DONUT 1: Crunch-Time Creativity ...
Donut: : In the old days (i.e. the decade stretching from 2001-2011), the Dallas Mavericks found ways to win games in the clutch, with their closing-time prowess a defining characteristic, especially in the Jason Kidd era. Now, it seems that Dallas finds ways to lose games; last night’s contest versus the Bucks being just the latest example, where Dallas missed eight of its final nine field goals attempts en route to a 95-90 loss.
Dallas’ statistical DNA is littered with figures that attest to their ineptitude on this front. You may recall the Mavs’ 1-8 record in OT games this season (no other team has lost more than 5 OT games). In games decided by three points or less, Dallas is 2-6.
Last night, Dallas was outscored in the 4th quarter 29-20.
DONUT 2: The Vicious Cycle ...
After Sunday’s loss to the Lakers, coach Rick Carlisle mentioned that Dallas’ younger players need to learn to play in close, pressure-packed games. In that game, 37 year-old Mike James played 75% of the fourth quarter minutes at the point while 25 year-old Darren Collison sat.
Young guys don’t know how to play in close games so they play poorly, but they play poorly because they’re never involved.
Last night, the trend reversed itself: Darren Collison earned eight fourth-quarter minutes to James’ four. However, results were no more positive, as neither made a basket in the final frame and Collison committed two costly turnovers.
DONUT 3: Speaking of Turnovers ...
At times it seems there is no more accurate predictor of Mavericks’ fate this season than turnovers and turnover margin.
Indeed, last night Dallas committed 7 turnovers in the fourth quarter for eight Milwaukee points while the Bucks coughed it up only twice for a pair of Dallas points. This season, Dallas is 17-8 when they commit 12 or fewer turnovers and 3-13 when they have 16 turnovers or more.
However as much as we lament the overall lack of BBIQ on this team compared to season’s past, Dallas has not turned the ball over as often as it sometimes seems. This season, only five teams have given the ball away fewer than Dallas’ 794 turnovers. Further, their 13.1% turnover percentage ranks them in the top-third of the league.
It just sometimes seems those turnovers come at the costliest times.
DONUT 4: Hindsight is 20/20 ...
So too, was Dirk Nowitzki last night, who scored 21 points and grabbed 20 rebounds last night, his first 20/20 game since 2003. Elton Brand also notched a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. So how does Dallas manage to lose a game in which they get 33 points and 34 rebounds from their top frontcourt players?
Well, the pair was a combined -19 while on the court. Dallas hitting only one of their 17 three-point attempts did not help matters any more than Vince Carter, Mike James, Jae Crowder and Anthony Morrow combining to go 0-16 from the field.
DONUT 5: Dirk’s Back? ...
Though that is the easy narrative given Nowitzki’s second-straight vintage performance, he has really been back for some time.
Post All-Star break, Nowitzki is averaging 22.0/12.3/3.0/1.8 (pts/rebs/ast/stl) per night and shooting over 50% from the floor.
To celebrate this, Fish is giving away a Dirk autographed Panini trading card. Check out his Twitter for more info!
DONUT 6: But does he have to be perfect? ...
“For us to win that game, I’ve got to be perfect,” Nowitzki said afterwards, “and I wasn’t down the stretch.”
Perhaps marring Nowitkzi’s individually brilliant night was a 3-7 shooting mark from the floor in the final quarter, though his were far from the only struggles Dallas had in the fourth.
Overall, the Mavericks shot under 27% in the final period, including 1-of-9 from downtown, while Milwaukee sunk half of their 18 shots. Further, Milwaukee made 11 trips to the line while Dallas only attempted five free throws.
No Nowitzki, doesn’t have to be perfect, but he does need more help.
DONUT 7: The new DB.com Mavs Android App! ...
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Fish, by the way, works with Bob Ortegel, Dana Larson, Mark Followill and the gang tonight with the Mavs-at-Grizz pregame starting at 6:30 on Fox Sports Southwest.
DONUT 9: Derek Fisher’s Loving Family ...
After playing, nine games with Dallas this season, Derek Fisher left the team in December citing a desire to be closer to his family (which is almost always B.S. in sports).
Less than three months later, it seems Fisher has grown weary of his family and will rejoin the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Interestingly, his Mavericks’ exit was the third time Fisher was able to secure a release from a team, and the second occasion he used his family as the pretense for doing so. Though he claimed his time in Dallas was not a “pit stop,” it may have served to help keep his position as president of the NBA players union.
All that was needed to complete the pit stop was some new tires.
No more ex-Lakers please, unless they are named “Dwight.”
DONUT 10: Thanks to our sponsors! ...
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DONUT 11: Previewing Memphis ...
While Dirk Nowitzki.is trying to carry the Mavs, Memphis is being carried by balance and by defense.
Memphis Grizzlies is 37-18 despite having dealt Rudy Gay to Toronto on Jan. 30. Their eventual response? They've now reeled off seven wins in a row.
In this run, the Grizzlies are limiting opponents to an average of 87.0 points - 78.7 over the past three games. On Sunday, they won in Brooklyn while limiting the Nets to 37.7 percent shooting.
The Mavericks are 25-31 and have lost four straight at Memphis.
So ... let's don’t talk about playoffs at this moment.
With the loss, Dallas falls to to 11th in the West behind the Portland Trailblazers. They are now five games back of the 8th and final playoff seed. John Hollinger lists Dallas as having only a 6% chance of making the playoffs this season.
Last season, Dallas and Utah tied for the final two playoff spots with identical 36-30 records. That’s a .545 winning percentage, which would equate to 45 wins over an 82 game season, or just a tad better than Houston’s (the current 8th seed’s) current winning percentage.
For Dallas to get to 45 wins, they would have to go 20-6 over the remainder of their schedule. Winning 20 out of 26 games is a tall order for any team, especially for one as creative in losing as Dallas.
However, as far as Dallas is from the playoffs, they are just as far from winning the lottery. Indeed, Dallas has only the 19th-best record in the NBA. Put another way, Dallas has the third best record among lottery teams, giving them only a 1.1% of winning the top pick in this summer’s draft.
It seems they are now in the NBA equivalent of No Man’s Land, not good enough to get into the playoffs, not bad enough to earn an impact pick in the draft.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
Too many season’s in No Man’s Land is exactly the “Treadmill of Mediocrity” that Cuban fears. This is now the second straight season that Dallas finds itself in that spot, and many think they have painted themselves into a corner in terms of their ability to improve the roster.
Should they strike out again this summer in free agency, harder decisions than letting Tyson Chandler go may need to be made.
Indeed, Nowitzki will be entering the final season of his contract next year. Though
Nowitzki will be a Maverick as long as he wants to be, that may place Dallas in No Man’s Land for a few more seasons given how his talent alone is good for 20-30 wins per season.
Two years ago, Mark Cuban advocated for losing big as the best strategy for long-term team building.
We know Dallas won’t intentionally tank this season, so we have to hope that won't keep them in No Man’s Land longer than they would like.