A day late, but never a dollar short. This week saw the Mavs play in four games decided by four points or less. The result? A record of 3-and-Arron Afflalo. Time to find out what was working for the Mavs and what went horribly, horribly wrong.
1) Tyson Chandler (again)
We may have to consider expanding the Hot list to four items soon, as Chandler has permanently moved into one of the existing spots. For five out of the past six weeks Chandler has scorched both the court and this column. Chandler recorded two more double-doubles this week, which is becoming routine for him: 10 points and 11 boards against the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with 20 points and 11 boards against the Denver Nuggets. In the other two games, Chandler notched 13 points on 5-of-6 (83%) shooting and 4 rebounds against the Sacramento Kings, and 12 points on 6-of-8 (75%) shooting and 7 rebounds against the Houston Rockets. Arguably, Chandler has become the Mavs most consistent player (although we'd be remiss if we didn't recognize that Mavs centerpiece Dirk Nowitzki has been playing through various injuries for almost two straight months).
2) Second quarters
The Mavs owned second quarters this week, particularly on offense. In four games this week, the second frames read as follows: Mavs 30 Cavs 21, Mavs 36 Kings 19, Mavs 39 Nuggets 26, Mavs 34 Rockets 19. In three of those four second quarters, the Mavs shot at least 62%. In the fourth (against Cleveland), the Mavs shot a respectable 47%. In every case except the Denver game---where the Mavs were climbing back from a huge first-quarter deficit---the Mavs' strong second quarter resulted in a sizable halftime lead. Unfortunately, all three of those leads would later vanish (see below).
3) Backup guards
Two of the most maligned Mavs, backup guards Jason Terry and Jose Juan Barea, continued to excel in the month of February. JET averaged 19.25 points (46% shooting) and 4.25 assists this week, highlighted by an outstanding 9-of-17 (53%) shooting performance, including 6-of-8 (75%) from deep, in the Mavs' last-second loss at Denver. Barea, meanwhile, continued his year-of-2011 domination tour, averaging 14.25 points on 58% shooting in just over 23 minutes per game this week. Barea was at his best in Sacramento on Wednesday night, tallying 20 points on 8-of-12 (67%) shooting. Coach Rick Carlisle lauded Barea's performance after the game, labelling him the Mavs' "go-to guy" in the fourth quarter.
Early in the season, when Stevenson was leading the NBA in three-point percentage and proudly wearing the "Threevenson" moniker, many assumed he would eventually come back to earth. Unfortunately, they were right. Stevenson has struggled with his shot recently, and this week was no exception. He went 1-of-4 against Cleveland, 1-of-4 against Sacramento, 0-of-1 against Denver, and 0-of-3 against Houston. With the impending return of waterbug guard Rodrigue Beaubois, Stevenson's regression to the mean is potentially less troubling than it might otherwise be. But even still, the Mavs with an effective Stevenson are a substantially more dangerous team. Keep your (once-bearded) chin up, DeShawn. Better days are (hopefully) ahead.
2) Second halves
As we alluded to above, the Mavs had a huge problem holding on to leads
for several seasons this week. What else is new? The Mavs let a 15-point first half lead against Cleveland (at the time nursing a 24-game losing streak) turn into a tie game in the fourth quarter. The Mavs won 99-96. In Sacramento, the Mavs were down early, then up 9 at halftime, then in a dogfight throughout the fourth quarter. The Mavs won 102-100. In Denver, the Mavs were up 8 with just two minutes left, only to find themselves on the wrong end of a Arron Afflalo buzzer-beater in a 121-120 loss. Finally, the Mavs let a 21-point third-quarter lead in Houston turn into a scrappy 106-102 win. In the past three seasons, and this season especially, the Mavs have rarely blown out their competition. It's not because the Mavs never get up big; it's because they rarely stay up big. Will this trend hurt them down the road? Do you write it off as a savvy, veteran team that knows how to coast and still win? Let us know in the comments.
3) Three-point defense
This Cold item goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Without mincing words, the Mavs had serious trouble this week defending the three-point line in crunch time. First, former Maverick
great Antawn Antoine Antwan Jamison hit a three-pointer late to bring Cleveland within three points of tying the game and possibly ending its record-setting losing streak. Fortunately, this was the only late three the Cavs would hit. The Mavs weren't so lucky against Denver and Houston. Denver absolutely blistered the Mavs from deep in the fourth quarter, with the main culprits being Arron Afflalo and Carmelo Anthony. And this was after Chauncey Billups had already nailed four longballs in the first quarter alone. Houston similarly caught fire against the Mavs late, using a barrage of threes from Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks, and Kyle Lowry to trim a double-digit Mavs lead to just four.
See you next week, this time on Monday. Peace, love,