All-Access: Mavs In 6th With Win At Warriors
FOREWARD: Just as a game against the woeful Sacramento Kings had become a must-win, so had Thursday's matchup with the desperate-to-tank-and-save-their-draft-pick Golden State Warriors. When the Dallas Mavericks took the court, each of the final three seeds (6-thru-8) in the Western Conference playoff standings was marked by a 32-26 record … only a game-and-a-half ahead of the Utah Jazz, who sat on the outside looking in.
With the standings so thoroughly compacted, the difference between the lottery and the postseason could amount to no more than a single slip … a momentary lapse in focus when tightroping the ledge invites the fall.
Behind the first-half brilliance of Brandan Wright and Roddy Beaubois, Dallas built a lead as large as 19 points before eventually letting that advantage crumble to as little as three in the fourth quarter when they would lean heavily on Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd to put the game away by a final of 112-103.
WHERE IT BEGAN: In the first half, Dallas relied on their youth to provide explosive energy and a honed aggression that changed the game. Particularly, they rode the waves created by Brandan Wright and Roddy Beaubois.
We'll begin with Wright. In six minutes of first-quarter action, Wright scored eight points without missing a shot (2-of-2 field goals and 4-of-4) and grabbed three rebounds. The energy he spilled over the court shifted a casual start in a must-win game into a hustle-fest Golden State was not prepared to match.
After the Sacramento game, we mentioned that we'd like to see a few more rebounds from Wright and he responded with nine against the Warriors. That … we'll gladly take.
By the end of the first half, Wright had 12 points, six rebounds and a block while gathering minutes at both the backup power forward and center positions against the team that unceremoniously discarded him midway through last season in a deal for Troy Murphy.
Wright finished with 16 points (6-of-8 field goals) nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal and allowed Rick Carlisle to safely manage the minutes of Shawn Marion (25) and Brendan Haywood (11).
In the last four games (directly coinciding with when Lamar Odom began to slip from the rotation) Wright is averaging: 13.5 points, 63.9 field-goal percentage, 6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1 steal.
If you're wondering, Odom did not total 16 points and nine rebounds once as a Maverick.
THE B-WRIGHT VIDEO CLINIC: He's a lot of cheeseburgers short of being a traditional bulky 5. He's a summer of jumpers away from being a stretch 4.
But once again, Brandan Wright put on a clinic in terms of positioning and hustle, and of combining his freakish athleticism with BBIQ.
One: Flowing with the team's offensive ball movement, not needing a touch or needing to be a designated shooter ... just flow:
Two: The anticipatory ability to hustle to the position of getting a fast-break chance when his starting position is near his own baseline ... and when the turnover comes on his team's defensive perimeter:
"He's terrific,'' Carlisle said.
RODDY B'S HALF: In the first half, Roddy Beaubois saw the Warriors on the opposing bench and quickly adopted a fierce, controlled confidence you might expect from him when facing the team he poured in 40 against as a rookie. On display was the that's Roddy unafraid to continuously attack the defense, to create points on the back of his immense physical skills that seem to only be curbed at times by his mental hesitations.
While fed by a beautiful lob from Jason Kidd, a prime example of this came with 2:17 to play in the second quarter when Roddy curled through the defense, spun in the air, and threw a masterful dunk down to finish the alley-oop.
He led the Mavs with nine second-quarter points and helped push the surge that led to a 19-point Dallas lead. Unfortunately, Roddy would take only one shot after halftime, scoring all 11 of his points prior to the intermission … but that doesn't erase his role beside Wright in bringing this team to life early.
WHERE IT ENDED: Youth may have ruled the first half, but after the lead was trimmed to three in the fourth quarter it was the aged who stepped in and ensured the once-certain win would remain just that.
Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd took the win home … keeping this from becoming another opportunity that fell away, scoring 18 of the Mavs 23 points in the final quarter.
For the third consecutive game, Dirk found his shot slightly off … until the game was suddenly on the line. Through three periods he was 6-of-16, only to go 4-of-7 with the outcome on the line.
The Warriors opened the fourth with a 7-0 run to bleed the Mavs lead down to three – stop us if you've heard this before – and then Dirk happened.
Nowitzki scored on back-to-back trips down the floor, then Jason Terry drained a three, followed by Dirk passing out of a double-team to find Vince Carter open behind the arc for a three. In little more than a blink a lead cut to three surged back to 11 and from that moment on Dallas needed only maintain.
Terry scored seven of his 16 points in the fourth and Kidd painted his impact across the boxscore, falling a single point short of his 106th triple-double. Kidd finished with nine points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks (second game in a row with two blocks, the only times he's done so this season) … and reminded us of why this team so thoroughly needs his calming presence in the clutch.
