The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 106, San Antonio Spurs 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 18, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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

  • What began as a great offensive performance by Dirk Nowitzki (who finished the first half with 19 points) turned into a wonderful overall performance by the Mavs’ offense. Nowitzki (27 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers) was absolutely brilliant in both a one-on-one capacity and as a spot-up shooter, but when San Antonio began to throw hard doubles at Dirk on the catch, he wasted no time in finding open shooters on the weak side. Throwing a pass to a shooter in the opposite corner off of a double team is a bit of a risk, but Nowitzki’s height and experience with this kind of swarming coverage make him uniquely suited for that kind of play. Nowitzki was only able to notch three points in the fourth quarter (when the Spurs made their defensive shift), but Dallas shot 5-of-9 from three-point range to the frame, with many of those makes coming off of double-team exploitation.
  • Another thing that’s abundantly clear: Nowitzki takes his matchup with Stephen Jackson — he of that infamous 2007 playoff letdown — incredibly seriously. Gregg Popovich wasted no time in getting Jackson acclimated, and pitted him against Nowitzki almost immediately, despite the fact that more conventional Nowitzki foes (Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter) were also on the floor. From that moment, Nowitzki’s entire approach shifted; he sought to back down Jackson relentlessly, and noticeably increased the physicality of his pre-shot maneuverings. Jackson did what he could to deny Nowitzki early position and fight him for every inch, but, well, it’s not 2007 anymore.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 8-16 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) will naturally receive praise for the quality of his performance, but in truth this was a nice outing for the entirety of the Mavs’ guard core. Jason Kidd lived up to everything that could possibly be expected of him and more, as he connected on four threes out of five attempts, racked up double-digit assists, and played great help defense to indirectly force a few turnovers. Jason Terry put up 17 points on just 10 shot as a continuation of one of his strongest stretches of the season. Vince Carter, too, put up 10 points on 50 percent shooting, just to complete the picture. The fact that all four of these players were able to positively influence the game is a wonderful sign for the resurrection of the Mavs’ depth, particularly considering how heavily the Mavs were leaning on this group in the absence of both Delonte West and Shawn Marion.

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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.

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Dallas Mavericks 101, Boston Celtics 97

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  • 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

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  • 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.

Dallas Mavericks 101, Charlotte Bobcats 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 28, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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The future is plump with promise.”
-Maya Angelou

The Mavs finally raised the opening night curtain, and if anyone claims to have predicted that grand of a reveal, they’re lying. Dallas didn’t just play out their first game of the season. They put on a show. There was sleight of hand. There were pyrotechnics. There was brilliant execution throughout, barring one rather tragic stretch bridging the first and second quarters. If that first 48 minutes was any indication, this season promises to be far more fantastic than anticipated.

Dallas started the night with a 16-0 run, and though every point of that advantage was squandered by the midway point of the second quarter, it was but a simple demonstration of what this team is capable of. Not ‘capable of,’ in some distant sense, either, like when discussing adolescent potential or a purely hypothetical call to action. The Mavs were capable of being a great team as of this afternoon, and for this game against the Charlotte Bobcats (I know, I know), they became one. The cynic would rightfully ask if this kind of production is sustainable. I don’t know. No one does. But the Mavs looked damn impressive last night, didn’t they?

Offensively, this was the best we’ve seen the Mavs in some time. Their already impressive efficiency (111 points per 100 possessions) would be off the charts if not for a late first quarter slip-up, in which a lineup of J.J. Barea, Dominique Jones, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, and Brendan Haywood allowed the Bobcats to go on a pretty brutal run. Up to that point, Butler had been getting to the rim fairly effectively. A few clanged jumpers and a handful of Barea turnovers later, Charlotte had erased the Mavs’ early lead and started to forge one of their own. A line switch brought a reversal in fortune, and from that point on, Carlisle didn’t make the same mistake. Clearly a bench unit isn’t the way to go, nor is running any lineup where Butler is expected to create offense without significant help.

