Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“The attempt and not the deed confounds us.”
What a confusing game.
There are plenty of definite elements in this particular game on which to focus, but no sensible way to make sense of the entire affair from a holistic standpoint. Dirk is brilliant. Caron Butler is painful to watch most of the time, but occasionally looks like a real contributor. Dallas can execute well in the fourth quarter. The Mavs had trouble against a limited Pistons team. Dallas desperately needs more supplementary scoring. The defense is solid, but the offense has stalled.
So, what exactly is it that we’re supposed to take away from last night’s game? Maybe this is a bit of observation bias, but this game seemed to confirm plenty of what we already knew about the Mavs in still unconvincing fashion. It’s not like this was an overwhelming defensive exhibition, after all, nor was it Caron Butler’s worst effort of the season. It’s just another 48 minutes of data to add to the file, flavored with a Dirk Nowitzki shooting exhibition to taste.
There’s nothing remarkable to be found in these four quarters aside from Nowitzki (42 points, 13-23 FG, 12 rebounds, two blocks). Detroit is uniquely disadvantaged in defending Nowitzki due to their crew of regular bigs: Jason Maxiell is too short to contest Dirk’s face-up jumper, Charlie Villanueva is too easy Charlie Villanuevaed, and Ben Wallace is hardly comfortable guarding a player of Nowitzki’s skill set. I suppose the Pistons could have looked to Tayshaun Prince to defend Nowitzki (manning up Nowitzki with a long, pesky defender is a popular concept with most every other NBA team, but Prince didn’t really guard Dirk at all), but would that switch really have deterred Dirk on a night like this?
Nowitzki wasn’t unconscious, as they say. He was very aware. He was logical and calculating. He picked apart the Pistons’ defense with a deliberate plan of attack. Nowitzki didn’t bank on any miracles, only his usual brilliance in even higher volume. This 42-pointer is nothing for Dirk to write home about, even if he was almost two buckets shy of making half of his team’s field goals and two points short of scoring half of his team’s points.
This game is not to be taken too far beyond face value. Rick Carlisle dubbed the affair a “playoff-style game,” and I’m not inclined to agree. The pace was slow, but you don’t play playoff-style games against the Detroit Pistons. The Mavs’ ability to execute in the half-court against this collection of players doesn’t mean much of anything. They won the day, and every tick in the win column is ultimately important as far as seeding goes, but this win isn’t a feather for anyone’s hat.
- Had Caron Butler not had a terrific start to the fourth quarter, I’d be tempted to say that he had no redeeming value in this game whatsoever. That stretch aside, for every solid defensive play he overextended himself on offense, for every sound decision there were a few questionable ones.
- Something odd about Butler: give him the ball on the wing and nothing — not even light — can escape from his immediate vicinity, but give him the ball on the break, and he actually makes some pretty smart passes.
- Fouling is still Tyson Chandler’s religion.
- The Mavs’ turnover woes could be behind them. Over their last three games, Dallas has turned the ball over on just 9.1, 14.3, and 9.7 percent of their possessions.
- Brendan Haywood’s performance (two points, four rebounds, and two blocks) was far from exemplary, but he was the top Mavs center in this one. Haywood did a nice job of holding down the middle of the zone and contesting shots in the paint, and while he may not deserve praise for simply doing his job, it’s been that kind of season for Haywood.
- Dallas should probably focus on their transition defense. There were several cases in which the Mavs were in position to defend the break, but ceded lanes and open looks to the Pistons. It seems like the Mavs’ defenders are committing too late or not at all, and the zone defense could be to blame for some of that; rather than use the transition defensive front as an opportunity to let the defense set up after an initial denial, the Mavs may be trying to set up their zone too early.
- Ian Mahinmi got some second-quarter burn after Chandler and Haywood picked up two fouls apiece. Not much to tell. Mahinmi missed his one post-up attempt (a lefty hook from the middle of the paint), didn’t grab any boards, and played a few minutes of decent zone defense. There aren’t really any available minutes for Mahinmi behind Chandler and Haywood, but I still don’t think playing him alongside either big would be the worst thing in the world. Particularly on nights when Rick Carlisle’s rotation would otherwise turn to Brian Cardinal.
