The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 81, Los Angeles Lakers 101

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 3, 2013 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Sunrise

Box ScorePlay-By-Play Shot ChartGame 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 Mavericks’ season, for all playoffs-related purposes, ended on Tuesday night, and now we’re left to consider what this lukewarm, odd journey meant.
  • As a Dirk Nowitzki three-pointer failed to reach its intended destination late in the fourth quarter, I realized it would fall to me to essentially eulogize a tumultuous season of Mavericks’ basketball.
  • I thought about O.J. Mayo in the fall, Shawn Marion in the winter, and Dirk Nowitzki in the spring. I thought about the guarded hope of Brandan Wright’s line-drive hook shot, and I thought about the eager play of Bernard James. I thought about the managerial sense of Mike James, and the ever-hopeful exuberance of a Darren Collison drive. I thought about Vince Carter’s return to respect and the journey he and all of us are on, and I thought about the stoic stare of Elton Brand. I thought about all of this, and I sighed and considered all the different reasons that this sum of hope would now amount to nothing in a competitive sense. But a season is not nothing, no matter the result. It’s an emotional journey for those who (perhaps foolishly) choose to invest in its path. That path will lead longtime Mavericks’ fan somewhere unexpected this year – to a place apart from the playoffs. But disappointment does not erase the uniqueness of the journey, and another season and another path awaits in the not-so-distant future.
  • What I will write about tonight is the summation of a grimly typical occurence  - a harsh regression to realistic shooting performances, and a firm departure from the exalted three-point bubble  of glory that’s gracefully covered all of this team’s faults for the last month or so.
  • “In other words: If the jumpers stop falling, the Mavs could be in trouble.”
  • Zach Lowe wrote that sentence less than a week ago, and it’s prescience quickly came to fruition.
  • The Mavericks’ reliance on mid-range success was perhaps the most tenuous aspect of the team’s recent form, and tonight the team failed in that area entirely.
  • The only Maverick who succeeded regularly on offense was Chris Kaman (7-10 FG, 14 points, six rebounds), who turned in one of his better performances of the season.
  • Dirk has always defied defensive hopes with his dominance of the left-sided mid-range game, but that defiance counted for little against a hard-charging Lakers’ defense.
  • He shot and missed all four of his shots from 10-23 feet in that left region, and misses like these always ring loudly with foreboding for even the greatest of mid-range shooters.
  • And like so many nights this season, any hope for a defensive save collapsed after an especially rough second quarter.
  • Earl Clark (7-14 FG, 17 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks), once widely considered a draft bust and NBA failure, played a far more complete and Maverick-destructive game than anyone once would have guessed possible not long ago.
  • But it did happen, as Clark scored from any region possible and defended Dirk with all the aplomb of a young James Worthy.
  • Even more decimating was the play of one Kobe Bryant (8-18 FG, 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists).
  • In the absence of Steve Nash, Bryant and the other Laker guards found Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard (10-20 FT) in the post all night, to the tune of a combined 38 points on 25 field goals (and 22 rebounds) from the pair.
  • I’d guess this kind of complete performance is what the overbearing contingency of Lakers’ fans always imagined when this team was first constructed – solid post play, tough interior defense, and a confident Kobe controlling tempo from the perimeter.
  • But such a performance couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Mavericks, who simply appeared unable to generate a significant counter to the Lakers’ play.
  • The cornerstones of these Mavericks, mid-range and three-point shooting, dissipated with the rapidity of a changing wind, and an inability to capitalize at the rim (6-12 FT) closed the door definitively on any sort of courageous final comeback.
  • I have no doubt that the Mavericks, not yet mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, will go on fighting with the heart of a battling, worn down champion, as they have all season. This team does not lack for heart – it simply lacks for well-fitting parts.
  • Along with all the pain and struggle of an uneven season, the 2012-2013 Mavericks heaved forward, one three-pointer at a time, until the proverbial well ran dry and there was nothing left to do but keep fighting against a dooming reality. Playoffs may go, but beards are forever.

Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 100, Chicago Bulls 98

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 30, 2013 under Interviews | Read the First Comment

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Dirk Nowitzki refused to let his team lose. Dallas trailed by 12 (97-85) with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but close the game on a 15-1 run en route to a 100-98 win over the Chicago Bulls. The 12-point comeback is biggest deficit overcome in a win when trailing with less than 4:00 to play in NBA this season. Dirk sealed the deal for the Mavericks as he hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left. He was untouchable in the fourth quarter as he went 6-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range for 15 points in the fourth quarter. Dirk scored 15 of the teams 25 points. In the end, Dirk tallied a season-high (game-high) 35 points to go along with seven rebounds in 34 minutes against Chicago.

Brandan Wright recorded his first double-double of the season (fourth career) with 17 points and a career-high-tying 13 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench against Chicago. It was his first double-double since April. 1, 2011 at Philadelphia (15 points and 11 rebounds while with New Jersey).

An MRI revealed that Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo has a mild sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder. He played in the game and logged just under 42 minutes of action. Mayo went 1-of-13 from the floor. It was evident he was struggling with his shoulder as he missed his first two shots of the day, two left-handed layups. Through the pain, Mayo grinded out the game and provided an all-around effort that made up for his poor shooting performance.

For the Bulls, Nate Robinson went a perfect 7-of-7 from beyond the arc en route to a team-high-tying 25 points for Chicago. He scored Chicago’s first 11 points of the fourth quarter and finished with 15 points in the fourth. He added six assists in 32 minutes off the bench. Carlos Boozer (25 points and 11 rebounds) and Luol Deng (25 points and seven rebounds) combined for 50 points and 18 rebounds.

Really though, this is about Dirk Nowitzki.

Some notes before the quotes:

- Including the postseason, the game against the Bulls marked the 12th time in his career that Dirk made a game-winning basket in the final 10 seconds of a game (and the first since Mar. 30, 2012 at Orlando). Nowitzki, who had 33 points vs. the L.A. Clippers on 3/26, scored 30-plus points for the second time in his last three games (third time this season). He is averaging 29.7 points on 62.1 percent shooting (.455 3FG) over his last three games.

- Dirk during the homestand: 61.5 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from 3, 90 percent from the line. 24.0 points and 7.0 in six games for Dirk.

- Nowitzki went a perfect 8-for-8 from the field (2-for-2 from deep) and 2-for-2 from the line in the first half against Chicago. He led all players with 20 points in 17 first-half minutes. It was the most points he’s scored in any half this season (previous: 17 in first half at Milwaukee Mar. 12). Nowitzki scored 20-plus points in the first half for the first time since Mar. 13, 2012 vs. Washington (20 points). It was the most points he’s scored in any half since Apr. 18, 2012 vs. Houston (31 points).

- By shooting 14-of-17 from the field and shooting 82.4 percent from the field, Dallas has now gone 13-2 in games where Dirk shoots at least 80 percent from the field (min. 10 field goal attempts). Dallas had lost their previous two games under those circumstances.

- Nowitzki, who had 20 points in the first half against Chicago on Saturday, scored 20-plus points for the seventh time in his last 10 games (16th time this season). Nowitzki is averaging 22.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting over his last 11 games.

Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ heroic win over Chicago. Meet everyone at the altar of Dirk.

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Quoteboard: Indiana Pacers 103, Dallas Mavericks 78

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 29, 2013 under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

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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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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 78, Indiana Pacers 103

Posted by Connor Huchton on under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Clouds

Box ScorePlay-By-Play – Shot ChartGame 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.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 109, Los Angeles Clippers 102

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 27, 2013 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Clipper

