Mavs Donuts: Thundering Toward Rockets
One victory in 13 days is what the Mavericks were looking at heading into last night’s contest in Oklahoma City. The four losses in that timeframe were by an average of 10 points. Despite the nosedive and complete inability the to escape that 5-5 number in the last-10 column it really hasn’t mattered in the standings.
The Mavericks have carved out their own little cocoon in the seventh spot and anything short of finishing the season on a 7-0 run or a 0-7 skid secures them a matchup with the second seed in the West playoffs. When this game is put into the proper context you realize the Mavericks were 1-4 in their last five and about to square off with the No. 2 and No. 1 seeds in the West in their next two games.
They had to have this one.
The realistic possibility of a five-game losing streak and a 1-7 slide heading into Phoenix (where nothing is promised) was on the horizon. The Mavericks could not leave Oklahoma City empty-handed. So, they didn’t; 266 points later Dallas had their 46th victory of the year in easily the wildest game of the season. Let’s get drunk on a 135-131 victory over the least deserving fanbase of all-time.
Rick Carlisle said a lot of things in the days following the 2011 championship but one thing that has since stuck with me to this very day is that in his estimation the Dallas Mavericks became the best passing team in the league during the 2011 playoffs. The Mavericks reached something of a Ball-Movement Nirvana last night.
One turnover in an entire half of NBA basketball doesn’t make sense. The best passing teams in the league hover around 1.8-2.0 in the assist-to-turnover ratio for a season. Last night the Mavs put together an incredible assist-to-turnover ratio as the ball flew around for 35 assists and just six turnovers. The six turnovers is the second-lowest total of the season and the 35 assists is the second highest in that category. It’s not a surprise that the Mavericks had their second-best shooting night of the season, knocking down 61.5% of their shots, and scored their second-highest point total of the season with 135 points.
The one puzzling thing is the three-point shooting. If the Mavericks were to shoot 26.7 percent from three I’d assume most nights they’d have a tough time cracking 100. When you scroll further down the page and realize they dropped 72 (!!!!) points in the paint it makes a little more sense.
That’s 33 points more than their season average for points-in-the-paint on the road (39.6ppg). I know what you’re thinking, "the Thunder aren’t very good defensively.'' You’d be right. The fact that they’re 28th in defensive rating over their last 10 games could tell you that, but they’re still a team that is fighting for their livelihood and play extremely hard. They never die. Their faces get dented in and they lose All-Star player after All-Star player but they just don’t stop. If you let them they’ll kick your ass up and down the court with hustle.
As my high school football coach used to say “you have to hold their head under water until there’s no more bubbles.” It took every point from the Mavericks' seven players in double-figures and every one of those 35 assists to make the bubbles stop last night.
Starting from the 5:08 mark of the fourth quarter, Chandler Parsons scored or assisted on the Mavericks' next seven scoring possessions. Parsons entered the fourth frame with only nine points and then he proceeded to hit every single shot he took in the fourth for 13 points.
That was fun to watch and everything but the biggest moment came with 13 seconds left in the game with the shot clock winding and the Mavericks loosely grasping at a one-point lead. Eight seconds remained on the shot clock when Rajon Rondo desperately swung the ball to Parsons, who slid his way into the lane and spun loose of Russell Westbrook for an open fadeaway look to drag the Mavericks boat out of the water and safely onto the shore of a three-point lead.
In his last four games Parsons is scoring 18.3ppg on 53% shooting with 6.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Just think what his numbers would be if his three-ball was falling (26.7% in the last four)! In that same timeframe he’s quietly become the Mavericks' fourth-quarter go-to guy. He’s made 12 of his last 16 fourth-quarter shots (75%fg) and is averaging 6.8 points in the winning frame over his last four games.
Also: He’s actually been quite special in clutch situations in the second half of the season, averaging four clutch points per game on 58.8% shooting.
Is Parsons the new trigger-man? Even if he’s just a shotgun rider that takes the lead occasionally, that makes the Mavs offense scarier than just relying on Monta Magic.
An update of Parsons' fun little stat that I’ve been trumpeting; there are currently only five players in the league averaging 15ppg, 4rpg, 2ast, 1stl and shooting 46%fg and 37%3fg (Paul, Curry, Harden, Griffin). With seven rebounds in tonight’s game he can join the even more exclusive "5 rebound per game, 15ppg, 46%fg, 37%3fg, 2ast, 1 stl Club'' ... in which there are only two others (Griffin, Harden).
There’s absolutely no limit to what the Mavericks can do in the next month if they get the efficient Monta Ellis that they got last night. That was something special.
Overall it felt like the entire roster knew what moments the offense needed each individual player to take over and that’s often times the most difficult thing for Monta. For Monta it was feeling when the offense got stagnant and started settling that he knew he needed to create a good look.
It was a very balanced effort ,scoring at least five points in every frame while never dipping below 50% in any quarter. Most importantly, he never monopolized the basketball and froze out his teammates. That’s why Dirk was able to keep the Mavericks close in the third quarter and Parsons was able to cut the Thunder’s heads off in the fourth.
Another important aspect that I hope rides with the Mavericks into their last seven contests is the fact that Monta didn’t settle for three-pointers. Monta has only made two of his last 13 threes taken and teams are letting him launch all that he wants from that depth. For such a skilled offensive player there’s no reason to lean on such a deficient part of his game.
Ellis finished with the quietest 26 points you’ll ever see with 5 assists, 4 boards and 4 steals. The storyline the rest of the season can either be overcoming Monta’s inefficient offensive tendencies or Monta plugging himself into certain moments of the game as he’s needed via feel. It’s entirely up to him.
Rajon Rondo has had consecutive games in which he didn’t resemble a hinderance on the offensive end for the first time of this calendar year.
