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Notebook game observations: Mavericks vs Hornets

Defense, Kristaps Porzingis protecting the rim, Luka Doncic catch and shoot(ing), and why Boban is not playing more.

Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Depending on the game, sometimes I just want to write something about what happened in a Mavericks game. Here’s a first time attempt to get some thoughts out about the game the day after. Or in this case, two days after they played the Hornets. We’re going to call it the Notebook and it’ll be an every now and then post following a Dallas game with some observations. And if you missed the preview for the Bucks game, click here when you’re done with this post.

Observation 1 - Defense was great again

  • Dallas had 95.9 defensive rating (DEFRTG) which is great.
  • Per Cleaning the Glass, this moved Dallas to third in defense and first in the league in the last two weeks (Dallas is 5-1 in this stretch).
  • The Kristaps Porzingis-Willie Cauley-Stein twin-tower combo looked scary in the paint. “That’s the first time we’ve seen this lineup and they’re long, they’re physical,” Hornets coach James Borrego said.
  • It helps that Hornets played small most of the time, so we’ll see if Rick Carlisle plays the KP/WCS pairing against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez .
  • Much was written about Luka Doncic’s improvement on defense so let’s check on some other things.

Observation 2 - KP protecting the rim

  • Charlotte shot a lot around the rim (35% of attempts), but made just 55% of their shots. That is bad. For comparison, Dallas made 74% of their shots at the rim.
  • Porzingis makes a huge difference here, as a rim protector, especially as a help defender. Dallas started the season with a small front-court of Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith and they were worst in the rim in opponent field goal percentage at the rim. Porzingis had two blocks in this game and he contested many other shots.
  • Another example: Martin drives after a handoff with Bismack Biyombo and tries to finish against two 7-footers. Good luck with that.

NOTE: Porzingis landed awkwardly here, and I hold my breath every time he lands on the floor.

  • On this possession, Porzingis failed to box out Biyombo for an offensive rebound, but just look at the verticality and contest at the rim on a Hayward drive.
  • Dallas' defensive numbers are great this season and they have the potential to be a great defensive team. A lineup of Luka, Jason Richardson, Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, and Porzingis would feature four above average defenders. And Carlisle can play with WCS / KP lineups to go really big.

Observation 3 - The reason why Boban Marjanovic is not playing more

  • Dallas played great defense in this game until Boban checked in the game, but the numbers might not show it because Charlotte missed a bunch of open shots. This something our editors Kirk and Josh discussed on the post-game podcast.
  • Boban checked in at 5:55 in the first quarter and Charlotte attacked him immediately. Here is their first possession with Boban in the game. Check how they go at him in two consecutive pick and rolls.
  • Two defensive possessions later Charlotte hunts Luka-Boban pick and roll with an empty side. Luka tries to fight over the screen (he was very good at fighting over screens and trailing defenders in this game; had two blocks on Gordon Hayward in such situations). Boban is in a drop coverage and it’s an open look for Rozier. He missed but this is a quality shot.
  • On the next possession, Charlotte finds the Luka-Boban pick and roll matchup again, PJ Washington sets a high screen, Luka overreacts to make sure to get over the screen, so Hayward just rejects the screen and drains an open mid-range jump shot. Boban again is in a drop and his poor mobility puts huge pressure on the other defender in the pick and roll.
  • After that Carlisle made adjustments and Dallas played a lot of zone with Boban in for the rest of the game.

Observation 4 - Luka catch and shoot(ing)

  • A big reason why Luka’s three-point percentage is low is that he takes a lot of tough shots. One thing that many of us here at MMB want to see more is Luka taking the catch and shoot or spot-up shots. Luka was assisted on only 19% of his made shots last season (currently at 16% this season). The number decreased to 9% in the playoffs. Luka handles the ball so much, that this number will never be significantly higher, but it would still be nice to see him getting more spot-up shots, especially on his three-point attempts.
  • Per Synergy data Luka shot 106 spot-up shots last season in 61 regular-season games, or 1.7 per game. In this game, Luka shot four spot-up shots which is great. Check out this great handoff action with WCS at the end of the first half.

Well, that’s that. “Some observations” ended up running nearly 800 words. But basketball is fun and so is talking about it.