When any other lineup was on the floor, the Mavs paced their offense to a rather beautiful rhythm. Everyone shared the ball. Everyone (even Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Terry) cut to the basked and worked toward open space. The sets were almost completely devoid of isolation play, and Jason Kidd (12 points, 2-3 3FG, 18 assists, three steals, just one measly turnover) was generating some obscenely good looks for his teammates. I’ve previously mentioned the impact that Kidd can have on players like Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler, all perfectly useful players but ones lacking in shot creation. This game was an excellent case study in the other primary impact of Kidd’s playmaking: generating wide open looks for the team’s most efficient offensive weapons. It’s by Kidd’s hand that Nowitzki (28 points, 11-13 FG, 13 rebounds) and Terry (22 points, 10-15 FG, six assists, four steals) were able to have such tremendous nights, and the three engineered a stable, replicable brand of pass-happy offense.

That’s right. Replicable. Kidd won’t pick up 18 dimes a night and Nowitzki won’t average 85% shooting for the year, but the elements that made the Mavericks so successful on both the break and in their half-court offense can be accomplished on a nightly basis. The looks were just that good, and while Charlotte’s defense looked positively flummoxed by a maestro at work, Dallas should be able to accomplish something similar even against more effective defensive fronts. Dallas just needs to keep moving, and extend the beautiful flow that brought them their first victory through the rest of the season. If Mavs fans can be bored with these types of performances by the end of the year, Dallas will be among the league’s true contenders. The design has been detailed, now the Mavs just need to mass produce.

Dallas looked terrific defensively, but that’s almost to be expected against a team like the Bobcats. Take an already depressing offense, replace its starting point guard — a sturdy if unspectacular creator who excels in pick-and-roll situations — with a young, shaky, score-first point man, give them limited time to gel, and you have…this. It didn’t help that Larry Brown benched Stephen Jackson for the game’s final 16 minutes for seemingly arbitrary reasons, but Charlotte’s defensive limitations go far beyond any of Brown’s substitutions. They’ll starve for scoring all season, and though Tyrus Thomas (22 points, 8-15 FG, six rebounds) came out of nowhere to lead the team in that department, the Bobcats aren’t likely to get that kind of contribution consistently. As poorly as Charlotte performed on offense in this game, they actually have the potential to be even worse.

Not that Dallas didn’t have a little something to do with that poor performance. The Mavs forced the ball out of Stephen Jackson’s hands early, and gradually transitioned into a more balanced defensive style that contested just about everything within the arc while causing plenty of turnovers. Charlotte’s effective field goal percentage on shots within 10 feet was just 23.6%, a testament to fine work by Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, and a Maverick defense free to swarm from the perimeter. Dallas gave Boris Diaw, Gerald Wallace, and D.J. Augustin license to shoot from the weak side as they smothered anyone attacking the basket, and the results were very manageable. The same approach clearly wouldn’t work against a team with reliable three-point shooters, but for the Bobcats, it was a perfectly drawn scheme.

This is about as good as it gets for opening night. Let’s just hope it’s not as good as it gets for the entire 2010-2011 season.

Closing thoughts:

  • The Mavs have never lost to the Bobcats. The all-time series between the two teams stands at 13-0 after last night.
  • It looks like Jason Terry will round out the starting unit after all. No chance Carlisle shuffles the deck after a performance like this one.
  • Oddly, Tyson Chandler started rather than Brendan Haywood. I was under the impression that the starting gig was Haywood’s to lose, but apparently that part of the negotiating process was a little less explicit than initially reported. Or the Mavs have completely gone back on their initial promise. One of the two. Either way, Chandler looks to be the starter for now (and deservedly so, based on their performances last night), though it’s hardly set in stone.
  • Caron Butler had three turnovers, all traveling violations. Exploding to the basket off the catch is clearly an uncomfortable maneuver for Butler at this juncture.
  • Brendan Haywood was largely invisible, in spite of his defensive contributions. The box score (two points, three rebounds) is fair to him. Not exactly a compelling case to overtake Chandler as the starter.
  • Seven of Kidd’s 18 assists led to made FGs right at the rim.
  • The first bucket of Dominique Jones’ career was a long two-point jumper from the left corner. Huh.
  • Dallas was impressive in how quickly they triggered the transition game, and even more impressive in their execution on the break. Kidd ran the show expertly, and once he got the Mavs running, wouldn’t hesitate to wait for trailers on the secondary break. Plenty of NBA guards only know one gear in transition, but Kidd’s patience on the break is remarkable.
  • Shawn Marion is trying to shoot more threes this season, but the early returns weren’t pretty. An 0-fer on two attempts last night for Shawn, including an airball.
  • In the second quarter, Marion was defending Wallace on the perimeter, and somehow forced a jump ball while Wallace was in the triple threat. Marion received no statistical credit for the play whatsoever, but it was one moment among many that attest to his defensive savvy.
  • Remember, Dirk Nowitzki ended the regular season of last year on a consecutive free throw streak, and he picked up right where he left off with a 6-of-6 night at the line. His streak of consecutive regular season makes now stands at 78. Minnesota’s Michael Williams holds the record for the most consecutive free throws made with 97 (March 24-Nov. 9, 1993).
  • Chandler was a bit out of control in the fourth quarter, as he was involved in a series of tie-ups and strange fouls. He and Gerald Wallace both received a technical foul for one of the entanglements. This is pretty much par for the course with Tyson; he’s rather emotive. He also fouls a lot. Put the two together, and he can get himself into trouble.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: There were so many fantastic performances in the NBA last night that somehow Kidd’s 18-assist evening will probably be overlooked. It’s a shame, because it was an exhaustive exhibition of his creative wizardry. He threw a lob to Chandler. He hit teammates streaking up the wings on the break. He fed JET as he curled around a screen. He found Dirk on a backdoor cut. Kidd did it all, and made it look easy. 18 A’s, but it felt like 50.