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 strategic decision to double team Chris Paul late in the fourth quarter (33 points, seven turnovers) stifled Paul at the perfect moment for Dallas. Starting with a jumper over Mike James at the 4:13 mark in the fourth, Paul put on a one-man 6-0 run to pull the Clippers from down 87-90 to up 93-90 in just 79 seconds. By doubling Paul early in the shot clock, Dallas effectively shut down any semblance of offense for Los Angeles. The other Clippers looked unsure what to do offensively and the result was three contested three pointers that would not fall, giving Dallas a chance to get back into the game after Paul’s momentum shifting run.
  • In a refreshing return to form, Dallas insisted on going to Dirk Nowtizki (33 points, nine rebounds) in both the fourth quarter and overtime. In those final two periods of basketball Dirk scored 15 points on a mere six shot attempts, getting to the line seven times. The concern over the Dallas guards and their inability to get the ball to Dirk is not an issue that will go away with one game, but seeing Darren Collison actively look to give Dirk the ball when he’s posting up hard is a welcome change.
  • While the focus might be on O.J. Mayo’s impressive driving lay up to send the game into over time, his defensive efforts on Chris Paul at the end of the third and during the double teaming sequence of the fourth were fantastic. His length seemed to bother Paul much more than Mike James, Darren Collison, or even Shawn Marion, forcing Paul into a few uncharacteristic bad decisions. Oddly, coach Rick Carlisle gave Shawn Marion the assignment for the final Clipper regulation play (where Paul hit an incredible lay up at a nearly impossible angle), but I would’ve rather seen him stick with what had frustrated Paul in previous possessions.
  • While I value Rick Carlisle immensely (see above with his choice to double Paul), he’s been very inflexible at times this season. Against the Clippers, his late game and overtime play calling nearly cost Dallas the game.  The decision to run isolation plays for Vince Carter in the final minute of the fourth and the final minute of overtime defy logic, particularly in the overtime when Dirk had been unstoppable. Carter has been brilliant this season, but is at his best on catch and shoot threes and trying to get to the rim against the bench players of an opponent. Carlisle put Vince in situations did not necessarily play to his current strengths, particularly when the Mavericks have another potent final shot taker.
  • The Mavericks started the third quarter in frustrating fashion, picking up four team fouls in under two minutes. After putting the Clippers into the bonus with nearly seven and a half minutes left in the quarter, it felt as if the game might get out of hand quickly for Dallas. However, the often foul-prone Mavericks only committed two more fouls the remainder of the period and managed to keep pace with a Clipper offense that is capable to putting up points quickly.
  • The ever reliable Shawn Marion (four points, four turnovers) looked out of sync from the opening tip. Though it’s surely not a trend, it was bizarre to see how off Shawn Marion was with his timing. As he’s aged and lost aspects of his athleticism, his game has shifted more towards anticipation and understanding of the game. He misplaced passes on offense, mistimed jumps on rebounds, and was surprisingly ineffective on defense. That the Mavericks won without a strong Marion contribution is fantastic, but I remain shocked at how out of sorts Marion looked against the Clippers.
  • Center by committee won out again, with Brandan Wright and Elton Brand chipping in a combined 19 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks . With Dirk both missing games and taking time to round into form, it was a clear challenge for the coaching staff to determine which players work in a given situation with such a limited sample size of data. I remain shocked that a Wright-Nowitzki front court has worked reasonably well defensively. That all of these pieces are coming together at all is a testament to the players and the coaching staff. It’s is also a lesson for fans just how important chemistry is and how long it can take to build.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 104, Boston Celtics 94

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 22, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Clover

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.

