Mavs All-Access Donuts
When you take a look at the Dallas Mavericks schedule to end the month of March and to start the month of April coming on the heels of two really awful weeks of basketball, it’s easy to surmise that this stretch of basketball would define the Mavericks season.
Would it galvanize this collection of jigsaw puzzles or make them tap out before the playoffs even arrive?
The Mavericks have responded appropriately after being embarrassed by the Cleveland Cavaliers last Tuesday.
Sometimes you do need to get kicked in the head. Embarrassment is a strong emotion.
Desperation, though, is a stronger one.
If the Mavericks didn’t take advantage of this five-game homestand, then desperation would be the flavor of the week and falling out of the 7th seed (something that seemed far-fetched just days ago) could have become a real possibility. The Mavericks drowned the Clippers on Friday night by shooting (60.7%) and sharing the ball as well as they have all season (31 assists) and Monday wasn’t far off (27 assists and 47.2%). The last two games have honestly looked like it is a completely different team wearing the Mavericks uniforms.
The offensive plan has been a concentrated effort instead of a) one man appearing to be using his own playbook and b) everybody waiting for Monta Ellis to take over. With this new-found offensive cohesion, the Mavericks have added two very respectable wins to add to their mantle in the last four days. Follow along as we examine the 119-115 win over the ailing Oklahoma City Thunder.
Just when we thought it was impossible for the Mavericks to put together a well-rounded game they’ve reeled off two in a row ... and it’s no surprise that their most well-rounded player has been the triggerman.
Since returning from his injury, Chandler Parsons (mavs.com photo above) is averaging 20.5 points, 5 rebounds and shooting 61.2% from the field and 60% from three. Just an update on Parsons' fun little stat:
There are three players in the league averaging 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 46-percent shooting and 39-percent shooting from 3.They’re named Stephen Curry, DeMarcus Cousins and Chandler Parsons.
Parsons is taking 4+ fewer shots per game than the other two (Boogie barely qualifies because he’s only taken 5 threes the entire year). CP’s been doing a lot of his damage in the first frame, where he’s been unconscious, averaging 7.8 points on 73% shooting from the field and 78% from three in his last four first quarters.
I’ve been the leader of the Chandler Parsons Appreciation Club and I’ve told you for a long time that there’s no telling what he could be capable of if Rondo actually started passing to him. From December 19th (date of the Rondo trade) until March 6th (day before Parsons returned from injury) Rajon Rondo was averaging 7.6 passes to Chandler Parsons a game for 0.6 assists per game. (As a reference, he was averaging 18 passes to Monta Ellis a game.)
In their last four games together Rondo is averaging 10 passes to Parsons a game for 2.7 assists per game and Parsons is shooting 71.4% on field-goal opportunities when receiving a pass from Rondo (previously it was 50.8%).
It’s that simple. The distributing point guard needs to be a distributing point guard and find the open player and not just find Monta. Whether the rest of his backcourt mates take him seriously or hold some deep down jealousy about his salary/attention it shouldn’t matter at this point in the season. The offense can run through Parsons and it can be a lethal offense.
And if you don't believe me, listen to Rick Carlisle.
"He's a damn good playmaker,'' the coach says.
The arsenal is only at peak form when all weaponry is being utilized. They can’t ice out Parsons after the clear evidence that has been laid before them. Rondo assisted on 7 Parsons buckets in the last two games for 72.7% clip. The craziest part about Parsons’ uptick on the offensive end is that it’s not from taking more shots a game or an increase in usage. It’s from getting better looks created by his teammates and not having to work extremely hard for his looks.
Prior to his last 4 games, Parsons was averaging 12.5 FGAs per game and he’s actually been shooting less over the last four games with just 12.3 FGAs per game (but obviously scoring five more points a game). The usage rate bears the same result with a 20.4-percent usage prior to his last four and a 20.9-percent rate during his hot stretch. Parsons has now made 11 of his last 15 three-point attempts and has carried the offense in the last two games with his shooting and even his ballhandling in initiating the offense.
For all the strides that Rondo has made in the last week I still feel like the offense is more effective when several different players other than Rajon are getting the sets started about every third time up the court. The Mavericks have found a neat little wrinkle with Parsons being a primary ball-handler on certain possessions. It simply creates too much of the court for the defender to cover. The guy that can cover a good shooting wing to the perimeter often times isn’t the same guy that can offer any resistance to a 6-9 player with handles barreling into the lane. CP’s a unique problem that the rest of the offense is going to have to embrace and continue to feed.
Parsons finished with 31 points for his second best scoring game of the season on 10 of 14 shooting and his first 30 point game since mid-December. He had some clutch baskets in the fourth on drives to the hoop to stretch the lead to four points on two different occasions (102-98 and 112-108) and let’s not forget about the insane potential four-pointer that he couldn’t wrap up at the end of the third to tie the game.
It is a small sample size but in the last two games Rajon Rondo looks like he’s turned whatever corner Rick was trying to drag him around in their first 30 games together.
The "dribble-to-the-elbow-and-attempt-a-spectacular-pass-turnover'' play seems to have gone away in the last 8+ quarters of basketball. It’s not all credited to Rondo realizing he has one of the best shooters in the league on the opposite wing but it’s a big part of his turnaround. Has Rick "broken him like a wild horse''? As Fish has written about before, Carlisle HATES those sorts of analogies, preferring to say he's working WITH his guys, not "handling'' them.
