1) Tyson Chandler
In his first two games this week, Chandler was quite productive but not outstanding. He notched 9 points and 10 boards against the Timberwolves, including a monstrous put-back and-1 late, along with 10 points and 7 boards against the Jazz. But Chandler turned his averages on the week from "good" to "great" with his performance in the Valley of the Sun. Against Phoenix, Chandler netted 16 points on 5-of-7 (71%) shooting and a manly 18 rebounds. Unlike the Mavs' last game in Phoenix, when Robin Lopez cleaned up the glass and the Suns won the rebounding battle 43-39, this time Chandler made his presence felt down low.
2) Fourth quarters
Three times this week, the Mavs entered the fourth frame with the game hanging in the balance. All three times, the Mavs came through. Against Minnesota, the name of the game was fourth-quarter offense, as the Mavs shot 65% in the frame and outscored the T-Pups 28-24, despite their shooting 50%. Against the Jazz and Suns, improved defensive performance--indeed, probably the best we've seen from the Mavs in weeks--was the name of the game. The Mavs held the Jazz to just 17 point and 35% shooting in the fourth, and also forced several turnovers which led to easy points. The result? The Mavs scored 36 in the frame. It was more of the same against the Suns, as the Mavs' defense held the Suns to a meager 29% shooting over the last 12 minutes. This allowed the Mavs to win the fourth quarter 26-16, turning a two-point deficit into an eight-point win.
3) Corey Brewer.....'s seat on the bench
Recognizing that the Mavs acquired Brewer primarily with an eye toward the future, I nevertheless believed he could play a critical defensive role in this year's playoff run. Looks like I was wrong. Brewer has landed himself squarely on the benchwarming crew, as he received healthy scratches in all three games this week. Better luck next year. And sorry about your Gators.
1) Transition defense
The Mavs gave up an average of 17 fast-break points per game this week, and that was despite Utah scoring only 5. The Mavs had tremendous difficulty stopping the Timberwolves and the Suns in transition, leading to several easy baskets and early Mavs deficits in both games. One nice thing about transition defense is it generally improves in the playoffs, both because teams tend to purposefully slow the game down and because of extended gameplanning against a single opponent. Still, stopping the break has to be a point of emphasis over these final two weeks of the regular season.
2) First quarters
Remember what we said above about the Mavs' fourth quarters? Flip it. The Mavs fell behind in all three first quarters this week: 23-17 against the Wolves, 22-20 against the Jazz, and 26-17 against the Suns. The Suns outing was the worst, as the Mavs--the best-shooting team in the Western Conference--somehow managed to make just 20% of their shots in the first frame. Meanwhile, they gave up 57% shooting to the Suns' pick-and-roll in a defensive performance that had Mavs fans sarcastically wondering if the Mavs had ever seen a Steve Nash offense before.
No third item this week, as the Mavs went 3-0. Honor them.