- It’s not possible to justify or defend J.J. Barea’s (0 points, 0-5 FG, one assist, one turnover) play in a game like this one. If he’s not careful, he could risk being completely squeezed out of the rotation altogether upon Rodrigue Beaubois’ return.
- It’s not always called, but Brendan Haywood travels in the post a lot.
- Tayshaun Prince’s (19 points, 9-13 FG, five rebounds) offense really seemed to give Caron Butler trouble. Prince is just so crafty going toward the basket, and his length opened up a number of angles for both layup and pull-up attempts.
- Dirk Nowitzki had five offensive rebounds, including a game-clinching board with 18.1 seconds remaining. Is this real life?
- Jason Terry (16 points, 7-17 FG, four assists) was slow to start, but he eventually gave the Mavs — and by the Mavs, I mean Dirk — enough points to squeak out a win. JET had a rough first half (he made just one of his first seven field goal attempts), but his nine points in the game’s final 8:40 were a nice rebound.
Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.” (Ed. note: But it’s nice to have a bit of both, isn’t it?)
The Mavericks are a good enough team that on most nights in the regular season, they can get away with only playing one half of good basketball. That said, it’s not a very good habit to get into. It’s one thing to drop a stinker of a first quarter (slow starts have become a bonafide trend) against Detroit, but the game in L.A. proved that good teams with capitalize on Dallas’ generosity. And considering it’s that caliber of team that the Mavs hope to be and to beat, their primary goal from now until April should be to play games with consistent effort and make starting strong a point of emphasis.
But hey, a win is a win is a win. The Mavs did rally back from a 14-point deficit. They did hold Ben Gordon to just nine points (4-11 FG, four turnovers). They did experience a complete revival from Jason Terry (26 points, 11-19 FG, five assists, zero turnovers), who looked like himself for the first time in a long while. And in the second half they turned up the offense, scoring 62 points (22 of 40 from the field) over the game’s final 24. All things considered, it was a sold win, even if the Mavs decided to handicap themselves with an awful first quarter performance.
Drew Gooden (10 points, 4-16 FG, 18 rebounds, two steals and a block) did a nice job filling in for Erick Dampier, even if his career-high nine offensive rebounds were only fueled by Gooden’s frequent misses at the rim. Drew simply couldn’t convert his tips in the first half, as each bat of the ball found just the wrong part of the rim to roll off of. His defense was well short of spectacular, but I still appreciate the overall effort.
Still, the Mavs have a serious problem defending the rim without Erick Dampier. There’s just no help coming from the weak side to prevent easy layups and dunks (or at the very least, to take a hard foul). Therein lies Damp’s real defensive value. His shot blocking numbers are impressive, but he alters shots and changes the decision-making of opponents’ offenses simply by being in the game. He’s much more of a defensive threat than Gooden, as evidenced by the parade to the rim in Los Angeles and Rodney Stuckey’s (15 points, 7-15 FG, six assists) frequent, uncontested trips deep into the paint. It’s a real detriment to the team defense to have Dampier on the bench, and though it wasn’t the difference between a win and a loss last night, it very well could be on others. Get well soon, Damp.
Overall, not the best win in the world, but another night where the Mavs were able to take advantage of the differential in talent. The Pistons roster is rather middling in that regard, and though Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, etc. are solid players, there just wasn’t enough to counter Terry’s explosions, ‘the usual’ from Dirk (22 points, 9-20 FG, 21 rebounds, four assists, three turnovers), and contributions from a talented group of veterans. Whereas Detroit has to lean heavily on Ben Wallace, Jonas Jerebko (who will have a long, successful career in this league), and Chris Wilcox, the Mavs have the benefit of looking down the rotation and seeing shiny, happy people like Shawn Marion (18 points, 5-7 FG, seven rebounds), Josh Howard (12 points, 5-10 FG, three rebounds, two assists), and Drew Gooden. So even if the bigger names on the Pistons can keep pace with the Mavs’ offensive stars, they’re still likely to face a deficit when it comes to the rest of the rotation. Even though Rick Carlisle isn’t playing a ten man rotation anymore, this Mavs team is deep.
