Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
That’s all she wrote. While not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Mavs’ hopes of making the dance are all but dead. They came into this week with a discernible chance, but a 1-2 run against a slate of tough opponents changed all that. A loss to the top-flight Indiana Pacers put the Mavs on life support; another loss to the mediocre Los Angeles Lakers was the death blow.
To no one’s surprise, this will be the most downtrodden installment of Thermodynamics this season. But don’t fret. The Mavs won’t stay down forever.
Week 23 (Pacers, Bulls, @Lakers)
1) Dirk Nowitzki (well, mostly)
In the first two games this week, Dirk was stellar. He scored 21 points on 10-of-20 (50%) shooting against the Pacers, and was essentially the sole reason a 25-point blowout wasn’t even worse. Two days later, in the Saturday matinee against the Bulls, Dirk turned in his best performance of the season: 35 points, an absolutely preposterous 14-of-17 (82%) from the floor, and a personal 8-1 run to end the game. That afternoon in Dallas, Dirk did what only a handful of players in the league can do — he single-handedly pulled a victory out of otherwise certain defeat, and he did so against a quality team. Nowitzki’s week didn’t end well, as he shot a poor 4-of-13 (31%) and was generally ineffective against the Lakers. Some will blame the team’s inability to consistently get him shots — “Well, of course he can’t shoot well if he only gets X shots in first half,” they’ll say. Although that complaint is indisputably valid as a general matter, as applied to Dirk’s shooting poorly in a particular game, it falls flat as an excuse. Nowitzki is capable of shooting well on very few shots — in fact, he does it all the time. Exactly 125 times in his career, Dirk has shot better than 50% on fewer than 12 attempts. His poor shooting against the Lakers certainly didn’t cost the Mavs the game, though it most certainly didn’t help. Still, his week on the whole was vintage. The Bulls game alone has a firm spot in Dirk’s pantheon of greatness.
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The Indiana Pacers were well aware of the fact that the Dallas Mavericks were one game away from shaving their beards. Indiana manhandled Dallas en route to a 103-78 victory. This was the worst loss for the Mavericks since their first matchup against the Houston Rockets to start the month (suffered a 136-103 loss on Mar. 3). Pacers forward Paul George tallied a game-high 24 points to go along with eight rebounds, a team-high six assists and three steals in 38 minutes.
Dirk Nowitzki totaled a team-high 21 points and seven boards in 33 minutes against Indiana on Thursday. He scored 20-plus points for the sixth time in his last nine games (15th time this season). Nowitzki is averaging 20.7 points on 54. 1 percent shooting (.419 3FG) over his last 10 games. Dirk is averaging 19.1 points and 8.3 rebounds since the All-Star break. He is shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 44.4 percent (24-of-54) from beyond the arc since the break.
Fortunately for the Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks. That means Dallas didn’t lose any actual ground to Los Angeles in the standings. By being two games under .500 now, the earliest they can shave is now Apr. 2, They would be able to do so by beating the Chicago Bulls and…the Los Angeles Lakers.
Some notes before the quotes:
- With the total being 55-34, Indiana clobbered Dallas on the glass. Nov. 24 against the Lakers still remains the largest rebounding deficit the Mavericks had this year (-22).
- After the game was tied at 41 at halftime, Indiana outscored Dallas 34-17 in the third quarter. Dallas shot 7-of-20 (35.0 percent) from the field in the third quarter. Indiana shot 14-of-20 (70.0 percent) from the field.
- Dallas shot 38.6 percent from the field in the loss. Dallas had shot above 40 percent in 31 straight coming into the game. That was their longest streak since 41 in 1987, and the franchise record is 72 from Jan. 1986 through Dec. 1986. Minus Dirk’s 10-of-20 shooting line, the Mavericks shot 22-of-63 (34.9 percent) from the field.
- Dallas is now 5-26 on the year when they score less than 100 points, 3-26 when they shoot below 45 percent from the field.
- The 78 points scored by the Mavericks ties their second-lowest scoring output for the season. The 74 they scored against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 14 marks their lowest total for the year.
Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ dud against Indiana.
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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.
- The coalescence of poor fortune dawns swiftly and without warning in the world of regression to the mean and jumper reliance, and the Mavericks faced down that unfortunate coalescence in unending quantity on Thursday night.
- Offensive success never neared commonality over the course of a close, slow-paced second half, but things swiftly took an awful turn for the irritating in the third quarter, when the offense of Dallas achieved impressive stagnancy.
- The acceptable, if not well taken, looks which led the Mavericks to a 41-point first half dissipated instantly in the first few minutes of the third quarter as the Pacers paced out to a double-digit lead.
