Mavs All-Access Game 5 Donuts

DALLAS - Because the Mavs have no other choice, we urge them to 'Take pride in your long odds.' We prep you for the 7 p.m. tip (on TXA21) in Houston with 'Mavs All-Access Game 5 Donuts':

DONUT 1: The Bold

Let’s start with a Dallas Mavericks examination of Rick Carlisle’s bold move to start JJ Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu that led to a decided advantage for the Mavericks in the shut-'em-up Game 4 win.


Sure, it would have made just as much sense to deploy this tactic in Game 3, but it’s understandable to hesitate with all the roster-shuffling that commenced following the Game 2 hijinks. The Mavericks were in the middle of a hurricane named Rondo and weren’t exactly sure who would or wouldn’t be available heading into the next game.

Sunday, with the Mavericks' season hanging in the balance, Rick leaned on an undersized guard that has struggled to find a role in this series and an electric wing that hadn’t been quite the remedy we were hoping in the first three contests. In the first two games of the series Aminu and Barea Were largely non-factors, combining for 36 points on 31 shots in nearly 100 minutes of game action and totaling an 8-to-5 assist-to-turnover tally. The majority of those points and assists came from the necessity to play Barea in Game 2 after Rajon Rondo quit on the team.

The evidence that Barea and Aminu needed to be more integral in this series was shown in Game 3 when the duo scored 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting with 11 assists and 3 turnovers. The combo had a +54.8 net rating in Game 3 in a contest that was decided by an 18-foot Harden step-back jumper that was just begging to rattle out of the cylinder. ... an effort that was clearly good enough to earn a Mavericks win but it just didn’t happen.

DONUT 2: The Beautiful

The Mavericks' starting lineups in the first three games were all on the wrong end of the net-rating scale, measuring from as bad as -41 (Game 1) to -18.3 (Game 2) and a slight disadvantage in Game 3 (-0.9). The starting lineup from Game 4 was a +52.8 in 18 minutes together. In fact, every lineup that involves Barea and AFA that has played at least 8 minutes together in this series are at least +50.7 or better in terms of net rating.

DONUT 3: The Non-Surprise

The Mavericks have basically used six different lineups in heavy minutes against the Rockets thus far through four games. There are three good lineups and there are 3 lineups that measure out as a negative. Barea and AFA are involved in every one of the positive lineups and none of the negative ones.

It’s no surprise that the combo of AFA and JJB test out as the team’s best defensive two-man lineup in the series (87.6 defR) and their second-best net rating two-man unit (+30.2). Furthermore, both or at least one are involved in every Maverick three-man lineup that has a positive rating so far in the series (min 50 minutes).

The on- and off-court metrics for AFA and Barea are even more insane.

They’re a combined +38.5 in net rating when they’re on the court and a -53.5 in net rating when they’re off the court. They hold the two highest offensive ratings when on court (besides Charlie V the gunslinger) and the highest off-court defensive ratings when they aren’t on the court. Every single category that matters -- assist-to-turnover ratio, rebounding, true-shooting percentage -- is enhanced by their presence on the court and flatlines without them.


I do apologize if you don’t really understand offensive, defensive and net ratings or if you just get tired of them but it’s the only true metric that accounts for pace so I lean on that to confirm what my eyes are seeing.

DONUT 4: AFA Predictability, But ...

Aminu’s impact shouldn’t be that much of a shocker seeing as in his final three games against the Rockets this season he averaged 11 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks a contest. He was one of the main reasons I was confident in playing a series against the Houston Rockets, as detailed in The Mavs-Rockets Primer For Smart People . ... The reasoning? The majority of lineups that Houston is now forced to roll with lend themselves to Aminu being able to guard 3-4 different positions on the floor. But, I never could have seen a knee injury sidelining Chandler Parsons (more on this below) or Rajon Rondo flat-out quitting.

With that said, I wasn’t sure if Barea would end up having any kind of impact on this series.

DONUT 5: Barea for Rondo

It’s easy to toss around the claim that the Mavericks would be better without Rajon Rondo on the court. It felt like most fans when being honest with themselves would tell you that they were simply replacing the words “more fun to watch” with “better” subconsciously in that previous statement.

