The Difference: Weekend Edition

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 6, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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

Screen shot 2011-02-06 at 4.43.53 AM

Dallas Mavericks 101, Boston Celtics 97

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas88.0114.854.419.029.415.9
Boston110.254.413.930.315.9

  • When you go toe-to-toe with the best team in the entire league, you tend to take wins any way you can get them, even if they turn out a little bit flukey. Dallas had two very strange plays go their way: an errant pass from Jason Terry to Dirk Nowitzki that was somehow converted into a Jason Kidd go-ahead three-pointer, and a shockingly off-target lob from Rajon Rondo to Kevin Garnett on the ensuing inbound play. The probability of both of those plays unfolding in such favorable fashion is insanely low, and yet the Mavericks managed to steal one from the almighty Celtics.
  • The last time these two teams met, Dallas willingly gave Rajon Rondo a chance to win the game with an open three-pointer, a strategy which paid off when Rondo — a career .252 three-point shooter — caught rim on an attempt at late-game heroism. A similar event unfolded on Friday night, when Rondo found himself wide open from 17 feet with a little over a minute remaining and his team up three points. Rondo again fired away, and again he played right into the Mavs’ hands. Dallas scored seven straight points to end the game, and Rondo jumper marked the unwitting end of Boston’s offensive production.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (29 points, 9-14 FG, four rebounds, three assists) was back to his old hyper-efficient ways, but what impressed me most about the Mavs’ offense was their usage of Nowitzki as a central scorer, but not as their sole option. Looking past a pair of free throws to close the game, Nowitzki scored just three of the Mavs’ 10 points during their tide-turning run, largely due to the effectiveness of Jason Terry (17 points, 7-15 FG) off the dribble. JET was terrific in curling around defenders and pulling up off the bounce, and his sound night — in addition to other scoring contributions from Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, and J.J. Barea — led to a terrific offensive night against one of the league’s best defenses.
  • Speaking of: though Dallas also boasts an effective defense of their own, this was not one of their finer defensive performances. The Mavs let entirely too many cutters get open looks around the rim, and the Celtics’ interior passing was fantastically effective in picking apart the Mavs’ D from the inside. Toss in a standout performance from Ray Allen (24 points, 9-18 FG, 3-7 3FG, two blocks) and a solid showing from Kevin Garnett’s (16 points, 7-16 FG, five rebounds) turnaround jumper, and it’s no surprise that Boston matched Dallas at every turn, even in spite of the Mavs’ offensive variety.

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Dallas Mavericks 101, Charlotte Bobcats 92

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas88.0114.850.616.335.911.4
Charlotte104.539.923.633.38.0

