The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Hornets

Final: Hornets 102, Mavs 98

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

We’ll get into the how soon, but let the what and the why come first. The Mavericks got the ball into the paint on 11 of their 27 possessions in the first quarter, turning those trips into 22 points. That doesn’t necessarily mean the shots came from within the paint, but it means that at some point in the possession the ball entered the paint via drive or pass. Why does that matter? Just look at that efficiency. 22 points on 11 shots means the Mavs basically averaged a made shot whenever they got near the rim. Paint drives and rim-rolling big men can absolutely destroy a defense on any given possession unless the coverage is perfect. In the Mavs’ case, their offense in the first quarter — Dennis Smith Jr. in particular — created a lot of problems for the Hornets.

Notebook

  • Smith was back in action tonight after missing the last couple games with a sprained ankle. He immediately made a few plays that made it quite clear he was feeling alright. At the very beginning of the game, he launched a screaming drive straight to the rim and, for a moment, looked like he was going to test Dwight Howard.

    Smith eventually changed course and went for a layup and still produced an exciting play and easy finish. The important thing to notice is how much pressure he applied to the defense so early in the shot clock. When you get into the paint five or six seconds into a possession, you’ve got the opponent wrapped around your finger. Smith pushed the pace again later in the first quarter, forcing the entire defense to suck in, and he kicked out a pass to a wide-open Harrison Barnes for three.

    Smith got into the paint once again a little later, though this time at more of a probing pace. But it seemed like no Hornets defender wanted to step up to slow him down, so he exploded to the rim for a dunk.

    Someone has to stop him, but they’d be leaving their man to do so. So often we look at guys’ shot-blocking numbers or blame problems on help defenders, but the real issue in this play was the fact that Smith got into the paint to begin with. One thing the rookie does better than most other players in this league is break his opponent down off the dribble 25 feet away from the rim. When he consistently does that, it forces the defense to make some uncomfortable decisions. Smith finished with 21 points, six assists, and four rebounds in his return to action.

  • Doug McDermott has such a quick, easy release. Here’s a play that shows why that’s important.

    For most players, that’s a horrible situation to shoot the ball. McDermott’s defender is right in his face almost before he even catches the ball. A typical player’s shot takes enough time to wind up that Frank Kaminsky would be able to contest it pretty easily. McDermott’s, however, is so fast that it can trick an unsuspecting defender into stretching themselves out a little further than necessary. In the instance above, Kaminsky lunged out just a hair too far and ended up fouling McDermott, giving the Mavs three free throws. A quick release can make a covered shot open, and a contested shot a foul.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (22-51) will play the Sacramento Kings (24-49) on Tuesday at the Golden 1 Center at 9 p.m. Central.

  • Game 73: Mavs vs. Hornets

    Dennis Smith Jr. Throws It Down

    Dennis Smith Jr. drives down the middle of the open lane and throws it Down.

    The Fast Break: Mavs at Hornets

    Final: Hornets 97, Mavs 87

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Despite shooting only 39 percent in the second quarter, the Mavericks offense scored a solid 1.038 points per possession in the frame, outscoring Charlotte 27-21 during that time. Dallas did it by hitting 3s but, more importantly, shooting seven free throws and only turning the ball over three times. The Mavs also earned three second chances via offensive rebounds in the second. I can’t stress enough how beneficial avoiding turnovers and getting to the stripe can be for an offense, especially one missing this much firepower.

    Notebook

  • Once again, the Mavericks hung in there, despite the injuries and fatigue, both physical and emotional. The Mavs might be outplayed talent-wise some nights, but they’re never going to lay down. That was Wesley Matthews’ message after the game last night, but it would hold true tonight, as well.

  • Deron Williams has been working himself back into a full-time rotation spot after missing some time due to injury. He had a strong third quarter last night against San Antonio before unfortunately reaching his minutes limit and having to sit for the entirety of the fourth. Tonight, however, that wasn’t the case, as the club managed his minutes a little tighter in the early goings to ensure he’d be able to at least play in the fourth quarter, though his minutes were again cut short early, up to 29 from 26. Williams finished with 14 points and eight assists, in what was one of his best performances of the season. The Mavs have been severely shorthanded at point guard all season long, but with the return of Williams and the debut of Devin Harris, who’s played 11 minutes in consecutive games, the depth is quickly growing stronger.

