The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 102, Denver Nuggets 84

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 16, 2012 under Recaps | 14 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-16 at 12.58.42 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR

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

  • Shawn Marion (16 points, 8-14 FG, 10 rebounds, six assists) spent another game guarding a highly effective point guard, although this particular assignment may be his most unexpected yet. Ricky Rubio? Still unusual, but does make some bit of sense. Chris Paul? As a matter of necessity, Dallas needed to throw Paul off guard. But Ty Lawson (three points, 1-8 FG, two assists, two turnovers)? Marion should have struggled to stay in front of him, even with height and length providing theoretical counters. But he kept up, and when the Nuggets tried to free up Lawson with screens, the Maverick bigs did a terrific job of containing the speedy point man and preventing him from turning the corner with a burst. The sequestering of Lawson was a showcase of wonderful defense on pretty much every level — a smart (and unconventional) assignment, persistent on-ball defensive effort, and terrific, well-timed help.
  • Oh, and when Lawson wasn’t in the game, Marion guarded Andre Miller (zero points, 0-5 FG, two assists, two turnovers), too — just because he could, and because Rick Carlisle apparently likes embarrassing opposing point guards.
  • All of that said: Lawson and Miller were in a particularly tough spot, as both Danilo Gallinari and Nene missed the game due to injury. Any team can be devastated by injury to a key player, but “superstarless” outfits like the Nuggets are particularly vulnerable. Denver has a nice collection of overall talent and a style that fits the personnel well. But every single piece is an essential component of the formula; Gallo, Nene, Lawson, Miller, Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo…a system predicated on total balance risks going lopsided when any one of the pieces is removed from the equation. When two of those pieces are absent? It’s remarkably difficult for the rest of the roster as-is to compensate, a talented bunch though they may be.

Read more of this article »

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Denver Nuggets 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 9, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-02-09 at 1.02.27 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR

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 Mavs played active defense on Wednesday night, but that shouldn’t be mistaken with good defense. Denver’s ball movement understandably puts a strain on any opponent, but Dallas’ defenders were over-rotating like crazy, content to make sure that if they were beaten on a particular possession, it wasn’t due to a lack of defensive activity. That’s an admirable aim, I suppose, though not as admirable as a defensive approach that simultaneously brings both energy and restraint. That happy medium is where the Mavs have lived for a good portion of the season thus far, and where they should aim to be come playoff time. It’s also where they weren’t in this particular game, but alas, these things happen.
  • Apparently, the only thing that can keep Jason Terry off the floor at the end of a competitive game is a minor hip flexor tweak.
  • Turnovers weren’t even remotely a problem, as Dallas managed to stabilize its offense without grinding the play action to a halt. The ball was moving from side to side freely, the Mavs used simple elements of their offense to create favorable mismatches, and the shots were falling. That’s an incredibly simple recipe for offensive success, but it was the crisp consistency of Dallas’ execution that made this an incredibly straightforward exercise.

Read more of this article »

The Difference: Denver Nuggets 115, Dallas Mavericks 93

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 27, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-12-26 at 11.58.30 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

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

  • Give the Mavericks credit: they didn’t lose this game solely on offense or defense alone, but managed to clam up and crumble simultaneously. They turned the ball over on nearly a fifth of their possessions. They started with a well-intentioned transition defense, but spend most of the game lightly jogging in the Nuggets’ dust. They allowed 117.3 points per 100 possessions. These first two games have been ugly in a way this franchise hasn’t seen in a long time, and hopefully those universal struggles don’t persist for too long.
  • Delonte West (two points, four assists, three steals) grabbed his first formal start after becoming the de facto starter for the second half of the opener against the Heat. In theory, it was a good move; West is the hands-down best defensive option the Mavs have against Ty Lawson (27 points, 10-15 FG, 3-6 3FG, four rebounds, four assists, three steals). That theoretical decision didn’t do much good against the Nuggets’ outright fast breaks and transition-induced mismatches, but West was still the right call for starting responsibilities.
  • Turnovers aside, the Mavs actually looked much improved offensively in the game’s opening quarter. There were some productive sets, and various players worked well together in strong-side action. It wasn’t anything resembling the offensive sophistication that earned Dallas their first title, but in such dire times, Mavs fans should take what they can get.