  • This could easily be called “The Brandan Wright Game” (23 points on 11 for 16 shooting, eight rebounds). Though his best offensive game as a Maverick was exciting to watch, I remain impressed by his growth as a help defender and rebounder. Early in the season he would challenge anything within 15 feet of the bucket, often leaving his man for the offensive rebound. Wright’s much more selective in his challenges as of late, and it has helped improved the Maverick’s rebounding ability. His on ball defense has improved as well. In the fourth quarter, Wright made a brilliant strip/steal of Jeff Green on a fast break attempt that he passed to Darren Collison as he was falling out of bounds. Collison drove the length of the floor for a pull up jumper. That strip/steal is not a play Brandan Wright makes at the start of the season.
  • Considering how hard I’ve been on the shot selection of Mike James this year, I feel it’s important to note that this may have been his best game as a facilitator of the offense. Though he recorded only six assists (and one turnover) in his 25 minutes, he drove the lane looking to pass instead of shoot and many Mavericks, particularly Vince Carter, couldn’t seem to convert the nice set ups provided by James. Hopefully, the pass-first Mike James is here to stay for the remainder of the season.
  • Though Coach Rick Carlisle downplayed Dirk Nowitzki’s small number of shot attempts over the last three games, the Dallas announcers made it a point of discussion throughout the first half. Though it’s good that something as basic as shots doesn’t become an issue in the locker room, the Maverick players seemed to respond to the rumblings, looking to actually get their best player the ball. Dirk had 11 field goal attempts in the first half and finished with 22 points and seven rebounds.
  • The Vince Carter circus was in full effect against the Celtics, as he took and made a few shots that only a player of his talent can make. Arguably, his best play was a miss in the fourth quarter. Carter drove from the right side, faded towards the middle of the lane and in an attempt to draw contact he threw the ball up on the rim. It took a number of bounces and came off the left side of the rim. None of the Celtics bothered to box Brandan Wright out, who swooped in from the left side of the base line, caught the ball as it was coming down and emphatically dunked the ball as three Boston defenders looked on in frustration.
  • Though it feels silly to point this out every time it happens, some instances are so egregious they must be discussed. On the final Maverick possession of the third quarter, Darren Collison and Dirk ran a high screen and roll with Collison driving left. Collison stopped just past the elbow for a great shot fake, which got his man up in the air and pulled Dirk’s man in his direction. At this point, Dirk was at the top of the key with no one within five feet of him. Collison has to see him and pass him the ball. Instead, he missed a long jumper. That play is why Darren Collison will not be a starting point guard in the NBA. You have to know where your best player is and what his strengths are at all times.
  • In July of 2009 I remember being thrilled at the signing of Shawn Marion (the best free agent signing of the Dirk Nowitzki era). I also remember thinking that there was no way he’d be effective or worth his salary by 2013-2014. Now? Outside of Dirk’s he is the second most important Maverick. Against the Celtics, he put up 11 points and 13 rebounds, five of them offensive. Dallas went 5-3 in his absence, yet one can reasonably wonder how his presence would have changed the two close losses to the Spurs and Thunder. Is he worth $10 million next season? I’m glad I don’t have to assign a monetary value to his contributions because they’ve been nearly priceless the last four years.
  • Watching Avery Bradley play man to man defense is incredible. I’d like to think that every basketball player can be taught to play defense in this fashion but the truth is what Bradley does is a gift. Watching his feet and the angles he takes on ball handlers, it’s clear Bradley is operating on a different defensive plane.
  • Marion’s return meant at least one Maverick would be seeing less floor time. That ended up being Jae Crowder, who had played admirable basketball over the last eight games. That said, Crowder would be best served by being locked in a room all summer with game tape of Shawn Marion and early career Josh Howard. Crowder is an athletic specimen who is also pretty good at basketball. Unfortunately, he doesn’t use his athletic gifts near enough on the offensive end, often content to stand and shoot. Shawn Marion’s simple baseline cut and dunk off of a Mike James pass in the first quarter is a prime example of a basic basketball play that Crowder could make if he learned to better move without the basketball.
  • On Thursday, Andy Tobolowsky at Mavs Moneyball wroteAAC welcomes home one of its best, one of its brightest. The hero, the personality. The only guy who never knew, no matter the circumstances, that the game, the Mavericks, the dream of a ring were over years ago. Jason Terry, the only one of us who turned out to be right.” As the season has marched on, one thing that’s occasionally missing from the Mavericks seems to be confidence. Too often, Dallas tightens up when the game gets close late. Terry gave the Mavericks, and all of us, the belief that they could and would come through in any situation.
  • Elton Brand received his first “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” of the season against the Celtics. As TMG’s own Bryan Gutierrez notes, Carlisle is not above sending a message to his players, as he’s done time and again with literally the entire team. Brand’s had a rough go as of late, and this is hopefully just Carlisle’s way of letting Brand know he demands more. Expect Brand to respond well the next time he gets an opportunity.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

 

The Rundown, Volume XVII

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 11, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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The Rundown is back. Every Monday (unless there’s a better feature to run with), The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavs, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavs continue to still have a chance to make the playoffs, somehow. The bottom half of the playoff picture continues to see teams floundering, allowing Dallas to keep their chances somewhat alive. Dallas now holds the 10th spot in the West, via a tie-breaker over Portland. They’re now three games back of the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth seed in the West. They showed some pride against the Rockets, O.J. Mayo came alive and a Mav was let go. Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.

