.
  • I feel like I say this frequently, but it really is a joy to watch Rodrigue Beaubois play basketball at a high level. There’s a positive trend emerging in Beaubois’ game, a trend Rick Carlisle hinted at in his post-game comments. Beaubois has begin to attack the basket with increasing frequency, and he’s almost entirely removed long pull-up jumpers from his offensive repertoire. He’s made a strong case to remain an integral part of the Mavericks’ rotation when Delonte West returns, and often provides the scoring spark the Mavericks so desperately need.

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The Difference: Golden State Warriors 111, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by James Herbert on March 11, 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.

  • There aren’t a lot of positives to take from a loss like this, except for the fact that it’s probably not all that representative of anything. The reality: the Mavs are now the third team this season to lose all three games of a back-to-back-to-back. At 23-20, they’ve dropped eight of ten and would occupy the West’s final playoff spot if the season ended today. Fortunately, the season doesn’t end today. This brutal stretch of nine games in 12 nights is over and I’m closer to the Mark Cuban “these losses are meaningless” school of thought than the “Dallas is a disaster” stance that clean-shaven Sam Mitchell took on NBA TV Friday night. Brendan Haywood will be back soon, Delonte West after that, and we’ll look for incremental improvements over the next month or so.
  • Oh, Jason Kidd will be back soon, too. He was a late scratch. No need to play the soon-to-be 39-year-old on three straight nights. This meant we were treated to a starting backcourt of Jason Terry and Dominique Jones, with Rodrigue Beaubois and Vince Carter theoretically adding scoring punch off the bench. For JET, it was his first start since last January. For Jones, it was the first of his career. Also, this was Terry’s 1000th career regular season game.
  • For the second night in a row, Dallas looked old and slow and fell behind early to a non-playoff team. The Warriors scored the first six points of the game and Rick Carlisle took his first timeout with 6:31 left in the first, down 11-5. The Mavs’ legs were dragging from the opening tip, while the Warriors, who hadn’t played since Wednesday, were full of energy, even if it wasn’t always channeled correctly. The Mavs started the first quarter shooting 2-13 and finished it 6-22.
  • That energy I talked about? Much of it came from Ekpe Udoh, who was running and jumping and contesting shots all over the place. Early in the first, he challenged a Dirk Nowitzki jumper, then blocked Ian Mahinmi’s follow attempt. He blocked a Nowitzki shot a few possessions later. He should become a Serge Ibaka-like league-wide fan favorite as soon as the Warriors are relevant.
  • The first quarter wasn’t all one-sided and it wasn’t just the Mavericks being sloppy — both teams had six turnovers in the opening frame. After that timeout with 6:31 left, Rodrigue Beaubois and Lamar Odom checked in. Both immediately hit threes and tied the game at 11. But in the last 3:31, Golden State went on a 13-2 run. For the rest of the game, Dallas was playing catch-up.

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The Difference: Sacramento Kings 110, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Holly MacKenzie on March 10, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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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 figures that the game I pick to recap is a blowout. Disclaimer before we go any further: I am a huge Isaiah Thomas fan. I will try to temper this as we talk about what went wrong with the Mavericks in Sacramento. It wasn’t pretty, people. Not even a little bit.
  • A rough start really doomed Dallas. The team had five of their 17 turnovers in the first quarter, including four of them in the first four minutes of the game. Sacramento took advantage, scoring nine points off of those turnovers in the opening session. The Kings jumped out to a lead quickly, leaving the Mavs to play catch up all night.
  • After finding himself on the bench at the end of the Suns game on Thursday night, Jason Terry (game-high 23 points, 10-for-18 fgs) was looking to get himself going early against the Kings, and was one of the bright spots for the Mavs offensively in the first half. He kept the Mavs in it by coming up with a bucket to temper the crowd every time the Kings seemed to be on the verge of really blowing things open.
  • While Dirk Nowitzki started off 2-for-2 from the floor, the team didn’t make it a point to get the ball to him in the first quarter and things went downhill from there as Dirk wasn’t ever able to get going. He shot 1-for-5 in the second quarter, 2-for-4 in the third and then 0-2 in the fourth. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting in 29 minutes of action.
  • The Mavericks just looked sluggish tonight. Perhaps they were tired from last night’s loss to the Suns, but their defense wasn’t doing them any favours against the Kings. A five-point swing for the Kings: Jason Thompson gets his own offensive rebound, finds Chuck Hayes open under the hoop for an easy two. Next possession:Francisco Garcia steals the ball from Nowitzki (Mavs turnover #6) and finds John Salmons for a three.

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The Difference: Phoenix Suns 96, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 9, 2012 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

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.

  • Needless to say, this was not the start Dallas wanted for its lone back-to-back-to-back of this season. Though there is much we could discuss in a game that saw both teams take double-digit leads, this one was lost in the third quarter. Dallas had trouble all game with the Phoenix pick and roll, and when the Mavs’ hot shooting finally cooled in the third, the Suns sprinted ahead with an 18-4 run. Dallas allowed 34 points in the second quarter after only allowing 44 in the entire first half. Moving forward, Dallas has to get more out of Jason Terry (six points, two rebounds, one assist), a more efficient Vince Carter (18 points on 21 shots, no free throws attempted, five rebounds, four assists), and better game-to-game consistency from Rodrigue Beaubois (five points, two rebounds, two assists).
  • Despite the final outcome, there were many bright spots for Dallas. Lamar Odom (15 points, four rebounds, two assists) played his second-straight solid game, contributing throughout the box score and making his presence felt.  The real surprise of the night came from Sean Williams.  With Brendan Haywood still dealing with a high ankle sprain, when Mahinmi picked up his second foul with just under six minutes to go in the first half, Williams stepped in and played an admirable game (including two excellent blocks).  Shawn Marion (whom, as Rob Mahoney reminds us, must be managed carefully) continued his incredibly consistent play on both ends of the floor (12 points, eight rebounds), and by the end of the first half, he had guarded a Suns player of every position. (On a Suns note, its really, really impressive to see Grant Hill doing much of the same thing Shawn Marion does, only at age 39). It’s easy to overreact when the team loses a winnable game like this one; just remember that the season-long slate is a grind. All we can do is look for signs of improvement in every game.

Kirk Henderson is a member of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Kirk on Twitter: @KirkSeriousFace.