DONUT 1: FOREWARD - As Yogi Berra would say, “It was déjà vu all over again.” Still in Los Angeles, this time playing the Clippers without Chris Paul, and the Dallas Mavericks once more suffered heartbreak on the final play of the game as Chauncey “Big Shot” Billups rose to sink a 3-pointer with one second on the clock to steal the lead, and the game, from Dallas … an echo of Derek Fisher from the prior game. … and of Kevin Durant in OKC all too recently.
There were some positives, but this game will linger as a collection of fat opportunities lost … a blessing from the schedule-makers … and a key injury … breaks within fingertips of being grasped … all not taken advantage of. These blown chances hover high, casting a dark shadow on anything that may breathe optimism.
“This is how it is, and it’s tough going,’’ Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to be tougher.’’
DONUT 2: THE FINAL PLAY (AGAIN) - It was a subject of debate, but most BBIQ’ers we’ve talked to could not condemn the defense on the final play of the Lakers game (when Dallas doubled Kobe leaving Dirk to rotate and close to slowly on D-Fish’s 3). But that opinion cannot be held for the game-deciding shot from the Clippers.
The Clippers ran one of the most common, basic inbounds plays you’ll ever see. How many times have you heard any announcer say, “Watch the guy inbounding the ball getting the ball back?” Likely more times than you can count. What the Clippers ran is so common … it’s a cliché.
In other words, it’s the kind of play Jason Kidd generally devours … as he had for much of the night, including the Clippers previous possession when his clever wrasslin’ caused Billups to lose the ball out of bounds and give the Mavs a chance to take the lead, which they did … momentarily.
Not this night. This night, Kidd, who had been defending the inbounder Billups as the ball entered from the corner (supposedly a disadvantage for LAC), inexplicably faded a couple steps back towards the baseline paint as Billups curled away from him around a Blake Griffin screen. Maybe Jason Terry was slow to leave a red-hot Mo Williams (game-high 26 points by hitting an impressive 11-of-15 field-goal attempts), making him late on the rotational help, and maybe didn’t give much effort to get up and contest the shot. Ian Mahinmi drifted back to guard a drive from Blake Griffin, removing himself from the play, and maybe that was acceptable.
But by drifting back – anticipating what? A quick Billups cut inside? A drive from Griffin? Somebody else to take Chauncey? -- Kidd placed Griffin directly in the path he needed to cross to contest the shot from Billups, giving himself no other recourse but to leap on the back of Griffin, far from close enough to impact the attempt.
“The Clippers drew up a good play,’’ Kidd said. “We knew Billups and Griffin were going to have the ball at some point, and Billups made the shot. We were in a position to win the game, and we just couldn’t get a stop. …We must lead the league in last-second shots made by our opponents.’’
Yes, the result: an uncontested 3 from Billups and the third game the Mavs have lost this season in the final seconds of the game, the second consecutively, and perhaps one that can be attributed to truly poor defensive execution.
“I was so open, I was able to take my time and shoot the shot,” Billups said. “They got a contest on it late, but by that time it was gone. I got a great look at it and it felt good for it to go down.”
DONUT 3: THE GLITTER ‘NEATH THE MUD - Unfortunately, the final outcome buried a truly clutch performance from Jason Terry in the final minute, hitting a pair of 3’s in the final 36 seconds to erase a five-point deficit and momentarily put the Mavs up one with 5.1 seconds to play … not to mention a nice defensive play to deflect the following inbounds pass away from Mo Williams.
Prior to his timely outburst, Terry had been 3-of-11 for six points, but the ugliness slipped away in an instant as he took a game that seemed, that felt, decided and flipped it on its head.
Terry finished with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting … and he matched Jason Kidd for the team lead in turnovers with four.
“It’s extremely hard to hit two 3’s when you are down five,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said, bemoaning the fact that Dallas was pushing a rock uphill all night. And that leads us to our greatest concern of the week (not counting the knee that Dirk is finally admitting is bothering him) : The Mavs’ “we just need to get to the tournament’’ mentality, while understandable, also may be creating a blasé approach for a club that is presently just a game about .500 at 8-7. (And with a big test at Utah on Thursday.)
The Mavs were behind by a point at halftime, and they’ve yet to win a game this year when trailing at intermission. Is that a warning sign?
When Jet sharply came off the Dallas double-screen/staggered-screen blockade and nailed the trey, he celebrated his cold-bloodness with what looked like us to be two hands forming two “C’s’’ … did that mean “Cut The Check,’’ one of Jason’s favorite sayings?
Ah, but there was no check to cut yet! The game, alas, wasn’t over.
There is logic behind the Mavs’ “we just need to get to the tournament’’ mentality. It just seems a little loosey-goosey this week, is all.
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DONUT 5: BIG WOOD PLAYING BIG - Another positive lost in the loss was the defensive play of Brendan Haywood. Big Wood almost completely neutralized Blake Griffin when the two matched up in the half court.
Don’t be deceived by the final numbers for Griffin (14 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists), Haywood had him flummoxed when the pair squared off for the majority of the night.
Haywood also did something he had strayed from at times in the past few games and played within himself on the offensive end, kicking out the ball and attacking the rim when appropriate.