Read more of this article »

The Difference: Denver Nuggets 104, Dallas Mavericks 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 7, 2011 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Screen shot 2011-04-07 at 1.08.17 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR

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

  • All things considered, the Mavs did not play poorly. They merely played one half relatively so. The natural temptation is to pin the outcome of this game on that decisive 10-2 sprint that Denver used to finish out the game, but the initial 24 minutes mattered far more than the final two and a half. That kind of letdown was unfortunate considering how resilient Dallas had been in the second half until that point, but the Mavs put themselves in a position to lose this game with their defensive follies in the game’s opening half. Tactical errors were part of the problem (Dallas was really blitzing screen-and-rolls in the first half, which Denver exploited with excellent ball movement), but the larger issues were in execution; the Mavs were scrambling all over the place, and that almost obscured the fact that Dallas’ defenders were losing track of ball-handlers and cutters left and right. Things tightened up in the second half, but there was a reason why Denver was shooting well from the field at the end of the first half.
  • This game does, however, come with it’s own built-in excuses, should the Mavs choose to lean on them: Jason Kidd sat out this game in order to rest for the playoffs, and Tyson Chandler is still nursing a minor injury to his lower back. Chandler’s absence was certainly a factor in the way Dallas performed on the defensive end, but it’s not as if Brendan Haywood (19 rebounds, eight offensive boards, five blocks) was dead weight. Haywood looked charged to be a starter again, and though his rotations just don’t quite measure up to Chandler’s, Haywood was doing everything he could to stop the Nuggets inside. It just wasn’t the same, and it wasn’t enough. Chandler alone wouldn’t have guaranteed the Mavs a win, and that’s precisely the point; Dallas got a lot out of Haywood, and had plenty of other things go right. But unless they can work out some of the kinks in their play on both ends, Dallas’ playoff run is going to look a lot like this game. (Note: I explored a similar theme for the Daily Dime. See Box #2)
  • The good news: Corey Brewer logged nearly 20 minutes of action, and played some tremendous basketball. It wasn’t just defense, either; Brewer did his work by jumping passing lanes, defending on the ball, and hustling back to contest shots in transition, but he also nailed spot-up jumpers and finished a few drives. Brewer certainly isn’t a player without weakness, but he performed quite well offensively on this particular night, and his play warrants serious consideration for a role as a rotation mainstay. However, as Carlisle knows and Mavs fans will soon find out: those corner threes and shots from the short corner won’t be falling every game.
  • Shawn Marion (21 points, 10-14 FG, 10 rebounds, four offensive boards) was a terrific on offense. He eventually got pulled late in the game for some lazy defense, but Marion was a worthy second fiddle, scoring on runners, post-ups, and second chance opportunities. He was the first to every loose ball on the offensive end, and between his efficiency and Haywood’s offensive rebounding, the Mavs very nearly pulled together a win. That’s what the game’s all about, people: maximizing efficiency on a possession-by-possession basis, and giving your team as many possible possessions to utilize.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (six points, 2-7 FG, one assist, four turnovers) had an opportunity to initiate the offense on a more consistent basis, but had a hard time consistently creating for his teammates. There was a bit of trial and error, which is to be expected, but I do think the entire experience should remind everyone of exactly what it is that Jason Kidd does. Any point guard can make passes, but Kidd makes perfectly placed ones. Even on days when he only registers six or seven assists, he places the ball so well with his teammates that it forces defenses to react in a particular and overt way. Beaubois can run through the sets, doing more or less the same things that Kidd does, but when it finally comes time to make that pass, or find the cutter, Beaubois just isn’t as able. Kidd makes his fair share of turnovers and mistakes, but even with the giveaways piling up, Kidd nonetheless retains the ability to make those perfectly placed passes.
  • Related: Should these two teams meet in the first round of the playoffs (and that remains a distinct possibility, given how well the Thunder are playing and how many losses the Mavs have picked up lately), Kidd’s influence would be considerable. Denver forces a ton of turnovers, and uses those steals and deflections to create fast break opportunities to fuel their offense. Kidd may take risks, but in his stead, Beaubois, Jason Terry, and J.J. Barea combined for 12 giveaways. That’s a huge swing in the Nuggets’ favor, and one that wouldn’t be quite so glaring had Kidd suited up.
  • Though the Mavs did pay the price for their pick-and-roll coverage at times, Dallas’ ability to keep Ty Lawson (nine points, 3-12 FG, eight assists) under wraps was impressive. Lawson has been performing at an All-Star level since the Carmelo Anthony trade, but he wasn’t a significant offensive factor on Wednesday night. Denver can adjust to that situation better than any other team in the league (Raymond Felton simply stepped up when needed, and the Nuggets on the whole showed off some beautiful passing), but it’s certainly positive to see Dallas defend a capable, lightning-quick point guard well.
  • Meanwhile, Dallas’ own waterbug was splitting double-teams and slicing to the rim. J.J. Barea had a hell of a game off the dribble, and though Beaubois was technically starting in place of Jason Kidd, it was Barea who ended up with the ball in his hands for most of the game. That strategy seemed to backfire when Barea committed a costly turnover with just two minutes remaining and the Mavs trailing by four, but 12 points on 12 shots from Barea to go along with 10 assists is a nice return. The aforementioned four turnovers hurt, but Barea was creating off the bounce, a skill that grants him a unique value in the context of this team.

