Thermodynamics: Week 15

Posted by Travis Wimberly on February 7, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Fire Ice Glass

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

If you’re anything like me, this week for the Mavs didn’t “feel” very good. They got rocked by the Thunder (a team they have consistently played very close in years past, even when the Thunder are much more talented), which left a dark underscore on an otherwise successful week. And objectively speaking, it was a successful week: when you’re the 2012-2013 Mavs and you’re several games below .500, a 2-1 week is success. Relatively speaking, anyway.

FIRE

1) Shawn Marion

Since Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup, people have suggested that it’s very difficult for him, less than two years removed from an NBA title, to suddenly be surrounded by this current cast of Mavericks. That’s probably true. But if that’s true of Dirk, it’s also undoubtedly true of Shawn Marion, the other remaining rotation player from the Mavs’ 2011 title team. If Marion is carrying that disappointment, though, he’s not showing it on the court. Every night, the man affectionately known as The Matrix is playing his tail off for the blue and white, and his numbers this week show it. He started the week by dropping a double-double in his former stomping grounds in Phoenix (12 points, 11 rebounds); in Oklahoma City, he contributed 23 points on 10-of-14 (71%) shooting and also blocked two shots; finally, against Portland last night, he notched yet another double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), his 11th of the season. And of course, all those stats accompany Marion’s usual, well-above-average individual defense. Glasses up to the Matrix — a true pro’s pro.

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Thermodynamics: Week 10

Posted by Travis Wimberly on January 3, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Ice Cubes Melting

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

This week’s installment of Thermodynamics won’t be quite as negative as last week’s. For one, the Mavs actually won a game (emphasis on “a”), going 1-4 on the week. For another, they played fairly well in two of their four losses, both of which came against NBA finalists from last season.

But enough of those generalities. Let’s talk details.

Week 10 (@Thunder, Nuggets, Spurs, @Wizards, @Heat)

FIRE

1) Darren Collison

This one is easy. Collison had his best week as a Maverick, showing confidence we haven’t seen since the first games of the season. Squaring off against his former UCLA backcourt mate Russell Westbrook, Collison started his week by going 13-of-22 (59%) for 32 points in Oklahoma City. The highlight of his night—and probably the entire NBA week—came at the end of regulation when he nailed a ridiculous, game-tying three. If that’s not enough to convince, here’s more proof that Collison lit it up: when Westbrook was asked about Collison’s performance after the game (a Thunder win, mind you), Westbrook immediately cut off his postgame interview and cussed on his way out of the locker room (credit: AP). As a sidenote, if you’re on a tight budget, I recommend you avoid purchasing Westbrook’s newest book, How to Cope with Minor Frustrations Like An Actual Adult.

Collison used his terrific performance in Oklahoma City as a springboard for a solid week. In all, he shot 35-of-68 (51%), scored 17.2 PPG, and dished out 5.2 APG. These numbers represent a marked improvement from Collison’s previous several weeks. With OJ Mayo’s recent regression — which most Mavs fans expected — Collison’s uptick has been a welcome sight. Now that he’s firmly installed as the Mavs’ starting PG, perhaps these performances will become the norm.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Dallas Mavericks 97

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

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0105.448.130.425.012.7
Oklahoma City112.058.026.717.613.4

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

  • You know what they say: If you’re going to lose a winnable series in four games, at least go out in an exhibition for one of the game’s most fantastically understated players, supplying the wood for his buzzsaw in what one can ultimately assume will be a daunting display of razor-focused finesse and craftsmanship. James Harden (29 points, 11-16 FG, 3-4 3FG, five rebounds, five assists) gets a raw deal because the public’s attention span can only extend to two star teammates at a time, but he’s far too good to be relegated as some distant third, and far too lethal to be ignored, even for a second. Dallas tried a number of coverages from a variety of directions in the fourth quarter, but none of it mattered — Harden attacked from the same point on the floor at the same angle, repeatedly bludgeoning the Mavericks with his own unique grace. And, as an important extension: credit upon credit to Scott Brooks, who afforded Harden the opportunities he needed without the slightest interference. Harden keyed the offense and out-dueled Dirk Nowitzki, all because his teammates agreed to spot up from the perimeter, because his coach saw an opening and exploited it, and because he’s a ridiculously difficult pick-and-roll cover.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Dallas Mavericks 79

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 4, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.085.938.834.220.017.4
Oklahoma City103.349.420.017.48.7

