Mavs Donuts: Quit Cheating The Game!
Nothing is going well for the Dallas Mavericks. They’re a completely different team night-to-night and none of those renditions resemble a team good enough to challenge in the West. It feels like the Mavericks have already played 4-5 seasons thus far this season. There’s no way for me to choreograph my words to distract you from the fact that the Mavericks are 2-5 in their last seven games and that their average loss over that stretch has been by 18.8 points.
The tired mantras of "health" and "inconsistent lineups'' has reached their end and the evidence of an average basketball team is scattered all around this team. It really just depends what frame of time you want to focus on.
They’re 5-6 since the All-Star Break. They’re 18-15 in 2015. They’re 22-17 since the Rondo trade. That 56.4 winning percentage (since the Rondo trade) would just barely be good enough to hang onto the eighth playoff spot in the West if it was their clip on the season (OKC at 55.6 percent).
It’s been exactly two weeks since the Mavericks beat a playoff team (Toronto on February 24th) and if it feels like there’s no real home-court advantage to be had for the Mavericks that’s because there isn’t.
They’re currently 11th in the NBA in home winning percentage (65.6 percent) and the worst among Western playoff contenders. I suppose the positive thing at the moment is that it feels impossible for the Oklahoma City Thunder or the New Orleans Pelicans to play five games better than the Mavericks in their final 16 games, thus leapfrogging them for the seventh seed in the West. Tuesday, though, was the latest crime in a string of serial murders that have left a small storage room of trace evidence.
What has happened in the last two weeks to make the idea of the Mavericks competing with the Cleveland Cavaliers a tragic comedy? Two basketball teams on different wavelengths collided here and ricocheted the directions that were predestined by their current courses.
We talked about the importance of Al-Farouq Aminu in reference to good defensive lineups last week. If you need to be told about how important AFA is to this Mavericks team at this point in the season we’ll probably never be friends. In his last three games leading into Tuesday’s contest he was averaging 8.3 points, 4 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 1 block in just 19 minutes. After playing his traditional seven minutes of the opening frame, AFA ran into J.R. Smith with his left arm extended while going for a loose ball and appeared to sublux his shoulder (I’ve done this probably four times in my life and still causes me problems).
Aminu wouldn’t play for the rest of the game and it was a much bigger problem for the Mavericks than anyone could anticipate. Just to rehash some of Aminu’s defensive credentials: five of the top six Mavericks lineups in terms of defensive rating have Aminu in them (minimum 40 minutes). After AFA exited the game the Mavericks were a -38 on the scoreboard. They didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of LeBron (pretty common problem) or anybody that could effectively help defend on Kyrie once he got cooking. Every Maverick has their own magic trick but when the collective gets interrupted the gumbo goes bad so quickly.
The frailty of this roster is near-embarrassing at this point. It feels like every built-in excuse is taken on a regular basis and already written into the DNA of the game if any one of the top 10 Mavericks aren’t playing or at full strength. Every night Rick is plugging different holes in the dam on each end of the court and on some nights he runs out of fingers. The idea of who this team can survive without and which player’s skillset can’t be replicated by this roster naturally got me thinking as to who the Mavericks MVP would be. Here are my rankings through 66 games:
Tyson Chandler - try to win one game without him. Just one.
Monta Ellis - the slump and all. His direct effect on winning games can not be ignored.
Al-Farouq Aminu - this feels weird but it’s my honest impression right now
Dirk Nowitzki - 17 points on 46-percent shooting is still a pretty cool trick.
Chandler Parsons - missed too many games for me. Besides that he’s been fine.
Devin Harris - so incredibly undervalued. Most backup PGs aren’t like this.
Rajon Rondo - still can’t figure out what he’s ever trying to do on the offensive end
JJ Barea - has secured a few fourth-quarter wins single handedly
Richard Jefferson - has been their best three-point shooter and played well as a starter
I don’t feel like ranking the rest because they’re either short-timers or not of much consequence.
There are no more excuses. The time for feeling sorry for yourself and not competing because of a roster deficiency are long gone. Nobody cares anymore. There are 16 games left and your roster is intact which is more than a lot of the Western Conference teams can say. Tyson Chandler clearly isn’t right but the Mavericks can’t allow him to sit and pave the way for another excuse to be conjured.
That thing other teams do when a player is injured or misses games called “rallying” just isn’t really what the Mavericks are about. They’ve had so many sporadic absences in the lineup that they’ve had to lean on different weapons almost every night in order to win games and then when all hands are on deck they don’t know how to function as a team. In the pursuit of making the offense interchangeable they’ve made the team worse as a whole. It can’t be ignored that during their defensive “surge” (what you all claimed won championships) that the Dallas Mavericks are 27th in offensive rating over their last 15 games (97.8). It’s easy to point the finger at Rondo and his “lost toddler” offense but none of the Mavericks starters have a positive plus/minus over their last 15 games and the team as a whole is shooting 42.3 percent (26th) with 19.3 assists per game (30th) and a -2.7 net rating overall.
The offense is broken.
The assumption that it will correct itself will health is a dangerous assumption. They’ve faced very little adversity and have crumbled more than not. This team hasn’t gotten to play together for that many games of the season and if they don’t start clicking I don’t believe they’ll be aloud to see what they can do with an off-season and a training camp under their belts.
