DONUT 1: The Dallas Mavericks' 82-77 loss to the Bulls may be a symbol of the shift of power balance in the NBA. Last year, the Mavs were 22-8 against the East. Now? Dallas is 10-8.
Does it symbolize any other shifts for the Mavs?
There are problems. There are reasons. There are excuses. Let's separate those from one another.
DONUT 2: After the game, you may have had to check to verify you had not mistakenly started watching the Nov. 19 meeting between these teams saved on your DVR (don't know why you would save that game). Almost to the letter, this game unfolded following the same script.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, the final scene also remained the same … Where does the offense go when this team plays that team? To where does the offense too often disappear generally?
We've got the breakdown of Dallas' plans with Peja Stojakovic here. They are big plans. Sensible plans. How much does a 33-year-old jump-shooter who can't get off the end of the Raptors' bench help, though?
DONUT 3: Great Expectations.
If you came into Thursday's game versus the Bulls riding the high of the offensive show put on during the Mavericks-Lakers contest hoping for more of the same, your expectations were quickly soured … though they fell right in line with these team's previous meeting.
After one half Wednesday vs. LA, the Mavs were down 56-52 … after the first half against the Bulls, Dallas was down 44-35 … thanks to a 12-2 Chicago run to close the second quarter.
If those 35 points sounds familiar in this setting, that's because it is the same number of first-half points they scored earlier this season against the Bulls … a game that the Bulls would go on to win.
Looking for a singular reason?
"Derrick Rose is their team, I don't care who else they've got on their roster,'' Jason Terry said of the Bulls point guard. "You see he took 28 shots tonight; we made it tough on him. But …''
But Rose was good for 26 hard-gotten points.
From TNT's Charles Barkley, talking about the MVP race: "Derrick Rose, without Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, has kept that team together. I'm going to give him the edge because of the leadership. I just love watching Rose play."
DONUT 4: Want more halftime struggles at the offensive end?
Generally, you would be happy holding a team to 40.9 percent shooting for a half, as the Mavs did with Chicago.
Unfortunately, Dallas had made only 11 of their 37 shots, a dismal 29.7 percent conversion rate. Tyson Chandler (2-of-4) and Jason Kidd (1-of-2) were the only Mavs to convert at least 50 percent of their attempts.
DONUT 5: Another echo … echo … echo ...
In the third period, the Mavs came out with renewed energy and burst from the gates with a 15-4 run to reclaim the lead and would outscore the Bulls 25-12 for the period.
Not to spin this broken record around again, but they did the same thing in their first meeting, taking the third by a score of 24-17.
Chicago would make only three of their 16 shots in the quarter (18.7 percent), but trailed by only four as the final quarter arrived.
DONUT 6: And, it was "déjà vu all over again."
Back in November, Chicago ran away with the game thanks to outscoring the Mavs 32-24 in the fourth, and did so thanks in big part to the strength of their offensive rebounding (more on that in a moment).
Do you see a pattern here yet?
Thursday night, Chicago again had their biggest quarter of the night in the final frame and outscored Dallas 26-17 to seal the win.
DONUT 7: What to do when the defensive rebounding becomes "offensive''?
Throughout the night, the Mavs would play great defense only to watch the Bulls collect one of their 17 offensive boards (six coming in the final period) and extend a possession.
We understand that a known piece of collateral damage paired with the zone defense is that it can make rebounding a little more difficult on players, who are asked to box-out a space rather than a man they are already leaning on, but it's hard to feel good about stops that still result in points for the opponent.
For the night, Chicago had 17 offensive boards, compared to nine for Dallas, and the Mavs were minus-10 in total rebounding for the game.
If you're wondering, the Bulls had 20 offensive boards (that's right, Dallas had nine) and were an amazing plus-25 in total boards back in November.
Given the fact that the result was the same, there's no solace in the fact that things weren't quite as bad this time around.
DONUT 8: Even in the mirror, not everything's the same.
One thing that did not duplicate itself in this mirror of a game was the play of Dirk Nowitzki.