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume I

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 10, 2010 under Commentary, Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

I wish Summer League lent itself to delicate prose, but unfortunately it’s basketball best consumed in bullet points. There aren’t narratives per se, but the minutiae beg to be absorbed:

  • Rodrigue Beaubois returned to Summer League to refine his point guard skills, but you wouldn’t know it from his first game. Rodrigue put up 16 shots (including nine threes, of which he made none) and was aggressively pursuing shots as the game went on. Dallas actually ran the offense through Dominique Jones and Jeremy Lin a fair bit. Not a crime, but also not indicative of much development.
  • Jones is even stronger than expected. We knew he was a bull of a shooting guard who thrived by getting to the rim at South Florida, but he’s displaying every bit of that ability against his SL competition. It’s not quite the NBA, but it’s a good start. Jones looks quick enough to get around his defender, even if most of his moves were relatively unremarkable straight-line drives. He was very effective, and reasonably efficient: Dominique finished with 19 points on 13 shots, with his low FG% (38.5%) hedged by his frequent trips to the line (12 FTAs). Five turnovers is no good, but at this point that just sees like the sour point of Jones’ game. He does one thing extremely well for a late first rounder, and the rest will have to come along as he goes.
  • Omar Samhan didn’t have a hugely productive night, and he’s not exactly set to dominate against even SL competition. Mobility really didn’t seem to be all that much of an issue, but he didn’t convert on NCAA-caliber post moves. He is doing good work, though. Even though Samhan didn’t put up many attempts, his post game is refined enough to make an impact. He also showed some touch in the face-up game, connecting on a few long two-pointers. Defensive impact: TBD.
  • J.R. Giddens works to hedge his mistakes, but the problem is that he makes entirely too many of them. He’s a decent athlete with a mid-range jumper, but doesn’t seem to know how to put it all together. He abandons his defensive position, works to get the ball offensively but is probably counterproductive in doing so, and isn’t all that versatile. Giddens is good Summer League filler, but not an NBA player.
  • SMU product Mouhammad Faye played well. His 12 points and eight boards were far more fun than I expected we’d get from Faye, but he was just as impressive defensively. He’s 6’9” but a long 6’9”, and looks like he could slide into a niche NBA role as a resident defender/rebounder. Definitely a natural SF, but I suppose he could play PF in a pinch.
  • One of the things that bothered me about Beaubois’ performance was the way in which he surrendered control of the offense. As I mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with letting Jones or Lin initiate offensive sequences, but Beaubois simply shifted between phases of scoring (or attempting to) and deferring. There was no middle ground, he was either spotting-up while others made plays or created for himself off the dribble.
  • Moussa Seck is obviously a giant, but he doesn’t have the lower body strength or girth to fully utilize his size. Yao Ming isn’t solely a special athlete because of his work ethic and touch. He also has the strength and size necessary to claim position in the low post and box out. Seck doesn’t have that, and he may never.
  • Dominique Jones’ jumper, which has typically been listed as his most glaring weakness, isn’t NBA ready. He doesn’t look comfortable at all when pulling up, and looks to his J only as a last, last, last resort. That jumper will eventually be what separates Dominique from run-of-the-mill specialists, and the more he looks to diversify his offensive abilities (legit NBA three-point range would go a long way), the more undeniable his utility becomes.
  • Jeremy Lin may not get an NBA spot, but he’s going to play somewhere. And he’s going to play very well. He’d make a very good third point guard in the immediate future, and has the potential to be a reliable bench back-up. Not starting material, but he’s an intelligent playmaker, a capable scorer, and a better-than-advertised defender. When in dual-PG sets with Beaubois (or tri-guard sets with Beaubois and Jones), it was actually Lin that the Mavs put on the Nuggets’ Ty Lawson, not Rodrigue. Lawson still had a tidy 11 points while shooting very well from the field, but the assignment says something of Lin’s defense in itself.
  • Underwhelming: DeShawn Sims (who I expect will play a bit better and a bit more in the future), Shan Foster (who I don’t).