DEPLOY THE DPOY: In the last week John Hollinger has written a pair of articles that directly or indirectly show us the dangers of focusing on a spreadsheet dominated by offensive statistics in comparison to directly witnessing a player's effect on a game, the dangers of embracing perception rather than reality … the sin of overlooking Shawn Marion.
In his article noting his choice for Defensive Player of the Year he serves up a viable choice in Tyson Chandler, but exhibits a blatant ignorance when naming first, second and third All-Defensive Teams … without ever mentioning Marion.
Hollinger followed that up with his take on the "contenders" by including the following quote on Marion: "… and Shawn Marion has also tailed off sharply."
There is no further explanation, no supportive stats. Just an extreme opinion tossed out in a throwaway, tacked-on line.
If you're judging strictly on field-goal percentage or PER, it's possible to see why one might believe Marion has "tailed off sharply." However, if you've watched him play consistently you've been exposed to a wealth of truly elite defensive performances, from shutting down Chris Paul (a season high 5 turnovers while being virtually invisible most of the game) to Rudy Gay (8 points on 4-of-12 field goals and a non-factor April 4th) to Kobe Bryant (14.5 points, 29.7 field-goal percentage in two games Marion defended him; 30 points, 61.1 field-goal percentage the game Marion missed) to forcing Ty Lawson into what may be his worst game of the season (3 points, 12.5 field-goal percentage, 2 assists, 2 turnovers) to regularly making life miserable for the best offensive weapon on the opposing team … whether they are point guards, shooting guards or small forwards; and also contributing sound defense at power forward or even center for moments.
In other stats for Marion: shooting his best 3-point percentage since the 2007-08 season, tied for the second best offensive-rebounds per minute of his career, best defensive rating since 2007-08, most assists per minute of his career, best free-throw percentage since 2006-07 and most steals per game as a Maverick.
Other than field-goal percentage and stats directly associated with his field-goal percentage (such as true-shooting percentage or effective-field-goal percentage) saying Marion has "tailed off sharply" is grossly negligent … unless your saying he did so at the offensive end when he left Phoenix, as a great deal of his current numbers land around the mean for his time in Dallas.
In short, saying that Marion has "trailed off sharply" is cradling the dangers of judging the game through a spreadsheet rather than on the court, pleading ignorance to a player's role – a role that leaves him on guards defensively, pulling him away from the rim and chances at defensive rebounds while also not asking him to be a consistent offensive presence -- and hugging the perceptions of their past.
You can make a solid argument that Tyson Chandler deserves Defensive Player of the Year, but make no mistake, Marion deserves to be in the conversation as well. And, to leave him completely off a list of the 15 top defensive players is near criminal, even when faced with the restrictions of positional choosing.
In 25 minutes against the Warriors, Marion finished with seven points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block.
In the last seven games, Marion is averaging: 10.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 50.0 field-goal percentage, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steas, and 1 block.
Is that "trailing off sharply"? In fact, the league -- and people like Hollinger, who are charged with understanding how to use numbers to make judgments but only combined with what we all see and know -- should be thoroughly embarrassed that he has no Defensive Player of the Year or even NBA All-Defensive Team trophies to his credit.
And it should be rectified. Now.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Under-recognized fact: While Kidd was required to play 32 minutes, Haywood got out of there after 11 and Marion played just 25. All of that feeds the trip to Portland ... Dallas has now scored 110-plus in its last two games after having done it just three times in its first 57 games. The Mavs are 18-1 when scoring 100-plus ... The Mavs are 12-5 against the Warriors since being upset by Golden State in the first round of the 2007 playoffs ... It was Warriors "Bollywood Night.'' We should probably explain to our less cultured readers that it doesn't mean Dolly Parton was in attendance. ...
VINSANITY AS A SUB: Does the bench agree with Vince? In the last three games he's at 11.3 points on 58.3-percent shooting, and he's made 4-of-9 from the arc.
Combine that with the trickle-down effect of Delonte starting (including the burden it takes off Kidd defensively) and we might have a winner.
THE FINAL WORD: With the "should have" win Dallas moved a half-game ahead of Denver and Houston and within a game-and-a-half of the 5th seeded Memphis Grizzlies (though they would need to finish a game ahead of the Grizzlies to surpass them in the standings as Memphis holds the tiebreaker). A season of inconsistency has guaranteed no room for error in the season's final seven games.
Against Sacramento and Golden State the Mavs did what they had to. Now, they will head to Portland without LaMarcus Aldridge and must do the same.