As Rondo’s brief playoff tenure with the Mavericks pressed forward we learned that our feelings actually held some validity. I’ve said all of that to get around to the fact that JJ Barea has been miles above the effort that Rondo was giving us in his two games. Nobody expected that but we’re here now. ( See Fish's column on the ill-fated "Rondo Era'' here.)

One of the simplest ways of evaluating point guards is how many points they generate with their passing, whether it be pure assists or secondary assists. Because of Rondo’s sudden departure from Game 2, we’re going to need some kind of number that regulates the pace of the game and not just the fact that JJ Barea is creating 12.2 more points per game via passing than Rondo was (18.2 to 6). Luckily, such a stat is provided and it’s "points created by passing per 48 minutes.''

JJ Barea is creating 30.1 points via assists in every 48 minutes played.

Rajon Rondo was creating 15.5 points via passing per 48 minutes played ... sitting right behind Jeff Ayres in the rankings for these playoffs.

But there’s still that defensive advantage that Rondo brings to the table, right? Well, no.

Rajon Rondo earned a 126.3 defensive rating in his two games played in these playoffs compared to a 98.5 defensive rating for JJ Barea.


I know what you’re thinking. You’re asking, “But what about the fact that Barea has been playing with a better defensive lineup?” Very good point. What sucks is that Rondo played so little that there can’t be any real lineup causation calculated, but judging by the defensive ratings one could assume that the team is playing defensively harder as a collective when Barea is on the court.

Here’s the purest comparison that I can find: Because Rondo had such limited playoff totals, his defensive field-goal percentage shouldn’t be taken into account (and good for him because people were hitting 66.7% of the shots he defended). We’ll compare Rondo’s regular-season numbers against what Barea is giving us in the playoffs. On shots that Rondo defended during the regular season the opposition hit 45%. In these playoffs JJ Barea has defended 21 shots and the opposition is only hitting 42.9%.

Time to put the Rondo defensive myth to bed, because Barea has been better no matter how you cut the cake. He generates more offensive, plays better on-ball defense and plays his ass off on every possession.

DONUT 6: Physical Play

In case you missed it, Fish got to the bottom of the TY Punch yesterday ...

The Dallas Mavericks are in need of some breaks in this first-round series as they trail Houston 0-3. They also are in need of some "physicality'' as an answer to coach Rick Carlisle's railing against Dwight Howard's bullying play, a complaint that earned Carlisle a $25,000 fine after Game 3.

But now it's Rockets fans who may wish to gripe as the NBA is deciding that a physical exchange between Howard and Tyson Chandler that included wrestling and maybe even a clenched fist thrown by TY will go unpunished, NBA sources tell me.

It was late in Dallas' Game 4 win Sunday when Chandler retaliated to Dwight's arm-linking by whipping his balled fist towards Howard's back. The officials called a double technical, but the replay clearly shows that Chandler reared back with a closed fist and threw a punch at Howard.

According to the NBA rules, "Any player who throws a punch, whether it connects or not, has committed an unsportsmanlike act. He will be ejected immediately and suspended for a minimum of one game.''

Were there extenuating circumstances here? Is the league looking at TY's action as part of a bigger picture that includes some acknowledgement that Carlisle's complaints were justified? Would Rockets fans be justified in believing Chandler's availability for Game 5 on Tuesday in Houston is fueled in part by a desire to keep the already-undermanned Mavs alive? Are Mavs fans justified in arguing that maybe Dwight's arm-bar swing was punch-like? If you look at film closely enough, can you find lots of these exchanges (Josh Smith vs. Richard Jefferson among them)?

Chandler had a game-high 14 rebounds Sunday as the Mavericks outrebounded the Rockets 52-38. That was a flip from Game 3, when Howard grabbed 26 rebounds by himself, including 11 on the offensive end. The Mavs were able to do their talking on the floor rather than in the presser ...

So these two will be allowed to fight another day ... maybe literally "allowed'' and maybe literally right on the edge of "fight.''

DONUT 7: Quotable

“We just weren’t ready to go home. We came together before the game said we were gonna leave it all on the court, and we did.” -- Monta Ellis on Game 4, now needing a repeat performance.

DONUT 8: Stat O' The Day

As Coop notes, in the two games at the AAC, the Mavs are averaging 124.5 points on 53.3-percent shooting, but in the two games at Houston the Mavs are at 103.5 points and 42-percent shooting. The Mavs need to bring their real offensive game down the highway today to force a Game 6, an "if'' which will be held on Thursday at the AAC, reportedly at 7 p.m.

