Dallas Mavericks 91, Indiana Pacers 82

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 23, 2010 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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There is a sort of charm in ugliness.
-Josh Billings

Well, at least the Mavs won. Otherwise, they’d be mere participants in a sloppy, ugly contest in which neither team could accomplish much of anything. Whatever specter follows around the Pacers to groan ghoulishly, move around furniture, and haunt Indy’s shooters was apparently bored with only making one team painful to watch. So not only did the Pacers shoot a characteristically bad 36.9% from the field, the Mavs shot 38.6%. Dallas’ offensive performance can really only be positively skewed by saying that it was bad, but not as bad as Indiana’s.

The Mavs did play impressive defense, though it’s hard to gauge numerically based on Indiana’s general ineptitude. This team is pretty miserable offensively night-in and night-out, and if you take Danny Granger out of the lineup (he missed the game due to personal reasons), then they find new ways to redefine misery. So yeah, the Mavs held the Pacers to some poor shooting numbers, including just three makes out of 23 three-point attempts. But the Pacers gave them plenty of help by missing open looks and exhibiting rather poor shot selection.

But if you feel compelled to hand out plaques for nice defensive play, they’d go to Jason Terry (14 points, 5-10 FG, two assists) and Brendan Haywood (13 points, 3-6 FG, 20 rebounds, three blocks). JET played a particularly active brand of perimeter defense, in which he took advantage of Indiana’s lazy passing by not only grabbing three steals, but by deflecting a good deal of the passes and loose balls that were in his midst. Haywood did as Haywood does, challenging shots from deep in the post or just deep in the paint, and though he’s still figuring out how best to work with his new teammates in pick-and-roll situations, his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities were fairly elite in this contest. I know it doesn’t take a legendary defender to hold Roy Hibbert to eight points, but that doesn’t make Brendan’s work clogging the paint and cleaning the defensive glass any less impressive.

But the Mavs offense. Yeah. Okay. Well, hrm. No one shot or scored particularly well at all, though Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, seven rebounds, two turnovers) did settle into his stroke late in the game. Dirk started the game with a 1-for-4 first quarter, and closed it with a 3-for-3 stint in the fourth. Caron Butler (eight points, five rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, two steals, and a block) started with a 2-for-8 first quarter, and at least had the decency to cut down his field goal attempts. Butler put up just two more shots in his final 18.5 minutes of playing time, and while that doesn’t translate to a productive scoring night, it’s his Maverick-low in attempts. Caron has averaged 14.6 attempts on 37% shooting as a Mav. To be fair, Butler has missed lot of looks around the rim over the last five games trying to draw fouls, which is why it’s much easier to tolerate than having him hoist jumper after jumper.

But his deference was enough. The Mavs found a way to scrape together enough points to put up a respectable total, with 10 from Kidd (seven assists, two turnovers) here, eight from Marion (six rebounds, three assists, three turnovers) there, and a Maverick-high seven for DeShawn Stevenson (four rebounds, two assists). DeShawn looked like a real rotation player in 23 minutes, and his play was unlike much of what we saw from him in Washington. The defense was back, and though DeShawn wasn’t quite a lockdown guy, he made smart plays when playing on-ball defense and worked that end of the court. On offense, he didn’t stop the ball or play outside himself; Stevenson hit a shot off the catch or a few dribbles if he had space, or else he simply continued to swing the ball. No indecision. It was nothing flashy — just a wing stepping off the bench to knock down a few jumpers (he was 3-of-5 before garbage time) and get a hand in a shooter’s face — but on some nights that type of play is exactly what the Mavs could use coming off the bench.

The Mavs probably took too long to really put the Pacers out of their misery, as the game wasn’t decided until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Indiana was right there by halftime, though a 15-5 and a 13-3 run to start the third and fourth quarters, respectively, put an end to that nonsense. The result never seemed to be in doubt, but I can understand why some would find the lack of separation (especially in the final score) troubling. But the Mavs did build the lead up to 22 before emptying the bench, and while they weren’t impressive overall, they did manage to muck up a game that wasn’t going their way. Not every win has to be an impressive win, and the more important thing for this team right now is to build confidence in their altered core.

Closing thoughts:

  • After J.J. Barea (0-3 FG) received the initial minutes as the back-up point guard, Rodrigue Beaubois (six points, 2-8 FG, three rebounds, two assists) emerged for the first time since the All-Star break. The results were mixed, and the low-light (for me, at least) was Roddy’s defense. He looked awful against the pick-and-roll; Marion would buy Beaubois time by flashing out on picks, but when Marion was forced to recover, Roddy was hardly in a position to defend the ball. I’m not sure whether it was some unusually effective picking by the Pacers, Beaubois’ lithe frame keeping him unable to fight back to his man, or simply an effort thing, but that has to change. With that length and athleticism, Beaubois’ calling card should be his defense, and you can’t defend the point guard position right now without great chemistry in your pick-and-roll defense.
  • Jason Kidd and Brendan Haywood – still a work in progress, but they’re syncing up.
  • What I couldn’t understand, for the life of me, was how T.J. Ford was able to bait Beaubois and Barea into biting on his pump fakes. I respect the intent to play good honest defense on a shooter, but come on. He’s T.J. Ford. If he wants to take turnaround, fadeaway jumpers, then you shake his hand and be on your merry.
  • Shawn Marion was doing entirely too much off the dribble, which probably isn’t a good thing. There are nights where Shawn can do that and get away with it, but Indiana stripped him repeatedly, and three of those strips ended up as turnovers.
  • I’m liking what Eddie Najera brings to the table more and more. He’s not exactly Erick Dampier, and that’s because he’s nothing like Erick Dampier; Najera still thrives based on a high energy level, despite being a spry 33 years old. But he’s holding down the center position with his hustle, and what matters is that he can relieve Brendan for 15 minutes a game or so until Damp’s return.
  • Pacers’ coach Jim O’Brien was given a technical foul 58 seconds into the game. Dirk’s free throw gave the Mavericks a commanding 1-0 lead.
  • Remember when Mike Dunleavy used to be good? He was fantastic for the Pacers in 2007-2008, but injuries seem to have completely derailed his post-Golden State renaissance. A pity, honestly – I’ve always hoped that MDJr would have a chance to redeem himself for all the grief he got while he was with the Warriors, and he was becoming quite the complementary player before he went down.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Brendan Haywood. Speaking of, we should probably be on nickname alert for this guy. Caron Butler already has “Tough/Tuff Juice,” but Haywood needs something aside from the semi-infamous “Brenda.” Get on it, Mavs Nation, because if a 20-rebound night doesn’t deserve a moniker, then I don’t know what does anymore.

