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 margin of this game exploded in a hurry; Dallas trailed by just seven points with about four and a half minutes remaining, but a combination of Miami’s starters and deep reserves finished the night on a 16-2 run. This loss — the second “blowout” by the hand of the Heat this season — certainly looks bad on face, the final verdict and sheer number of bullets in this post are incredibly misleading. The Mavs certainly had their second-half difficulties, but their late-game petering isn’t of monumental concern. They’ll be healthier, they’ll play better, and most importantly, they’ll largely keep these kinds of winnable games within reach. The fact that something not at all dissimilar happened at the tail end of the Mavs’ loss to the Spurs last week does offer the slightest reason for pause, but there’s no reason to believe that Dallas’ latest fourth-quarter troubles are suggestive of any legitimate trend.
Odd though it may seem, this still appears to be a specific matchup that the Mavericks are capable of winning — even if they would be considered extreme underdogs in a single-game event or a presumptuously hypothetical seven-game series. I highly doubt that we’ll have to weigh Dallas’ playoff odds against any Eastern Conference opponents this season, but it’s easy to see this game going very differently if only for a stronger second half from Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, three assist, three turnovers). It’s certainly not a good sign that the Mavs are struggling so much on the offensive end, but so long as we’re basking in hypotheticals, I don’t think the on-paper Mavericks would necessarily be doomed.
Miami won this game by plugging away; their second half possessions were interwoven sequences of driving and passing from every angle imaginable, pressuring the defense repeatedly until it gave way at a particularly vulnerable point. LeBron James (19 points, 8-16 FG, nine rebounds, five assists) and Dwyane Wade (16 points, 5-11 FG, five assists, three rebounds) deserve a lot of credit for their refusal to settle, and the entire offense followed the lead of their shot creation. Those who somehow doubt Miami’s half-court potency need only to watch tape from this game; James and Wade were creating shots in a consistent stream, and Dallas’ defense was stretched to its limits.
“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Unreal. Did this possibility even cross your mind last June, when the Mavs drafted a semi-unknown French point guard? Roddy has come such a long way since draft night, and he still has miles to go before he sleeps. Rodrigue Beaubois is going to be a star in this league for a very long time, and this was a giant hop toward that stardom. It’s going to hinge on a ton of factors that are too tough to gauge right now, but his climb seems inevitable at this point. Rookie seasons can yield many mirages, but I don’t think you can explain away Beaubois’ talent, physical tools, and natural instincts. Roddy just looks at home with a basketball in his hands, and with his willingness to learn, talent, and physical tools, he seems like a can’t-miss prospect at this point. I know that’s easy to say after an incredible outburst against one of the worst defenses in the league, but it’s an observation that’s been nearly a season in the making.
The already one-sided debate that’s been raging on over Rodrigue Beaubois’ playing time? It should be nonexistent after tonight. Beaubois went off for 40 points in an absolutely surreal display of shooting prowess, in which he shot 9-of-11 from three and scored just one of his 40 at the line. But here’s the thing: the debate won’t disappear. The fact that Beaubois’ big night came against the Warriors will mark it with an asterisk, and the idea that this is exactly the type of game Beaubois should excel in will somehow demean just how impressive of a game this was for Roddy. It’s not fair, honestly, but I have a bad feeling that the perceptive powers that be will try to negate what we saw on March 27th, 2010. Don’t let them. It was a hot night against a bad defensive team, but this was a thoroughly dominating performance.
That said, the beauty that was this 40-pointer came with Beaubois at the two. This may be some incredible evidence for Roddy’s value as a player, but not really as a point guard. Or basically, we could be right back where we started, simply with confirmation of Beaubois’ value as a scorer.
Other than that, what is there to say? It’s a bit refreshing to have the most dynamic, high-scoring guard on the Mavs’ side of the Dallas-Golden State match-up for once; Monta Ellis (14 points, four assists) and Steph Curry (17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, seven turnovers) each shot 6-for-16 from the field, and neither could stabilize the sloppy Warrior offense. The Mavs’ defense wasn’t all that impressive, though I do appreciate Rick Carlisle’s decision to cover Ellis with Shawn Marion to start the game.