This is the point where I typically find some positives and hope the Mavericks can build on them. Here’s the thing, they haven’t done that. Like at all. A trick they show on a Tuesday night can be as good as gone by that Thursday. I’ll notice Rondo attacking the basket early, then he’ll shoot jump shots the entire next game. Monta will get hot in a second half using his normal tricks and then he’ll drift away from his game and launch four 3's. They’ll play good for a week and then lose to the Nets. They don’t know what they are.
The thing I’ll mention here and most likely never see again is Rondo’s willingness to actually pass to Chandler Parsons. Rondo assisted on three different Parsons buckets in the first quarter ... which is just one fewer than the average number of total passes that Parsons receives from Rondo in a game on average (4.3 passes received per game).
Rondo actually shared the ball with Parsons 11 (!!!!!) times Tuesday night which seems like an insane number compared to his typical sharing. Rondo has now assisted on 22 Parsons buckets. For some context, Jameer Nelson assisted Parsons 26 times in just 23 games. Rondo’s numbers are in 31 games. Four fewer assists in eight more games from your starting point guard.
Parsons had one of his best quarters last night in the first frame scoring 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting but another uneven game saw him just get two looks in the second half as he finished with 18 points in a lopsided effort. The team as whole got away from what was working in the first quarter as if they had a better option to lean on. The best version of the Mavericks offense at this point is Rondo without the ball. That can change but I feel like it needs to be said. Maybe the Mavericks can build on this and maybe it disappears by Friday.
It’s on them.
I’m just going to tell you that from what I’ve heard around the organization that things aren’t perfect in the Mavericks locker room. Some players are doubting the seriousness of other players (for good reason) and others seem a little too aware of who makes which salary. It’s not toxic ... but the big-happy-family aspect that we’re used to from the Mavericks locker room isn’t quite what it used to be and it could be affecting on court decision making. That’s why I wasn’t shocked by Amar’e’s comments from last night. Here (photo DMNews) is the most pertinent one:
“We’re three and a half games out of being out of the playoffs, which is unacceptable. This is something that we can’t accept. We’ve got to find a way to refocus. We’ve got to key in on the details of the game of basketball. We can’t cheat the game. We can’t screw around in shootarounds and practices and joke around all of the time and figure we’re going to win games.”
Sounds like Amar’e is a little pissed that some of the Mavericks still haven’t returned from the All-Star Break. With the effort he’s giving every night, it’s understandable to get agitated if the rest of the roster isn’t bringing the same. He’s giving the Mavericks 11.4 points per game on 62.1-percent shooting in just 17.5 minutes. He came here to win and is doing his part to be a close facsimile of Brandan Wright but literally no other player is fulfilling their end on a nightly basis.
The focus isn’t where it needs to be and with a full roster the Mavericks should never lose to anybody in the league by 33 points. This team is just a collection of high-profile names at this point. Maybe they needed to get punched in the face. They haven’t dictated a game since they defeated the Pelicans nine days ago. They’ve let teams impose their will and haven’t pieced together two consecutive good quarters of basketball in two weeks.
It’s human to just do enough to get by but that’s what separates athletes from bloggers.
The Cavs are definitely a better team than the Mavericks and their 22-5 record since January 15 would easily tell you that. But by 33? You lose by 33 on the defensive end by not getting back in transition and allowing 15 made threes at a 46.9-percent clip.
The Mavs are At 41-25. They have slipped to seventh place in the Western Conference. They have lost by at least 15 points in the past six days. They are, according to them, almost driven to physical illness by all this.
Carlisle said he was "sick to his stomach" about the game, adding, "We're going to find out what we're made of from here. This is the lowest point we've been at. When you get to this point, everyone has to come together."
But are they together? If it's not about talent and it's not about excuses ...
"We've got the right personnel,'' Stoudemire said. "We've got enough veteran leadership on this team to compete. We've just got to have that mindset to want to step up and truly compete. You want to play against the top players in this league. You want to show them that you've got what it takes to win.''
Show them. Show us. Show yourselves. Any one of the three.
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"The Road'' by Cormac McCarthy is one of the darkest movies/books you can ever read/watch. While it seems unlikely OKC and New Orleans can hold down that right trigger long enough to lap the Mavericks, when you look at the schedule it’s very realistic to assume that Dallas could end the season on a 10-13 run (8-8 in the last 16 games). Here’s the potential damage:
*3/13 Clippers .641 (win percentage)
*3/16 Thunder .556
*3/18 Magic .323
*3/20 Grizzlies .714
*3/22 @Suns .508
*3/24 Spurs .635
*3/27 @Spurs .635
*3/29 @Pacers .460
*4/1 @Thunder .556
*4/2 Rockets .683
*4/4 Warriors .806
*4/8 Suns .508
*4/10 @Nuggets .359
*4/12 @Lakers .270
*4/13 @Jazz .429
*4/15 Blazers .672
That’s right, just five more games against teams under .500. I don’t think it’s crazy to assume that if the Mavericks don’t find some answers in what’s left of this homestand they could realistically go 3-8 over their next 11 games which would be a cool 5-13 when bundled with this current skid.
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“We got beat. We gotta play harder. We gotta believe in one another. We gotta stay confident. We are still in a good situation. I know it feels like rock-bottom; it’s an embarrassing loss. We can’t hang our heads too long ... The schedule is not getting any easier, so we gotta stick together. We are going to go through rough patches, this one hurts and feels like the end of the world, but we gotta get back at it tomorrow, watch film, and be a much better basketball team Friday night.” - Chandler Parsons.
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