Another tough week for the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavs. Still awaiting their superstar forward’s return to the lineup, the Mavs pieced together some positive stretches over their three-game homestand but ultimately emerged with just a 1-2 record.
1) Shawn Marion
In the still-infancy of Mavericks Hot and Cold, the Matrix has earned the distinct (and underwhelming) honor of being the first Mavs player to make the Hot list for two consecutive weeks. Marion started off the week with a productive but unceremonious performance against the Portland Trailblazers, netting 8 points on 3-of-8 (38%) shooting and pulling down 9 rebounds. He followed that by going an astounding 12-of-17 (71%) for 25 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder while also tallying 3 rebounds and 2 assists. In the week’s finale against the sizzling Orlando Magic, Marion was again excellent, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 (64%) shooting and collecting 8 rebounds. Along with DeShawn Stevenson, Marion has done the best job of filling the void of offensive production left by Dirk’s absence.
2) DeShawn Stevenson
Speaking of Threevenson, he’s made Honest Abe proud. With the Mavs lacking efficient scoring in Dirk’s absence, Stevenson has consistently provided high-percentage shooting and a willingness to take big shots. This week, he began by dropping 18 points on the Blazers, including a clutch three-pointer with less than one minute left to put the Mavs up by four. He finished the game 4-of-9 (44%) from deep, which is about what we’ve come to expect from one of the league’s best three-point shooters. Stevenson also netted a fairly good line against the Thunder, going 4-of-8 from deep for 14 points and collecting 4 rebounds. It should be noted, however, that three of Stevenson’s makes (in a row) came in the final minutes when the game was essentially out of reach. But there’s no such qualification for his performance against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night: Stevenson was the Mavs’ best player, going 8-of-13 (62%) and 6-of-9 from deep for 24 points. Not bad for a supposed trade throw-in.
The big man in the middle continues to make a compelling case that he should be in the All-Star game, if not the West’s starting center. Against the Blazers, Chandler tallied 14 points on 7-of-9 (78%) shooting and 13 boards. It was his sixth double-double of the season. His seventh wouldn’t take long. Two nights later against the Thunder, Chandler dropped 14 points and was 8-of-10 from the foul line. Oh, he also collected a measly 18 rebounds. Child’s play. Finally, hampered by some questionable foul calls and playing only 23 minutes, Chandler finished the week quietly with 6 points and 7 rebounds against the Magic.
1) Jason Kidd
Last week, we lauded Jason Kidd’s leadership. This week, it’s time to loathe his on-court performance. Kidd shot 5-of-27 (19%) in three games this week, including 2-of-14 (14%) from beyond the arc. Although he notched some decent assist and rebound numbers, this type of shooting performance is simply not good enough. Especially with Dirk out, the Mavs need Kidd to score efficiently from deep and avoid taking difficult two-point shots (including layups, apparently) that he doesn’t usually make. Even once Dirk is healthy, the Mavs’ long-term viability as a contending team hinges heavily upon Kidd’s ability to make defenses pay for failing to guard him on the perimeter. Shooting 14% encourages defense to double and triple team Dirk, which we’ve repeatedly seen lead to a disastrous Mavs offense.
2) Rick Carlisle’s rotation management
Coach Carlisle has done a good job for most of the year managing the rotation to optimize production and limit the minutes of the Mavs’ older players (even if it took the team’s veterans imploring him to start DeShawn Stevenson). This past week, however, we saw Carlisle make some questionable tactical decisions. His rotation is understandably stretched thin due to injuries, but does that justify the Barea-Terry-Jones-Cardinal-Haywood lineup he unveiled against the Thunder? What about Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca not receiving any meaningful playing time? Or Jason Kidd playing almost 40 minutes---likely to the detriment of his shooting (see above)---against both the Blazers and the Thunder? Even if the Mavs had gone 3-0 on the week, it’s likely some fans would take issue with these rather peculiar roster decisions.
3) Finishing games
This item is probably best described as one-third Hot, two-thirds Cold. On the Hot side, the Mavs finished nicely against the Blazers on Tuesday. Down 77-72 with just a few minutes to go, the Mavs closed the game on a 12-4 run to secure the victory. Things did not go so swimmingly against the Thunder and the Magic. In both games, the Mavs commanded a first-half, double-digit lead (10 against the Thunder, 16 against the Magic). But in both games, the Mavs would falter down the stretch. They were outscored 48-40 by the Thunder in the second half, and it was only that close because of a late three-point barrage by DeShawn Stevenson. The Magic similarly outperformed the Mavs late, outscoring the home team 66-50 in the second half. Even with Dirk out, the "new and improved" defensive Mavs shouldn’t be giving up 37 fourth-quarter points.
At the risk of once again jinxing us, let’s hope next week’s Mavericks Hot and Cold features copious talk of Dirk’s return.