The Chicago Bulls demolished, destroyed and disheartened a Mavericks team on the second night of a back to back to the tune of 101-78. Shawn Marion led the Mavericks with 18 on 7-11 shooting, while a host of Bulls did their damage in concert. Especially notable was Luol Deng, with 22.
This is the Mavs team that some of the pessimists among us have been seeing for weeks. It wasn't that they couldn't shoot, though they couldn't. It was that they couldn't stop a single thing the Bulls wanted to do, and if they ever did, they could neither get d-boards nor o-boards.
The Mavericks literally got 30 boards in this one, just about twice as many as there were assists (14). To put that in perspective, they currently rank 16th in the NBA with 41.5 per game. No Mavs grabbed over 6, Kaman got 4, Marion got 3. No one watching this game would believe that the Mavericks actually out O-boarded the Bulls (11-10) and turned it over less (19-14). So it goes.
The Mavericks have now book-ended a close one last night with two 20 + point losses, and have fallen two games below five hundred.
What's the deal? Is it salvageable? I have a new theory, I'll expound upon in this space eventually. The Mavs' Front Office worst case scenario has been that they reload with talented but somewhat flawed talent each year, and it's looked good. You got nothing, then you have Lamar Odom. Nothing, and then Brand, Kaman, Mayo, Collison...
But when I look at the Bulls, I see a team whose position players are not what you would call superior to the Mavericks'. Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson aren't all-stars, Kirk Hinrich isn't lighting the world on fire, Luol Deng is much better than many realize but he's not LeBron James.
What I see, however, is players who fit together well. Not "play as a team better" though that is important, and part of continuity, but they have rebounders and shooters and distributors. Because that's what you can do when you put some time into building a team, and don't have to settle for the best players you can find in an offseason---whatever surprising successes the Mavericks have had in terms of pure talent. We'll see.
At any rate, that was about the worst Mavericks game I've ever seen. If there were a time of possession clock, it would have fallen over because of the imbalance. The casual ambivalence with which the Bulls dispatched the Mavericks had entirely to do with the fact that they could take as many shots as they wanted, and that no Mav could stop any Bull doing anything without sending them to the line.
And that would have been true even if the Mavs had not played a New Age percussion piece on the rim with the staccato of their missed shots. OJ Mayo was particularly bad (2-9, 4 points, no free-throws), but I'm giving him a pass because he's got a hurt ankle, and there's no one else for the defense to worry about. Elton Brand came back to Earth with a 1-4 night, Roddy, whose confidence now lives in a jar on Carlisle's desk, 1-6.
The one rookie who has consistently been able to get time, Jae Crowder, continued not to earn it (1-7, 3 boards, 2 points), which makes Carlisle's choices even more confusing. No idea why Sarge isn't allowed to play. Has not been much of an offensive player, but he's boarding very well and the Mavs are getting destroyed there. No idea why Brandan Wright, who's not a rookie but can scare, isn't playing after the second game in the last three in which the Mavs turned in sub 40%, sub 90 point performances. Even Jared Cunningham had some nice makes, when he went in.
The only other thing I have to say, and it may not be an unrelated point, is that we'll have to keep an eye on the Darren Collison situation. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but it doesn't sound to me like the short-handed Mavs would really let a guy who sprained a finger, on which x-rays were negative, sit out a game at this point. But who knows.
The Mavericks have winnable games coming up against Detroit, Phoenix and Sacramento in addition to the Clippers and Rockets (at least borderline winnable), and we'll see if they can stick around .500 or continue to plummet.
No tonic better than victory.