The Mavericks lost pretty handily, 113-105, in their second game of the regular season, on the road, to the Houston Rockets. Our own Kirk Henderson had the recap. The game was much nastier than the box score showed, but it's over, and it's important to remember that it was only the second game of the season.
I was at the game, and have some quotes to share.
For the record, I realize that this is a lot of stuff, but I thought it was interesting how particularly honest everyone was after this game, and how much worthwhile was said, so I included the vast majority of stuff said in this quoteboard. I hope you enjoy.
Coach Carlisle Pre-Game
On Omer Asik and Dwight Howard playing together for the Rockets: "They're gonna be difficult to guard, regardless of who they've got on the floor, really. Small, big, they got good players. They got some really dynamic guys, and the role players fit well around their great players, so these guys are going to be a load to play every night...[this team] takes a fair number of threes, so offensive rebounds become opportunities either way, and we've got to beat them to those opportunities. Otherwise, the second chance points are hard to overcome for a team with the talent that they have."
On worrying about playing too fast: "Well, we want to play fast. So, we wanna play fast and aggressive without playing frantically. 'Cause when we get frantic, that's when we throw the ball all over the place and hit the no-smoking signs and all that stuff...These days, you have to play with pace in this league. You just can't walk it up and survive. So we wanna play with pace, but we've gotta be smart about how we do it...
The whole league has [numbers proving that playing with a higher pace is more efficient.] It's pretty clear. That's why fast break [opportunities] are always the highest points per possession, because, in most cases, you're getting a rebound or a steal and scoring in six seconds...That's always going to be the best way to get easy baskets, and when you get easy baskets and easy opportunities, your points per possessions are going to be higher**."
On worrying about Dirk and Jose being able to play at a fast pace: "Well, those guys aren't slow, they just look slow. [laughs] I think Calderon is quite fast, and Dirk plays at the same pace he's played at for 15 years, and I wouldn't say it's slow. I don't think [it's weird to gear Calderon up to play a fast paced offense, when he's run slow offenses for most of his career]. I mean, I think he welcomes it, I think it's one of the reasons he was attracted to us. And, you know, one of the challenges when you play in this league is when you move to different situations to be able to adapt to...a new style, a new system. I don't think Jose is gonna have any problems pace-wise. Right now, I think the thing he's gotta do is...the ending part of his conditioning has got to kick in."
Coach Carlisle Post-Game
On adjustments the team needs to make going forward: "We have got to get better at the start of the game. Our play in the first quarter put us in such a hole that we couldn't get back over the hump. Every minute counts in the NBA, so if you fall behind double digits in the first quarter you're going to be fighting to get back the rest of the night."
On bad offense carrying over to bad defense: "Listen, shot making will come and go in this league, or any league, but the consistency has to be with the disposition defensively, staying with the rules, staying with the system, and we just had too many breakdowns early. This team is too skilled, too big. They take advantage of those kinds of mistakes.
On the efficacy of going to Hack-a-Howard early: "We wanted to disrupt them, change the game a bit. They were in too good of a rhythm. And that stuff if a effective to a point, but if a guy stands up there long enough, you know, he's gonna eventually make a shot. Which is what happened...But those things are short lived strategies, to try and disrupt and change the flow***, but the truth is that it's a 48 minute game and in the first 12 we got demolished. That can't happen, not against this level of competition."
On Jose Calderon's shooting problems thus far: "Yes, I do [think that Calderon's shooting problems has to do with him getting his legs under him. I gotta do a better job of getting him better shots. I'll take a lot of responsibility for that."
On the major reduction in turnovers to only 14: "Huh. Well that's one of few moral victories around here. Thanks for that."
On what went wrong: "It started in the first quarter. We had to play catch-up, so it just makes it tough. We just have to play better in the first quarter, regardless [of shot selection]. Defensively and offensively. I mean, we got the shots we wanted, we just didn't make em. We gotta figure it out. That's the thing we had last year, and when we figured it out, we played much better basketball. I think we're very capable."
On the bench almost winning the game in Garbage time, and on his 5 straight 3-pointers: "I felt like winning the game, I felt like bringing some energy. In the end we came out on a good run...you know, me, I just didn't wanna lay down...I know we gotta face these guys again, so I just wanted to put a little fear in [their] heart, and make them think about how that game ended."