In the last two games Rondo is somehow shooting 50% and averaging 13.5 points per contest. Now to the part we care about. ... Rondo has 20 assists and just 3 turnovers in his last 67 minutes of basketball.
That’s a 6.7 assist to turnover ratio. The coolest part to me is that Rajon is averaging nearly the same number of passes per game to Parsons as he is to Monta now (17.4 to Parsons and 16.8 to Monta in the last eight games). The other fun part is that Chandler Parsons is shooting 54.2% on shots that follow a pass from Rondo over their last 8 games together. He didn’t once dribble into the lane trying to create something that wasn’t there in last night’s game and to me those are the moments when it’s most glaring that he’s uncomfortable.
Despite the third quarter binge of long 2's I thought this was subtly one of his most important games. And being subtle is such a big part of his game when he's right, even on winning jumpballs.
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And it really is that ...
Is playoff Dirk on the horizon? I definitely don’t have a firm answer for you on that front. God, I hope so but last year’s Spurs series has me still rattled. We did witness some Dirk cooking last night, though.
In the third quarter when the Thunder looked like they were about to bomb the Mavericks out of Chesapeake arena with six made threes in the frame, stretching their lead to 10 points it was Dirk that took hold of this game and didn’t let OKC run away. Dirk popped a trailing three to make it 73-79 and then hit two consecutive jumpers to pull back to 77-83. The last two possessions were moments that it felt like the entire team knew Dirk needed the ball and he delivered.
I’ve said this many times but much like Monta is an NBA cheat code good for bursts of 6-10 straight points, Dirk is the same. The worst look he’ll get is over the top of a shorter defender on a fadeaway which splashes the net at a very high clip. Dirk is the ultimate bailout from a bad offensive possession.
This year he hasn’t been as much of a savior but if he can be leaned on when the offense feels like it’s going off the rails and Rondo is settling for long jumpers he can be as important as ever. The way this roster is currently constructed they don’t require much out of Dirk on the offensive end besides the ability to knock down his catch-and-shoot looks and drill the open ones he gets. In his last 8 games Dirk is shooting 45.5% on catch-and-shoot looks and is splashing 59.1% of his shots when wide open (defender +6 feet away). Dirk scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting with a very important seven-point burst in the third quarter.
The 28,000-point achievement? Incredible. Does that playoff monster still live inside of Dirk Nowitzki? We’ll have to wait and see.
Amar’e Stoudemire is going to have some big moments for the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. For all the damage that Enes Kanter did to the Mavericks, Amar’e and Dirk outplayed him in a combined effort of 36 points and some automatic possessions when Stoudemire caught the ball on the block and the rest of the team could have just headed to the other end of the court.
Amar’e has found a perfect role on this team and he’s a nightmare for the majority of opposing big men. The bench overall was phenomenal last night but Amar’e’s 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting was a luxury and made Mavericks fans forget about Brandan Wright heading East. Being able to dump the ball in the post and guarantee a good look is something so foreign to this team and it adds a dimension that’s virtually indefensible when paired with the other pieces. Amar’e is averaging 12.3ppg in just 18 minutes on 57.1% shooting in his last four games.
An old Maverick enemy has crept back into the fold over the last three games and that’s the lack of defense on opponent’s three-pointers. This is the issue that led in part to Jameer Nelson being shipped out of Dallas earlier in the year. Over their last four games the Mavericks opponents are shooting 25.5 attempts per game at a 40.2% clip. Houston might take 40 threes tonight. Close on people, people.
If you want to know why I don’t consider Russell Westbrook a top three candidate in my MVP race you just need to look at last night’s fourth quarter. He simply has no feel for the situation in the majority of basketball games I’ve seen him play.
For somebody that shoots less than 30% from three to take 11 of them in a game that they must have is just irresponsible. The sheer number of possessions that he simply wastes by trying his pull-up threes that look like they were launched out of a jugs machine because his form is so bad (he throws his hands down on his follow through and jumps so high because he thinks it looks cool. There’s no doubt in my mind) and the others that are just stupid passes in transition that turn into points the other way is just staggering. Instead of making his teammates better he uses his teammates to improve his stats.
Enes Kanter had 30 points with 16 minutes remaining in last night’s game and because of Westbrook’s ignorance he let the Mavs off the hook and Kanter only took two more shots the entire game. Inexcusable. Russell Westbrook will let you beat his team. He gives the opponent the opportunity to win in every single game no matter what the scoreboard says. There will be a stretch when Russ gifts you 3-4 possessions. That’s the main problem for me. The complete lack of appreciation for handfuls of possessions at a time. For a player to have a 37.2% usage rate and only have a true shooting percentage of 53.3% is insane. That’s Kobe and Melo territory and those guys get ripped to shreds for the way that they play basketball but Russ slides by because of the injuries they’ve sustained but don’t Kobe and Melo have similar rosters to this injured Thunder group?
Russ is the NBA's darling despite the fact that he doesn’t help his team win to the degree that he other MVP candidates do. Russ was born to be a gunner on a bad team. He is electric and incredibly entertaining to watch but sometimes electricity can fry a circuit board. Last night Russ took 32 shots to score 31 points and was damned determined to not let anybody else lose that game for OKC.
Speaking of electrifying ... here's our Dallas Mavericks Song O' The Day:
Use this to get to you tonight's tipoff. You're welcome!
Why not rest tonight (7:30 tip at the AAC with Houston in town)? You want to play the Rockets in the first round. They’re trailing the Grizzlies in the standings. You’re basically locked into the seventh seed no matter what happens from here on out. You’re coming off an exhausting game last night. Sitting your important players would take some wind out of the Rockets sails particularly if you compete with them into the fourth quarter.
Seems like there’s a lot of reasons out there to rest players tonight. That said, I doubt that they do it.
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