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 102, Denver Nuggets 84

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 16, 2012 under Recaps | 14 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas90.0113.352.527.530.212.7
Denver93.339.336.937.313.3

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

  • Shawn Marion (16 points, 8-14 FG, 10 rebounds, six assists) spent another game guarding a highly effective point guard, although this particular assignment may be his most unexpected yet. Ricky Rubio? Still unusual, but does make some bit of sense. Chris Paul? As a matter of necessity, Dallas needed to throw Paul off guard. But Ty Lawson (three points, 1-8 FG, two assists, two turnovers)? Marion should have struggled to stay in front of him, even with height and length providing theoretical counters. But he kept up, and when the Nuggets tried to free up Lawson with screens, the Maverick bigs did a terrific job of containing the speedy point man and preventing him from turning the corner with a burst. The sequestering of Lawson was a showcase of wonderful defense on pretty much every level — a smart (and unconventional) assignment, persistent on-ball defensive effort, and terrific, well-timed help.
  • Oh, and when Lawson wasn’t in the game, Marion guarded Andre Miller (zero points, 0-5 FG, two assists, two turnovers), too — just because he could, and because Rick Carlisle apparently likes embarrassing opposing point guards.
  • All of that said: Lawson and Miller were in a particularly tough spot, as both Danilo Gallinari and Nene missed the game due to injury. Any team can be devastated by injury to a key player, but “superstarless” outfits like the Nuggets are particularly vulnerable. Denver has a nice collection of overall talent and a style that fits the personnel well. But every single piece is an essential component of the formula; Gallo, Nene, Lawson, Miller, Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo…a system predicated on total balance risks going lopsided when any one of the pieces is removed from the equation. When two of those pieces are absent? It’s remarkably difficult for the rest of the roster as-is to compensate, a talented bunch though they may be.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Denver Nuggets 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 9, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas95.0110.553.910.026.811.3
Denver100.052.137.518.616.9

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 Mavs played active defense on Wednesday night, but that shouldn’t be mistaken with good defense. Denver’s ball movement understandably puts a strain on any opponent, but Dallas’ defenders were over-rotating like crazy, content to make sure that if they were beaten on a particular possession, it wasn’t due to a lack of defensive activity. That’s an admirable aim, I suppose, though not as admirable as a defensive approach that simultaneously brings both energy and restraint. That happy medium is where the Mavs have lived for a good portion of the season thus far, and where they should aim to be come playoff time. It’s also where they weren’t in this particular game, but alas, these things happen.
  • Apparently, the only thing that can keep Jason Terry off the floor at the end of a competitive game is a minor hip flexor tweak.
  • Turnovers weren’t even remotely a problem, as Dallas managed to stabilize its offense without grinding the play action to a halt. The ball was moving from side to side freely, the Mavs used simple elements of their offense to create favorable mismatches, and the shots were falling. That’s an incredibly simple recipe for offensive success, but it was the crisp consistency of Dallas’ execution that made this an incredibly straightforward exercise.

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Overflow

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 13, 2011 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 5 Comments to Read

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One good cost-cutting move apparently deserves another.

Just days after the Mavs swept up Lamar Odom up from L.A. in order to tidy up the Lakers’ books (helpful gent, that Donnie Nelson), Dallas has agreed — per Marc Stein of ESPN.com — to send Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez to Denver in exchange for a future second round pick. This isn’t an equitable trade, but it allows the Mavs to liquidate some depth for the sake of immediate salary savings and an extra chunk of cap space next summer.

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Ever the Twain Shall Meet

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 28, 2011 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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Without free agency to whisk away the interest of the basketball world, the non-negotiation headlines have been dominated by talk of who will play where. NBA players — or former NBA players? NBA players in remission? — are flocking to alternative leagues and markets for a chance to compete and stay fresh for a season that may never come. This is the relevant news of this particular moment in time, and it’s the reason why the newest Maverick, Rudy Fernandez, has served as the most newsworthy basketball player in Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki has been smothered with praise, but the man himself has been quiet save his EuroBasket stint. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Shawn Marion have been off the radar. Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea have been discussed as impending free agents, but only in distant, hypothetical terms. Caron Butler recently registered a blip by playing some pro-am ball, and the fact that a basketball player actually fulfilling his primary occupational function serves as news says all you really need to know about the lockout vacuum.

