Welcome to the second installment of Mavericks Hot and Cold. Let's get right to it.
Despite occasional struggles by key players--e.g., Dirk Nowitzki’s performance against Portland through three quarters--the Mavs as a team had an excellent week offensively. They posted an offensive efficiency rating of 112.1, which would rank first in the NBA on the season. This uptick in offense came against three opponents of varying defensive prowess. Milwaukee ranks 6th in the league in defensive efficiency, Portland 17th, and Phoenix 30th (also known as "dead last"). The Mavs currently rank a mediocre 11th in offensive efficiency, so this kind of week was good to see.
This one is partly tongue in cheek, as Mahinmi played only 6:26 in two games this week (he didn't play against Milwaukee). But in those limited minutes, Mahinmi posted very efficient numbers: 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2-of-2 shooting, 4-of-4 from the line. Even more importantly, Mahinmi stepped up late to help ice the Mavs’ win over Phoenix. Down double-digits with less than four minutes left, Suns coach Alvin Gentry went to the suddenly very chic strategy of intentionally fouling noted free-throw-phobiac Brendan Haywood. Haywood appropriately responded by missing 5 of 6. Rick Carlisle "promptly" subbed in Mahinmi, who made four straight from the line as Gentry utilized the lesser known "Hack-a-Mahinmi" gameplan.
3) Dirk Nowitzki’s FT shooting
Through the first twenty or so games, Mavs fans had voiced some concern over Dirk’s dip in free-throw percentage. Of course, he was still shooting over 80%, but when you’ve become accustomed to filet mignon from Three Forks, Outback just won’t do. Nobody's concerned after this week, as Dirk shot 16-of-16 from the foul line. By the way, that’s perfect.
1) Brendan Haywood’s FT shooting
Kicking off the Cold list, we have the other end of the free-throw shooting spectrum. To anyone who’s been watching the Mavs all year, it certainly isn’t news that Haywood isn’t the greatest foul shooter since Jose Calderon. This week was right in line with his abysmal season average, as Haywood went 4-of-14 (28%) from the line. Haywood’s inexplicable woes from the charity stripe were particularly problematic because teams have started to intentionally foul him late in the game. In fact, the "Hack-a-Haywood" strategy played a large part in the Bucks’ streak-snapping, comeback win against the Mavs on Monday night. Haywood missed four straight free throws midway through the fourth quarter, allowing the Bucks to grab the momentum with a 14-0 run that gave them the lead for good.
2) Second-half defense
As good as their week was offensively (see above), the Mavs did not have a textbook week on the defensive end. Their defensive efficiency rating in three games this week was 106.5, which would rank 22nd in the NBA. Playing a critical role in this defensive slide was the Mavs’ second-half defense, which conservatively could be described as "not good." The Mavs gave up 60 second-half points to the Bucks (the second-worst offensive team in the league), 59 to the Blazers, and 49 to the Suns. For the past couple weeks, the Mavs have assured fans and the media that we shouldn’t expect a defensive slippage akin to this time last season. The jury’s still out.
3) Timeout promos
The Mavs and the American Airlines Center have no shortage of whacky promotions during game breaks. On Friday against Phoenix, that whackiness spilled onto the court. Literally. The Mavs-Suns game was delayed momentarily after many pieces of small paper confetti found their way out of a plastic tub at midcourt and onto the hardwood. During the delay, the ESPN broadcast showed Haywood and Suns guard Jason Richardson joking around at the scorer’s table. Undoubtedly concerned with the grave danger posed to world-class athletes by tiny slivers of paper, Portland Trailblazers enthusiast Hubie Brown was not similarly amused.
See you next Monday for another edition of Mavericks Hot and Cold, which will only cover two games because of the Christmas break. But they are two big ones--at the Miami Heat tonight and at the new-look Orlando Magic tomorrow.