Mavs New Year's Donuts
To properly understand just how quality Tuesday night’s 114-87 extermination of the Washington ‘Zards was we first much appreciate just how good the 'Zards have been. Coming into that game they were winners of eight of their last 10 and had only dropped three games in the month of December. They maintain the league’s fifth best scoring defense and the league’s best three-point percentage alongside the fourth best field-goal percentage overall. They’re a legitimate Easter Conference finals threat at least a year before the natural progression of things would have them normally scheduled. They’re no doubt one of the top eight teams in the NBA. And the Dallas Mavericks made them look like that corporate challenge hoops team your company put together this summer.
The Dallas Mavericks dominated in turnovers, every shooting category and most importantly on the scoreboard.
Let’s first examine what’s happening to the Mavericks defense on point guards. Last night the Mavs held a damn witch John Wall to just 11 points while only taking seven shots. The previous game they held the Avatar Russell Westbrook to 18 points on 6 of 23 shooting. Could it be that with the newfound fire extinguisher Rajon Rondo that the Mavericks have found a way to stay in front of opposing point guards?
Let’s have a fun game of seeing how many games straight they can limit the opposing point guard to under 20 points. They’re currently at three.
This would not have been a very fun game to play earlier in the season. The Mavs' next real tests will be Avery Bradley and then Kyrie Irving. If their perimeter defense is even in the building near something that resembles passable they can contend with any team in the West.
Dirk Nowitzki has made one very subtle change to his game and I have to believe it’s a conscious thing, he’s getting to the free-throw line more than twice his season average in the last two games.
Seeing as he’s fourth in the NBA, knocking down 91 percent, that seems like a pretty wise adjustment.
Over his last two games, No. 41 is averaging 11 free-throw attempts a game. In all of his other games he’s averaging just four a game. It could be as simple as OKC and Washington not having a defender capable of locking up Dirk (a lot of the best players in NBA history fall in that bucket) and him taking advantage of the clumsy Steven Adams and then the combo of Pierce/Nene ... but I like to think it’s an initiative on his end to take more free throws.
In consecutive games he’s had his two highest free-throw totals on the year. If he continues to get to the line anywhere near 10 times a game this offense will be untouchable. Just something to keep your eye on.
Another observation from that obliterating offensive formula is the fact that the Mavericks shot their fewest number of threes on the season (15). Yeah, they made eight of them but this is a team that routinely chunks 30+ threes in a given contest ... but in the last week they’ve twice set new season-lows in three-pointers taken (18 vs LAL and 15 vs WAS. they shot over 50 percent in both games by the way).
Is this just a result of the type of the teams they were playing or is it a Rick Carlisle joint? Is this an offensive philosophy based on retention and controlled usage of the three-pointer?
An offense with increased Dirk Nowitzki free throws and a lowered reliance on the come-and-go nature of the three-point shot seems like a much more consistent formula for winning and might limit these up-and-down performances we’ve seen at spots during this season. Obviously, we know they still possess that run-and-gun offense that can launch 30+ threes before the T-shirt cannons get warm. But a controlled use of it seems more lethal.
When your opposition turns the ball over 12 times for 26 fast-break points (second most in a half by any NBA team this year) on your ledger in the first half you’re going to have a very good chance of winning that basketball game. The Wizards were playing the second night of a Houston-Dallas back-to-back and they looked like they were playing in an opium den. They’d finish with 22 turnovers for 31 Mavericks fast-break points (currently fifth in the league averaging 15.9 a game) as every starter contributed at least two turnovers to the offering plate.
The Mavericks on the other hand just stopped handing out John Wall breakaway baskets after halftime and had zero turnovers in the second half. Seven turnovers matches their season-low that they’ve nailed four times now. The Mavericks are currently fourth in the NBA in turnovers only dishing out 12.3 a game.
Says Washington coach Randy Wittman: "They just beat us - in every phase of the game, they were better than us, turnovers obviously being the biggest part - 33 to six in points off turnovers. They beat us up both ends of the floor, defensively they were more physical than us, and offensively they were. ... It's clear and simple. They were the more physical team. That was the difference."
Monta's a big part of that; a steals guy and a tough guy, even with his bum ankle.
“Oh man, I was going to play regardless,'' he says. "I just had to ice it. The great thing about it is it didn’t swell on me, so that was a plus, just keeping loose. Came in and did my tub this morning, saw Casey (Smith, the trainer), went home iced it, kept pressure on it. When I came in, I just didn’t think about it, just came in and played basketball.”
Chandler Parsons is learning to do more with fewer shots now that Rondo is in the fold (9.6 shots per game since Rondo arrived. 13.3 shots per game previously) and if that means splashing in two incredibly difficult and-one opportunities drawn by his pump fakes, then so be it.