Did THAT Really Happen?

- Mike James made his first start of the season (264th career) against Houston on Wednesday. It was his first start since Mar. 25, 2009 vs. Charlotte (with Washington). Brandan Wright also got a spot-start as he filled in as the starting center.  The Mavericks used their 19th different starting lineup of the year. Having Mike James start over Darren Collison can’t be a promising sign for Collison’s long term future with the Mavs.

- Rick Carlisle was surly, in his own comedic way. During the team’s shootaround in Detroit, Carlisle was very matter of fact to reporters in regards to the ever-changing starting lineup. “I’m tired of hearing about 19 starting lineups being a lot,” Carlisle told reporters. “I had 31 one year, so you guys can all go f— yourselves and I mean that in the most endearing way.” Maybe it took some self-reflection time to realize a better approach would work. “As you can tell this year, nothing is permanent,” Carlisle told reporters about the lineup changes. “Nothing is going to be set in stone.” You have to love Rick Carlisle. The Mavs used their 20th different starting lineup of the season at Detroit. Jae Crowder started at small forward in place of Shawn Marion (left calf contusion). Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo and Mike James joined Crowder in the starting lineup.

- Shawn Marion missed the games against the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves as he was dealing with a left calf contusion. He suffered the injury during the first quarter against the Houston Rockets in the second game of the home-and-home series. It’s a tough break for the Mavs as they desperately need all hands on deck as they continue to make their frantic push for the playoffs.

- Well, they don’t need ALL hands on deck as the team announced over the weekend that they had released guard Dominique Jones. Prior to the start of this season, the Mavs opted not to pick up the team option for next season in Jones’ rookie contract, making it clear that he didn’t fit in the franchise’s future plans. A first round pick in the 2010 draft, Jones never really made an impact on the Mavs’ roster during his time in Dallas. Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that patience with Jones had been dwindling for some time. When the Mavs wanted to send Jones back to the D-League for another assignment with the Texas Legends in Frisco, sources said that Jones balked, prompting the team to let him go Saturday. Why he figured he had the clout to say no to an assignment in Frisco is beyond me. It does take me back to the time I covered a game in Frisco during his rookie year and he was assigned to the Legends. I spoke to him after the game and he clearly appeared like he wasn’t happy being there. He’ll likely be remembered as the guy who simulated being LeBron James during the team’s series against the Miami Heat during the 2011 Finals. He’s an NBA champion, so there’s that. With his departure, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Roddy Beaubois remain the lone Mavs from the championship roster.

- News circulated during the weekend that the Mavs nearly acquired Paul Pierce at the trade deadline. There might have been a logjam of wings (if Vince Carter was still on the roster) and there might have been a chemistry issue early on between Dirk and Pierce, but it’s a clear upgrade in talent if you get Pierce for the suggested pieces that were involved. Yes, Jae Crowder is playing well as a second-round draft pick, even better as of late, but he is nowhere near an untouchable player when it comes to a trade. The Mavs would have gotten older in the process. The goal in a trade isn’t to get younger, it’s to get better. With Rick Carlisle coaching the team, it’s fair to believe the Mavs would have gotten better with that trade.

- O.J. Mayo had a relatively clean week in terms of turnovers. Just over a week after Rick Carlisle said that he wasn’t a creator, Mayo proved he could find a way to be a distributor and do so while protecting the ball. His last turnover before his turnover at the 4:54 mark of the second quarter against Minnesota was at the 5:37 mark of the fourth quarter of the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Mar. 1. He went nearly 115 minutes of game action without a turnover.