But in any event ...
It’s obviously been a process of Rick pushing him and not giving up control of the offense until Rajon proves that he can do it and wants it enough. Rondo pushing back might be the best thing that happens to this team this year. You don’t fight for something you don’t care about. (Fish nails this concept in his Mavs Premium column on Rondo getting Rick's "car keys.'')
Rick’s quizzes that he’s giving Rondo are very encouraging to me, personally. The basic premise of a teacher/student relationship is not something that Rajon particularly cares for but if you can turn it into a game and make it more of a teacher/student-aide situation where you’re not an authority figure, then a level of mutual respect can be reached.
In his last two games, Rondo has accumulated 20 assists and just 7 turnovers. That’s a 2.85 assist-to-turnover ratio. In his first 31 games with the Mavericks he had a 2.12 assist-to-turnover ratio which is absolutely unacceptable and the lowest of his career, including his rookie season. That’s down near Evan Turner and Tyreke Evans territory and nobody that watches the league would consider either of them good passers.
Rondo finished with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 13 assists (his most in a four-quarter game with Dallas). The shooting will come and go because he’s just not a very good shooter but honestly 8 attempts from Rondo in almost 33 minutes of play is something you can live with. Knocking down those long twos isn’t exactly something to build on, but they were all taken in the correct situation. It could be assumed that the Mavericks' good shooters are just knocking down their open looks all of the sudden ... but I choose to believe it’s the quality of looks and the timing that Rondo is getting them the ball that’s making the difference.
It’s OK if you were starting to worry about Dirk Nowitzki and it’s OK if you’re still worried.
From the All-Star Break through the Cavaliers game he was shooting 32.8% on his 58 field-goal attempts in which a defender was 4-6 feet away from him (his most common shot accounting for 41.7% of his looks). He was missing his open looks and there’s no excuse for that.
An icy cold 33% on catch-and-shoot threes in that stretch tells you Dirk just hasn’t been right after the Break.
A course correction was obviously in the cards because the 7th all-time leading scorer in the NBA doesn’t continue to miss open looks no matter how old and how dead his legs are. So ... In the last two games Dirk is knocking down 44.4% of his open (defender 4-6 feet away) looks and popping 66.7% of his catch-and-shoot threes. Part of that equation is Rondo finding Dirk in the right spots and not two seconds after he was in the right spot. Rondo has assisted on 6 Dirk buckets in the last two games for a 75% field-goal percentage compared to just 48 assists in the previous 31 games at a 44.1% clip.
Monday night (thanks, Kirk Henderson vines) may be the closest thing we’ll see to a “Dirk game” this side of the playoffs. The Mavericks entered the third quarter down 10 and every time the Thunder went for a knockout punch there was 41 raining a three on them to pull back within single digits. Dirk alongside Parsons teamed up for the Mavericks 4th-highest scoring quarter of the season (39) chipping in 23 points between them and sparking the game-ending 61-42 run that the Mavericks went on.
Dirk scored 22 points in just 27 minutes of play for his highest output since February 7th against Portland. Something that should be noticed is that Dirk is playing about 2 fewer minutes per game post All-Star Break and taking roughly two fewer shots a contest.
Oh. And Holger's here.
When you’re watching a game and you swear one team should be lighting the other up by 10+ points but instead the trailing team just tied it up and you can’t explain how, it’s typically rebounding and three-point shooting. The Thunder did both in the first frame, going +7 on the glass and 50% from three to hang in a game that they were sorely being outplayed in. For all the good the Mavericks did in this game the closest they came to challenging the Thunder on the glass was a -2 rebounding margin in the fourth quarter. Through three quarters the Thunder had a +20 rebounding advantage with 14 offensive boards.
I don’t value rebounding the same way that most basketball people do, seeing as there’s no real formula to it anymore. Rebounding doesn’t equal winning and the fact that no NBA player even boxes out anymore makes it more of a random occurrence to me (hustle rebounds are something else). The main problem to me about being a poor rebounding team is not getting opportunities to get out and run and giving up second-chance points on offensive boards.
There’s no way to cheapen second-chance points because they’re debilitating but it’s my assumption that what the Mavericks lack in get-out-and-run opportunities because of rebounding they make up in forcing turnovers. The Mavericks first seven points of the game were scored from transition buckets created by forcing turnovers.
It’s also been a very underrated story line over the past few seasons how focused teams have become on getting back and setting up their transition defense. You can notice it with the Mavericks and Tyson Chandler.
If you don’t have a big that can get back and hold down the paint then you’re going to be torched for cheap points. But turnovers are something else. They’re largely created in the backcourt and are never expected. They’re a more lethal counter punch for easy transition buckets than defensive rebounds ever could be simply because of their nature. You have to either be a good defensive rebounding team or force turnovers if you want to play a transition game. Maybe at some point the Mavericks can do both.
It will help when TY (hip) is fully healthy. For now, Dallas will rely on a center that gives all he has.
“That’s a man’s man right there,'' Rick said.
MAVS Donuts today presented by the gang at Red Rock Bar & Grill, our North Dallas hangout for sports and live music. ... Red Rock helps make it happen on DB.com Boards and in DB.com Mavs News Archives, where all the good stuff is individually stacked for your protection ... including the chronicling of the Mavs being just 2.5 games out of third in the West and pushing OKC down into the West playoff danger zone.
Here’s the song:
"Replentished.'' Fitting, right?
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