Weekend Donuts: Mavs Come Limping Home
DONUT 1: We'll get to the here and now of this Saturday night loss – the Dallas Mavericks' third in a row and ninth in their past 12 games – in a moment.
But in the long run, we're not going to remember this defeat as anything special. Frankly, we probably won't remember anything at all from the action itself.
The ultimate value in this one lies in the milestone notched by Jason Eugene Terry as the JET became the 102nd player in league history to play in 1,000 career games. And for as many nerves as he's grated on in the past month, this is still the guy who has been the Robin to Dirk's Batman since 2004; the guy who's hit more 3s than all but five other players in league history; the guy who one day will have his jersey raised to the AAC rafters; the guy who hit by any estimation one of the five biggest shots in franchise history – and that may be low-balling it.
Dirk Nowitzki inadvertently summarized the Jason Terry Experience during a recent appearance on Bill Simmons' podcast when he kinda-sorta-not really joked that the team has to reel JET back into the fold four or five times per year. This is one of those times. Just remember, though, that the same strain of hubris that causes JET to covet every crunch time shot and sometimes stew when he doesn't get it is also the one that caused him to take and make that deep three-pointer in LeBron's grill, and the one that led to him burying nine 3s against the Lakers when he couldn't see the rim for half of them (we call that ‘The Jason Terry Game').
Point is, you take the good with the bad. For all the bitching done on Terry's account over the past eight years, there's dramatically more of the former than the latter.
DONUT 2: As for the actual in-game content, it sucked.
Can that be blamed on the schedule? Absolutely… to an extent. As the esteemed Mark Followill pointed out during pregame, the Mavs have played in a league-high 16 back-to-backs and, along with Chicago, a league-high 43 games to date. They also are the only team in the West to have a stretch of nine games in 12 days.
DONUT 3: Something else that can be filed under the "in fairness" tab: if you have the misfortune of playing a back-to-back-to-back, Golden State is exactly the type of team you don't want to see in the third leg.
Smack dab in the Pacific Time Zone. Young legs. Lots of athleticism. Hot shooting from beyond the arc (10 for 25 on Saturday, good for 40%). A lightning-quick scorer in Monta Ellis who can get his shot whenever he wants it.
That's about the furthest from ideal circumstances you can find.
DONUT 4: Yet none of that detracts from the fact that Dallas got goose-egged against three of the four worst teams in the whole conference (or that they also lost to the fourth one, New Orleans, last week).
Nor does it mitigate the harsh truth that they weren't even in the latter two despite playing against two of the youngest squads in the NBA and arguably two of the lowest collections of BBIQ out there – although if you've sampled either of Sacramento or Golden State's work, you're probably not quibbling with that assessment.
No matter how tired or short-handed the Mavs are, getting swept on this trip is unacceptable.
Said coach Rick Carlisle: "I'm disappointed, but not dismayed. We've just got to keep going."
DONUT 5: Contrary to semi-popular belief, effort wasn't the culprit on Saturday night.
Trailing the whole way, Dallas did their damndest to stay in this game when they had every reason to pack it in. They, for once, won the battle on the offensive glass 8-to-3. They forced turnovers, 16 in all, and scored 17 points off of those giveaways. On no fewer than five occasions, they cleaved a double-digit deficit into a single-digit one.
That's before getting into The Eye Test. Because for those so game to point a finger, who was loafing? Dirk and JET weren't. Nor were the centers. Odom and Carter haven't been able to buy a shot since the All Star break – and in Odom's case, all season – but I saw the former slamming into traffic looking for offensive rebounds and the latter banging in the paint on offense (Vince Carter. Physicality. Who knew?). DoJo made dumb decisions galore in an earnest, overmatched turn as the fill-in starter at the point, but he certainly was trying – and Rick approved of his effort overall.
They certainly looked sluggish – particularly in the first quarter – and the total lack of communication on the bench was hardly encouraging. Team chemistry, to say the least, has been better; it's worth noting here that JET contends things are on track in that department following the Phoenix game.