Dallas Mavericks 89, Charlotte Bobcats 84

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 2, 2010 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.”
-William Allen White

This game was not beautiful. It wasn’t a sight to behold, aesthetically pleasing, or even “ehhh, kinda cute.” This was an ugly affair in which neither team could perform at any competent level offensively, and though the final margin was relatively tight, there wasn’t a photo finish of any kind. The defenses just mucked up the game in every regard, and any chance at having a good game was slashed with each forced turnover.

And it was absolutely glorious.

There are contests where both teams just can’t buy a bucket, and the Bobcats have been a part of plenty of them. But this was simply a triumph of defense, as the Bobcats held down the Mavs for nearly the entire game, and Dallas managed a defensive exhibition all its own. It wasn’t a clinic; neither team’s performance in this game will be flagged in the annals of the NBA, because despite how grand the defense was at times, it simply didn’t meet historical levels of greatness. But as far as ugly, early March games go, this one was surprisingly fulfilling.

Part of that is because while last night’s affair wasn’t necessarily a good game, it was certainly a good win. The Mavs only led for two minutes and 10 seconds prior to the fourth quarter, and they again overcame a double-digit lead in the second half to pull out the victory. Their own inability to stop Charlotte’s limited offense in the first half had a lot to do with that lead, but the Mavs holding the Bobcats to a 31-point second half was far more impressive than allowing them a 53-point first half was distressing. It’d be nice to see Dallas thoroughly dominate teams for 48 minutes, but asking that is pretty unrealistic. Instead, take pride in the fact that the Mavs refuse to cede significant ground to their opponents even during their worst stretches, and there’s absolutely no disputing their fourth-quarter effectiveness. This is a team that was built to endure, and while the first three quarters consist of some feeling out and ‘guess and check’ work, the final twelve minutes is where these Mavs shine.

The spotlight was on Jason Terry (20 points, 8-17 FG, four assists, two turnovers), who played an absolutely stellar fourth quarter. JET dropped 13 in the fourth quarter, and 11 of those points came over a four-minute span in which he personally outscored the Bobcats 11-4. Terry hasn’t been dropping in points in tremendous volume lately, but he’s been incredibly efficient; this was actually the first game that he’s shot less than 50% (and it’s 47.5%, which is damn near close enough for me) since the 0-for-10 debacle against Miami on February 20th. This is only the second time he’s registered 20 points over that same stretch (with the other being his 30-point night against L.A.), but JET’s shooting has been wonderfully efficient of late.

Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, 12-23 FG, 13 rebounds, two blocks, one turnover) is one of the most effective isolation weapons in the game, and most opponents’ best defense on him in late-game situations is to double aggressively (leaving them vulnerable to the kick-out) or pray that he misses. Charlotte is a beast of a team on the defensive end, but even with their group of talented, athletic defenders, the Bobcats had no means of halting Dirk’s high post game. Tyrus Thomas (16 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks) was matched up with Nowitzki in the fourth, and though he’s one of the more physically gifted defenders in the league much less in Charlotte, Dirk pump faked and spun his way to a few crucial buckets.