The Warriors just couldn’t shoot. Credit to the Mavs for forcing the Dubs into plenty of long two-pointers, but Golden State missed a ton of open looks from three and completely shut down offensively in the second quarter. The same second quarter that was home to 36 Maverick points, 21 of which were Rodrigue Beaubois’. A 20-2 run and a separate 10-0 run (all Beaubois) in the second pretty much sealed the game. If not for an uncharacteristically high turnover rate for those twelve minutes, it could very well have been the Mavs’ best offensive quarter of the season. I’m pretty sure it was Roddy’s best offensive quarter, regardless.
The Mavs on the other hand, could. Dallas shot 48.4% from the field, and an incredibly impressive 53.3% from three (on 30 attempts!) thanks to Beaubois’ handiwork. Eddie Najera (nine points, nine rebounds, two steals, one block) was an unexpected contributor from the perimeter, where he hit three of his six three-point attempts. Najera saw plenty of court time due to a minor injury (middle finger jam) to Brendan Haywood and the Warriors’ unique style of play, and he played rather well.
Shawn Marion (18 points, 9-12 FG, four rebounds, five steals) had another strong night, and even if the Mavs on the whole aren’t rounding into playoff shape, he certainly has been. He’s been so much more effective with his runners and mid-range game over the last few weeks, and that makes him a pretty effective half-court weapon. He still misses some of his looks at the rim and isn’t a huge threat off the dribble, but Shawn’s value in the offense has improved significantly in about a month’s time. Defensively, Marion was incredibly active in the passing lanes, and if the NBA tracked deflections his stat line would be that much more impressive. Shawn was everywhere, and he was a big reason why one of the more confident offenses in the league looked a bit tentative on Saturday.
Dallas shot just ten free throws and collected just four offensive rebounds. It didn’t make a bit of difference. The Warriors’ shooting was so awful and the Mavs’ shooting so effective that half of the Four Factors were deemed irrelevant. The bottom line, and proof that there’s truth in simplicity: the team that shoots better wins almost every game. Dallas had nearly a 20-point edge in effective field goal percentage, which was more than enough to trump the Mavs’ weaknesses in other areas.
Caron Butler finished with 15 and four, Dirk Nowitzki dropped a 13-10 double-double, and Jason Kidd tallied 11 assists, but this was Rodrigue’s show. The game was never in doubt after the Roddy Show in the second quarter, which mean plenty of rest for the Mavs’ big guns (only Marion played more than 30 minutes).
Brendan Haywood played almost nine minutes, but Erick Dampier did not play at all. Most of the minutes at center went to Najera, with Nowitzki playing back-up.
The Mavs had some serious problems finishing at the rim, despite of the number of uncontested run-outs the Warriors’ defense gifted them. Scoff and shake your head at the Mavs who blew layups (Dirk blew an easy one, Marion airballed a finger roll, and even Roddy couldn’t convert on a fairly rudimentary look), but don’t forget to credit Ronny Turiaf, who only finished with two blocks but was one of the few Warriors interested in playing some real defense.
A mixed bag for J.J. Barea, who finished with five points and five assists in 20 minutes, but also turned the ball over four times. Point guards should be allowed to make mistakes, but high-turnover games like this one don’t really indicate high value as a PG. We know J.J. is better than this, even if our love affair with Roddy makes it tough to admit. Barea is a pretty decent point guard, and for some reason his hands were a bit slippery against Golden State.
Anthony Tolliver had 21 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. Shame on every GM who thought this guy couldn’t be an NBA player, or who looked to use a roster spot on a name rather than a player. His fellow former D-Leaguers, Reggie Williams and Chris Hunter, weren’t as impressive. But those guys are NBA players, and for everything that has gone wrong with the Warriors this year, their ability to scout D-League and their willingness to sign that talent is pretty much unparalleled.