Fernandez is the only Maverick with an active story to be unfurled, and so the coverage naturally follows him. His future is of obvious interest to those in Dallas, the rest of the NBA front offices, and a particular club abroad, and though there’s still about a year’s worth of ticks on the clock before Fernandez has to decide where he’ll play next season, that eventual choice is still a topic worth hitting around a bit.

Eddie Sefko did just that over at the Dallas Morning News, primarily in response to a report from Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas that Fernandez would use his season (or partial season, if that be the case) in Dallas as a trial period:

Maybe there’s a legitimate reason why Mavericks’ guard Rudy Fernandez is signed and sealed to play in Spain as long as there’s no NBA season.

Maybe he wants to be near the homeland. Maybe he has personal reasons, which would be great.

But the guess here is it’s all about money.

Isn’t it always?

If the driving force behind Fernandez’s goals is to pile up as much Euros as he can, then the Maverickshave no chance of keeping the Spaniard beyond this season. But this stuff about Fernandez using this season as a gauge to see whether he wants to be in the NBA with the Mavericks or in Spain with Real Madrid is a bunch of … uh, stuff.

Will contract finances — which heavily favor Real Madrid’s pursuit of Fernandez’s services beyond this season — play into Rudy’s decision? Undoubtedly. Does that make the money the bottom line for a player who has publicly expressed frustration with his role and NBA comfort level in the past? Hardly. There’s no mutual exclusivity between money and actual basketball considerations; Fernandez is entitled to make a holistic decision based on every factor involved, and based on what we know of him from his tenure in Portland, all of those elements matter. If Fernandez opts to play in Madrid, it wouldn’t be solely because of the cash cow they’d cram into his locker. It’d be because he remained sour on the NBA experience because of his time in Portland and in Dallas, and in whatever cost-benefit calculus he engaged in, Real Madrid was the better choice.

Reframing

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 20, 2011 under Commentary, News | 2 Comments to Read

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According to the Associated Press, Rudy Fernandez’s deal with Real Madrid has finally been inked. With EuroBasket in the rearview mirror and the ongoing CBA negotiations at something of an impasse stateside, Fernandez found an alternative — but quite comfortable — home for the season to come.

That said, Fernandez’s contractual commitment to Real Madrid isn’t quite as significant as initially rumored. The AP report puts Fernandez with the club for the remainder of the locked out season with a mere option to return to the team next year. This is a significant departure to the rumored deal that would’ve locked up Fernandez in Madrid for the next four seasons (less whatever post-lockout NBA campaign exists). His momentum is no longer definite; gone is the wing with one foot out the door, and in is a free agent with a possibility of playing overseas. Those are two very different players and very different assets.

There remains a very strong possibility that Fernandez still bolts for Madrid at season’s end, but Dallas has been given the opportunity to convince him otherwise. That’s not nothing; the Mavericks are a first-class organization with luxurious player accommodations, a superstar player, fantastic systems on both ends of the floor, and a title to their name. They have a lot to offer, so long as Fernandez is listening. Perhaps he’s already decided in his basketballing heart of hearts to return to Spain — there’s nothing wrong with that, supposing that it doesn’t impact his NBA play this season as a result. But if there’s even the slightest chance that Fernandez remains in the NBA following the completion of his contract, I’d think that Dallas would be at least a bit alluring. Fernandez will have his options in free agency next summer, but the Mavericks are a good a fit as any.