They Smell Like the Future: Ty Lawson

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 25, 2009 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

Photo by John Biever/SI.

UNC Junior
6′0”, 197 lbs. (Combine measurements)
21 years old
Point guard
Projection: Mid-late 1st round

It’s tough to pick apart Ty Lawson’s game.  Most of the counter arguments to claims of Lawson’s success to come in the NBA are largely circumstantial.  He’s a small point guard, but Chris Paul has shown that height doesn’t have to stand in the way of talent.  He did play for a fast-paced offense at UNC, but he’s hardly unique in that respect, and the pace doesn’t make the game tape any less impressive.  Ty Lawson will be a player, that much is certain to me.  Determining his true ceiling may be the more difficult part.

On one hand, you could see Lawson capping out relatively early.  His quickness is a huge advantage, but one that will be partially mitigated by quicker NBA defenders.  The 6’0” measurement, while hardly the stroke of death, poises him for an uphill battle on the defensive end.  There’s room for his shooting to improve, but by how much?  There’s room for growth as a playmaker, but will he embrace it?

I’m situated firmly in the other camp.  I think Lawson will be a great starter in the NBA, and though he may never snatch the highest accolades the league has to offer, he’s going to make some team very, very happy.

Lawson is a true point guard, albeit one who isn’t afraid to score.  One of the few things I consistently rag on Jason Kidd for is not necessarily his inability to score, but his lack of inclination.  He’ll get right to the rim for an open layup, and at the last second kick the ball to the corner for an Antoine Wright three.  It’s as if the part of his brain telling him to score has been poked and prodded with a javelin.  Lawson can’t match Kidd’s height, defense, or incredible courtvision, but he does combine some elements of Kidd’s skill set with a more natural ability and willingness to score.  Lawson is a better shooter coming out of college than Kidd was until the last few seasons.  He’s probably a better finisher around the basket than Kidd is now.  The Mavs don’t desperately need Lawson’s scoring ability, but they need a point guard prospect who can take care of all kinds of business.  Sometimes that will entail setting up his teammates, sometimes it will require taking it to the rack, and almost all the time he’ll have to dig in on the defensive end.

As far as “floor generals” go, it’s hard to do worse than Lawson.  He’s won on college basketball’s biggest stage as the snake head of one of the nation’s highest profile programs.  He’s got a very complete set of skills, and enough quickness to make you do a double-take.  Lawson isn’t the best point guard in the draft, but he doesn’t have to be.  He just has to be the right prospect at the right time for the Mavs, which is a distinct possibility if he falls to 24.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Lawson.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are based on Lawson’s three-year career at UNC.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

These are fantastic projections for Lawson.  With Ty’s improved shooting stroke, I can’t help but shake the feeling that he could pan out as a Jameer Nelson-type player.  All three of these comparisons have the makings of solid pros, which is exactly what can be expected from Lawson.  All three are also undersized even by point guard standards, and yet have little trouble turning heads with their talent and production.