Two points for Matt Carroll! He had 20% of the Mavs’ free throw attempts, and boy can that guy make his free throws.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
The Mavs needed this. Not just to avoid going on a four-game losing streak, though that’s certainly important. But even more important than Dallas’ need to not lose was their need to flat-out win. A game like this one isn’t so much about celebrating an end to failure as it is putting together something productive and presenting it in a meaningful way. Success is determined by wins and losses, and though the Mavs have played well for some if not most of 144 losing minutes, it’s crucial that the Mavs find success in 48 minute spurts. In the grand scheme of things, it’s about playing well. But for now, it’s wins and losses that could get the Mavs where they want (and need) to go; anything less than the third seed means a second round collision course with the Lakers, which is no good. As much as I’m sure the Mavs wouldn’t mind soaking up the sun, Los Angeles is not a place you want to be in the playoffs until every other option is exhausted.
So, a nine point win against a team like the Warriors? In which Dallas surrendered a career-high 46 points to Monta Ellis on just 23 shots? It really doesn’t seem like much on paper, but this was kind of big.
First, let’s start with the completely insane: the Mavs’ defense on Monta Ellis was a little bit better than you’d think, based on Ellis’ ridiculously efficient shooting line. He did finish with seven turnovers (a decidedly Monta-like number), and while Jason Terry couldn’t do all that much to slow Ellis down, it wasn’t for lack of effort. I mean, take a look at the shot chart for Ellis. That’s a lot of long two-pointers for a guy who can get to the rim at will, and though I have complete faith in Ellis’ ability to hit the mid-range jumper, that’s pretty much exactly the shot they want Monta taking. He made eight of his 12 attempts from 16-23 feet, which when you think about it, is just stupid good. Some of those were contested and some weren’t, but in terms of shot selection, I think you take those looks over forays into the paint any day. (Only four of Ellis’ 23 attempts came at the rim; that’s about half his season average.)
I mean, there are nights where you make shots, and there are nights where you make this shot (via BDL):
Ellis was the Warriors’ offense last night, as the rest of the roster managed just 38.9% shooting from the field. When Ellis subbed out for a few minutes rest to start the fourth quarter, the Mavs promptly went on a 5-0 run. Without their star in to run the offense or, at the very least, create a shot for himself, the Warriors’ offense completely broke down. Moves and passes on the court were made without purpose, and we were able to see first-hand why Monta Ellis ranks second in the league in minutes per game (41.8 per): the Warriors don’t have any other choice.
We’ve seen similar sequences from the Mavs this season. With Dirk on the bench and Jason Terry and Josh Howard struggling, the Maverick attack was somewhat directionless. Not so against the Warriors. Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 7-11 FG, seven rebounds) wasn’t the team’s high-scorer and probably wasn’t even the most impressive Maverick; Jason Terry led the Mavs with 21 points and six assists, Shawn Marion scored 18 on a wonderful 11 of 19 from the field (and nine rebounds to boot), and Drew Gooden ran the floor with ease, and punished the Warriors to the tune of 16 points on just nine shots. But Josh Howard, the prodigal son, looked to have finally found his way home. His spot-up three-point stroke still needs some work, but Josh chipped in 19 points on 9-15 shooting, with a couple of assists and rebounds. Howard just looked so natural on the floor, as if his season hasn’t been eclipsed by the dark clouds overhead and some woefully inefficient play. You could easily accuse Howard of being a bit of a black hole, and this season has been no exception. But Howard didn’t force much at all against Golden State, and though his two assists don’t really grab your attention, he wasn’t stopping the ball. I’d almost forgotten what that looked like, but Howard’s game was a pleasant surprise.
In terms of offense, it really was a complete team effort. That’s five Mavs with 16+ points, and Jason Kidd (six points, 16 assists, six steals, four turnovers) orchestrated masterfully. The Mavs ran the ball down the Warriors’ throats to start, and beat Golden State at their own game; Dallas forced turnovers, got out on the break, and built up an early lead. It’s one that the Mavs would never relinquish, although the Warriors did bring the game within four points with 5:11 in the fourth quarter.