Which, of course, supposes the Mavericks extended interest beyond this season. Perhaps Fernandez really was acquired as a contributing placeholder, meant to produce from the wing while Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and Corey Brewer inch toward reliability. All three of those players are candidates for regular minutes on the wing a year from now, a glut which honestly does make Fernandez a bit expendable. His potential departure wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world; there is nothing Fernandez does that can’t be replaced with pieces on the existing roster or through affordable free agent additions, and though the Mavericks are better off with Fernandez on the roster, they aren’t exactly sunk with him off of it. The choice of whether to remain in Dallas will likely be his, but contrary to earlier reports, that choice hasn’t already been made. Fernandez hasn’t been signed away by Real Madrid for the foreseeable future. He remains a legitimate piece in the Mavs’ plans going forward, albeit a flexible one with his own free agency.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 24, 2011 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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Regardless of the specific events that will unfold in the coming months, Rudy Fernandez’s Mavericks future was always to be dictated on his terms. Dallas would offer him a system that suited his strengths and the opportunity to play alongside other talented players who could make it easier to find that open three or spring backdoor for an alley-oop. Fernandez would play a season, and then free agency would offer him an out. He could take it or choose to stay with the Mavs, but regardless of his actual choice, the power would be his within a year’s time.

The lockout has apparently sped up that process, as Fernandez has reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with Real Madrid, one that would essentially guarantee that Fernandez will leave the Mavs at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season. Reports vary as to whether the deal is indeed set in stone, but in a way the consummation of an actual contract is somewhat arbitrary; it appears Fernandez will be gone from Dallas one way or another at season’s end, whether on this reported deal or another one. The will to leave exists irrelevant of whether a handshake has been made or a name signed on the dotted line. Fernandez may end up playing games for the Mavs this season, but in effect, he’s already gone.

As such, it’s worth considering whether plugging him into the lineup as a starter (and committing the minutes that usually accompany such a role) is really a venture worthy of the team’s investment. Fernandez would provide a nice complement to the preexisting starting core in theory, but he’d have to be brought up to speed on the fly in what would almost certainly be an abbreviated season. Fernandez is talented, but would the Mavs feel comfortable with him in a prominent, starting role after 50 or so games without the benefit of off-season preparation or, likely, a training camp? Fernandez is a Maverick, and his skills should be utilized by the team to the fullest extent that they can be, but the role that would allow for such maximization remains in question, even if his positional disposition would seem to fill a very convenient SG-shaped hole in the starting five.

Maybe Fernandez as starter was just too easy; acquiring an experienced player that fits a positional need was a sensible move for Dallas, so much so that apparently something had to go wrong. The Mavs, however, are not without their fallback plans, even if the two most promising of which are reliant on free agency. Lockout life places greater value in the familiar, and though it would undoubtedly take some work (and some cash) to retain their wing FAs, the Mavs have all the reason in the world to look inward — as much as non-contracted, soon-to-be-free-agent personnel constitutes “inward” — to solve whatever problems exist with their SG rotation.

Re-signing DeShawn Stevenson remains an option, and one supported by Jason Terry and Donnie Nelson at that. Stevenson isn’t an ideal choice, but he is (1) an incredibly solid perimeter defender who is still somehow underrated despite his efforts on the league’s biggest stage against its biggest stars, (2) already familiar with Dallas’ system on both ends of the floor, and (3) likely to come at a reasonable price. That said, he also acted as a sandbag on the starting lineup during the 2011 postseason, despite his successes; according to BasketballValue, the Kidd-Stevenson-Marion-Nowitzki-Chandler lineup posted an adjusted plus-minus of -5.21 in the postseason. That should make Fernandez a preferred choice even as a mercenary, but there is some virtue in electing to roll with the three-point-shooting devil you know.

But the Mavs also have the benefit of knowing a far superior candidate to fill a chunk of minutes in the backcourt next season, despite the fact that he technically didn’t log a single minute at SG during the 2010-2011 campaign. Caron Butler is a very talented, effective wing player. He knows the Mavericks organization, knows Rick Carlisle’s system, and has shown that he can thrive as a part of both of those institutions. He’s an effective perimeter defender and a versatile offensive weapon. He’s also labeled a small forward, and also not under contract with the Mavs at present. Both of those problems can be remedied if the team wills it so, and if Dallas truly has designs to improve in the coming season, they’ll do just that.