DONUT 9: Pick-And-Roll D

What has kept the Mavericks in the last two games is the fact that they’ve played the James Harden pick-and-roll much better of late. They’ve dared him to shoot.

Sometimes you get burned, like in the final moments of Game 3 (see "Lost And Found - And Lost Again'') ... but you can also force Harden into a 5-of-17 night like we saw in Game 2. The goal has become to force Harden into a pull-up long two or three and don’t let him kill you with his passing as he did in Game 1. In Game 1, Harden generated 27 points off assists and secondary assists. In the subsequent three games they’re only allowing 15 points per contest to be created by Harden’s passing.


After tallying a 3.66 assist-to-turnover ratio in the first game Harden has leveled off to a 2.00 ratio in the last three games, which is more in line with his season average. The other part of that equation is the fact that Harden has been terrible in pull-up opportunities despite the rest of his game being MVP-caliber. Harden has only made 13 of his 36 pull-up looks and only 3 of his 14 pull-up threes.

There’s no good way to defend James Harden or somebody would have found it by now. The Mavericks have been throwing a ton of coverages at him and basically banking on the fact that if a team that shot 35% from three during the regular season can shoot above 40% in a game, then you’ll just have to live with that outcome. Every time I try to put on paper how to defend Harden it ends up sounding insane because it’s not something that can be done the way the modern NBA is structured, but what the Mavericks have been trying to do with constantly altering coverages all based on letting Harden shoot the deep two or three and playing passing lanes has worked well enough to keep them within one shot of being tied 2-2 in this series.

DONUT 10: Where are the Turnovers?

Something that I can’t explain is the lack of Houston turnovers in this series thus far.

During the regular season the Rockets turned the ball over 16.7 times per game and 18.8 times per game against the Mavs. In the playoffs they’ve basically re-written their DNA and have only committed 12.8 turns per contest. The Mavericks are averaging 14 points per game off of turnovers in this series but that’s a good five points below their season average of 19.3. That’s part of what makes Game 4 such an anomaly and gives me the slightest glimmer of hope.

The Mavericks out-executed the Rockets in the halfcourt and they did it to an embarrassing extent. The Mavs only scored six points off of turnovers and 20 on the fastbreak, so there were 95 points generated from out-performing Houston in the halfcourt offense. That’s by far the most of the series. What helped is the fact that the Mavs pulled down 17 offensive boards and scored 20 second-chance points.

The Mavericks now lead all playoff teams in offensive boards per game in the playoffs with 14.5 per game after ranking 19th in the league with just 10.5 per match in the regular season.

Is this a change in philosophy for the Mavs?

The realization that turnovers are not going to come easy has led to baiting the Rockets into long shots instead of playing passing lanes. This takes away this whole seesaw effect that I’ve talked about at length before between turnovers and offensive rebounds and finding ways to hedge for your deficiencies. If the turnovers aren’t coming you have to create points somewhere and second-chance points have been the feeding ground. There are very few teams that can force turnovers and score easy buckets, rebound well, play transition defense and keep the other team out of the paint. They’re called the Warriors. Every other team has to decide what they’re fine giving up. The Mavericks aren’t forcing turnovers and producing points that way and aren’t playing solid defense in transition. What’s left to do? Fabricate second-chance points via the offensive board. It’s not their style but survival is on the line here.

DONUT 11: Mavsellaneous

*Join the Mavs conversation here on Boards!

*Here's the Mavs vs. Rockets: The GameThread on Boards

*There is a game to play so we're not ready to go full-Aldridge/Jordan/Gasol on you yet. But here's a primer for how the Mavs cap plans were supposed to work ... and how they must change.

Follow Mike Marshall and Fish on Twitter!

*Mavs sources tell that fears of Chandler Parsons needing microfracture are very premature. Fish and I are both working on this story, and Fish has notes on it here on Mavs Premium Boards.

*Here's your song:

DONUT 12: The Final Word

With this new found quirky lineup that causes the Rockets fits and with mild success in keeping Harden to just a superhuman output, is it realistic to expect the Mavericks to push this series to seven while trying to forge a new identity on the fly?

Take pride in your long odds.

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