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

  • With the Mavericks splattered on the Thunder’s windshield, it seems a more appropriate time than ever to reinforce just how limited Dallas’ half-court offense has been this season. This crew has managed to salvage just enough possessions for us to wonder if they’re still capable of more, and yet time and time again these Mavs trip into performances like this one: outings filled with bouts of lame, stagnant offense, designed to flow but caught in the mire. Dirk Nowitzki is a miraculous player, but the team so carefully propelled by its balance last season has very clearly caved in, leaving Nowitzki as the one self-standing tentpole to bear the weight of a drooping roster.
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    It’s all fun and games when the play action comes easy, but the virtues of extra passes and open shots don’t mean all that much when a team lacks the capability to consistently create such opportunities. Rick Carlisle has tried to find substitutes for the likes of J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler, but ultimately failed to recreate the same perfect mix of ingredients that brought this same core their own slice of basketball immortality last June. Things could never be the same — not after all of the pieces Dallas lost, and after each of the team’s many additions subtly pushed the Mavs in a different direction. It’s no fault of the newcomers specifically, at least any more than it’s a fault of every Maverick; this was an experiment gone wrong, and though by nature of the process most eyes will turn to the experimenter himself in blame, every beaker and burner and unproductive big man played a part in not playing their part.
  • I’ve been among Brendan Haywood’s more generous supporters, and even I’ve completely run out of excuses and justifications for his poor performance. Perhaps Haywood still holds value in the right context, but at the moment that context seems far too limited to justify his standing or his salary. He actively holds the team back in the vein of an end-of-the-road Erick Dampier, and though he’s only 32 years old, Haywood seems to have sufficiently worn through much of his NBA utility. Haywood has seen Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright — two very imperfect players — take their turn in the spotlight during the regular season, all while he settled in with unimpressive rebounding, far too unreliable defense, and slim offensive relevance. Now he seems to have fully completed his downswing; his play leaves more to be desired than I would have possibly imagined, and he shrivels not in the shadow of Mahinmi, Wright, or even Chandler, but in the context of useful basketball players in the most general sense.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City 102, Dallas Mavericks 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 1, 2012 under Recaps | 11 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.0105.344.940.527.312.3
Oklahoma City108.548.558.217.916.0

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

  • Basketball fans tend to see their teams as either the cursed or the ordained, but in reality every franchise is somewhere in between; whatever forces govern the seemingly random bouncing of the ball tend to slide in whichever direction they like, and as much as we’d like to pretend that there’s a real image to be discerned from the breaks of the game, doing so is akin to claiming that stars are drawn for the sake of constellation.
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    Performance is and will always be based in execution, but as Dallas has shown over the first two games of this series, sometimes that execution isn’t enough. It’s not sufficient to merely create opportunities; in the inevitable close games that come in a playoff run, the currency of those opportunities must be exchanged. They’re worth something in themselves, but only by utilizing those windows can Dallas — or  any team — attain something of more practical value. The Mavs are trying their damnedest to get more out of those crucial chances, but for the moment they’ve only (and admirably) managed to put themselves in a position to flip a coin. In that, Rick Carlisle and his team can’t be wholly disappointed that the flip keeps coming up tails.
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    Dallas, through late-game blunders and all, had their shots. They just weren’t the ordained this time around, and thus failed to make the most of their aforementioned opportunities. Dallas may have left the 2010-2011 season as conquering heroes, but the days of improbable comeback after improbable comeback and huge shot after huge shot appear gone. The magic has left from this Maverick world, with a departure only so sure as the inevitability of its return.

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Nothing Would Be What It Is, Everything Would Be What It Isn’t

Posted by Joon Kim on April 30, 2012 under xOther | Read the First Comment

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Joon Kim is the author of NBA Breakdown, and its subsidiaries, Spurs Motion Offense and The Triangle Offense — a tree of sites dedicated to analyzing the NBA’s structural elements. He’ll be contributing periodically to The Two Man Game with video-based breakdowns, illustrating particular aspects of the Mavericks’ performance. You can follow Joon on Twitter: @JoonKim00.

For the most part, every NBA team runs the same basic actions: screens, pick and rolls, and isolations. And why shouldn’t they?   Basketball is ultimately a simple sport – one team puts the basketball in the hoop more than the other and that team wins. While this is true of most teams, the Dallas Mavericks lie beyond the rabbit hole — where basketball conventions are twisted and your expectations must be set aside.

Last May, the Mavericks found themselves going up against the irrepressible potential of a youthful Thunder squad. The Thunder found themselves facing a team that wasn’t measured by its potential, but the pain of past experience. Now the Mavs find themselves facing a surging championship contender filled with bitter experiences of their own. While the teams may be the same, it’s difficult to say where this Mavs team lies. Their resolve has been softened with a championship, and those championship pieces are playing (or or currently “auditioning”) for other teams.

Yet in a season full of inconsistency, the Mavericks have found the best of themselves when facing the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perhaps this isn’t such a surprise. The orthodox attack of the Thunder may be more susceptible than most when facing the unique methods the Mavs regularly employ. Though time passes and the pieces have changed, the Mavericks embracing of unconventional methods could be the key to holding the Thunder down for one more year.