Butler remains the Mavericks’ best opportunity for immediate improvement, and that doesn’t change because of some perceived positional hiccup. It’s true that he didn’t play any time at the 2 de jure, but the positional designations used by 82games.com (and other resources that offer lineup derived positional data) are often restricted to offensive lineups. From that perspective, what exactly did DeShawn Stevenson (or Terry, Beaubois, Sasha Pavlovic, or any other player who suited up for the Mavs at the 2) do last season that Butler could not? As a sold ball-handler, a 43 percent three-point shooter, and an effective slasher, there’s nothing that prevents Butler from fulfilling any offensive role given to him. Add on the fact that the wing positions in the Mavs’ offensive system allow for a wide range of skill sets (J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson both played the 2, Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic both played the 3), and it’s hard to find a logical reason for Butler to be pigeon-holed in one position or another.

As far as defense is concerned, all that’s required is a quick trip through Synergy’s play database to discount any claims of Butler’s positional limitations. Among those that Butler checked effectively: Manu Ginobili, Dwyane Wade, Chauncey Billups, Eric Gordon, Monta Ellis, O.J. Mayo, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo, John Salmons, Jason Richardson, J.J. Redick, Mike Miller, Wesley Matthews, the Mavs’ own Rudy Fernandez, Gary Neal, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefolosha, Richard Hamilton, and Kyle Korver. Saying that 3s defend 3s in today’s NBA is a gross oversimplification; despite never playing a single minute as a 2-guard, Butler still managed to defend all of the aforementioned 2s and 1s as a product of defensive cross-matching and in-game switches. Nowhere are positional designations more arbitrary than on the wings, where pairs of similarly skilled players swing between slotted positions on a whim.

Reducing Butler (or any player) to a simple positional designation ignores the more specific reasoning underlying NBA compatibilities. Butler could work alongside Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion because their skill sets cover tons of ground without much overlap. The same wouldn’t necessarily be true of any other group of perimeter players, even if their traditional designations dictate it to be so. What matters — as has and will always be the case — are consistent skills and contributions. So long as a team can produce some total amalgamation of necessary skills (requisite shooters, shot creation, rebounding, etc.) and the defense can contort itself into some means of effectiveness, everything else is merely nomenclature for the sake of nomenclature.

Why Now?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 24, 2011 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves, Video | 24 Comments to Read

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The Mavericks have acquired Rudy Fernandez (and the draft rights for 2007 selection Petteri Koponen, a footnote which may or may not have relevance) in exchange for the 26th and 57th picks in yesterday’s draft. As far as draft day trades go, this one isn’t horrible; the Mavs aren’t the Kings, who somehow talked themselves into acquiring John Salmons while losing Beno Udrih and trading down in the draft at the same time. But if you’re looking for the logic in a move like this one, I see little.

It all comes down to what Dallas surrendered. Selected with the 26th pick was Texas sophomore Jordan Hamilton, a player who can functionally perform a lot of the same roles that Fernandez can. He doesn’t come without his own faults (Hamilton looks at the rim almost lustfully with each catch on the perimeter), but Hamilton eclipses Fernandez’s utility while still holding that infinite potential of youth.

In Rudy, the Mavs have acquired a streaky shooter who, for the most part, comes up errant. Fernandez shot 37 percent from the field and 32 percent from three last season, and though 2010-2011 was without question the worst campaign of Fernandez’s three-year NBA career, he doesn’t exactly have a healthy body of work to rule that year as an aberration. We know Fernandez can be better (particularly from three-point range; Rudy connected on 40 percent of his threes during his rookie season), but there should be legitimate concern over whether he’ll be able to return to his previous shooting marks.

Unfortunately, that kind of pessimism is what clouds discussions of Fernandez’s basketball strengths. Offense is supposed to be the side of the ball where Fernandez makes his living, and yet over the last two seasons, his offensive performance has been wholly underwhelming. Things only get worse on the defensive end, where Rudy scrambles plenty without accomplishing much at all. He has a pretty worrisome gambling problem; he’ll abandon good defensive position in a second to chase a pass he has no business chasing — and that’s when he’s even in the right defensive position in the first place. Fernandez isn’t a replacement for DeShawn Stevenson, but an even more limited stopgap, capable of possibly replicating Stevenson’s three-point shooting while falling well short of his defensive performance. Fernandez just isn’t anywhere near the defender that Stevenson is, and though Jordan Hamilton is similarly lacking in defensive ability, he’s 20 years old, long, and athletic. I have more hope for Hamilton finding religion as a defender than Fernandez, and while that hope could ultimately prove to be misplaced, I think the “he is who he is,” perspective on Fernandez is tough to refute.