One of Josh Howard’s most publicized shortcomings was his inability to provide stable scoring behind Nowitzki and Terry. It’s something he struggled with throughout his injury-plagued campaigns, and though Howard would occasionally show flashes of what could have been (had he been healthy and comfortable in the rotation), he clearly wasn’t able to provide in that capacity this season. Caron Butler (22 points, 10-16 FG, three steals) on the other hand, is looking more and more like a perfect option as a third scorer. Caron’s averaged 20.5 points on 55.9% shooting since sitting out two games due to complications with a medication, along with 1.0 turnovers and 3.5 steals per night. Two games is an incredibly small sample size, but Butler really does look more comfortable in the Mavs’ sets and, just as importantly, his teammates are more aware of where and when Caron wants the ball.

Everything is still not perfect, as evidenced by a mere five-point win and only 89 points on the board. But the things the Mavs have improved since the trade — defense, balanced scoring, activity level — are more than enough reason to keep looking up.

Closing thoughts:

  • This win pushed the Mavs up to 2nd place in the Western Conference, which is even more important than the fact that it was Dallas’ eighth straight victory.
  • Stephen Jackson (20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, six turnovers) looked to be a big problem early in the game. Rick Carlisle clearly has tremendous respect for Gerald Wallace’s (11 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) game, and matched Crash with Shawn Marion. That left Caron Butler and Jason Kidd to defend the lanky, streak-shooting Jackson, who had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and three assists in the first quarter. Letting a shooter like Jax build confidence early in a game can be particularly dangerous. To some extent he was, as his 20 points are pretty significant in such a low-possession, low-scoring game. But those six turnovers were ruinous. Three of them came in just over three minutes in the second quarter, and by the time Jax had reeled in the TOs in the fourth, his shooting had gone cold. This is kinda what you get with Stephen Jackson.
  • Brendan Haywood (seven points, six rebounds) had an incredibly quiet night, but at least picked the right time to do so. Some scoring would’ve surely helped, but Haywood’s defense wouldn’t be especially helpful against the monster that is Theo Ratliff (four points, two rebounds). Theo is a force that you can only hope to contain.
  • I have no way of explaining what has happened to D.J. Augustin (two points, 0-3 FG, three turnovers). Last year he looked like a legitimate option at point guard moving forward. But this season? A mirage of his former self, accurate only when he’s shooting himself in the foot. I’ve always thought of Augustin as a scoring point guard first and foremost, and that’s where he found his biggest successes at Texas. The scoring’s stopped — as a matter of failure to execute, not a change in approach — and Augustin’s play makes Raymond Felton, even on a night where 4-of-14 from the field, rather indispensable.
  • 1-for-9 shooting for Jason Kidd. Blech. Seven assists to three turnovers. Meh.
  • Still no playing time for Von Wafer, and I don’t suspect we’ll see him play until the Mavs can create some fourth quarter separation. If you didn’t have another reason to cheer for a blowout, here you go. No DeShawn Stevenson or Rodrigue Beaubois either, which made for a rather short bench that did little to produce aside from JET. Eddie Najera and J.J. Barea combined for two points (1-4 FG), three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, two steals, and two blocks in 25 minutes. Nothing to write a bullet point about.
  • The Bobcats really miss Nazr Mohammed.
  • As impressive as Caron Butler was, he wasn’t even on the floor for the critical moments in the fourth quarter. Rick Carlisle rolled with Kidd-Terry-Marion-Nowitzki-Haywood, leaving Butler’s big scoring night sitting on the bench in favor of Marion’s defense and rebounding. And it paid off. Marion may not have had incredibly visible box score contributions, but he still was a crucial part of Dallas’ fourth quarter surge.
  • This was the second straight game that the Mavs gave up the advantage at the free throw line (15 attempts to Charlotte’s 28) and the offensive boards (five to Charlotte’s eight) to the Bobcats. Not a good habit to get into, although in this case it wasn’t the difference between a win and a loss.

Dallas Mavericks 98, Charlotte Bobcats 97: Abridged

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 13, 2009 under Recaps | 8 Comments to Read

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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If you can’t excel with talent, triumph with effort.
-Dave Weinbaum

Those of you conscious of the outside world may have noticed that, with a few exceptions, I don’t post game recaps on the weekends. That’s (kind of) about to change. I’ll now be posting an easily digestible recap in bullet-form, which serves two purposes: it provides more game-related content for contests that matter, and allows you and me both to get some Mavs in and get on with our weekend. Let’s go to work.