Big Wood finished with six points, eight rebounds and one block.
“Griffin is very explosive and always looking to attack,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s the future of the league and he’s fun to watch. We actually thought we did a decent job on him tonight.”
We thought so, too.
In fact, The "Lob City'' thing might be a tad overplayed. For all the attention the Clippers get for their athletic front line of DeAndre Jordan and Griffin, they are only 22nd in the league in terms of points in the paint at 38.4, whereas the Mavs sit at nearly 37. Perhaps that’s why they bristle at the Lob City moniker. … Not that LAC didn’t get some points that way. But the dunk occasions impact SportsCenter more than they truly impacted this game.
OK, we admit it. That's pretty bad-ass.
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DONUT 8: MAVSELLANEOUS - A side effect of Haywood moving over to guard Griffin was asking Dirk to guard a much quicker, more athletic DeAndre Jordan. Not surprisingly, Jordan had his biggest scoring night of the young season with 19 points to go with nine rebounds, although only two of those points and none of the rebounds came in the fourth quarter … Mo Williams hit 11-of-15 shots (73.3 FG percentage). The rest of the Clippers were 26-of-72 (36.1 percent) … Kidd played in his 1,278th regular-season game, tying A.C. Green for 15th place all-time. Kidd is also 15 steals shy of Michael Jordan's total of 2,514 for second place in that category. ... Dallas is 0-7 when allowing 90 or more points and 8-0 when holding its opponent under 90 … What constitutes a bad trip to LA? Losing two games and getting arrested, as assistant coach Darrell Armstrong, did while being stopped on a traffic violation, for something called “non-sufficient funds.’’ … LAC is now 7-1 at home. Oh, and so is Utah. … Delonte West clicked into gear early, scoring 12 points in the opening quarter and earning something he didn’t get against the Lakers … minutes in the second quarter. By the half he had a season high of 17 points. And, there end the highlights from West. In the second half he would play only three minutes, going 0-of-3 from the floor for zero points. … Regarding Deron (and Dwight and Dirk and Dallas): The mainstream media is starting to catch on. ... "It's OK,'' Dirk said of his knee. "Actually, it's better than it was three weeks ago, so that's very good. It's still just stiff and I can't really move the way I want to. But I'm going to keep on working and get a stronger base and get my legs stronger and then I'll be back to my normal self.''
DONUT 9: RAG-DOLLS - First-half offensive rebounds: The Mavericks had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, good for a season-high (for a game) 19 second-chance points. Shawn Marion by himself accounted for over half of this total with six. This was important in keeping the Mavs in it while they were outshot from the floor 49 percent to 41 percent.
In the end, however, it was LA who edged Dallas with a slight 16-15 edge of the offensive glass. And in the end, ‘Trix’ fine effort was wasted. One game after holding Kobe to 18 points under his average, Marion dominated ex-Mav Caron Butler. Marion totaled 12 points, 10 rebounds and three steals and usually guarded Caron … who shot 1-of-12.
In the battle of Mavs who once struggled with “role acceptance’’ and being “rag-dolled,’’ Shawn Marion proved to be the superior player.
This game also marked the first time the Mavs have faced the man who began last season as their starter at the small forward position: Caron Butler.
Before the game, Butler and coach Carlisle shared large grins and a big embrace. Just because time, circumstance, has put some space between, the bond has not been broken. Even as his injury removed him from the court, Butler was a part of the Mavs championship team. That doesn’t go away.
DONUT 10: THE ODOM CONUNDRUM - Lamar Odom continues to be an afterthought on the court. He isn’t necessarily playing poorly. Unlike the earliest games, you wouldn’t consider him a detriment on the court.
The problem is, you wouldn’t much consider him at all.
He did grab seven rebounds in only 24 minutes, and he wasn’t winking and hand-signaling and hugging LA celebs as he did on Monday against another of his old teams, the Lakers. But he failed to really make an impact on the game. … and we’re a little surprised that Dallas’ offensive lineup to close included Mahinmi and not Odom.
“The Ianimal’’ has developed greatly. He scored 13 points and was the target of the desperation (and failed) inbounds alley-oop to end the game. He has a place. But Ian over Lamar? Who would’ve ever predicted such a thing?
Having seen the effectiveness of the two-man-game with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, we can’t help but wonder if this could be a good way to get Odom involved in the offense while capitalizing on the array of skills he brings to the table.
Odom continues to have the look of a player very much searching for his place within the construct of this roster. Throughout his career he’s been a player fans have clamored to see increased aggression from, and though he may not have met the demands of all fans he did find ways to impact games.
It’s far too early to dismiss the chances of Odom finding his way here, but not too early to notice the seeds of alarm doing more than hibernating in the minds of many. We continue to feel that patience is the correct stance here … but understand those who are increasing finding themselves without it.
DONUT 11: KIDD VS BILLUPS - On paper, Billups is one of the point guards Jason Kidd would seem to match up well with. He’s a bigger guard and no longer known for being particularly quick. Unfortunately, that’s not the way things have worked out in the recent past.
