Mavs All-Access: Like Watching 'Mortdecai'
I’d rather watch the entirety of the motion picture "Mortdecai'' than the brand of basketball I just witnessed. The 17 turnovers agitated me and the 36.3-percent shooting was painful to witness but I bet you can guess what drove me the craziest.
Yeah, that whole being-outrebounded-by-23 thing.
The Mavericks are now the only team in the NBA this season to allow an opponent to pull down 60+ boards on three different occasions. They’ve only stepped in it to that awful degree 48 times in their 33-year existence, winning only 12 of those 48 games. When you start building the winning formula for knocking off a team like Oklahoma City in their own building, you wouldn’t typically add "having your worst shooting game of the season'' and "allowing the second most rebounds in the NBA by any team this year'' to the checklist. Yet, somehow the Mavericks were within 10 points with three minutes to play before being mercifully put to bed 104-89.
Join me as I attempt to navigate an ocean of doubt and throw around some half-baked ideas.
Early in the third quarter the Thunder had a possession in which they recorded eight field-goal attempts. That’s when I threw a brick through my neighbor’s car window. (He’s old. He’ll never realize it was me. Plus, I told him my name is Burger McCrabapple and I work for the Feds.)
One way to get outrebounded by 23 is to have Serge Ibaka pull down more rebounds than any two Mavericks combined. Another way is for Dirk to constantly be muscled out of the way by Nick Collison and Tyson Chandler (clearly not yet right). I suppose we’re about a decade too late to try teaching boxing out again but, holy hell ... 21 offensive rebounds is a disastrous amount of poison to overcome.
There once was a time when Dirk could battle Nick Collison on the boards and keep him at bay. That time is gone. When the Thunder started packing the paint to grab offensive rebounds the Mavericks never consistently made them pay with quick strikes the other direction. That’s why the Mavericks don’t average a high number of offensive rebounds: because they’d rather get back and set up their transition defense.
The Thunder obviously had not real fear of that and Collison and Roberson had more offensive rebounds than the Mavericks entire starting five.
If Dirk’s man has no real fear of getting toasted in transition he’s going to crash the offensive glass and push Nowitzki under the basket. Dirk just has to be better at boxing guys out. He’ll never out-jump them and it’s crippling to let the other team’s power forward dictate where the game is going to be played.
Tyson Chandler just wasn’t himself either. I’m not sure if the ankle is still bothering him or if he was just rusty but his 16.5-percent rebound rate last night is well below his season average of 21.1 percent and his overall activity was just off.
There were a few opportunities to contest an opponent’s layup that you’d normally see Tyson jump at that he passed on. I assume something was bothering him and early in the game they tried a few very bad alley-oop attempts to him that probably didn’t help, if it indeed was the ankle that was troubling him.
Can Amar’e fix this rebounding problem? Yes and no. Is he an elite rebounder who can turn the tables on the Mavericks' boarding problem? No, not really. Is he a better NBA rebounder than Sarge, Greg Smith and Dwight Powell? Definitely yes. That’s what we’re looking for, right?
The notion that one man can fix the rebounding problem (much like one man can fix the defense - Rondo) is fool’s gold. It doesn’t work that way. Defense and rebounding are such high wire balancing acts that just one weak link can eliminate the effort of the best defender/rebounder using the best technique.
While it’s fun to quote the fact that the Mavericks shot 36.3 percent from the field for their worst clip of the season, it gets out-of-toilet-paper scary when you realize that the Mavericks starting five made just 17 of their 60 shots for a neat 28.3 percent.
I don’t even know who to pick on.
In the Mavericks franchise history they’ve shot 36 percent or poorer from the field only 96 times, winning only 10 of those games. It’s really hard to win if you can’t knock down shots. Is it at simple as guys not knocking down open looks or is this offense once again being stagnated by a dribble-heavy point guard? I can tell you how it happens but it’s hard to tell you why until there’s a pattern that doesn’t lead back to simply being rusty coming out of the All-Star Break.
