The Mavericks have been playing some lunatic basketball lately. Blown leads blown in extrodinary ways. Well, myself and Andy decided to plop down and discuss the madness that we've been seeing.
Andy: Well J-Bowe, the Mavs' ineptness in close games is both hilariously awful and somewhat overblown. Despite sporting outrageous leads in many of the last bunch of games --- 13 at the end of the 3rd against CLE, 12 with :37 left in the 3rd against PHX, 17 with 4:48 left in the 4th against the Clips, 11 with 6 left in the 3rd against the Pellies, 12 with 3:49 left against the Lakers - - they didn't win any of those by more than 3. But, in fairness, they've only ACTUALLY lost one of those games, In fact, they've only had one close loss period since Dec 20th against Toronto (Ed. note: make that Jan. 23 against Toronto!). You'd have to say, even though it seems like the least true thing ever right now, that the Mavs are...pretty good in close games. And, of course, ridiculously bad at letting them get close.
Josh: It's as if the Mavericks are doing their damnedest to make sure every Mavs fan has grey hair or a heart attack. The worst part is that it's become all too predictable now. Almost everyone on Twitter braced themselves for the Mavs fourth quarter in Cleveland on Monday and it's easy to see why -- the team stinks at defense and rebounding, two areas where teams typically close out games. The Mavericks defense is bad and there's no getting around that barring a trade, a mood swing from Dalembert or maybe more Devin Harris minutes. We just have to expect that the Mavericks will typically be bad on defense for most of the game. The rebounding is what sickens me more. Yeah, we knew they'd be a poor rebounding team, but how poor is just shocking. It's not that the Mavs can't get a rebound, they can't even box out. Which is, you know, like a fundamental of basketball. Even with the Mavs poor defense on Monday, they would have won by double digits if they rebounded like an average team and they can't even do that.
Dallas has had those flaws before, of course, but usually they have Dirk to counter all that stink. And while Dirk has been his brilliant self as a whole this season, his fourth quarter and clutch numbers are bad. He's shooting 44.4 percent in the last five minutes of games where the scoring margin is within five points and that number drops to 36.8 percent with three minutes left. Those numbers are typically at or above 50 percent throughout his career. He's also shooting 43.8 percent in the fourth quarter, by far his lowest number of any quarter and very low compared to his career numbers.
Yet, they keep winning. MADNESS.
Andy: To me, the absolute craziest thing about the Maverick collapses or, I suppose we must say, near collapses, is that you can't entirely blame them on the Mavs' structural flaws you actually have to blame them on the Mavs' personality because of their hilarious genius for giving up nontraditional amounts of points while clinging to leads. Just some examples:
1/20/14 against Cleveland: The Mavs are clinging to an 8-point lead with 6:35 left to go. Andy Varejao misses a shot, but he gets the o-board and is fouled. He makes the first. He misses the second, but the Cavs get the o-board and score. Too many points.
1/17/2014 against Phoenix: The Mavs' lead is down to 10 with 2:39 to go. Markief Morris takes a three, and for some reason, Sam Dalembert falls on him. 4-point play. Too many points.
1/15/2014 against the Clips: The Mavs' lead has shrunk to 12 with four minutes left to play. The Mavs give up a technical free throw. On the next play, Darren Collison hits a three AND Dalembert commits a flagrant against Blake Griffin. Because of rules about how many points a team can get on one possession, Griffin gets just one FT, which he makes, AND the ball, with which Jamal Crawford makes a layup, resulting in an unbelievable 6-point play. Later, clinging to a 5 point lead with 1:09 left, Dirk fouls Crawford shooting a three.
12/11/2013 against the Warriors: With the Mavs clinging to a 6 point lead with 1:25 left, Jose Calderon fouls Steph Curry making a three, who hits the freethrow. TOO MANY POINTS.
Jamal Crawford, the league leader in 4-point plays, has 38 but the next highest, Reggie Miller, has 23 and the third highest, Dirk believe it or not, is just 14. Ray Allen has 12. Leaving Jamal aside, between Dirk, Ray and Reggie there are a total of 49 4-point plays. Since Dirk, Reggie and Ray have PLAYED in a combined 53 seasons, that's less than one a season, for all save the god of 4-point plays (and yes, one of those above is indeed a Crawford four-point play) and yet here's the Mavs giving up two 4-point plays, a 6-point possession, and a 3-point play which started from a 50-50 trip to the line in about a month and a half.
I mean, that ain't nobody's fault but theirs, right? And it's 100% a mental thing and neither a personnel or gameplan thing. The Mavs actually won two of these games, but it's hard to believe they wouldn't have won all 4 if they had been able to limit the other team to just three points per make, which is an insane thing to have to say. "As long as they only make every 3-pointer down the stretch, we've got this".
Come on. COME ON.
Josh: You're absolutely right. It's insanity. I'm sure some of the worst teams in the NBA don't even cumulatively have the same number of those crazy plays as you listed above and yet the Mavericks might win 50 god damn games this year. It's inconceivable.
I keep going back and forth on how to explain this many number of brain-dead and unlikely plays. Is it all just luck? I guess. Like you said, four-point plays are inherently rare. So are six-point possessions, I'd think. Yet, the Mavericks are one of the worst teams in regards to fouling three-point shooters. The last I checked they were second in the league. So maybe this is who they are? The Mavericks are just a team that fouls three-point shooters a lot and sometimes, they're going to go in.
What's crazy is the Mavericks keep winning despite committing those brain-dead plays. Like you said, it isn't a matter of game-planning or basketball ability -- those plays are just unintelligent plays. You can be the most talented player in the universe but you're going to foul a three-pointer shooter 100 percent of the time if you decide to blindly leap into them. That Dalembert one was so awful for that reason. It was just so dumb. It wasn't like he was contesting and then just got too close -- HE LAUNCHED HIMSELF INTO THE FUCKING SKY AND THEN TACKLED HIM FROM ABOVE. That has nothing to do with Dalembert's talent as a basketball player. It was just a dumb play.
Usually in the NBA, you can win being untalented but playing smart. Or you can't play smart but your sheer talent overwhelms teams. You usually can't win games when you're outmatched by talent AND make dumb plays. The Mavericks have been kinda doing that this season and it's utterly mind-boggling.
And the Mavericks keep having double-digit leads in the fourth quarter, which proves they're a good team. You can't be a bad team in the NBA and yet enter the fourth quarter with a commanding lead. Good teams just don't consistently do that by accident. I'm not sure what it is about the fourth quarter that suddenly jolts the Mavs into dumbass-basketball mode but it's got to stop before I have a stroke.