Wednesday, the Mavs may have "stolen" a victory from the Nuggets in Denver. Saturday, the Mavs once again found Denver on the opposing bench, and promptly returned what they'd stolen.
Despite some speculation to the contrary, Nene again joined Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin in street clothes … and again, the Mavs could have and should have benefited by avoiding three of the Nuggets' leading frontcourt players.
Prior to the game, Rick Carlisle spoke on the difficulty of a sweep when facing the same opponent in consecutive games, "They study the film. You study film. Teams adjust. It's very hard to sweep a team back-to-back," Carlisle said. "It's challenging, but the games fall where they fall."
No excuses. Just accept the hand dealt … and take that hand.
Things started well enough. Jason Terry scorched through the first half with 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the floor. Unfortunately, other than Dominique Jones (who was only 1-of-1), he was the only Mav to shoot over 50 percent in the half and the Mavs found themselves down one going into halftime: 52-53.
In the third quarter, things held steady … then the floor collapsed beneath the Mavs play for the final period as Denver opened the fourth with a 19-to-6 run to put the game out of reach.
Entering the fourth tied at 79, Dallas managed only 13 points while allowing Denver to go for 24 as they quickly pulled away for an easy victory.
Carmelo Anthony followed up a strong performance against the Clippers on Friday in a Denver win to lead all scorers in this contest with 27 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Once again, turnovers plagued the Mavs, to the tune of 21 for the game, and ultimately guaranteed the loss.
Shawn Marion lamented those turnovers after the game. " … 21 turnovers, and a lot of them were steals. I think a lot of them were from being careless." Marion said.
Terry led the Mavs in scoring with 26, but could only muster three points after the intermission … and after his hot 9-of-10 start, he went one for his next seven to total 10-of-17 from the floor.
Caron Butler had his first double-double of the season. Yet, it was his horrid shooting that will likely linger in his recollection. Butler finished 5-of-17 from the floor, or 29 percent, to total 13 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and four turnovers.
On play may have epitomized his night. In the third quarter, Butler put a devastating crossover move that left ‘Melo on the floor, calmly collected himself and then missed a wide-open jumper.
Perhaps to understand the loss, we need look no further than the beginning. Before the game Carlisle gave a simple, yet foreshadowing statement when asked for any theory on why teams tend to lose the second game after winning the first when playing the same opponent consecutively.
Carlisle said, "Teams that win the first game tend to let down. Teams that lose the first game tend to get more fired up."
*With the Nuggets playing no player over the height of 6-9, the Mavs' centers could not capitalize. Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood combined to score three points, to go with 12 rebounds and three blocks.
I recently wondered aloud why the Mavs don't at least mix in a post-up game with their centers, perhaps an answer came tonight. On two separate attempts, one from each center, the results were not pretty … even if Haywood's failed attempt was quickly grabbed and put back up and in by Butler.
*Backup point guard is becoming an undeniable issue. In the first half Jason Kidd left the game with the Mavs up five, only to return and find them down ten. Where Kidd led the team in raw plus/minus (+11), Barea (the only man other than Kidd to get point guard minutes this night) was second worst on the team with a minus-21.
This loss certainly can't be put solely on Barea. But, that doesn't change the fact that he has not been getting the job done as the backup point guard this season.
*Depth? Once again, the Mavs bench did not do their part. The three players meant to lead the bench each finished with a plus/minus no better than Barea's: Shawn Marion (-22), Barea (-21) and Haywood (-21).
Before the season we addressed the lack of bench scoring on this roster, with Terry now starting, that problem has only been compounded. Beyond Shawn Marion's 12 points, no bench player totaled more than three.
*Though Marion is lumped in with the bench lack of production, and his plus/minus would lend to thoughts of poor production, that hasn't been the case. For the night, Marion put up 12 points, nine rebounds (four offensive), one steal and one block. He started slow, one for his first five shots, but made all four shots he took in the fourth, and played with energy throughout.
*Dirk once again found his free-throw stroke, only to stumble into another area of rarity for him … a player renowned for his ability to avoid turnovers gave up seven of them.
*On those turnovers, Carlisle had this to say: "You know, we have to solve it. It has been more of a problem in the three games we have played at home. So, I don't know. I don't know the reason."
Carlisle continued, "We had three in the first four minutes of the game, and then three in the four possessions to start the fourth and those are two really important quarters."
*We can now safely say that the plan is for Jason Kidd to guard the opposing team's shooting guard … such has been the case every game thus far, with Terry guarding the opponent's point guard to open the game.
We can also safely say that some of the other Mavs' blueprint features -- relying on vets to manage the ball, taking advantage of being at home (where they are now 1-2), avoiding having to "steal'' things by not giving them away in the first place -- are not going as planned.