- Why and how are the question words which spring to mind, and part of the answer lies in a second-half opening lineup which just didn’t work against a stalwart Indiana defense.
- That lineup included Chris Kaman (0-1 FG, four minutes, -11) and Mike James (0-4 FG, four assists, 20 minutes, -22), each of whom appeared equal parts listless in their respective outings.
- Kaman, appearing in the game for the first time, couldn’t defend Hibbert and couldn’t find an inkling of offensive rhythm.
- James, who played less than usual in the first half, struggled to find space in the swiftly shifting Indiana defense and rarely escaped the perimeter.
- The lineup struggled along with them and failed to find Dirk Nowitzki (10-20 FG, 21 points, seven rebounds) early in possessions, and soon the Pacers were on their way to a 17-point lead and firm dominance.
- It’s a worth noting how poorly the Mavericks’ style matches that of the strongly defensive Pacers.
- The Pacers simply have to much capability in the realm of size and post presence for the Mavericks to outwit.
- The Mavericks have no answer for the Roy Hibberts (5-10 FG, 16 points, 11 rebounds) and even the Tyler Hansbroughs of the basketball world – those who are weighty rebounders and energetic post defenders.
- Dallas relied on mid-range jumpers to save their hopes because of the Pacers’ prevalent defensive size, and failed for the most part in that region.
- And on the other end, Paul George (10-17 FG, 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists) scored at will.
- In this I felt the Mavericks were less at fault. George is a great, versatile player, and he made many thoroughly tough looks.
- The Mavericks may have been better served to place Shawn Marion (4-7 FG, eight points, four rebounds) on George instead of Vince Carter (5-13 FG, 14 points) and company, but tonight felt like a night when there was little the Mavericks could have done to hinder George, no matter who acted as his defensive foil.
- No Maverick made more than half their field goals, and Dirk’s 10 of 20 makes was the only output in that realm.
- Ian Mahinmi (4-8 FG, nine points, seven rebounds) played fairly well in his return to Dallas.
- His return offered a reminder that his presence would be very welcome on a team that lacks for size and reliable defensive centers.
- The Mavericks did a pretty poor job of finding ways to get three-point shooters open throughout Thursday’s game.
- Dallas made four of 14 three-point attempts, and few of those attempts could or should be classified as ‘clean looks’ .
- When Anthony Morrow (2-4 FG, 0-1 3PT, four points, 11 minutes) entered the game, I had some hope that he’d be use to run off screens and take threes, the skill that’s defined his entire career.
- Instead, the offense continued its jumbled ways and Morrow looked lost within the team’s movement.
- The Mavericks’ playoff chances decreased considerably with this loss, but with the aid of the Bucks’ victory against the Lakers, some hope remains.
- It seems somewhat trite to describe Saturday’s game against the Bulls as a ‘must-win’, as such a description will be used for pretty much every remaining Dallas’ game, but with the Jazz holding the tiebreaker between the two teams, every game lost counts considerably.
- I’ll let Dirk finish this recap, poignantly.
For the Dallas Mavericks (5-4), it’s another weekend, another back-to-back against Eastern Conference opponents. They will start it off by facing the Indiana Pacers (3-6). The Mavericks are 1-1 in the first half of a back-to-back and 0-2 in the second half of a back-to-back this season. The Mavericks have 16 back-to-backs in 2012-13, with only one stretch of four games in five nights. In total, 10 back-to-backs are on the road, three begin at home and conclude on the road and three are road-to-home. Dallas played 22 back-to-backs in 2011-12, going 7-15 in the first half and 13-9 in the second half of those back-to-backs.
There will be reunions as Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones and Ian Mahinmi get to see their former teams for the first time this season. More importantly, it appears Shawn Marion (sprained MCL) is going to give it a go and play against the Pacers. He has missed the last five games due to the injury.
Here are some notes to get you ready for the game between the Mavericks and the Pacers.
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Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“There is a sort of charm in ugliness.”
Well, at least the Mavs won. Otherwise, they’d be mere participants in a sloppy, ugly contest in which neither team could accomplish much of anything. Whatever specter follows around the Pacers to groan ghoulishly, move around furniture, and haunt Indy’s shooters was apparently bored with only making one team painful to watch. So not only did the Pacers shoot a characteristically bad 36.9% from the field, the Mavs shot 38.6%. Dallas’ offensive performance can really only be positively skewed by saying that it was bad, but not as bad as Indiana’s.