- Once again, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Mavs plan to sign point guard Chris Wright, point guard of the Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League, to a 10-day contract before the team’s game against Milwaukee on Tuesday. Wright, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder averaged 15.5 points, 7.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 37.0 minutes per game for Iowa, earning a spot in last month’s D-League All-Star Game in Houston. A product of Georgetown University, Wright actually was in New Orleans’ camp during the preseason, but he was waived days before the team’s season opener. The book on him is that he’s a strong guard with a stronger motor. He can get to the rim and finish (unlike someone else). He can be a pesky defender and also can play in transition. He still needs to show more consistency as a shooter and the ability to lead an NBA team, but the team could certainly do a lot worse than Wright. If signed, he will represent the 21st player brought on board for the Mavericks, tying the second-highest total in franchise history (1980-81 season). The franchise record for most players in a season is 27 during the 1996-97 season.

Note: Wright has a very interesting outlook on life that he will bring with him to the Mavs. For more, go here.

Box Score Revelations

- In his “best game of the year” according to Rick Carlisle, O.J. Mayo recorded his second double-double of the season (fourth career) with 13 points, six rebounds, a career-high 12 assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes against Houston on Wednesday. His previous high assist total was 10 (at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009). Seven of Mayo’s 12 assists came in the first half, including five in the first quarter alone. The seven first-half assists were tied for the most assists he’s recorded in any half in his career (7 in first half at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009; 7 in second half vs. Golden State Feb. 9, 2013). He must like dishing the rock against the Warriors.

- The Mavs dished out a season-high 35 assists in the win over the Rockets on Wednesday (previous high: 33 vs. Minnesota Jan, 14). It was the most assists Dallas has recorded in a game since Apr. 12, 2010 at the L.A. Clippers (37). The Mavs recorded 30-plus assists for the fifth time this season (4-1 record).

- Dallas shot 52.6 percent (41-of-78) from the field in the win at Detroit on Friday. It marked the third time in their last four games (15th time this season) that the Mavs shot at least 50 percent from the floor. Dallas is 13-2 this season when they shoot 50-plus percent from the field.

- With a 100-77 victory over Minnesota, Dallas had their biggest margin of victory on the road this year. Their previous high was by 10 in Phoenix on Feb. 1. Dallas led by double-digits for the last 34:26 of the game. Dallas also had their largest rebounding margin of the year (59-40) in the game against Minnesota.

- Dirk Nowitzki had four turnovers against the Wolves. He had four, but there will be one that stands out more than the others. (Credit: CJ Fogler) That will surely be featured on TNT’s Inside the NBA (specifically Shaqtin’ a Fool). Poor Dirk.

Check Your Calendar

- The Mavs hit the second half of their four-game road trip with a trip to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks on Tuesday. Upcoming restricted free agent Brandon Jennings will have another chance to “audition” for the Mavs. News came out over the weekend that Jennings is considering signing the qualifying offer in order to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2014. That would be a gutsy move, but it does have a chance to pay off in a big way for the dynamic point guard. The game will mark the first of a back-to-back for the Bucks. They will head to Washington to take on the Wizards on Wednesday.

- The road trip will conclude with a trip down I-35 to take on the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have had to play without the services of Tony Parker since the start of the month. He sprained his left ankle and will be out for about a month. That might hurt the Spurs’ chances of claiming the top seed in the Western Conference but that likely won’t mean much to them as they’re a squad that can play against just about anyone.

- Dallas will have two games at home to finish the week, starting with a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. When facing the Cavs, it begins and ends with Kyrie Irving. The dynamic guard has taken his game to a new level. You could easily make a case that Irving could be considered a top-five point guard in the league. As the head of the snake, the Mavs will need to be ready to throw multiple weapons at Irving in order to try to slow him down. The Mavs might catch a break as Irving might have to miss the game. He suffered what is being classified as a shoulder contusion. Irving will be re-evaluated this week. The game will mark the first of a back-to-back for the Cavs as they will take on the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.

- The week concludes with a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s clear that the Thunder’s rolling on cylinders right now. Despite it being a tough game, this is one Dallas needs to try to steal as they continue to push for the eighth seed. The fact that it’s a home game should help for the Mavs. Both teams should be healthy and well-rested so neither team should have an excuse if they don’t bring their best game.

