Welcome to the first installment of Mavericks Hot and Cold. Each week, I’ll briefly recap good and bad performances from the previous week’s Mavs games.
1) Dirk Nowitzki
No surprise here. If we had started this column at the beginning of the season, Dirk would have been on the Hot list just about every week so far. So what’d he do this week in particular? Nothing special, really—just 77 points and 27 rebounds in three games. Yawn. Oh, did I mention he shot 70% from the field? And his percentage was only that low because he had an "off night" against Golden State on Tuesday, shooting "only" 10/18 (55%). Against New Jersey and Utah, Dirk shot 8-10 and 10-12, respectively. That’s 81% in the final two games this week. It’s that kind of absurd efficiency that has Dirk firmly in the MVP conversation one-quarter through the season.
2) DeShawn Stevenson’s Three-Ball
Stevenson shot 64% from behind the arc this week, going 1-of-2 against Golden State, 1-of-2 against New Jersey, and a torching 5-of-7 against Utah on Saturday night. On the season, he’s draining the deep ball at a 53.6% clip, tying him for first in the NBA (Mike Bibby). Since last season, MFFL's have insisted that Stevenson could be productive with substantial minutes, especially as a defensive pest. But even the most adamant Stevenson fan probably couldn’t have predicted that he’d be leading the league in three-point percentage in mid-December. Threevenston, indeed.
3) Caron Butler’s Shooting
Admittedly, Butler didn’t set the bar for his shooting very high during the first month of the season. But he’s improved as of late, making quicker decisions with the ball and shooting with greater confidence. In three games this week, Butler shot 8-of-18, 7-of-11, and 9-of-16. Although it’s unlikely he’ll continue to shoot 53%, the Mavs will be very dangerous if Butler can hover somewhere in the high 40’s.
1) Point-Guard Shooting
Let’s start with the obvious: the Mavs’ two point guards have not shot well this season (although Jason Kidd has continued to hit big threes in crunch-time). This past week was no different. Kidd shot 4-of-18 (22%) from the field in three games, including 3-of-13 (23%) from downtown. JJ Barea, meanwhile, continued his season-long plunge into the depths of shooting-percentage hell, going 4-of-17 (24%) from the field and a staggering 0-of-8 from deep. I didn’t include a percentage in parentheses after that last number because I’d imagine most of you can do the math yourselves.
2) Team Free-Throw Defense
No, I’m not talking about the kind of free-throw "defense" Phil Jackson sarcastically refers to when the Lakers’ opponents shoot 40% from the line. This past week, the Mavs had some difficulty keeping opponents off the foul line in the first place. It started off fairly well, as Golden State shot only 13 free throws. Not bad for a team with numerous offensive weapons. But the Mavs sent New Jersey to the line 26 times, including 18 in the third quarter alone. Utah then took 23 trips to the line, and unfortunately many of those were and-1’s resulting from weak fouls. That last point is somewhat disconcerting given that Rick Carlisle specifically criticized the team early in the week for not making their fouls count.
That’s it for this week. In honor of the Mavs’ twelve-game win streak and their strong recent performances, I’ve elected to forego a third "Cold" item. Have one you’d like to discuss? How about another Hot performance from this past week (certainly there were several I didn’t include)? Please let us know in the comments.