Plus, Fernandez withered when he wasn’t handed the minutes he expected and was forced to compete for playing time in Portland. Based on Rick Carlisle’s rotational habits, why exactly should we expect any different result in Dallas? Fernandez has a fresh start, but he may find that Carlisle and Nate McMillan share in some particularly inconvenient elements of their coaching philosophy. “Stay ready,” which became the mantra of the Mavs’ role players last season, doesn’t quite seem to fit with Fernandez’s understanding of the team concept.

Maybe Fernandez will find new life in Dallas, but at best he’s an active offensive participant, a three-point threat, and a defensive liability. Couldn’t Hamilton be capable of the same, while giving the Mavs another interesting piece for the future? Dallas is rightfully looking to maximize on their current core, but the drive to acquire veterans has led them to one who holds all of the weaknesses of the prospect they could have had without any of the potential long-term strengths.

Ramblin’ Rose

Posted by Ian Levy on April 25, 2011 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. He’ll be bringing his intelligent brand of — mostly quantitative — analysis here on a weekly basis. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

After Games 1 and 2, we met two lineups, The Grays and The Longs, and identified the utilization of each as an example of the approach the Mavericks and Blazers were bringing to this series. The part played by each unit changed dramatically over Games 3 and 4, again revealing a lot about the status of each team.

The Longs have essentially disappeared from Portland’s rotation, playing less than a minute together over the past two games. Nate McMillan obviously has some player combinations he likes better. He might want to take a look at these numbers, because despite taking both games in Portland, most of what he’s been trying hasn’t worked very well. The table below shows the five-man units Portland has used for at least three minutes over the past three games.

LineupMinutesPoss. ForPoss. OppPts. ForPts. OppORtg.DRtg.Net
Miller - Matthews - Wallace - Aldridge - Camby53.1791909698105.5108.9-3.4
Fernandez - Roy - Batum - Wallace - Aldridge15.6528273341117.9151.9-34.0
Miller - Matthews - Batum - Wallace - Aldridge19.103233263981.3118.2-36.9
Miller - Roy - Matthews - Wallace - Aldridge11.6322203218145.590.0+55.5
Miller - Matthews - Batum - Aldridge - Camby9.8016172025125.0147.1-22.1
Fernandez - Roy - Matthews - Batum - Aldridge5.2289108125.088.9+36.1
Fernandez - Roy - Batum - Wallace - Camby3.06655550.0100.0-50.0

Over that stretch, only one lineup has consistently hurt the Mavericks. It’s the Andre Miller – Brandon Roy – Wesley Matthews – Gerald Wallace – LaMarcus Aldridge combination, which has outscored the Mavericks by 14 points across 11 minutes. Interestingly enough, this lineup only played 2 minutes and 48 seconds together during the Blazers fourth quarter comeback on Saturday.

The Blazers’ 20-point advantage in that quarter was built mostly by two other lineups. The Rudy Fernandez – Roy – Nicolas Batum – Wallace – Aldridge configuration was +7 over the first 6:28 of the 4th. The Roy – Matthews – Batum – Wallace – Aldridge lineup was +8 over a one-minute, 43-second span towards the end of the quarter. However, those two lineups have played another 18 minutes together across the rest of the series, in which they were outscored by Dallas by 13 points. The Blazers didn’t run away with the fourth quarter because they stumbled into an effective new lineup. Rather, a method they had tried previously began to click. For one quarter, Brandon Roy turned into Jerry West and Jason Terry turned into Darrick Martin, triggering a sudden change in the performance of a familiar lineup.

That the Blazers were able to come away with two wins at home will obscure the fact that they still aren’t playing very well. If we take away Brandon Roy’s magical fourth quarter in Game 4, we find that the Mavericks outscored the Blazers by 13 points over 7 quarters of play. The Blazers are still left with just one lineup that has been successful over a significant stretch in more than one game.

The table bel0w shows the same lineup information for the Mavericks, covering the last three games.