BG’s Baller of the Week

Baller status has been granted to one Brandan Wright. He scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game (18th time this season) with his 13-point performance against Minnesota. Wright averaged 24.7 minutes, 13.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks during the week (all wins). He also shot 79.2 percent from the field during the week. The 24.7 minutes is a considerable and consistent uptick in action for Wright. He’s also seen some time at the power forward position during that time. No matter what portion of the year it is, Wright continues to have nice performances in spot duty. Rick Carlisle must be encouraged by the fact that Wright continues to perform well despite sporadic appearances from Wright.

Dallas needs Elton Brand’s aggression and tenacity. They need Chris Kaman’s versatility on offense. They need Bernard James’ energy in spot duty. Wright is showing that he can bring efficiency from the field when he’s on the floor. He still has work to do as a rebounder and as a on-man defender (though he is a decent team and weak-side defender). It’s obvious now that Dallas will try to beat their opponents with their depth. Over the week, Brandan Wright stated his case that he deserves to be a vital part to the team’s rotation.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.

Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 112, Houston Rockets 108

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 7, 2013 under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks were able to avenge their catastrophic 136-103 loss to the Houston Rockets on Sunday with a 112-108 win at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. O.J. Mayo recorded his second double-double of the season (fourth career) with 13 points, six rebounds, a career-high 12 assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes against Houston on Wednesday. His previous high assist total was 10 (at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009). Seven of Mayo’s 12 assists came in the first half, including five in the first quarter alone. The seven first-half assists were tied for the most assists he’s recorded in any half in his career (7 in first half at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009; 7 in second half vs. Golden State Feb. 9, 2013).

The clean sheet for Mayo in the turnover department marked the sixth game of the year where Mayo did not commit a turnover. The Mavericks are 5-1 in those games. The one loss came in the team’s last game against the Rockets on Sunday.

Shawn Marion went 10-of-16 from the field and recorded a team-high-tying 22 points to go along with three rebounds, four assists and two steals in 36 minutes against Houston. With the win, the Mavericks improved to 4-1 this season when Marion scores 20-plus points.

Dirk Nowitzki tallied 22 points, five rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes against Houston. He scored 20-plus points for the fifth time in his last seven games.

The Mavericks made a change to their starting lineup. They started Mike James in place of Darren Collison and Brandan Wright in place of Chris Kaman. It marked the team’s 19th different starting lineup of the year.

Some notes before the quotes:

- Mike James made his first start of the season (264th career) against Houston on Wednesday. It was his first start since Mar. 25, 2009 vs. Charlotte (with Washington). The Mavericks used their 19th different starting lineup of the year.

- Shawn Marion passed Rod Strickland (1,616) for 25th place on the NBA’s all-time steals list with a theft (his 1,617th career) at the 6:37 mark of the third quarter. Marion finished with two steals against Houston and now has 1,618 for his career. Eddie Jones ranks 24th all-time with 1,620 career steals.

- With a block at the 1:16 mark of the first quarter, Elton Brand passed Rockets head coach Kevin McHale (1,690) for 24th place on the NBA’s all-time blocks list. It was the 1,691st block of Brand’s career. Moses Malone ranks 23rd all-time with 1,733 career rejections.

Here is the quoteboard for the Mavericks’ win against the Rockets.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Houston Rockets 108

Posted by Kirk Henderson on under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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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.