Parsons contributed 14 points on just eight attempts on Tuesday. He has looked more comfortable in his last two games with Rondo and not just because his numbers are better. It feels like Rondo’s default go-to is Monta and that’s complete understandable. He’s a better scorer than Parsons and any metric can tell you that. It feels like Parsons is taking it upon himself to get his looks. In his last five games (since Rondo arrived) he’s shooting pull-ups 25 percent of the time. Prior to that he was only hoisting pull ups 11.5 percent of the time. Prior to Rondo, 43.2 percent of his shots were coming on catch-and-shoot opportunities. That’s now down to 33 percent in the last five.
It’s taken Chandler a few games to adjust to his new offensive formula but I think he’s starting to adjust. Could he get back up to that 13.3 shots a game we were seeing earlier in the year? There’s no doubt and I believe when they need it they’ll get back to that level.
My 2 cents on this: While Ellis is the default, I think more attention needs to be paid towards Parsons involvement in the offense because he doesn’t possess the same Nesquik offensive magic that Monta does.
As part of our coverage of that game, read here for more on "Rondo's fingerprints.''
Props is due where props have been earned. Charlie Villanueva has made some very important buckets for the Mavericks over the last few weeks and that is not something I anticipated typing when the season began. On Tuesday, Charlie had an ultra-efficient 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting including two cold-blooded three-bombs that looked like they had no choice but to splash.
Since the Rondo move (I feel like I keep referring to this as if it was the great migration West or something) Charlie V has been called on to contribute 16 minutes a game and he’s pouring in 13.2 points per game (that’s nearly a point a minute) on 51-percent shooting and a 43.8-percent clip from three. That doesn’t make any sense. I knew Chuck could launch from deep but he’s been finishing around the basket on some touch looks in the last few games. Now if we can just get him to rebound with close to the same efficiency we’ll be cooking, but one step at a time. That’s more of a Greg Smith deal.
While we’re handing out gold stars let’s not forget about the contributions of Richard Jefferson.
I never could have predicted Richard Jefferson getting some post-game write up love from me this season but he’s solid and a downright difference-maker over the last five. He reached a new season-high on Tuesday with 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting and I enjoyed him single-handedly trying to knock Kris Humphries into his next divorce when he rose up in the second quarter and nearly posterized him on the most unexpected poster ever. Over his last five, Rick has called on him to fill that backup 3 spot (that apparently Al-Farouq Aminu has become allergic to) and RJ’s delivered with a 61.9 shooting percentage.
Says Jefferson: "Ten games ago I was kinda at the bottom of the bench, so you just gotta stay ready and wait for your opportunity ... I always play with extreme confidence, it’s just trying to figure out the puzzle that is our team. Coach was very open with me at the beginning of the season; he wanted to see what the young guys could do, and that I wasn’t in his top eight, but he still found some opportunities to give me some minutes.
"As you start to see me get consistent minutes and a consistent rotation, I think I’ll start to play more consistently and you’ll start seeing games like this more often.''
The first half was truly bizarre as the 'Zards couldn’t figure out this crazy trick that J.J. Barea and Greg Smith were running called "pick and roll.'' Barea ran it until the 'Zards were bleeding out of their ears and then they ran it again. Maybe Kevin Seraphin is one of those idiot savants that just can’t comprehend what’s happening when his assignment starts rolling towards the hoop. It was good to see Greg Smith chip in some points. Right now he’s auditioning for that third center role.
The 28 bench points in the first half were as lethal as they sound as that group went 11 of 16 with zero turnovers and exposed the soft underbelly of that Washington Wizards roster.
All of the last three Donuts are about the bench. Charlie V. RJ. And Smith and company. Let's give Rick some room to work here, as we think that when the Dirks and the Ellises set the tone up top, it's gotta trickle down:
“Most guys in this league wouldn’t even think about playing (with Ellis' ankle issue). He just doesn’t miss games. He’s a remarkable athlete and he’s a remarkable guy. ... Just all-around, he’s so important to us.”
Again, the right kind of guy is going to work to "Be Ready'' off the bench when that guy sees how Monta and Dirk ready themselves.
Fish's place, The Maverick Bar, is up and running and should be rocking this weekend, as you can see by the new website that has the schedule for bands on Friday and Saturday night, and the Cowboys watch party on Sunday, and of course, the Mavs game on Friday on FOX Sports Southwest ("Mavs Live'' at 6 p.m. with Fish and then the tipoff at Boston at 6:30).
And just look at the type of characters who hang out at The Maverick Bar!
"I believe I'm going to get a great reception. I mean, I gave my all every time I went out there and played as a Celtic. ... Hopefully, I won't be too emotional. I'll try not to cry a little bit. I'm very excited to go back. Those fans are amazing." - Rondo on his Friday return to Boston.
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