  • Mark Cuban couldn’t have picked a more perfect game for “Seats for Soldiers” night. It’s probably the greatest of the Maverick traditions, and there really couldn’t be a worthier cause.
  • Tonight, Dirk was Dirk when it counted. His 14 of 34 shooting is actually better than it seemed, as most of those 20 misses came off of very make-able shots. Some by Dirk’s standards (fading jumpers, but with ample space), and others by anyone’s (layups, wide open shots). But regardless of all the shots to draw rim, Dirk looked untouchable in the clutch.
  • The Mavs looked like a team that needs the scoring of Josh Howard. Having the last laugh doesn’t equate to offensive proficiency, and with the Mavs completely unable to convert in the second half, Josh’s shot creation would have been an incredible boost.
  • Dirk’s big shots will get all the highlight love, but Erick Dampier and Shawn Marion are the true unsung heroes. Not only were they everywhere on defense, but Marion and Damp chipped in seven offensive rebound each. When the Mavs are shooting 39.8% from the field (and 41.4% eFG), that means everything. Combined, Damp and Marion totaled 29 points (12 of 17 from the field), 33 rebounds, three steals, five blocks, and just three turnovers. Yowza.
  • J.J. Barea showed his full range. For a quarter, he was brilliant; all of his passes were finding their targets and each of his attempts was finding the net. But once he started blowing possessions (a certain non-shot at the end of the second quarter comes to mind) and botching his defensive duties on the pick-and-roll, he becomes an instant liability. See, here’s the thing: Dirk, JET, Kidd, Josh, Damp, and Marion can all afford to make mistakes. They just bring so much to the team in other respects, and J.J.’s contributions are of the less essential variety. I can understand both sides of the Beaubois-Barea argument, J.J.’s lows are much more emphatic than his highs, but he still chipped in 10 points (4-9 FG, including two 3s) and five assists to just two turnovers. For now, the Mavs will just have to accept both sides of Barea’s spectrum.
  • There are few offensive possessions I hate more than those that end with a Drew Gooden jumpshot.
  • Basketball games can always be boiled down to details, and two stick out. First, Larry Brown’s decision not to call timeout on the final possession of regulation. Dirk had just hit the game-tying bucket, and rather than take a minute to regroup one of the league’s most ineffective offenses. Instead, Gerald Wallace, who otherwise had played a spectacular game, ended up wasting away the closing moments of the fourth quarter. Anyone think LB might want that possession back? And second, Tyson Chandler made the regrettable decision to foul Jason Terry on an inbounds play in overtime. It put JET on the line for a freebie in a game decided by one point, and while it was hardly the only possession that could have decided the final result, it’s easy to point the finger at a play like that.
  • Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton were terrific. Not only in slashing to the basket, which you’d expect, but in the mid and long range game as well. And that’s not even mentioning their work on the defensive end, which was top-notch.
  • Even though the offense wasn’t very good, the Mavs’ ball movement was sublime. The ball was getting into the right hands, but just couldn’t find its way through the basket.
  • Another fine showing from the Mavs’ zone defense. I can’t even begin to understand what that means considering just how bad the Bobcats’ offense can be on its own, but it seemed to slow down Stephen Jackson (28 points on 25 shots) enough to make a difference. Rick Carlisle threw a handful of defensive looks at Jax, and though Jason Kidd played some superb man defense late in the game, the zone look was plenty effective.
  • Take a look at the minutes column for the Mavs, and tell me Rick Carlisle doesn’t find comfort in his starters. Kidd, Dampier, Nowitzki, and Marion all logged 40+ minutes, while Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, and Quinton Ross played a combined 27 minutes.
  • Marc Stein: “Most devastated locker room I’ve seen this season: Charlotte. Bobs crushed by this 98-97 OT loss in Dallas. G-Wallace and Jack especially”