In their previous nine meetings (going back to when Jason Kidd rejoined the Mavs, previous eight games came with Chauncey on the Nuggets) Billups has faced Kidd and Dallas nine times in the regular season. In those contests Billups’ teams are 7-2.
Their average numbers in those matchups:
Kidd: 7.9 points, 7.9 assists, 34.3 FG%, 38.6 3PT%, 1.1 steals, 2.9 TOs
Billups: 18.3 points, 4.9 assists, 39.2 FG%, 45.9 3PT%, 1.6 steals, 2.6 TOs
Some of the difference in stats is reflective of what the players have been asked to do for their respective teams, Billups has always been asked to be more of a scorer while Kidd’s role is as more of a distributor.
It’s a cool matchup, a great matchup … and one Dallas nearly won.
DONUT 12: THE EXPANDED NUMBERS GAME - Buckle your calculator. It’s going to be a bumpy ride …
*We said going in that Dallas must (and would!) dominate the LAC bench.
The Mavs lost bench battle in the first quarter, 11-2. Roddy B was the one with the only 2. For the game, the Mavs lost the battle of the benches with Mo Williams scoring nearly as many as the entire Dallas bench 26 points. The Clippers had the edge at 30-29.
*The Mavs D is better than last season.
Most wouldn’t argue with the assertion that the Mavs championship success last season was built on the defensive end. However, could it actually be better this season? Numbers bear this out. Thus far, Dallas is allowing only 88.5 points per game, good for third best in the league. They allow the opposition to shoot only 42.5 percent, sixth-best in the NBA and stealing 10.4 balls a game, second in the NBA.
Last season, the Mavs ranked 10th in points per game allowed, eighth in field-goal percentage and near the bottom (23rd) in steals per game. It’s still early, and these numbers may be partially inflated by the effects of the lockout on offenses, but it is encouraging.
Unless you are Rick Carlisle and you are talking about this specific game.
“You’ve got to be entrenched in it,’’ Rick said of a defensive mentality while obviously reflecting on the 31 first-quarter points allowed. “And we weren’t.’’
*Free-throw troubles: Aside from featuring two Western Conference contenders, this game featured three of the worst free-throw shooters of the game in Haywood, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. All three are in the bottom quarter of the league with Haywood at 42.4 percent, Jordan at 46.7 percent and Griffin shooting a stellar 53.8 percent.
We didn’t see any intentional hacking strategy offered by either coach, slightly surprising given how close this one was.
Griffin was 2-of-8 from the line, giving Dallas an opening there. But in the final minutes, Dallas used Ian Mahinmi at center in place of Big Wood, and by gosh if “The Ianimal’’ – a good FT shooter – didn’t miss both of his critical freebies.
And then there is the FT issue of Dirk … he had just two attempts in this game, and getting only a handful of tries is all too common for him this year.
*3-point percentages: As a team, the Mavs shoot 30.9 percent from the arc, while their opponents shoot 35.4 percent, 21st in the league. The trend reversed itself in this one however with the Mavs shooting 42 percent from deep while LAC was held to 33.3 percent.
Of course, LAC shot 100 percent on the one that mattered most.
*Interesting Plus/Minus numbers: Aside from Jason Kidd, every Maverick starter finished the game in the negative. Meanwhile, no Maverick bench player could say the same as each was positive, with Cardinal coming out even.
* Last-second 3’s: The Mavericks are now 0-3 in games where their opponents hit a three to take the lead with less than five seconds to play. This is a flip-flop of Mavs tradition in the last 11 years, when Dallas had an uncanny knack for winning the close one. Which leads us to the question we raised on the postgame show on Fox Sports Southwest:
Does this mean “this isn’t the Mavs year?
Or does this mean “the Mavs are thisclose?
* Duplications: The Mavs had two players with 17 points (West, Dirk), two with 12 (Marion, Jet), two with five (Kidd, Odom). Dirk and Odom also had seven boards a piece. All of it doesn’t add up to enough, especially with The UberMan struggling so to be the guy who doesn’t score 17. Twenty woulda been nice.
DONUT 13: THE FINAL WORD - You watch the NBA highlights package …
… And if you are a Dallas fan you may bemoan the lack of “luck” in the final moments of games this season, noting the trio of losses that have come in the final seconds. But we must also recognize the shortcomings that have led to the conceptions of those moments.
Looking at the Clippers game exclusively, the Mavs were handed every possible advantage. Los Angeles was playing their third game in three nights. Chris Paul did not suit up. Dallas had rested the night before, and should have held a distinct benefit in their energy reservoirs … even if their biggest star was taking the court while sick, as Dirk was.
Even with Vince Carter back in Dallas nursing his sprained foot, this was a game the Mavs were “supposed” to win. Instead, they came away without the victory and without the chance to find added rest as they entered a back-to-back, heading to Utah on Thursday night.
There’s no denying this was a case of blown opportunities for the Mavs … now they must move on and attempt to capitalize on another “opportunity” against the Jazz, who have the second-best record in the Western Conference at 9-4, and come away with a win.
“We’ve got to keep on fighting,” Nowitzki said. “Nobody said it was going to be easy, but we can’t keep losing on 3s that end the game.”
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