When your starting shooting guard and small forward shoot 2-of-13 for a combined six points in a first half (as Ellis and Parsons did) it can be assumed that you’re going to be looking at a deficit into the half. That’s exactly what happened as the Mavs spotted OKC 16 points heading into intermission and never got within 10 points. As much as Dirk calling for the ball and iso-ing on a collection of Thunder players overjoyed me to see, he didn’t play very well ... and when you throw that into the mix the outcome was all but predetermined.
The thing that bothered me is how often Monta was being used in situations that would have been better for Chandler Parsons. A dribble-penetration-kick-out-to-Monta is only successful 33 percent of the time. That’s not Monta’s game. It would be helpful if Rondo realized that Chandler Parsons was on his team and that he can set him up for shots. Rondo has only assisted on 17 Parsons baskets (fourth most) in his 22 games as a Maverick. He’s assisted Charlie Villanueva 13 times. Maybe Rondo just isn’t passing that much.
It’s not really fair to judge a player on his first game back after a three-week absence, especially when the rest of his squad was clearly still in Mexico mentally. That’s not what I’m going to do despite non-impressive offensive performance he threw down last night. The majority of my assumptions about what Rondo has or hasn’t been here come from The Eyeball Test.
I’m starting to get the feeling he might just be one of those rare players that plays well to the statistical formulas when something is clearly missing on court. This is one of those occasions where what I’m seeing is being reflected in the numbers. It might shock you to know that Rajon Rondo is averaging 16 fewer passes per game with the Mavericks than he did with the Celtics. He’s also setting up eight fewer assist opportunities per game and nine fewer points via assist.
Why is this happening?
Are the Celtics are more skilled offensive team than the Mavericks? Definitely no. Do they share the ball more? No, they’re actually -0.2 passes per game behind the Mavericks on the season and a miniscule +1.1 points created off turnovers.
So, why is this happening?
My assumption is Rajon is not comfortable and instead of making the simple pass and letting the other exceptionally-skilled players on the court control the offensive flow, he’s pressing. He’s not interpreting what he’s seeing on the offensive end before the shot clock gets to 14 and the result is a lot of wasted possessions. With the Celtics he was the best in the league at creating points via assists but with the Mavericks he’s very pedestrian and Brandon Jennings-ish.
What has happened to Rondo The Facilitator? I mean, this is still basketball, right?
We might look at Rondo’s 104.4 offensive rating since becoming a Maverick and think 104 points per 100 possessions is a pretty good outcome. It’s actually not ... and it would rank 49th in the league amongst starting guards (well behind Harris and Barea in their starting chances and a good eight points behind Jameer Nelson as a Mav). When you factor in that he has two of the top six active leaders in offensive rating on his team (Tyson and Dirk) it looks even worse.
As we slide these offensive and defensive metrics back and forth comparing Rondo to other Mavericks starting point guards or even to the team as a whole, we’re left with this little window of disparity that always results in a negative number. If it’s straight offensive vs. defensive ratings pre- and post- Rondo it’s a -4.7 (-8.6 offR and +4.1 defR) and if you compare it to Jameer Nelson as a Mav it’s a -2.1 (-8 offR and +5.9 defR). I was willing to completely ignore the negative differentials Rondo was producing for the Mavericks for the better part of a month because I understood the reasoning.
Teams don’t win in the playoffs if they don’t have a top-10 defense? Yeah, well they don’t win the playoffs without a top-10 offense, either, and the Mavericks are one bad performance away from being lapped by OKC for 10th in offensive rating.
While we’re dogpiling the analytics (let’s not use this word anymore. It’s easier to be ignorant when the enemy is easily-labeled. Hey, Barkley: It’s ok to be smart. I went to four different proms) let’s look at that theory of Rondo being a good rebounder.