The Mavs did play impressive defense, though it’s hard to gauge numerically based on Indiana’s general ineptitude. This team is pretty miserable offensively night-in and night-out, and if you take Danny Granger out of the lineup (he missed the game due to personal reasons), then they find new ways to redefine misery. So yeah, the Mavs held the Pacers to some poor shooting numbers, including just three makes out of 23 three-point attempts. But the Pacers gave them plenty of help by missing open looks and exhibiting rather poor shot selection.
But if you feel compelled to hand out plaques for nice defensive play, they’d go to Jason Terry (14 points, 5-10 FG, two assists) and Brendan Haywood (13 points, 3-6 FG, 20 rebounds, three blocks). JET played a particularly active brand of perimeter defense, in which he took advantage of Indiana’s lazy passing by not only grabbing three steals, but by deflecting a good deal of the passes and loose balls that were in his midst. Haywood did as Haywood does, challenging shots from deep in the post or just deep in the paint, and though he’s still figuring out how best to work with his new teammates in pick-and-roll situations, his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities were fairly elite in this contest. I know it doesn’t take a legendary defender to hold Roy Hibbert to eight points, but that doesn’t make Brendan’s work clogging the paint and cleaning the defensive glass any less impressive.
But the Mavs offense. Yeah. Okay. Well, hrm. No one shot or scored particularly well at all, though Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, seven rebounds, two turnovers) did settle into his stroke late in the game. Dirk started the game with a 1-for-4 first quarter, and closed it with a 3-for-3 stint in the fourth. Caron Butler (eight points, five rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, two steals, and a block) started with a 2-for-8 first quarter, and at least had the decency to cut down his field goal attempts. Butler put up just two more shots in his final 18.5 minutes of playing time, and while that doesn’t translate to a productive scoring night, it’s his Maverick-low in attempts. Caron has averaged 14.6 attempts on 37% shooting as a Mav. To be fair, Butler has missed lot of looks around the rim over the last five games trying to draw fouls, which is why it’s much easier to tolerate than having him hoist jumper after jumper.
But his deference was enough. The Mavs found a way to scrape together enough points to put up a respectable total, with 10 from Kidd (seven assists, two turnovers) here, eight from Marion (six rebounds, three assists, three turnovers) there, and a Maverick-high seven for DeShawn Stevenson (four rebounds, two assists). DeShawn looked like a real rotation player in 23 minutes, and his play was unlike much of what we saw from him in Washington. The defense was back, and though DeShawn wasn’t quite a lockdown guy, he made smart plays when playing on-ball defense and worked that end of the court. On offense, he didn’t stop the ball or play outside himself; Stevenson hit a shot off the catch or a few dribbles if he had space, or else he simply continued to swing the ball. No indecision. It was nothing flashy — just a wing stepping off the bench to knock down a few jumpers (he was 3-of-5 before garbage time) and get a hand in a shooter’s face — but on some nights that type of play is exactly what the Mavs could use coming off the bench.
The Mavs probably took too long to really put the Pacers out of their misery, as the game wasn’t decided until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Indiana was right there by halftime, though a 15-5 and a 13-3 run to start the third and fourth quarters, respectively, put an end to that nonsense. The result never seemed to be in doubt, but I can understand why some would find the lack of separation (especially in the final score) troubling. But the Mavs did build the lead up to 22 before emptying the bench, and while they weren’t impressive overall, they did manage to muck up a game that wasn’t going their way. Not every win has to be an impressive win, and the more important thing for this team right now is to build confidence in their altered core.
- After J.J. Barea (0-3 FG) received the initial minutes as the back-up point guard, Rodrigue Beaubois (six points, 2-8 FG, three rebounds, two assists) emerged for the first time since the All-Star break. The results were mixed, and the low-light (for me, at least) was Roddy’s defense. He looked awful against the pick-and-roll; Marion would buy Beaubois time by flashing out on picks, but when Marion was forced to recover, Roddy was hardly in a position to defend the ball. I’m not sure whether it was some unusually effective picking by the Pacers, Beaubois’ lithe frame keeping him unable to fight back to his man, or simply an effort thing, but that has to change. With that length and athleticism, Beaubois’ calling card should be his defense, and you can’t defend the point guard position right now without great chemistry in your pick-and-roll defense.
- Jason Kidd and Brendan Haywood – still a work in progress, but they’re syncing up.
- What I couldn’t understand, for the life of me, was how T.J. Ford was able to bait Beaubois and Barea into biting on his pump fakes. I respect the intent to play good honest defense on a shooter, but come on. He’s T.J. Ford. If he wants to take turnaround, fadeaway jumpers, then you shake his hand and be on your merry.
- Shawn Marion was doing entirely too much off the dribble, which probably isn’t a good thing. There are nights where Shawn can do that and get away with it, but Indiana stripped him repeatedly, and three of those strips ended up as turnovers.
