Dallas is in the playoffs again, for the 13th time in 14 years. Good number. San Antonio is making…
Mavs Donuts In The Land Of Milk And Honey
DONUT 1: Another crack ...
Those are the amount of points that the Dallas Mavericks have scored against the Los Angeles Clippers this season. You could probably say that Doc Rivers really needs to figure out how he can get his team to stop the Mavericks from running all over them, right? "Hey, ever heard of defense, Doc?''
That's how many times the Dallas Mavericks have beaten the Clippers this season.
Another shot comes tonight, in a 9:30 tip at L.A. (Where to find the game and the rest of Dallas' regular-season enders on TV and radio? With the help of Coop, we explain here.)
DONUT 2: Style-of-play matchup …
The Clippers' defense probably deserves a little of your criticism for their efforts against the Mavericks, but only if you have enough breath left after criticizing the Mavericks' defense.
We've said numerous times on these pages that the Clippers are a better matchup for the Mavericks than either the Spurs or the Thunder. We say that because the latter two teams have the championship quality of forcing their opponents to play the exact style and tempo that they want to play on any given night. You have to beat those two teams on their terms. The Clippers, on the other hand, are always willing to participate in a good ol'-fashioned, fast-paced shootout, partially because they have young athletes who like to have fun playing basketball and partially because they are damn good at it.
But the Mavericks have some scorers themselves and when Nowitzki and company are on, they'll put up the kind of offensive numbers that occupy the top of Donut 1.
As coach Rick Carlisle said, "We got a lot of things that give them problems, too. We've been up in all three games. We got to play our game better than they play theirs."
DONUT 3: Defense, anyone? …
That being said, you have to play a little bit of defense. It's probably a little too simple to say that the winning team always played enough defense to win. But the Clippers have three wins over the Mavericks this season and it's not because they are that much better offensively. It's because the Mavericks were completely incompetent defensively all three games.
Outside of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (who deserves mention with Paul and Griffin considering the breakout season he's had this year), the Clippers' supporting cast is good. They have a lot of experienced role players who can execute very specific skills. They have jobs for a reason and they will continue to have jobs in the NBA.
But make no mistake, if and when the Clippers are eliminated from the playoffs it will be because that supporting cast erred. Players like Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, Darren Collison and Ryan Hollins will be forced to make plays that they are not guarantee to make. That's because opposing coaching staffs will not allow the three Clipper stars to beat them on their own.
DONUT 4: Clips Big 3 …
That's exactly what the Clippers' three stars have done to the Mavericks this year. Not to say that they didn't receive valuable contributions from other players, but those three players have had their way with Dallas, each in their own style.
In the Clippers' most recent victory over Dallas (documented in great detail here) Jordan had 16 points (7-of-9 shooting) and 15 rebounds. Griffin has 18 points (8-of-14 shooting) and 13 rebounds. Paul had 31 points (9-of-18 shooting) and nine assists.
In a January victory over the Mavericks, (details here) Jordan scored 25 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. Griffin had 25 points and 15 rebounds. Paul chipped in 19 points and six assists.
You can't consistently let three opposing players on the same team put up MVP-type performances against you. It makes the rest of the team's job far too easy and it almost guarantees a victory for the opponent.
DONUT 5: Survive the boards …
Obviously, stopping great players from being great is a very difficult task. But you can't let three players be great all at once. You have to moderately contain at least one of them. That will start with keeping Griffin and Jordan off the boards. We've seen in a single game Jordan outrebounding Samuel Dalembert, Dejuan Blair and Brandon Wright by himself. All three of those players have to do a much better job at holding their position on the defensive glass and they can't be outhustled. The difference in athleticism is far too great for them to be outworked.
Aggie DeAndre Jordan remains the NBA leader in rebounding at almost 14 per game. He's one of those rare rebounders who might deserve to be "guarded'' as a rebounder rather than "boxed-out.''
DONUT 6: Dirk's touches …
Offensively, the Mavericks can just do their thing against the Clippers. They can score on any team and the Clippers are certainly no exception to that. When Nowitzki has gotten a healthy amount of touches, the Clippers have had not answer for the Mavericks' offense.
Until the ends of games, that is.
The Mavs have blown big leads in all three of these losses. And their inability to close is connected, at least in part, to Dirk's lack of shot-making down the stretch.