On the result of the game: "I don't wanna just keep saying the same things, you know, we got a bunch of new guys and stuff like that, but it's a work in progress. You know, we just gotta keep working."
On working on his jumpshot all summer: "You just work to gain confidence. The time I put into the gym -- to just keep shooting, keep working on my game -- it was all to gain confidence, so that when I get into a game in front of a thousand people it's like I'm just in the gym by myself."
On changing the mechanics of his shot: "It's really about staying in my shot. A lot of times I fade away on my shot [in games], so when I land I'm already out of my shot...For sure [adding a lot of arc to my shot] is one thing I've been focusing on as well. Trying to get the ball up there, so just in case I do fade on my shot, which I tend to do, I'm making sure I have a little bit more arc on it so that it tends to go in [anyway].*****"
On playing in a game where fouls are being called constantly: "It's kinda hard, actually, cause you can't really get in a rhythm, except for whoever's shooting free throws. [laughs]. That's really the only person who catches a rhythm, on both sides, is whoever's gettin' to the free throw line."
On the Rockets scoring seven straight points after the Mavericks cut the deficit to six: "yeah that was...it was right there. We had to get a stop. But then we gave up a three pointer at the top and a three pointer in the corner and that just opened it right up and it gave it right back to them. Six point game right back to where it was, just that quick, two possessions. That tells you how quickly you can be in a game, and how quickly you can be out of a game.
On the Rocket's preponderance of open corner three attempts: "It was just all the breakdowns in the executions. For the most part, that's really what we [were] giving up."
On the loss: "It's hard to win a game when you shoot 38%. We missed shots when we needed 'em. We were right there, and we just couldn't get over the hump******...honestly, we didn't deserve to win. Tonight, we weren't good defensively, we shot 38%, and credit to us, our bench kept plugging, kept fighting, even made it a close ball game at the end, but it probably shouldn't have been that close...We weren't there."
On James Harden: James [Harden] was fantastic, made some deep 3's, and that opens up all the driving lanes, and he was phenomenal.
On the last two foul calls that fouled him out: "Well, I guess I just gotta get out of the way. You know, [Harden] is so great at creating contact, so I just gotta run to the locker room and let him lay it in. [chuckles]...I'd have loved to play for those last six minutes. The sixth [foul] was tough, on the fifth one I probably shouldn't have reached in. I don't even remember the last time I fouled out, but, hey, it is what it is. It happened."
On the defense: "It's not good enough...that's really all I can tell you at this point, it's just not good enough...we gave up 38 free throws to Atlanta, we gave up 51, obviously, to Houston, with Hack-a-Dwight, but Harden gets to the line ten times, Lin gets to the line almost 10 times (Author's note: Dirk had these numbers ready off the top of his head. Houston's were correct, though Atlanta actually shot 35. So that's impressive for Dirk).
We gotta do better. That was our emphasis this last offseason, defend a little better. I think we were #3 in the league at giving up free throws (Author's note: this was also off the top of his head. They were actually second in giving up free throws last season, at 25.2 per game). It's tough, when you're giving up that many free throws."
On the starters doing poorly: "Really, I think Houston's a better team...but obviously it's a disappointing night, and you gotta tuck it away and go play tomorrow."
**I think that it's fascinating and awesome that Carlisle is using Points per Possession stats to determine the strength of his offense. It's such a basic but obviously useful measure of offense, but I know that coaches vary on how much they embrace it. You go Rick, you go.
*** It seemed to me that Hack-a-Howard early was an attempt to get Dwight pulled from the game by Coach McHale, so maybe that's what Carlisle means by "changing the flow."
**** Vince was very clearly distressed by the loss, so he wan't particularly verbose.
*****HOLY CRAP THIS WAS INTERESTING. As I understood it, Jae recognized that the reason so many of his shots were bricking short was that he would fade away in games where he didn't in practice, adding some extra distance. By focusing on going up straighter, and adding arc just to be careful (and it definitely showed, arc-wise), he was fixing a lot of his shooting issues. Here's hoping that works.
******What is it with the use of the phrase "over the hump?" Every sports team, everywhere, seems to always use, for everything. What hump? How does this hump exist? In what way do you get over it? Is it really accurate to visualize a deficit as a hump? Can we, as a collective, decide that sports players have to pick another phrase to abuse? Please?