Dallas Mavericks Breakdown: Still Heartless In Big D

Erick BlascoSenior Writer INovember 29, 2008

The more the Mavericks change, the more they stay the same. They looked like world-beaters for about 30 minutes or so of their 114-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers—and then wilted away in the fourth quarter.

Let’s look at the culprits.

Jason Kidd

Kidd’s demise has been grossly exaggerated—by yours truly no less. His genius-level court vision, wonderful passing, tough rebounding, alert pushing of the ball, and timely three-point shooting allowed him to have an excellent floor game—4-10 FG, 4-7 3FG, 8 REB, 11 AST, 2 STL, 1 AST, 0 TO, 12 PTS. Kidd’s lone turnover had more to do with Jason Terry’s laziness than any mistake on his own part, and his decision making was superb throughout the game.

What’s more, Kidd played nasty defense, fighting through screens and on the block. Vladimir Radmanovic and Trevor Ariza found out about Kidd’s defense first hand when the former was ripped on a meager postup attempt, and the latter was ripped when slashing into the paint.

In The Clutch

Kidd hit two critical threes to keep the Lakers close, kept his composure, moved the ball, and with the exception of being unable to fight through a screen and contest a Trevor Ariza three-pointer, played his usual dogged defense. If the Mavs lost, it wasn’t Kidd’s fault.

Gerald Green

Green made a number of egregious mistakes, lowlighted by an abhorrent decision to try and feed the leaden-handed Erick Dampier on a fast break leading to a turnover, and then running back and hacking Bynum well after Bynum was in the process of dunking the ball. The young man simply doesn’t have the basketball IQ to be a meaningful player on anything resembling a playoff team.

In The Clutch

Green was exactly where he belonged—on the bench.

Erick Dampier

Dampier bumped, banged, and played with surprisingly effective energy. While he was little match for Andrew Bynum’s length on a number of rebounds, every shot in his vicinity was challenged, and remarkably for Dampier, challenged without a foul.

In The Clutch

Dampier’s inability to move his feet when picking up Kobe Bryant around a screen led to Kobe’s game-sealing basket, and his non-existent offensive game allowed the Lakers to play defense five-on-four.

Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk’s pump fakes tantalized Pau Gasol the entire first half, and he loved to catch the ball on the right wing, size his man up, and unleash an unguardable 18-foot jumper. He executed many smart passes, but often did so after pumping out Gasol and having a free angle to the basket against a help defender when driving to the rim. Dirk was also a nightmare for the Lakers in transition, hitting a pair of three-pointers as the trailer on the break.

Defensively, if Dirk was late on several baseline rotations, he was more willing to bang around than in years past. His hands were active and he held his own on the defensive glass.

In The Clutch

Dirk was nowhere to be found. When the Lakers began their run towards the end of the third quarter, Dirk rushed a pair of jumpers early in the shot clock that clanged out. In the fourth, Dirk failed to throw a hand up at a Jordan Farmar runner, rushed a wide-open three that missed badly, was stripped by Kobe 25 feet from the basket, made a nifty runner in the lane, was late closing out on a Gasol jumper, and only attempted three field goals making one of them.

As usual, when an opposing superstar was taking over, and an opposing team was running away with the game, Dirk failed to do anything to dent the opposing team’s run. This lack of a killer instinct and propensity of turning wins into losses is the prime reason why, despite his obvious talents, Dirk isn’t worthy of the hype.

Antoine Wright

Filling in for Josh Howard, Wright worked hard but was overmatched in his defense of Kobe Bryant. On the other end, he plugged his jumpers, and played with inspiring toughness, but lacked the athleticism and the creativity to finish at the rim (three of his attempts were blocked).

In The Clutch

Wright was torched by Kobe in the post, on the perimeter, and everywhere in between. Definitely not an impact player, Wright’s toughness and shooting make him a solid contributor off the end of the bench.

Jason Terry

Terry dazzled as a sixth man, (13-23 FG, 3-9 3FG, 5 AST, 2 STL, 2 TO, 29 PTS) plugging jumpers, jetting to the hoop in the transition, playing passing lanes for steals, and making plays off of screen/rolls. His energy and ability to score make him one of the most effective bench players in the league.

In The Clutch

Terry was scattered and had no composure. On defense, he was repeatedly beaten by Jordan Farmar, and his botched help assignment on Kobe Bryant led to both a Kobe jumper and Devean George irately expressing his displeasure to anyone within earshot.

With the ball in his hands, Terry had no willingness to run an offense and took a number of bad shots. Of his more notable highlights and lowlights, Terry:

  • Didn’t seal his defender and come to a Jason Kidd pass allowing Jordan Farmar to steal the ball and race the other way for a dunk.
  • Hit a couple of difficult jumpers, and a nice catch-and-shoot as the Mavs ran dual curls to the middle on each side of the court.
  • Badly rushed a pair of missed jumpers, one of which was blocked by Farmar.
  • Bit on a Jordan Farmar pump fake near the three-point line
  • Missed a layup
  • Hit a trio of shots with under two minutes left, and the Lakers up nine. Too little too late.

Whatever benefits Terry’s scoring and passing provide are neutralized by his inability to run an offense, his scatterbrain decision making under pressure, and his total lack of defensive discipline.

Devean George

George’s big body, sniping hands, and three-point shooting (2-3 3FG) made him a valuable player off the bench. What’s more, George made Kobe work hard for every shot, and recorded a number of deflections.

In The Clutch

George was beaten time and again by Kobe, and had a three-pointer blocked by Andrew Bynum. George is still a useful player, but he’s not as quick as he once was, and is now only a bit player.

Jose Barea

Barea was shifty around screens, had nice handles, and made a feasting driving by the Lakers’ poor showings on screens, and subsequently playing two-on-one against Andrew Bynum where tricky finishes, or judicious dish offs led to easy points. In fact, his tally of ten points, nine assists, and no turnovers was probably the best stat line of his professional life.

In The Clutch

The Lakers began soft switching onto Barea in the second half so he wouldn’t have a clear launch at the basket. The Lakers had the defensive quickness to rotate over while Barea’s man caught up to him, leaving Jose a non-factor.

Brandon Bass

Bass plugged a midrange jumper, had a spectacular post and dunk against Jordan Farmar, couldn’t box out and leap high enough with Bynum, Gasol, and Lamar Odom on the glass, and made several poor decisions throughout the game.

In The Clutch

Bass was out of control forcing a post up early in the shot clock, and missing a handful of rotations.

Dasagna Diop

Diop played terrific help defense, and was one of the few players who held his own with Bynum on the defensive glass. If Diop wasn’t long enough to alter Bynum’s hook shots, most other attacks on Dallas’ basket were successfully thwarted by Diop.

In The Clutch

Diop’s complete inability to score kept him on the bench. Besides dunking in cookies, and setting effective screens, Diop has no offensive skill defenses have to concern themselves with.

Against the Lakers, the Mavs displayed that they clearly have the talent to win basketball games. In fact, despite their slow start and current sub-500 record, the Mavs are a virtual lock to make the postseason.

But how far can this team go with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and Josh Howard failing so often in pressure situations? And the team desperately needs a better defensive stopper than Howard, and a more athletic and consistent center than Dampier.

In fact, as long as Dirk Nowitzki is the face of the franchise, the Mavs will be talented, but they aren’t—and truthfully, never were—close to being a championship-level team.