I know that sounds like this was another one of those games. But it really wasn’t. The Warriors had clawed their way back from an 18-point deficit, but from the moment they narrowed it to three, the Mavs took off. Or more specifically, Dirk did. Nowitzki scored six straight before the Warriors could even respond, and from that point on the Mavs simply matched Monta Ellis and the Warriors shot for shot. For once, the Mavs weren’t dodging bullets in the final seconds, and honestly it was a bit of a relief. I’m all for the dramatic, but once in awhile it’s nice to just breathe.
Eddie Najera got the start at center, as Erick Dampier sat out another game with a left knee effusion. Najera didn’t contribute much in limited minutes (no points, just one rebound), but did show a bit of his potential value: Najera drew three charges, including two on Monta Ellis. Considering that the only thing that may have kept Ellis from playing the entire fourth quarter was foul trouble, that’s huge.
I couldn’t be happier with Drew Gooden’s shot selection. With a guy like Drew, the last thing you want to see is him fall in love with his own jumper. I thought that might be the case after watching Gooden drain his first jumpshot of the night just 40 seconds after entering the game. But to Drew’s credit, he used that first made jumper as a weapon throughout the night. Ronny Turiaf and Andris Biedrins were the primary covers for Gooden, and after making that first jumper, they were both tempted to respect it. Gooden made the textbook move and turned to the shot fake, which was more than enough to goad the eager Turiaf and Biedrins into a block attempt. A few drives and a few trips to the free throw line later, and you have one of Drew Gooden’s best offensive nights as a Mav (in terms of shot creation).
The Warriors really were not accounting for Shawn Marion. Most of his points just came during broken defensive sets or off of very basic pick-and-roll action, but he looked like a serious offensive weapon against Golden State’s defenders.
Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, two rebounds, two assists) looked completely healthy after that nasty fall on Monday night. And he actually got some decent burn playing point guard, too. Beaubois played 16 minutes while J.J. Barea played just eight, designating Roddy as the back-up PG of the night. There’s plenty to look forward to, but his play is certainly a reminder that his play at the point is a work in progress. I still see him as a good second string point at the moment, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing him along slowly, getting him in-game experience with minimal pressure, and easing him into the life of an NBA point guard.
Devean George sighting! George scored five points on 2-6 FG for the Warriors, which is about six more points than he ever scored as a Maverick.
Dirk has ditched the large, bulbous elbow brace he’d been wearing for the last month or so in favor of a more traditional arm sleeve. Needless to say, the thinner “brace” didn’t have any kind of negative effect on his shot.
That said, Dirk did injure his right thumb, which has since been declared a mere bruise. So much depends on Dirk’s right hand, and if nothing else, his minor injury reminded us of the mortality of it all.
The Mavs had 32 assists to the Warriors’ 13.
Corey Maggete had 20 points (8-19 FG) and nine rebounds for GS and C.J. Watson had 14 points on 5-10 shooting. It was probably the quietest 34 points I’ve ever seen.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Josh Howard. As I mentioned before, Howard not only played well, but played unselfishly. It’s a thing that’s easier said than done for a guy in Josh’s position, and though I know he’s desperate for redemption, that desperation didn’t overcome his fairer basketball instincts.
Despite early indications that Shawn Marion would play tonight, he’s still questionable for tonight’s game according to Rick Carlisle (via Eddie Sefko). Here’s to hoping he gets a little burn against the defenseless Dubs.
There also has yet to be a conclusive timetable set for Josh Howard’s return, and Erick Dampier’s mystery illness continues to keep him out of the lineup and has not been cleared to practice yet.
But at least it’s another fair(ish?) fight, as the Warriors will be without Kelenna Azubuike, Raja Bell, Andris Biedrins, Devean George (a huge loss), Ronny Turiaf, C.J. Watson, Brandan Wright, and Corey Maggette. The Mavs are missing two or three starters, the Warriors are missing a platoon. Only fair, right?