LineupMinutesPoss. ForPoss. OppPoints ForPoints OppORtg.DRtg.Net
Kidd - Stevenson - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler26.134241413797.690.2+7.4
Kidd - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler17.0630323645120.0140.6-20.6
Barea - Terry - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Haywood18.3031314739151.6125.8+25.8
Barea - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Haywood9.7518191814100.073.7+26.3
Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Chandler11.0021193119147.6100.0+47.6
Kidd - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Haywood9.0017141913111.892.9+18.9
Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Haywood7.551313101276.992.3-15.4
Kidd - Barea - Terry - Nowitzki - Haywood7.201212158125.066.7+58.3
Kidd - Barea - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Haywood4.37891113137.5144.4-6.9
Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Chandler4.598771187.5157.1-69.6
Barea - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler5.2391031133.3110.0-76.7

The Grays (the Jason Kidd – Jason Terry – Shawn Marion – Dirk Nowitzki – Tyson Chandler lineup we identified as a key factor in Game 1) have been ineffective to say the least, being outscored by nine points over a span of a little more than 17 minutes. This is one of the player combinations Rick Carlisle relies on in crunch time, which makes it unsurprising that Dallas has struggled late in games (the Mavericks have been outscored by 22 over the last two fourth quarters).

That ineffectiveness shouldn’t be a huge concern for the Mavericks. Most of their negative differential comes from a roughly five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter of Game 4, when they were outscored by 13 points due to Roy’s hot hand and their own failures to execute on offense. Over that stretch, Roy scored 12 points and assisted on two other baskets, while the Mavericks couldn’t create a single shot attempt for Nowitzki, turned the ball over twice, and attempted five long jumpshots.

Roy’s explosion has changed the series, but that doesn’t mean it’s a permanent course correction. The Mavericks have still been the better team for most of the four games, narrative intrigue be damned. Additionally, his performance could have some unintended side-effects. When Roy was producing less, his role in the Blazers’ offense was defined. Tonight, Nate McMillan will have to decide how much to let what happened in Game 4 change the way the Blazers attack the Mavericks. This could potentially be good news for Dallas; Roy seems unlikely to produce at the same level, but will probably see more minutes and use more possessions. He’s has been a shell of his former self for all but the most recent 15 minutes of this season. He was largely the difference the Blazers were able to even the series, but those 15 minutes are not a large enough sample size to convince me he’s ready to pull that off two more times.

I realize I’m looking at two tough losses with rose-colored glasses; I can’t help it. After two close losses in Portland, everywhere I look I see roses.

Dallas Mavericks 83, Portland Trailblazers 77: Abridged

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 10, 2010 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.”
-Oscar Wilde