In the previous outing, The Uberman scored 36 points and was left without the support to claim a victory.
On this night, Dirk continued his shooting struggles that began in the Lakers game.
Nowitzki finished with 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting with two rebounds (his second lowest total of the season) and four assists.
It's not making an excuse to acknowledge the fact that Dirk's knee may not quite be back to where he wants it, as he admitted before the game.
Seriously, this is the one area where we can differentiate for certain between an "excuse'' and a "reason'' … Dirk occasionally labored up the floor …our hope/assumption is that he's dealing with the discomfort of a healing sprained knee and not risking damage to it.
Said Nowitzki: "I just gotta get my legs under me and just work my way back into it. It's probably gonna take a few more games but it's improving."
Barkley expressed the opinion that Dirk "is not healthy. He looks like he's dragging his leg. If Dirk Nowitzki's not right they have got no chance.''
Chuck is right about the second part. The "have no chance'' part.
The "not healthy'' part is really an argument about being "healthy enough.'' And only Nowitzki and the Mavs can decide that. You can't do it from your living room. Chuck can't do it from a TV studio in Atlanta.
DONUT 9: Was it great defense, or poor offense?
Only one Maverick hit more than half of his shots: Tyson Chandler, who was 5-of-9 (including 1-of-2 on those right elbow jumpers he has shown some affection for).
Once again, Chandler denied whatever lingering remnants of sickness may be coursing through his veins and played with energy and effectiveness. This isn't to knock those who replaced him when he was forced to rest on the bench (Brendan Haywood on this night), but the Mavs appear to be two completely different teams … one when he's on the court and another when he is not.
We marveled over this at times early in the season, and perhaps we've had it pushed before our eyes to see again due to the time he missed with his illness, but it's hard not to see it when watching the games.
Chandler, a former Bull, finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds (including five at the offensive end) and three blocks.
Dallas is now 6-2 when Chandler posts a double-double.
DONUT 10: From the ‘Sure, If We Do That, We Should Win'' Dept.:
When you hold your opponent to 36.9 percent shooting, as the Mavs did, you can generally expect to win the game.
Well, unless you only hit 35.6 percent of your own shots.
Said Dirk: I feel like our defense was solid, holding them to 37 percent, but we never really got our running game going, partly because we were on a back-to-back and we never really got anything going. Usually when we hold a team to 37 percent shooting, we should get at least 10 or 12 fast-break points, but that never happened. They got back well and we never ran the way we want to . . . They made it hard on us, and we didn't make enough shots to win."
B2B: "Excuse'' or "reason''?
DONUT 11: If you accept the poor shooting as the product of good defense, this game came down to two simple things.
One, the inability of the Mavs to get defensive rebounds after strong defensive stands late in the game.
Two, a pair of costly turnovers in the fourth quarter with the score still in tilt, including a turnover out of timeout on a play that appeared a little out of rhythm from the start in the final minute.
"We're a little rusty on our end-of-game situations,'' said Jet, tiptoeing into "excuse'' territory. "Our timing is a little off, and even last night we didn't close the game the way we would have wanted to offensively.''
DONUT 12: A note of thanks to some of our key friends at DallasBasketball.com …. Right now, iDealGolfer.com has a way for you to play The Tribute for 60 percent off! (It's first-come, first-serve, so hurry!) ... McKinneyDentist.com is working to get the Quoteboard rollin' ... and MavCowTickets has Mavs tickets and even Super Bowl tickets for you! Thanks, guys!
DONUT 13: So the Mavs get back to the grindstone by trying to fix this thing in New Jersey on Saturday … and DB.com gets back to the grindstone with a great Premium piece … Coming up today in Mavs Premium: Kammrath goes down the list of possible Mavs trade targets and attaches numbers to ‘em. … Iggy, Martin, Murphy, Devin, Capt. Jack, Maggette, Wallace and Tayshaun … it's a Handy Clip-and-Save Guide … coming up!