- Rodney Stuckey was absolutely, positively wide open on an attempt for a game-tying three with two seconds remaining…but missed long. It was hardly by design (Rick Carlisle cited probable miscommunication post-game), but Stuck is a 17% three-point shooter on the season, and hasn’t made one since November 25th. Obviously you’d prefer to avoid defensive breakdowns with the game on the line, but Dallas picked the right guy to leave open.
- A pretty disappointing game for J.J. Barea (zero points, 0-4 FG, four assists). I know I was singing a different tune just a week ago, but it may be time for Barea to retire to the bench in favor of Howard.
- The most impressive thing about JET’s performance was, to me, that he refused to dominate the ball. In the past, Terry has been as guilty of this as anyone with a hot hand; the natural reaction of players shooting and scoring well is to keep the ball, force shots, and make more mistakes. It’s just the flip side to having an aggressive scoring mentality.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night undoubtedly goes to Jason Terry. Welcome back JET. You can read my thoughts on Jason Terry’s game and his return to prominence in today’s Daily Dime.
The Mavs don’t have a very good track record when it comes to finding value late in the draft, though selecting Josh Howard with the final pick in the first round back in 2003. But the stakes have never been higher, with the Mavs’ few young assets weighing their options in free agency and the Mavs’ 2010 pick in the hands of the New Jersey Nets. This one counts big time, and it’s up to the management and the scouting team to find the diamond in the rough.
It’s tough, but hardly impossible. Quality players pass right under the noses of many a team year after year, leaving latent value late in the draft. The Mavs pick at 22, which is just a shade closer to the lottery than to the Mavs’ customary position at the draft’s tail.
Here are the picks at 22 this decade:
2008 – Courtney Lee
2007 – Jared Dudley
2006 – Marcus Williams
2005 – Jarrett Jack
2004 – Viktor Khryapa
2003 – Zoran Planinic
2002 – Casey Jacobsen
2001 – Jeryl Sasser
2000 – Donnell Harvey
Three of those players (Courtney Lee, Jared Dudley, Jarrett Jack) have shown rotation player chops. Lee is the most notable as the starting 2 guard of an impressive Orlando team just one win away from the Finals. In fact, if the Mavs could magically re-draft Lee this year, they’d be in pretty good shape.
Just for fun, here are picks in the late first round (20+) :
Courtney Lee (22)
Nicolas Batum (25)
Wilson Chandler (23)
Rudy Fernandez (24)
Aaron Brooks (26)
Renaldo Balkman (20)
Rajon Rondo (21)
Kyle Lowry (23)
Shannon Brown (25)
Jordan Farmar (26)
Jarrett Jack (20)
Nate Robinson (21)
Francisco Garcia (23)
Jason Maxiell (26)
Linas Kleiza (27)
David Lee (30)
Jameer Nelson (20)
Delonte West (24)
Kevin Martin (26)
Boris Diaw (21)
Travis Outlaw (23)
Kendrick Perkins (27)
Leandro Barbosa (28)
Josh Howard (29)
Tayshaun Prince (23)
Nenad Krstic (24)
John Salmons (26)
Brendan Haywood (20)
Gerald Wallace (25)
Jamaal Tinsley (27)
Tony Parker (28)
Morris Peterson (21)
It’s certainly worth noting that even the 2005 draft, predicted to be a weak draft class among pundits and largely looked at as a failure in comparison to its contemporaries, still produced productive players late in the first round. Blake Griffin is no Tim Duncan and the consolation prizes may have their flaws, but that doesn’t mean true commodities can’t be found late in the first.
Next week I’ll start examining potential picks for the Mavs, starting with those rumored and confirmed to have scheduled workouts with the team. Some of those players seem poised for success on the pro level, and others may not even be top competitors in the D-League. As fans, we can only hope that MGMT not only makes the right decision in assessing the talent of a potential pick, but also in picking talented players to fill holes in the Mavs’ rotation.