Dallas Mavericks 94, Indiana Pacers 92

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 22, 2009 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Photo by AP Photo/Darron Cummings.

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Too late is tomorrow’s life; live for today.

First of all, I apologize for just how late/non-existent everything has been around here this week.  My spring break has been excellent, but visiting family and friends back home leaves me barely enough time to watch the games, much less keep up with these duties.  Everything should be back to normal on Monday.  Better than that, actually, as I’m hoping to develop a more regular schedule for recaps/grapevine/previews/etc.  Thanks for bearing with me in the meantime.

Despite the fact that the Mavs won by a small margin to an inferior team yet again, this was a quality win.  It’s easy to look at the Pacers and the final differential and deem it a moral loss, but that wouldn’t be doing justice to everything that went right in this game.  The Mavs won on the road without Erick Dampier and Josh Howard.  They won with a colder-than-ice shooting performance from Dirk Nowitzki in the 2nd half.  And they won without Jason Terry or anyone else turning in a truly superhuman performance.  Instead, the Mavs won with guts and resolve alone.  The Pacers continued to have prayer (Jarrett Jack’s three to beat the shot clock) after prayer (Danny Granger’s bank-in jumper while double teamed at the shot clock buzzer) after prayer (T.J. Ford’s unlikely fadeaway three pointer with Wright in his face) answered, and the Mavs always had an answer.  And get this: their answer wasn’t always on the offensive end.  How about that?

Is it a terrific honor to play good defense against the Pacers, a team that plays forgettable, uninspired defense themselves and lacks a truly potent offensive?  No.  But, for these Mavs, any strong defensive performance is more significant, if for no other reason than you don’t know if it’s a trend or an aberration.  Are the Mavs a bad defensive team that turns in a few good-to-great defensive games?  Or are they a good defensive team that still fights through confusion and effort issues 70 (now 71) games into the season?  One of those seems to be the more conclusive, and certainly supported more fully by game data, but anecdotally it could go either way.

Jason Kidd had one of those games that makes you thankful he’s a Maverick.  He controlled the second half; he first jump-started the Mavs’ second-half offense by rebounding and igniting the fast break, and he followed up his own success by being ominpresent and omnipotent in the most crucial stretches of the fourth quarter.  A steal there, a deflection there, a rushed short or pass everywhere.  He guarded everyone from Jarrett Jack to Danny Granger, and he really wreaked havoc out there.  Antoine Wright will rightfully claim most of the credit for limiting Granger, but no conversation of the Mavs’ defense would be complete without mention of Kidd’s exploits.

Jason Terry was effective but not overwhelming, scoring 17 points on 6-13 shooting to go with 4 assists and 3 steals.  He actually started the game in place of J.J. Barea in place of Josh Howard, proof that after the loss to Atlanta the Mavs meant business.  It was a perfectly understandable move by Carlisle; Barea had hit double-digits in scoring just once in his six starts, and though his playmaking has generally been fine, a starting shooting guard probably shouldn’t be shooting around 38% from the field in his starts.  J.J.’s response was 7 points and 6 assists on 50% shooting, and, most importantly, 0 turnovers.  Singleton (who had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards) and Bass did their part in providing energy off the bench.  It wasn’t always beautiful, but their efforts were commendable.

Gerald Green made an appearance early in the 2nd quarter, and immediately hit a baseline jumper and converted an alley-oop layup.  But it wasn’t all quite that easy, and it never really is with Green; he missed his next three attempts and still looks homeless at times in the Mavs’ sets going both ways.  Though, in his defense, the lineup he was put on the floor with (Kidd, Barea, Bass, and Singleton) is hardly the Mavs’ most potent offensively, and everyone seemed to be looking to get the ball to Green.  I wasn’t displeased with his shot selection, but the results were less than spectacular.

Dirk’s poor shooting was as much a product of an ill-timed cold streak as it was the Pacers’ D.  Brandon Rush and Danny Granger refused to surrender an inch when guarding him, Troy Murphy refused to bite on Dirk’s pump fakes, and Jeff Foster gave him a lot of trouble by stripping the ball at the waist.  But that didn’t stop him from making two of the biggets shots of the game in the last minute and a half, including this one:

Incredible.  Kudos to Jason Terry as well, for hitting  a huge three with under a minute remaining that should have been the dagger.  I don’t know what supernatural force T.J. Ford was in contact with or what he bartered in exchange for that make, but that is some sort of intervention, divine or otherwise.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Kidd.  10 points (3-8 FG, 2-3 3FG), 9 rebounds, and 5 assists hardly makes me scream from the rooftops, but the way in which he converted most of those rebounds into immediate offensive sequences kept the Mavs in this thing and helped them build a small lead in the third.  In a game that was eventually won by 2 points, I’m thankful for all the little things he did.