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The Two Man Game’s Official Dallas Mavericks Versus Oklahoma City Thunder Official Western Conference Quarterfinals Preview for the Official 2011-2012 Official NBA Post-Season

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 27, 2012 under Commentary, Previews | Read the First Comment

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No series in this year’s playoffs better illustrates the gulf between winning and winnable; the Dallas Mavericks begin their postseason journey against a familiar foe, and although they hold the potential for a hugely significant upset, there is an auspicious lack of logical explanation as to why the series might actually unfold along those terms. Based on the evidence we have, we can’t write the Mavs off completely, and yet the Thunder are simply too good to not be penciled in for the second round on the basis of their far steadier — and noticeably more superior — play on both ends of the court. The playoffs always bring the potential for a reset and subsequent upset, but we can’t rightly expect either without even the slightest justification.

There’s reason to think that the Mavs might be competitive in this series, but we lack the magic bullet that could throw any predictions over the top. There’s a chorus for good reason; “Oklahoma City in six,” is the most reasonable outcome at this point, although there’s a distinct possibility of this series breaking in virtually any which way. We shouldn’t be surprised to see the Mavs push this to seven or lose in four; there are too many variables at work to have a good feel for how either team might play over the course of this series, leaving us with questions on questions and OKC’s far more convincing regular season exploits.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Dallas Mavericks 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 2, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-Play – Shot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas100.086.038.129.820.013.6
Oklahoma City95.043.840.730.614.3

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

  • Not many teams on this side of the Orlando Magic have managed to put together the kind of inescapably horrendous shooting performance that sank Dallas on Thursday. The Mavs shot just 8-for-38 in the second half, with the occasional trip to the free throw line providing the only non-JET source of reliable scoring. It would be incredibly convenient if there just one element to blame for Dallas’ offensive implosion — disrupted ball movement, a lack of effort, a mere bad shooting night, or the tilt of a team missing its star. Unfortunately, the best explanation is “all of the above.” This was a true team effort, with every possible variable ganging up on the Mavs for a perfect storm of offensive impotency. (To put things in perspective: Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, and Rodrigue Beaubois combined to shoot 28 percent from the field. Ouch.)
  • A testament to how bad things have become for Nowitzki (eight points, 2-15 FG, eight rebounds): The Thunder aggressively trapped the ball handler on pick-and-rolls involving Dirk. Nowitzki is certainly trying his best to revert back to the player we all know he can be, but the impossible fadeaway jumpers are finally starting to live up to their billing. That bouncing ball has no mercy for Dirk whatsoever, and it simply refuses to cooperate with Nowitzki’s efforts to provide his scoring talents to the Mavs’ championship defense. He’s still making some smart passes, working hard on defense, and clawing for rebounds, but Nowitzki isn’t suited to be a glorified hustle player. This is one of the greatest offensive players the NBA has ever seen, and if anyone out there has any idea how to help him find his way home, I’m sure Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle would be all ears.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 100, Oklahoma City Thunder 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 2, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-01-02 at 10.54.34 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas87.0114.951.921.327.513.8
Oklahoma City100.043.526.028.614.9

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

  • This game was a prime demonstration of Vince Carter (14 points on nine shots, three assists) as a post-up option. It’s not about the buckets scored, but the opportunities created; Dallas ran their offense through Carter on the block in the second and third quarters, and VC was able to respond by drawing fouls, getting to the rim, and attracting plenty of defensive attention. Carter was such a convincing post threat that the Thunder left Dirk Nowitzki wide open in the opposite corner in order to blitz him down low. That kind of rotation barely seems possible, but mismatches like the ones Carter was able to create often force opponents into drastic measures.
  • Nowitzki (26 points, 10-16 FG, 1-5 3FG, six rebounds) may not have matched last year’s playoff performance in magnitude, but Monday night was a return to normalcy. The last time these teams met, Dirk looked rushed and uncomfortable. He hesitated before shooting open jumpers, and didn’t put much effort into establishing position at “his spots” on the floor. This performance was “vintage” Nowitzki, if they do indeed make months-old vintages. His footwork, ball fakes, and spins were all in playoff form, and though Dallas didn’t lean on Nowitzki’s offense as heavily as they did in the postseason, he was every bit as efficient as the Mavs could have expected him to be. I hope you enjoyed the first of what will undoubtedly be many brilliant showings for Nowitzki this season.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 104, Dallas Mavericks 102

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 30, 2011 under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas95.0107.447.218.930.412.6
Oklahoma City109.563.538.120.027.4

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

  • Moral victories may be the panacea of foolish NBA fans, but I have a very hard time classifying this absurd 48 minutes of Mavericks basketball as anything but. Just days removed from getting trounced by the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets in back-to-back home games, the Mavs were right back where they were last May: fighting down to the wire with an impressive Oklahoma City Thunder team, scraping together runs for a chance to take the game.
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