Heard It Through the Pre-Draft Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 20, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment


  • Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Blazers have legitimate interest in Jason Kidd.  Boot up the trade machine!
  • Nick Prevenas of “The 2009 draft frequently draws comparisons to the 2000 draft — otherwise known as the worst draft in NBA history. Kenyon Martin (a player eerily similar to Griffin) went No. 1 overall, but never developed into the dominant power forward we expected to see after his career at Cincinnati was stopped short by a broken leg. He turned into a key cog in the Denver Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference Finals, but injuries have held back a potentially promising career. The rest of that draft was just dreadful. Marcus Fizer? Keyon Dooling? Jerome Moiso? Courtney Alexander? Lottery picks. Seriously…Is this year’s draft that bad? At this point, I’m leaning no. However, it is the type of draft where a team would much rather pick in the 15-25 range than from 4-13…[Jrue] Holiday — along with guys like Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan, Stephen Curry, Jordan Hill, Jeff Teague, and so on — are seeing their stock artificially inflated because of the lack of competition.”
  • Matt Kamalsky of Draft Express breaks down the shooting guards in the draft (notably Marcus Thornton, Terrence Williams, Jeff Teague) by the numbers.
  • John Hollinger’s Draft Rater is very high on Ty Lawson, Austin Daye, and Nick Calathes, three prospects which have been linked to the Mavs via rumors or simply availability.  The three came in as the 1st, 4th, and 6th best collegiate prospects respectively, outclassing plenty of their lottery-bound draftmates.  Jordan Hill and Patty Mills are listed as potential disappointments.  Hollinger willingly admits that the Rater has missed the boat entirely on some prospects, so keep in mind that prospect hunting is hardly a science.

Ty Lawson

  • The Nets’ GM, Kiki Vandeweghe, gave a glowing review of Lawson following his workout in Jersey: “To me, it’s more of what the guy has inside. It’s more about speed, quickness…At the end of the day, that’s what basketball is. Would you like to have taller players on your team? Yeah, it’s basketball…But having said that, this guy I think is one of the more ready guys to play. If he comes in, he helps a team, no question about it…First of all, he’s very strong…If you look at the history, he makes other players better, knows how to play. If you go back through the history of our league, guys who were very strong that way — no matter what size they are — they find a way to compete at their position. I think he really helps a team.”
  • Dave Berri also makes the case for Lawson.  That’s not one, but two of the most prominent stat heads in the field on Lawson’s side.  Ty also has all of the “heart of a champion” rhetoric and anecdotal evidence he could possibly need.  Considering that all that really seems to stand between Lawson and a guaranteed spot in the lottery are his measurables, can the Mavs really expect him to tumble to 22?

Jordan Hill

  • The Knicks may have some interest in Hill at 8, so if the Mavs are content with moving up in the draft to snag him, they’d best play it safe and aim for Washington’s 5th pick.  Then again, maybe they shouldn’t be doing that at all for the likes of Jordan Hill.  And then again, maybe Hill has convinced the Wizards to stick around in the lottery.

Jeff Teague

  • Michael Stephenson, in a guest post for TrueHoop: “Teague had the purest stroke and hit his jumper most consistently in the drills and during the scrimmage…But it was obvious that he’s a level behind and had trouble keeping up with his peers. In an extremely guard heavy draft, I imagine it’s going to be tough for him to turn many heads.”  The peers that Stephenson describes are Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans.
  • John Givony, of DraftExpress fame, wrote a feature on point guards for  Conveniently absent from Givony’s superlatives is Jeff Teague, and there’s a reason for that: Teague is not, and likely will never be, a conventional point guard.  Asking Teague to run the show is akin to asking a young Jason Terry of the same

Terrence Williams

via Detroit Bad Boys via Dime

  • The Mavs certainly have competition for the services of Terrence Williams.  The Nets seem awfully high on him, and the Bobcats would not only make sense (Williams seems like a Larry Brown kinda guy), but be entirely possible with the 12th pick.
  • Williams knows how to win over the hearts and minds of NBA coaches, teammates, and die-hards: defense.  It’s what separates him from the rest of the talent pool the Mavs may face with the 22 pick, and Williams has the size, the resolve, and the athleticism to be a fantastic defender in the big leagues.