- I’m liking what Eddie Najera brings to the table more and more. He’s not exactly Erick Dampier, and that’s because he’s nothing like Erick Dampier; Najera still thrives based on a high energy level, despite being a spry 33 years old. But he’s holding down the center position with his hustle, and what matters is that he can relieve Brendan for 15 minutes a game or so until Damp’s return.
- Pacers’ coach Jim O’Brien was given a technical foul 58 seconds into the game. Dirk’s free throw gave the Mavericks a commanding 1-0 lead.
- Remember when Mike Dunleavy used to be good? He was fantastic for the Pacers in 2007-2008, but injuries seem to have completely derailed his post-Golden State renaissance. A pity, honestly – I’ve always hoped that MDJr would have a chance to redeem himself for all the grief he got while he was with the Warriors, and he was becoming quite the complementary player before he went down.
- JOSH MCROBERTS HAD AN ALLEY-OOP DUNK ON A FAST BREAK. THAT IS ALL.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Brendan Haywood. Speaking of, we should probably be on nickname alert for this guy. Caron Butler already has “Tough/Tuff Juice,” but Haywood needs something aside from the semi-infamous “Brenda.” Get on it, Mavs Nation, because if a 20-rebound night doesn’t deserve a moniker, then I don’t know what does anymore.
The Dallas Mavericks visit the Indiana Pacers
It’s almost an irrelevant discussion by now, but as recently as a week ago, those with an eye to the Mavs pondered the perks of playoffs versus the lottery. This team almost certainly doesn’t have the chops of a championship contender (or if they have them stowed away in some secret compartment, I have yet to see them), so at best the playoffs are an extension to a season most view as an exercise in mediocrity. Sure, every team in the playoffs technically has a chance to win it all, but at what minute fraction of a fraction does it become more worth our while to try our luck at the lottery balls?
The Mavs are a veteran team, and that route isn’t exactly an appetizing one. Just making the playoffs is a bare bones accomplishment, but for a team of proud, veteran players, it could offer enough consolation to keep them from tossing and turning in bed every night for the next three months. And, of course, the financial incentives are well worth the Mavs’ while, especially when considering the team’s massive payroll and luxury tax payout.
Simply, the difference between potentially the 14th pick and the 20th pick or so isn’t worth the fuss. What the Mavs would gain in a (possibly) marginally more talented/productive player, they would almost certainly lose in whatever quantitative way there is to measure mental health. The hot line with the Mavs has always been that they lack the sort of fiery, on-court leader that forges championship mettle with his bear hands; if that’s as true as believed, then missing the playoffs with two future Hall-of-Famers, not to mention two players who fancy themselves borderline All-Stars, could be a stroke of death.
The Indiana Pacers find themselves in a similar discussion, but with a decidedly different outlook. For them, making the playoffs isn’t as much a testament to their longevity and a shallow fulfillment of their own personal expectations, but a fairly significant breakthrough for a roster that has been continually limited by circumstance. Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy, the team’s two best players, have battled injury all season. Almost every other rotation player has missed at least a handful of games, sometimes leaving a cast of role players to accomplish what teams at full-strength often struggle to do: win games. At their best, they’re world-beaters, a potent offensive club that overcomes deficiencies with a sense of direction. Sometimes the compass may be pointing the wrong way, but at least their direction is conclusive.
What would making the playoffs mean to the Pacers? I’d wager an awful lot; Jarrett Jack, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy (though he’s injured) have never even tasted the playoffs, and it goes without saying that rookies Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush have yet to play their first postseason game. Something tells me that those players, Murph and Dunleavy in particular, might want to take a crack at the playoffs, even if it means nothing more than a beatdown at the hand of the Cavaliers. If it doesn’t happen this year, it would certainly be disappointing, but it’s also completely understandable given the myriad of injuries. The Pacers are in an oddly accomodating situation for a team on the playoff bubble; their injuries arm them with the perfect write-off, a playoff berth would bring a newfound sense of fulfillment and justification, and a draft pick in the lottery would only serve to help their cause next year with a healthy, matured roster.
That seems to be the theme with the Mavs in comparison to the rest of those on the fringes of relevance. These teams have been to the bottom, and they’ve seen just how dark it can get. Dallas, on the other hand, has glimpsed the summit. Though they’re stranded with no apparent means of reaching their goal, claims to fear their half-way camp much more than the fall. They could be in for a rude awakening when glorified visions of falling with style transform into the panic and fear of a freefall, but we’ll tackle that monster when we come to it. For now, the Mavs will do their best MacGyver, and try to fashion a pickaxe from dental floss, a tube sock, and a metal spork.