  • This was quite possibly O.J. Mayo’s best game of the season with 13 points, 12 assists, and six rebounds. He set the tone early with five first quarter assists and continued to make the easy pass throughout the game. It obviously helps when teammates are converting shots (Shawn Marion was brilliant in this regard), but Mayo deserves credit in an area where he’s struggled recently, attempting to do too much and committing turnovers. That he didn’t post a single turnover against the Rockets is incredibly impressive and displays a level of patience not seen from him in weeks. His patience in play making carried over into his shot selection; he waited to assert himself until the final quarter, taking and making three straight shots over a 90 second period as Houston was attempting to take the lead.
  • Dirk Nowitzki’s willingness to give up the ball out of his short corner sweet spot kept the Maverick offense flowing. Though Dirk was quite efficient with his shooting, scoring 22 points on 9 of 16, I was more impressed with the three assists he dished to Brendan Wright (12 points on 6 of 7 shooting) in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Wright may not ever have a consistent rotation spot, mainly due to his rebounding (he grabbed two in 27 minutes of action against Houston), but when he’s hitting offensively, he helps open up the floor for the Mavericks. Dirk was able to get shots later in the game due to Houston being forced to guard the high post flash from any Dallas center.
  • Though many league observers focus on what a certain purple and gold clad shooting guard is doing at age 34, Shawn Marion is doing things defensively at the same age that should not be possible. Even throwing out his 22 points on 10 of 16 shooting, Marion had a brilliant game. Yes, James Harden had 16 free throws, mainly due to his ability to sell contact, but when the game was on the line Marion prevented Harden from getting quality looks. Harden is excellent at both direct penetration and getting off shots when moving side to side. Marion’s abililty to stay on his feet and in front of Harden made the majority of these looks incredibly dificult.  That Marion’s never made an All Defensive team is one of the unspoken travesties among close followers of the NBA.
  • What is Dallas going to do with Darren Collison (seven points, five assists, three turnovers)? He’s been forced to come off the bench at least once behind every single point guard Dallas has had on the team this season, this time behind Mike James. That list of point guards is not a short one. As maddening as his offensive inconsistency is, it’s his lack of defensive understanding that may limit his time in Dallas to a single season. He was unable to stay in front of Jeremy Lin (or any other Rocket) for much of the game. I fail to understand how a player as fast as Collison has such poor lateral movement. Lin repeatedly beat Collison to the middle of the floor which is counter to the Dallas philosophy of forcing a ball handler towards the baseline. I also don’t understand the recovery angles he takes once he gets beat as he often ends up on the side of his man instead of in front of him. Towards the end of the first quarter, after Lin had scored two consecutive layups on him, Collison was unable to get over a screen on a left wing pick and roll. His attempt at recovery did nothing to prevent Lin from whipping a pass to the right corner for a Chandler Parsons three, mainly because he saddled up next to Lin instead of getting between him and the basket. Finally, we have Collison’s tendency to float mentally when he’s off ball. At the three minute mark in the third, Harden caught Collison flatfooted and found Lin making a simple back cut behind Collison which lead to a Lin lay up. A starting point guard in the NBA cannot make the kind of mental errors Collison makes with alarming regularity.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

 

The Four Ingredients

Posted by David Hopkins on March 5, 2013 under Commentary | 9 Comments to Read

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“Victory must now be mine or Galactus shall not fight again.” — Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

Last week I wrote about Dirk Nowitzki, his legacy and his future. Do the past two years represent the sudden decline of Nowitzki? Should fans recalibrate their expectations? Or are these two years statistical outliers with a bum knee to blame? Like most things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Regardless, there is no denying that the future inevitable departure of Nowitzki has been a concern as fans watch the season unfold. And as much as we’d like to put everything on Nowitkzi’s shoulders, he isn’t the only factor in making the Mavs a great franchise. When looking at the long-term health of this franchise, I would suggest that there are four ingredients.

1. Young talent
2. Reliable veterans
3. An All-Star “Go To” Player
4. Trustworthy management, ownership, and coaching

In the young talent category, the jury is still out. For players born in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, the Mavs have: Rodrigue Beaubois, Darren Collison, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Dominique Jones, O.J. Mayo, Anthony Morrow, and Brandan Wright. Young players aren’t just the replacements for the old team. They are valuable trade assets. They offer the greatest potential for improvement and growth. I believe in O.J. Mayo, and I’d be happy if he signed a long-term contract with the Mavs. The question is money, but I can’t imagine shooting guards are in such high demand that another franchise would overpay for him. Darren Collison? I just don’t know. When you look at his advanced stats, he’s actually slightly better than O.J. Mayo. However, I don’t trust him to run an offense. The rookie class isn’t too bad. Crowder and James are encouraging. This isn’t Cunningham’s year, but who knows how he’ll do once given a chance? Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones are a disappointment. I believe Brandan Wright is a better player than his minutes and stats suggest.

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