Mavs 'Find Out What We're Made Of'? Hope Not
Saturday afternoon, in a game that would cap "The Week That Was,'' the Dallas Mavericks welcomed the team with the best record in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors came into the AAC with a 14-game winning streak and Dallas didn't exactly meet the challenge. The 105-98 final score was not very indicative of the way the Warriors dominated the Mavericks to get to a 20-2 record. ... nor of the way Dallas failed, overall, in what Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki both said was a "test'' week of sorts.
Having not played since Wednesday night (when they recorded their single win of the week, at home against the Pels) and having an opportunity to make a statement against an elite team in the Western Conference at home, you would think the Mavericks would start the game with energy and effort. That wasn’t exactly the case as the Warriors came out and floored Dallas in the first quarter.
Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, commonly referred to as the "Splash Brothers,'' outscored the Dallas Mavericks in the first quarter, 23-18. Curry also had as many assists (three) as the Mavericks did in that first period. The Mavericks trailed 39-18 going into the second quarter and were never able to climb out of that hole. It went about as poorly as a quarter of NBA basketball could go. Every single player who took a shot in the first quarter for the Warriors shot at least 50 percent -- they shot 65 percent as a team in the quarter -- meanwhile, the Mavericks shot 31.6 percent in the first.
The absence of Chandler Parsons, who missed the game due to back soreness, can’t be blamed for the loss, but it certainly provided proof of how important he is in terms of three-point shooting. The threat of Parsons shot is an important ingredient in the Dallas offense. Without him in the lineup, the best three-point threat outside of Nowitzki for the Mavs is … Richard Jefferson? Parsons also does a great job of keeping the ball moving or pump-faking and driving. Parsons, Nowitzki and Ellis make the Dallas offense a well-oiled machine. Without one of them for an entire game and it will sputter at times, at least in relation to their standards.
The Mavericks actually outscored the Warriors 80-66 in the final three quarters, but the Warriors have too many good shooters to rely on making up such a big deficit. Curry finished with 29 points and eight assists and Thompson settled on 25 points, five points and three rebounds.
Dirk Nowitzki did some interesting things on offense. To put it simply, he played big. The Warriors fielded a small team with Andrew Bogut out with an injury. Nowitzki patiently worked in the post and used his footwork to create layups for himself. He also attacked the offensive boards with five offensive rebounds. The uninformed critics have long accused Nowitzki of not having a post game, but that is far from the truth. He knows how to take advantage of smaller defenders.
But the flipside of that …
Is that this was a nightmare defensive situation for Dirk.
He was often matched up with a quick, athletic Warrior who could handle the ball and that was a serious problem, especially in semi-transition situations. Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green combined for 32 points, partially because Dirk was unable to stay in front of them.
Ultimately though, this game can’t be blamed on Nowitzki, Monta Ellis or Tyson Chandler. All three veteran players performed with a certain amount of pride that made them less than content with the idea of being blown out, even if it is at the hands of a very good team. Nowitzki finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Ellis attacked the basket as usual and scored 24 points to go along with five assists. Tyson Chandler did his best to compensate for the fact that Curry could get past his defender with ease by providing strong rim protection and recording yet another double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds (and a blocked shoe; see "Mavs Power Points'').
When a team employees a number of veterans (rather than energetic young players) to fill out their roster then they need to make up for a potential lack of athleticism, energy and perhaps being a step slower, by being very good at executing their roles on the team. Jameer Nelson has to make open three-pointers (he was 0-of-3 from behind the arc Saturday), Richard Jefferson needs to make his free throws (1-of-4 Saturday), and Al-Farouq Aminu needs to move around enough to find better shots than three-pointers. All three of his shots Saturday were threes and he missed all of them.
The Mavericks roster is constructed so that players like Steph Curry (and Goran Dragic and Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday, etc.) are going to feast on them offensively. To be fair, there is not a team out there with the formula to shut down Curry. But the Mavericks need to shore up everything else in order to compensate for the inevitable beefy box score from All-Star caliber scoring guards ... which there are quite a few of in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the Mavs also need to shore up everything in order to compete with a completely different West-contending animal, like the Memphis Grizzlies, with their broad, thick frontcourt and their bullying style, as evidenced Tuesday.
So in this "Week That Was,'' the Mavs got out-Splashed by perimeter dazzlers and out-muscled by that Grindhouse gang.
The Dallas Mavericks are now 0-6 against the top eight teams in the Western Conference. Make of that what you will. Maybe it’s a big deal. Probably not. It would likely be a much bigger deal if they were winless against the bottom seven teams in the conference. They stand at 17-8 right now ... plenty good, but with plenty of room for improvement. ... and plenty more chances to "find out what we're made of,'' too.
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