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 25, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Dirk Nowitzki on last night’s loss (via Tim MacMahon): “There are good losses and there are bad losses, and this is definitely a bad one…We just didn’t have it down the stretch. We were a step slow. Offensively, we looked lost. Defensively, they could get to the basket any time they wanted to and they hit some timely 3s. But it’s really our fault.”
  • Whatever the opposite of a ‘silver lining’ is, Eddie Sefko may have found it: “They were going against a Warriors team that used only six players. Yet they got beat to every loose ball in the fourth quarter and couldn’t keep up with the Warriors’ motion offense. Worse, the Mavericks had to use all their heavy lifters for long, exhausting stretches. That certainly will have an impact on their legs at some point tonight in Houston.”
  • Adam Lauridsen of Fast Break chimes in with the difference between the Stephen Jackson/Corey Maggette-led Warriors and the younger, more energetic model we saw last night: “With Jackson or Maggette on the court (and Nelson on the sideline), the response to the second-half adversity would have likely been to pound the ball in one or two mismatches while everyone else stood around.  Instead, with Jackson gone and Maggette and Nelson out, Smart had the team stick with a simple attack — let Monta look for early shot-clock seams in the defense, and provide safety valves at the three point arc in the form of Morrow, Curry, and Radmanovic.  The plan hit some rough patches, but it ultimately proved to be enough to bring home the win.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie has a fair assessment of last night’s perimeter dynamics: “With just six players on hand, while playing its fourth game in five nights, the Warriors looked as fresh and as active as they’ve looked in years. The ball movement was spot on, heaps of extra passes, and Golden State worked a quickness advantage. Actually, the Warriors didn’t really blow past the slower Maverick backcourt. It just turned out that Monta Ellis (37 points, eight assists, four steals, 11 turnovers; seriously) and Stephen Curry (18 points, six assists) went nuts on the Dallas D.”
  • Dirk Nowitzki, community man.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 1, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Everything you wanted to know about Stephen Jackson, resident chameleon.
  • A handful of ESPN’s experts think either Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire could end up in Dallas next summer.  Then again, Orlando and San Antonio are listed as other possible destinations, despite the fact that both teams are neck deep in salary after adding significant salary this summer.
  • Tim Kawakami of the Silicon Valley Mercury News on his blog, Talking Points: “…no, I don’t see the Mavericks as a serious destination [for Stephen Jackson] quite yet…Monta Ellis in Dallas? That I can see, if Dallas would send some short-term deals and if the Warriors would be happy taking a major talent hit just to dump Monta’s money. For all the energy the Warriors have placed in telling us that Monta is their centerpiece and all the sweat issued to dispute my reports that he’s unhappy… well, I could very much see Don Nelson working hard to trade Ellis. Nelson has Stephen Curry now. The new toy is always more fun than the old, ornery one.”
  • According to Pro Basketball News’ Tony Mejia, the Mavs have five of the NBA’s top sixty six players.  No, Erick Dampier didn’t sniff the top 100, and couldn’t even make it on to the top 20 at what most consider to be the weakest position in the NBA.
  • Marquis Daniels finally made Boston his official home.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 31, 2009 under xOther | 7 Comments to Read

  • Creeping into my list from Friday: Dwyer’s ranking of the top ten defenders of the decade, which includes Jason Kidd at number 8.  Kidd’s not that defender anymore, and he probably wasn’t during his first stint with the Mavs, either.  Still, give the guy his due.
  • It’s hardly news by now, but Stephen Jackson wants out of Golden State…and back in to Texas.  Jax is a Port Arthur native looking to come home, and also a quality two-way shooting guard with a big contract and apparently a distaste for the current climate in the Bay area.  More to come on Jackson’s potential place in Dallas, but on paper it would make the wings awfully crowded.
  • More on Jackson here, here, here, and here.
  • Tracy McGrady could be back sooner than initially thought.
  • The Mavs apparently talked trade with the Jazz about Carlos Boozer, but I’m almost thankful we were spared from that headache.

No Game Is an Island: It’s Time to Shine the Flashlight Under the Bed

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 25, 2009 under Previews | 10 Comments to Read

The Golden State Warriors visit the Dallas Mavericks
7:30 CST

Last season, it seemed as though the Mavs had made a breakthrough.  In the three games the Mavs played against the Golden State Warriors, destroyers of dreams, in 2007-2008, the Mavs went undefeated and won by an average margin of 17.3.  The tormenters had become the tormented, and Nellie’s role as a conjurer of cheap tricks was countered by experience, resolve, and twelve grown men being good and pissed off.