In his time with the Mavericks he’s just been OK. With the Celtics he was pulling down 12.9 percent of the boards but with the Mavericks he’s fallen back into the pack and is only grabbing 9 percnt of the available boards. If you’re smart you’ll point back to my previous point about the Mavericks philosophy of not going after offensive rebounds and assume that that is the reason Rondo isn’t grabbing the same number of rebounds. You’d be wrong. Rondo is actually grabbing more offensive rebounds with the Mavericks than he did with the Celtics: 4.8 percent compared to 4.1 percent with Boston.
I’m not questioning the trade or the rationale behind it. I’m trying to explain to you that there’s no evidence to suggest that Rondo would be this bad as a Maverick. It’s on him to find a way to not be a hindrance on the offensive end. Does a training camp or just more time in the offense get Rondo back to the wizardry he once had? I’m not totally certain we’ll have a chance to find out if he doesn’t start figuring out how not to be an oil spill on the offensive end.
Get off the tracks, Rajon. Let the train come through.
One Mavericks guy looked like he didn’t have 14 top-shelf margaritas last week and that was Devin Harris. He looked like he wanted a piece of what the cross-dressing Ninja Turtle Russell Westbrook was bringing. Devin sparked the Mavericks' run at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth. Jumping on Westbrook for a loose ball was the smartest thing he could have done. Russ will let you back in a game. It was a literal piling-on immediately after Russ forced two straight turnovers. After Devin dove on Westbrook on the Mavericks next possession they hustled for two offensive boards and eventually splashed a three to pull within 17 points and on the heels of that the Mavericks carried an 8-0 run into the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, that was the high note of this game. Devin cranked up his intensity and let Russ lead the Mavs back into the game. Nobody could do the same thing against Serge or Anthony Morrow and that’s why they lost.
When you play the Thunder, you’re typically going to collect a number of body blows from Russ and KD until one of them decides to knock you out. Russ did play some incredible basketball and KD did enough to win but the spear in the Mavericks side was the combination of Serge Ibaka and Anthony Morrow.
Ibaka’s numbers jump of the page and they should because 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 22 rebounds is damn impressive but the drone strike that hit the Mavericks directly upside the head was Anthony Morrow’s 7-of-13 shooting for 16 points. Let’s not forget about Andre Roberson’s 12 rebounds, either.
As weird as it sounds the Mavericks, could have withstood what Westbrook and Serge were doing to them if Morrow wasn’t kicking them in the shin every time tried to catch their breath. The defense overall was not great besides the six steals in the third quarter when OKC started to fall asleep. Allowing Anthony Morrow to drop 14 in a quarter is inexcusable (the Mavs scored 17 that quarter). The Mavericks had a good opportunity to dig back into this game in the second quarter but they couldn’t hit a shot or run Anthony Morrow off of the three-point line.
Neither of those feel like logical reasons for getting beat but they were.
Headline: "There’s Too Much Talent For This To Not Work, Right?''
Despite the fact that the Mavericks have been turning over roster spots over the last few years like I’m sure Chandler Parsons moves on to the next jump-off, there’s too much talent here for “getting acclimated” to be a real excuse, right? Yes, there are 10 new players on this team that have never played for Dallas before but there are also 25 All-Star game bids and 19 All-NBA nominations on this team. This collection of talent is too good to fail, right?
We might have to wait until next season to see the fruits of what the Mavericks front office has been laboring towards for four seasons now. Then again, it could be a new collection of faces next season if things don’t improve for a number of the current players.
Here’s the song while you're waiting for the Rockets at the 36-20 Dallas Mavericks tonight at 7:30 on FOX Sports Southwest:
“It was a poor performance, no question about it. The bottom line is we’ve got to be better, and we’ve got another team (tonight) that’s good at turning you over. So, we’ve got to value the ball, and then we’ve got to get the ball in the basket. We were poor in a lot of areas, and we’re going to have to get a lot better for (tonight).” -- Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
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