During this homestand and against these Clippers, we've seen The Uberman miss fourth-quarter free throws, go the entire final period without a make, play through OT without an FT ...
Said Carlisle: "I'm always looking for ways to get him more open looks. It's difficult. He's one of the top 12 players of all time and people are going to be draped on him. We've got to work to combat that and find ways to make that a positive for us, to maybe spring other guys open or whatever."
DONUT 7: Clippers Injury update …
Griffin has a bad back but should play. JJ Redick (back) is expected to participate. Jamal Crawford (Achilles) is out. Danny Granger is likely out.
DONUT 8: Stat O' The Day …
One of the things Dallas does right? Ball movement. The Mavs are 14-2 when Jose Calderon has seven assists or more and they are 20-8 when Monta Ellis has seven or more. ... all of that representing a challenge against the steals-minded CP3.
DONUT 9: Quotable …
"We want to win those close games. We feel like we should have won at least two of those four close ones we lost on the homestand and we'd be right there at (No.) 6. We got to be better. Out of the seven (remaining games), there probably will be seven close ones." - Dirk Nowitzki.
DONUT 10: Reviewing the loss to the Warriors …
Blown leads. Inability to get stops. Mental miscues. That's how an otherwise "good'' team has five losses this year in which it once lead by 17 or more. That's how a good team goes 4-4 on an eight-game homestand. That's how Dallas is still bobbing along the bottom of the West playoff race -- though Wednesday losses by Phoenix and Memphis are helpful.
Here's our All-Access coverage of the game, inside access for Dallas Mavericks fans.
DONUT 11: Mea Culpa - Mea Kinda ...
Dallas can take no solace in being right. There is no mulligan, no makeup, no reward. Heck, even the apology isn't a very clear one.
Rod Thorn, the NBA president of basketball pperations, issued the following statement today regarding a non-call during overtime of the Warriors' 122-120 win over the Mavericks at the AAC:
"Upon review at the league office, we have found that a shot taken by Dallas' Monta Ellis with 16.0 seconds remaining in overtime was on the way down when initially contacted and ruled a block by Golden State's Jermaine O'Neal, and should have been ruled a goaltend. The exact trajectory of the ball when touched was impossible to ascertain with the naked eye, and the play was not reviewable."
And we can leave it at that, we suppose, except to note ...
*Other calls have gone Dallas' way. Over the course of that game. And this season. And the decades. So we will let go of this eventually.
*"The exact trajectory of the ball when touched was impossible to ascertain with the naked eye'' is a unique way to issue a non-apologetic apology. It is the equivalent of saying to a baseball player, "I called you out because it was impossible to ascertain with the naked eye ... so I guessed.''
The "naked eye'' is the weapon of choice here. If goaltends are "impossible to ascertain'' with said naked eye, we should probably make goaltending legal.
*This explanation conflicts with the explanation provided to Dirk Nowitzki after the play. To wit:
"I think (Ellis') layup has a chance to get to the rim, and if that's the case, you can't just get it out of the air," said Nowitzki. "To me, that's a goaltend. I asked the referees what happened. The explanation was that the ball was two feet short. If that's the case, then he can get it out of the air, but where I was from, I think it had a chance to at least hit the rim. That's a goaltend to me."
And indeed, there is no doubt that the ball was heading toward the rim and nowhere close to falling "two feet short.'' ... and that fact is very possible to ascertain with the naked eye.
DONUT 12: The Final Word …
With seven games left, the Mavericks players are claiming that every game is basically a playoff game. (Or, as Uncle Ricky would put it, "Seven Super Bowls.) Well, it's time to show the Clippers at least a semblance of playoff defense. The Clippers are playing the second night of back-to-back after defeating Phoenix (and helping the Mavericks' playoff chances by doing so).
The 44-31 Mavericks -- tied, record-wise, with the Suns and the Grizz for seventh -- can play at the Clippers' pace. They feel very comfortable in a shootout. But they just can't let Thursday night's game be just another resume builder for Paul, Griffin and Jordan's All-NBA cases. Steph Curry already put the Mavericks on SportCenter for the wrong reasons this week. Chris Paul will be more than willing to do the same unless Dallas get a key, late defensive stop against him and his pals.