This season, the Mavs are 1-1 against the Warriors, but the game on everyone’s mind is the recent letdown in Oakland just two weeks ago.

Looking at the Mavs’ success over that period (significant point differential, 4-1 in the last 5 games), why are we even discussing the idea that the Warriors give the Mavericks trouble?  Why does Tim MacMahon even have to combat the theory that Stephen Jackson is a “Dirk Stopper”?

I’ve tried to dispel the mystique of Mavs-Warriors at least once already, but today I’ve come to remind you and myself of that in totality.  2007 is dead and buried; just as Mavs-Heat holds no regular season significance aside from disappointing highlight reels of playoffs past, Mavs-Warriors deserves its spot in the NBA annals, not lingering in the present.

The Mavs spent the proper time dissecting and analyzing their playoff woes.  They fully understand what the Warriors were able to do to them, found specific ways to counter those strategies, and have generally been pretty damn successful against the Warriors since that time.  You want a team that gives the Mavs trouble?  How about the New Orleans Hornets?  How about the Los Angeles Lakers?  How about the Boston Celtics?  The Mavs have flubbed games against the Grizzlies, the Bucks, and the Clippers, so why make more of a loss to the Warriors?  The Mavs are a good, not great, team that has had trouble all season with beating the teams that they should beat.  That’s explanation A and B for the most recent loss at the hands of the Dubs, and reason C is that the Mavs forgot how to rebound.

There are no monsters here, just a little kid creating reasons to be afraid of the dark, rationalizing a symptom as a disease unto itself.

No Game Is an Island: Folks Say This Place Is Haunted

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 28, 2009 under Previews | 4 Comments to Read

The Golden State Warriors visit the Dallas Mavericks
8:00 CST

Just in time for your post-Boston Massacre chronic depression, the powers that be just so happened to schedule a nationally televised game against Golden State followed by a weekend game against Miami.  Call it “The Ghosts of Playoffs Past” week.  Why don’t we just invite New Orleans and make an event of it?

I really do like watching this year’s Warriors play, and no, I don’t feel like a traitor for saying that.  Baron Davis was the engine that made this outfit go, and the idea of them running without him is just too delightfully contrarian for a guy like me to not appreciate.  I always did love “Helter Skelter.”  Or maybe I was looking for a reason to like them all along, but Baron was too much “the face of the enemy” for my senses to overcome.  I also have yet to watch Monta Ellis since his return to action last week, and I’m anxious to see if his future as a “real point guard” is as nebulous as it seems.

The thing about being part of a playoff series that made history is that no one will ever let you forget it.  Since Warriors over Mavs was the first and only time an eighth seed has beaten a first seed in a seven game series, the event has attached itself as an epithet to the two most relevant players.  Dirk Nowitzki will forever be “Dirk Nowitzki, the leader of that Mavs team that blew it against the Warriors,” and Baron Davis will forever be “Baron Davis, the noble leader and people’s champ who defeated Goliath.”  Baron was definitely the talent of that team, and on the court he turned the Warriors into a swag machine that could do no wrong against Dallas.  But while Baron was wearing bullet fedoras and giving a grassroots movement a face (and a beard), Stephen Jackson was, for lack of a better term, the heart of the team.  Do I find Jackson more pallatable because I’ve identified him as a Spur/Champion and a Pacer-turned-brawler?  Or similarly, because while Baron Davis’ contributions with the Hornets were largely shadowed by doubt and injury, his renaissance with the Warriors was the defining moment of his career?  Could be.  But the fact remains that although the Warriors’ best player bolted for the Clippers this summer, the heart and soul of “We Believe” is still very much in Oakland.

This game will be marketed as an exorcism of demons, and to an extent that’s true; there’s always something cathartic about beating Golden State since The Fall, and the Mavs have plenty of new, internal demons they have yet to conquer.  The fact that Jackson, and Monta, and Nellie are all still staring down the Mavs from across the court is meaningless aside from the fact that this is a team that the Dallas Mavericks are going to engage in a basketball game against, and that they desperately need to win this game to save themselves from themselves.  I know the purpose of No Game Is an Island is to provide significance through context, but this is one situation that should truly be viewed in a vacuum.  Golden State at Dallas.  No asterisk.  No footnote.  Just a dangerous offensive team coming to American Airlines Center, and hopefully a Mavs team ready to respond.