  • Dallas hit a few snags in their offense about midway through the fourth quarter, but even in their more limited moments they appeared to have this game firmly under wraps. A few much-needed buckets from Shawn Marion (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks, three turnovers) and plenty of near-turnovers (as opposed to actual turnovers) from Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 10-19 FG, four rebounds, four blocks) kept things pointed in the same positive general direction, even if they weren’t on track. There were a few disappointing letdowns on the defensive glass during that stretch as well, but the Mavs at least did a good job of blanketing the Bobcats on their initial attempts (Charlotte posted an effective field goal percentage of just 39.9%). Defensive possessions weren’t played to their conclusion, but at least the effort was there in earnest…initially, anyway.
  • J.J. Barea (15 points, 7-14 FG, three rebounds, two assists) started — and thrived — again, and one can help but wonder if this short-term arrangement couldn’t become a bit more permanent. Dallas doesn’t have an obvious replacement to fill the spot in the starting lineup once occupied by Caron Butler and then by the since-departed Sasha Pavlovic, and before anyone touts Peja Stojakovic as any kind of solution we should probably see how he’s capable of playing. Additionally, Stojakovic and Stevenson are both spot-up options without a ton of other offensive potential, which puts a lot of pressure on Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd to create offense in that hypothetical lineup. Barea not only gives the Mavs another ball-handler on the floor (the gains of which can be measured in the Kidd-Terry tandem), but also gives them a player who can put pressure on opposing defenses with his ability to dribble penetrate.
  • In the first quarter, Nowitzki went to a pair of righty hooks on back-to-back possessions. The first came as he was sweeping across the lane against Boris Diaw, and was shorted. The second came in a more set post possession form the same block, and looked pretty natural. One of the most unusual things about Nowitzki’s post game is that although he has a vast assortment of fakes and counters to free himself up for shots, everything he does is essentially a variation of the same fadeaway jumper. Nowitzki has dabbled with hooks like these in the past, but it could be a nice wrinkle for him to incorporate on a more regular basis, if only for variety’s sake.
  • D.J. Augustin (21 points, 7-17 FG, 3-8 3FG, two assists) is a fine player, and should have a fairly successful career. That said, he’s such a natural scorer, but has never had much aptitude as a playmaker. Augustin can create opportunities for his teammates and will have some decent assist totals from time to time, but the Bobcats really need to pair Augustin with another player who can initiate the offense. Freeing up Augustin to catch and shoot or attack the defense from different angles could really open up his game, and would go a long way toward salvaging Charlotte’s offense. Stephen Jackson is not that guy. Although he has a reputation as a competent all-around player, Jackson is exactly the kind of ball-holding, low-percentage-shot-taking partner that Augustin shouldn’t have. I realize the Bobcats don’t have a ton of options at this point, but finding a suitable complement for Augustin should be pretty high on their list of priorities, should they be committed to making him a part of their core for the future.
  • Brendan Haywood (three points, 1-4 FG, seven rebounds, one block) seems to lack any touch whatsoever in finishing in the paint; he’s Dampier-esque in his need to dunk immediately off the catch, lest he commit a turnover or find new and exciting ways to make his shot attempts go “clang.”
  • Former Mav Eduardo Najera played 22 minutes (!) while Tyrus Thomas watched in sartorial splendor from the sidelines, and his stint served as a reminder that Najera should never really play that many minutes. If a team is in need of an energy big for five minutes here and there, Najera could be the guy. If the gig requires something more, teams should really look to invest elsewhere.
  • The Bobcats switched on a lot of the Mavs’ screens, and it was nice to see Jason Terry (21 points, 7-14 FG, three assists, three turnovers) and Marion take advantage of a one-on-one matchup with Brown or another of Charlotte’s bigs.
  • Tyson Chandler (nine points, 4-10 FG, 15 rebounds, two blocks) made it work. His teammates made a continued effort to get him the ball, but plenty of those possessions ended with botched passes or bobbled catches; the Bobcats were well aware of the Mavs’ intentions, and did their best to take away Chandler as an offensive option. So Chandler created his own scoring opportunities by grabbing eight offensive rebounds, and finishing in particular style on a pair of clean-up dunks. Teams really looking to focus their defense can take away Terry’s impact or Kidd’s impact, but I’m not sure any team in this league can tech Chandler out of a game. It honestly may not be possible.
  • It’s unfathomable to me that any team in the NBA could allow Dirk Nowitzki to get so many open looks, but this season’s Bobcats are a continued exercise in facepalm-worthy decision making. When Dirk had the ball in his hands, the Bobcats obviously paid him mind. But when the ball was swinging from side to side or Terry attracted multiple defenders on a drive? It was somehow Nowitzki who was standing wide open. Truly odd.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 13, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Kelly Dwyer on the Lakers’ rough night last night: “The Lakers are beat to hell – Ron Artest, Jordan Farmar, and a guy named Kobe Bryant are in pain; Pau Gasol didn’t even play – and they were on the road. Topping that, they’re the champs. The last bit means teams have it out for them. It means teams get up for the best. And while Tim Duncan has never needed an excuse to rule the entire half-court defensively, he easily turned in his best defensive performance of the season against Los Angeles. Every angle was covered.”
  • And just in case you’re not quite getting it, here’s Brian Kamenetzky with a laundry list of Laker injuries: “Start with injuries. L.A.’s entered the game dealing with the slow burn of Kobe Bryant’s fractured right index finger and Pau Gasol’s improving hamstring. Over the ensuing 48 minutes, they added Ron Artest’s right hand- one he spent most of the second half clutching before leaving the game with 4:11 remaining- a hamstring injury for Sasha VujacicĀ  limiting him to 3:06 of playing time, a sore throat for Adam Morrison…oh, and did I mention Kobe spent the fourth quarter in the locker room getting treatment for back spasms? So easy to overlook the minor details, right?”
  • Josh Howard is expected to play tonight, but Erick Dampier and Tim Thomas are questionable. Dampier could be the biggest blow of all; we’ve had the distinct displeasure of seeing how the Lakers can dissect a Damp-less Maverick defense, and while the Lakers are even more banged up this time around (remember, that horrible loss was without Ron Artest and largely without Pau Gasol), I’d still much prefer it if Damp could find a way onto the floor. Knee effusions aren’t something you want to mess with, but the Mavs need Damp tonight.
  • The Mavs are projected to have a home record of 27-14, which would be among their worst of the decade. The players and coaches are saying all the right things, but this is one of those tricky psychological problems that’s easy to notice but far more difficult to solve.
  • John Hollinger, on Twitter (@johnhollinger): “Southwest Division: Five teams over .500. Entire Eastern Conference: Four teams over .500.” The Grizzlies and the Hornets are making a run at the playoffs, and from where I’m sitting, the Southwest is the best division inbasketball. The other two divisions in the West each boast some impressive teams, but they also have dead weight in the Timberwolves and the Warriors. The worst team in the West is a game over .500, and that’s beyond impressive.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is a hop and a skip (no jump necessary) away from 20,000 career points. Get ready for the standing ovation.