  • This was a hideous game. The Mavs and Blazers are both top 10 teams in offensive efficiency, and yet last night neither team could score at a rate higher than 95.4 points per 100 possessions. Dallas shot .338 from the field compared to Portland’s .364 and won. Erick Dampier and Eddie Najera were the only Mavs to at least 50% from the field, and both went 1-for-2. It was physical, it was intense, and the officiating was pretty horrible. Neither team was given the whistles they deserved, and the Rose Garden was within inches of completely imploding. But you know what? The Mavs looked like the veteran team they are, and they kept playing. Dirk Nowitzki is brutally persistent in his complaints to the officials on some nights, but yesterday it was the Blazers that couldn’t stop yapping to the officiating crew (Brandon Roy, Andre Miller, and Nate McMillan were given techs for precisely this reason). While Dallas was ineffective on offense, Portland looked rattled. Not a bad thing to see from this team as they’re closing in on the playoffs.
  • The Blazers were ice cold for long stretches of this game, but the Mavs didn’t make anything easy for the Portland offense. In terms of the Mavs’ ability to rotate, contest shots, and protect the rim, this was one of the Mavs’ more impressive efforts. I would never expect to say something like that after a game that Shawn Marion missed due to injury, but the Mavs’ defense on Brandon Roy (13 points, 4-14 FG, eight rebounds, six assists) was pretty impressive; Caron Butler (18 points, 6-16 FG, seven rebounds) offered a physical, aggressive counter, and the Mavs’ double teams didn’t leave the weak side exposed as they did in these two teams’ previous meetings. Brendan Haywood also did a pretty good job playing man defense on LaMarcus Aldridge (27 points, 9-20 FG, five rebounds, three blocks), even if LMA still had a very productive scoring night by hitting tough shots and running the floor.
  • Jason Kidd had an interesting night. By most measures, this game was an abject failure for Kidd; many of his passes were errant (four turnovers to just six assists), he didn’t provide much scoring at all (just two points), and the offense he’s paid to run was woefully inefficient. There is one number on his stat line that should pop out, though: 12 rebounds. Team rebounding was so important in this game, and Kidd played a huge role in gathering the plethora of misses on both ends. The Mavs didn’t dominate the rebounding column, but they still deserve some credit for their effort on the glass. It may not seem like much, but Kidd pulling down a rebound in traffic, Caron Butler fighting for a second opportunity on the offensive boards, and J.J. Barea sprinting in to secure a defensive rebound — these are plays that matter. In a high-intensity contest, each of those plays does wonders in terms of establishing, retaining, or denying momentum, which matters even more when baskets are tough to come by.
  • What can I even say about Dirk Nowitzki at this point in the season that I haven’t already said a million times before? He was terrific, and though he missed plenty of good looks (he was a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad 11-of-24 from the field), he more than made up for those misses with his frequent trips to the free throw line. 40 points on 24 shots is pretty insane no matter how you slice it, but that mark is even more impressive thanks to how badly the rest of the offense performed by comparison. Nowitzki had nearly half of the Mavs’ total points. Think about that.
  • Another start for DeShawn Stevenson, but he again he didn’t play all that much. He only collected two rebounds and score no points in nearly 17 minutes, but his greatest value was in defending Brandon Roy early in the game. He was hardly spectacular, but he held down the fort until Butler was switched onto Roy later.
  • Marcus Camby grabbed 18 rebounds. I remember some Mavs fans fussing a bit when John Hollinger gave the Blazers’ acquisition of Camby and the Mavs’ acquisition of Butler/Haywood the same “trade grade,” but is there any question that Camby has made a phenomenal difference since arriving in Portland?
  • If it hasn’t been made abundantly clear in recent weeks, Eddie Najera has clear value to this team. With 1:07 seconds to go in the first quarter, Najera played the irritant, and stood in Juwan Howard’s path as Howard started to run back down the court after a Maverick basket. Juwan extended his arm, Najera hit the ground, offensive foul. Hardly the most honorable move, but getting under opponents’ skin is something that Eddie does extraordinarily well. His stat line will show up empty aside from his three points, but even that three-pointer was a go-ahead bucket that sank the Blazers just as they looked to be figuring things out.
  • Jason Terry (12 points, two assists) did not shoot very well from the floor (3-of-9, 1-of-3 from three-point range), but to his credit he got to the line eight times. Some of those attempts were off of technical fouls, but that doesn’t change the fact that JET was more aggressive in going to the hoop when his shot clearly wasn’t going to be kind to him.
  • Rudy Fernandez () didn’t score in great volume, but his three three-pointers were much like Najera’s: they were far more impactful than a few ticks on the scoreboard. Fernandez has had a very weird season, with his shooting stroke, his ambiguous role on the team, and injury mucking up what could have been a very successful year. It’s good to see at least his health and his shooting going his way, even if there’s lingering uncertainty between Rudy and the team over his place with the Blazers.
  • J.J. Barea (zero points 0-5 FG, two rebounds, one assist) played nearly 11 minutes, but the Mavs didn’t give Jason Kidd enough of a break for any of the Mavs’ point guards to take a significant turn at running the show. Rodrigue Beaubois: DNP-CD.
  • Brendan Haywood’s performance was much better than the six points and four rebounds he ended up with. He boxed out well even if he wasn’t the man to collect the rebound, he challenged shots inside and altered layups due to his rotation, and he got to the foul line a few times by putting pressure on the Blazers’ bigs. This one won’t go on his resume or in his highlight reel, but it was still a fairly effective night for Brendan.