But, really, they didn't hand this game over by any stretch of the imagination.
DONUT 6: No, the problem was execution. The shoe fits when they turned the ball over 21 times, and let Golden State convert that into 25 points.
As does losing the scoring battle in the paint 42-26, and letting mediocrity personified in Nate Robinson, who averages 9.3 PPG on 38.5% shooting, explode for 21 points while shooting at a 60% clip, on top of the transition defense that surrendering another quarter century.
Not to mention the Mavs as a whole shooting a ghastly 37.3% from the field, with no one who exceeded five shot attempts even getting to 45% shooting for the night.
When the D is leaking like the Titanic and the O can't throw the rock in an ocean, you lose. No amount of effort one way or the other can ameliorate that.
DONUT 7: Of course personnel, or lack thereof, played a part in this. The dynamics of the schedule forced Carlisle into rendering Jason Kidd and his soon-to-be 39 year-old legs a spectator in the anchor leg of this back-to-back-to-back and, like most every time the team's heartbeat is off the court, there was hardly a semblance of flow on offense without him.
"It wasn't a good idea for him to play," Carlisle said. "He's so important to us that it's tough to play without him, but we've got to look at this on a big-picture basis.''
Similarly, it's no coincidence that a team that conceded 100 points or more in just five games this season – with only two of those coming after the first three games of the season, no less – gave that up in back to back games with Brendan Haywood out of the lineup.
There's also the potpourri of grit, savvy, and moxie that Delonte West brings to the table along with his perimeter defense, jump shot, and ball handling; right now, you could have quite the debate over which concoction Dallas could use more as the do-everything guard languishes on the shelf.
DONUT 8: But at its core, tonight's loss boils down to the same issue that this team has faced all season – they just don't get many easy buckets.
Mostly because nobody outside of Dirk can consistently manufacture his own shot – something that's been the case at least Jerry Stackhouse was in town, or perhaps even Michael Finley – but last year's team got around it with ball movement, extra passes, and intelligence. As individuals, they couldn't get to the cup but with enough teamwork and redirection, they'd find their way there as a unit.
It's not so much that The Champs Reloaded lack the passing gene in their collective DNA, because West, Carter and Odom all are above average distributors. The trouble is all of that boils down to chemistry and this group had neither the incubation period (training camp) nor health to foster it.
DONUT 9: So, in lieu of that, they settle for jumpers.
Lots of jumpers.
When those jumpers don't fall – as has been the case all season long for a team tied for 19th overall in team field goal percentage heading into the Golden State game – the points aren't coming, given that this is also a team that loses the offensive rebounding battle most every night.
Nothing they do at the trade deadline is going to change that, because there's nobody on the market who possesses the requisite skill set as well as an expiring contract the keep the 3D blueprint in place.
These, folks, are your 2011-2012 Dallas Mavericks. And if you have to settle on just one reason for why a repeat is looking like a long shot, look no further than here.
DONUT 10: Silver lining time:
The schedule is going to correct itself, and that couldn't come at a better time. The Mavs don't have another back-to-back until two weekends from now, and only six the rest of the way. The games themselves get tougher – two more dates apiece with the Spurs, Lakers, and Grizz along with road tilts in Miami, Chicago, and Denver – but at least they'll have more time to prepare for it all.
DONUT 11: GO MAVS! GO PREMIUM! Please try our Premium Mavs coverage! You get All-Access to what the Mavs are doing upstairs, down in the basement, in the locker room and on the court – and it's free to come inside for a 7-day tryout. Now more than ever, there's every reason to give it a go! Thanks for your support of the site at less than a dime-a-day! Go Mavs and Go Premium!
DONUT 12: We'll close the same way we opened, by focusing on JET.
Or, in this case, JET focusing on the road ahead: "Winning is a cure-all. If we can get one under our belt and get that feeling back, [we can] start to feel good about ourselves. Regardless of who it is. It don't matter. If we gotta play the Lady Jets to get a win, we'll do that."