You can also find this post and many more basketball thoughts at Jonathan Tjarks' blog, The Pattern of Basketball.
1) The Chandler Parsons Take Over
This was his best game of the season, if not his entire time with the Mavs. He had 30 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists and he was +13 in 46 minutes. Minutes played might have been the most impressive part of his performance - the Mavs could barely afford to take Parsons off the floor and they played him almost the entire 2nd half. He had to reach deep in the tank to pull this one off but I'm sure he doesn't mind after sitting so many 4Q's out over the last few months. This was an all Parsons all the time game and he finally looked like the player the Mavs gave a $15 million a year contract too.
Here's the underplayed storyline of this game - Parsons did most of his damage at the 4 position and that's really where he's at his best. The way the league is going, it's all about playing 4 wings at a time around one center and the PF position is rapidly going extinct. Even a stretch 4 doesn't add all that much when playing a 3 down a position opens up the floor, adds another ball-handler to the line-up and gives you an extra perimeter defender to switch the pick-and-roll. That goes double when the Mavs were going with the comedy duo of Charlie V and Dwight Powell at the position.
Here's the most telling set of stats of the night - Charlie V was -7 in in 27 minutes and Powell was -7 in 3 minutes and all of those minutes came when they were at the 4 position. What that means is that the Mavs were +26 when Parsons was at the 4 in this game and it didn't even matter whether he was playing with Zaza or McGee at the 5 position. Parsons at the 4 puts him in the best position to succeed and it completely threw off the Wolves rotations. They are a team that struggles to find minutes at the 4 and 5 positions and they were forced to go small with Tayshaun Prince at the 4 to close this one in order to match up with Parsons.
The unfortunate implication of all this is that there's no way to maximize Parsons game with Dirk out there. It's kind of the same dynamic as Love and LeBron in Cleveland - you have a 3 who can play well with a stretch 4 but who takes his game to the next level when he's playing as a small-ball 4 and the problem is the 4 can't really play at the 5. There's no easy answer to that problem but I'd play Parsons at the 4 as much as possible and I'd start staggering his minutes more, which would also have the added benefit of taking Charlie V and Dwight out of the rotation.
2) Karlito's Way
What you can even say about Karl Towns at this point? For as well as Parsons played tonight, the best player on the floor was the Wolves precocious rookie and it wasn't even close. The preposterous numbers - 27 points, 17 rebound, 3 assist and 6 blocks (!!) in 37 minutes - don't even do justice to how well he was playing. Towns dominated the game on both ends of the floor and he was doing whatever he wanted. It's absolutely insane how well-rounded his game is - he scored from the post, in the pick-and-roll and the pick-and-pop, he finished at the rim, he brought the ball up the floor and lead the break, he gobbled every available rebound, he distributed the ball from the high post and he stepped out and knocked down 3's. Forget Rookie of the Year. The question people should be asking themselves is where does Towns rank among the best big men in the game RIGHT NOW.
Maybe the most impressive part of watching him in person is just how easy he makes the game look. Because he can do everything so well, he has a counter for anything the other team tries to do against him. The basic rule of thumb when playing defense is that you can't take everything away from the other player - you always have to give him something. The thing with Towns is that it doesn't matter what the defense does because he can take whatever they give him. The only Mavs big man who even had a prayer of guarding him was JaVale McGee.
3) JaVale was doing JaVale things
You know people are hating on JaVale when no one Vine'd the ridiculous drop step dunk he threw down on Karl Towns on a move he started from the free throw line.
Yet let Andrew Wiggins throw one on JaVale and the whole word gets up and notices.
Andrew Wiggins slams on JaVale McGee pic.twitter.com/J8ntFOmD2O— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 21, 2016
Yea that was nice but check out the video of what JaVale did. And he did it on a much better defender!
JaVale had 6 points, 8 rebound and 1 block in 16 minutes and he absolutely dominated Gorgui Dieng on both sides of the ball. He altered an untold number of shots and he really made his presence felt when he was out there. It would be nice if he could ever get in shape because the Mavs could really use him.
4) The Wolves lack of spacing killed them
This is the line-up the Wolves closed the game with - Rubio (who couldn't shoot to save his life tonight), Wiggins, Shabazz, Tayshaun (who scored 0 points in 29 minutes) and Towns. Towns is the best 3-point shooter in that group by a significant margin and he's playing by the rim. I can't even count the number of times that Wiggins drove the ball into the lane and the ball wound up going to a wide-open Shabazz on the 3-point line. He finished 2-7 from deep and that really isn't the best use of his skills or of the possessions the Wolves were using in crunch time. Minnesota went 5-23 from 3 tonight and that's the only reason this game was even close. They really need to find some 3-and-D players in order to maximize Wiggins, Towns and Rubio.
5) Sam Mitchell should think about staggering his line-ups more
One thing I've noticed with these 90's guards who became head coaches - Sam Mitchell, Mark Jackson - is they love running isolations and they love playing 5-man bench units. It was especially noticeable tonight in comparison with Rick Carlisle, who was shuffling through his entire rotation every 8-10 minutes. I'm really not sure why Mitchell would have both Rubio and Towns out of the game for a huge chunk of the first half and let the offense grind to a complete halt. I think I'd want one of those two out there at all times because they are the two of the only guys on that team who consistently move the ball. Let LaVine play off Rubio and/or Towns and don't force him to initiate the offense at.an.agonizingly.slow.pace.
6) Rick Carlisle played Charlie V and Dwight Powell together
The only thing worse than playing one turnover prone big man who struggles to score with limited defensive awareness is playing two of them at the same time. They played together for 3 minutes in the first half and the Mavs were -7. The Mavs have a net rating of -14.1 in the 114 minutes they played together this season. There's being a mad genius whose willing to try anything and there's throwing out line-ups that have no prayer of working and should never be spoken of again. NBA games are won or lost in 3 or 4 minute stretches when you have the wrong personnel on the floor and Rick almost cost the Mavs the game with that decision.
7) JJ Barea was the player impacted the most by Dirk's absence
There's a reason that Barea has played over 50% of his minutes with Dirk this season. He's a one trick pony and his trick is to run the pick-and-roll with the greatest shooting big man of all-time. When Dirk isn't on the floor, there's not much he can (or should) be doing out there. he had 0 points and 2 assists on 5 shots in 18 minutes and he wasn't bringing much (or really anything) to the table. If Dirk isn't playing, Barea might as well stay home and help him around the house. Run some errands for him. Take his dogs out for a walk. Let him stay off his feet as much as possible.
8) A way forward without Dirk
Even if Dirk is able to play on Friday, the reality is that the Mavs are going to run him into the ground if they play him every night during the midst of a grueling stretch like this. I can't even say I'm surprised that he went down with a knee injury after the way he looked the last few games at home. He was really dragging out there and looking pretty hazard at times during the Celtics game.
When Dirk isn't playing, I'd have Parsons at the 4 and I'd give the minutes that would have gone to Charlie V and Dwight Powell to Justin Anderson, who played tonight and whom I can confirm is actually alive and capable of running up and down the floor and looking like a professional basketball player. McGee - Parsons - Anderson is an interesting line-up and it gives Anderson the benefit of having a 4 guard him instead of a 3 - he was able to go up against Nemanja Bjelica and that's the best way to get some value out of him. For the minutes behind Parsons at the 4, I'd want to try Jeremy Evans, whom I can't confirm is alive at the moment.