  • Justin Anderson put together another terrific individual performance, finishing with 15 points and three rebounds off the bench. The second-year pro has now reached double-figures in four of his last five games. This is perhaps his best stretch as a pro. We looked at why that might be the case the other day on Mavs Facebook Live, so check it out if you get the chance, but essentially what we focused on is Anderson’s energy level and decisiveness in this recent run of games. He’s making an impact on games with his physicality and explosiveness, and that’s what the Mavs hoped to see from him when they drafted him last summer.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (3-15) play the Chicago Bulls (10-7) on Saturday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Hornets

    Mavericks vs. Hornets

    Chandler Parsons led the way with 24 points and Dirk chipped in 23 as the Mavs took care of business on the road against Charlotte, 107-96.

    Final: Mavs 107, Hornets 96

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Dallas scored 1.500 points per possession in the fourth quarter. How about that for closing strong?

    The Mavs allowed only 33 points in the first half, taking a 19-point lead at the break. It doesn’t take a crazy stat to tell you how good the defense was, but here’s one anyway: Coming into this game, Charlotte had been averaging — averaging — 61.4 points in the first half in its last seven games, all wins. Dallas in essence cut the Hornets’ offense in half in the first half, which no doubt made a huge impact in this game.

    There was an immediate pace impact with the small-ball unit, as well. Dallas got the ball across halfcourt in three seconds or less on 20 of its 23 possessions in the first quarter alone. That is a huge number. For the season, the Mavs score nearly 0.1 more points per possession when they get the ball across by the 21-second mark than when they do not, demonstrating the importance of forcing the defense off-balance by racing it up the floor and running action before the opponent is ready to play.

    Notebook

  • This was a gutsy, gutsy, huge, huge win. Charlotte had won seven in a row and the Mavs had lost five in a row, and with a very tough stretch of schedule ahead for Dallas, this game meant a heck of a lot. Dallas responded the way we hoped it would, and the Mavs held on even as the Hornets went supernova in the second half and took the lead. Thanks in large part to Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, and Chandler Parsons, the Mavs went into fourth quarter mode and never looked back, closing out what has to be the biggest win of the season.

  • The Mavs changed up the starting lineup tonight, replacing center Zaza Pachulia with combo-guard Raymond Felton. It might only be a temporary thing, as Charlotte plays smaller than most other clubs. Or, it could be a harbinger of things to come for the Mavs, who have played more and more small-ball lately, particularly with the Parsons-Dirk Nowitzki combo at the 4 and 5, respectively. The Dallas offense typically sizzles with those two playing together next to three guards, but defense and rebounding have been issues. However, the longer they play that style, presumably the better they’ll become as they see increased reps in both practice and game situations. It’s a small-ball league these days, so it makes sense that the Mavs would look to this as an option. Depending on its success in the next few games, it might become the typical lineup moving forward. Or it might not. Time will tell, but it’s still a noteworthy change for now.

  • Dirk had his third 20/10 game since the All-Star break and his fifth consecutive game with at least 22 points, matching his longest streak since the 2011-12 season. He’s been playing at an otherworldly level lately, especially for a player at his age. He’s a special guy, no doubt about it.

  • If the first half was a party, the second half was a test. Charlotte really ramped up the pressure, forcing six Mavs turnovers in the third quarter and playing with a relentless aggression the team did not assume in either of the first two. The Hornets have won seven straight and are in position to win homecourt in the East, so clearly Charlotte is a good team, particularly at home. You had to expect a run was coming, and before all was said and done the Hornets got to as close as four points in the third and took the lead early in the fourth, hitting a ton of three-pointers and scoring some easy fast break points. But the Mavs maintained their composure in the face of adversity, a hallmark of any good veteran team.

  • Justin Anderson saw plenty of playing time in the first half, taking the floor for eight minutes as the Mavs shifted the rotation and Deron Williams battled foul trouble. He scored only one point in that time, but he also recorded three rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a massive block on Nic Batum on the fast break. He grabbed the board after his own swat, ran the length of the floor, and drew a foul while attacking the rim. He was very dynamic, providing the energy and athleticism Dallas was searching for when it selected Anderson in last summer’s draft. Now we’re left to wonder if he might play extended minutes moving forward this season, or if this perhaps was a matchup-based decision.

  • Both teams had a bit of an edge in this one. Early in the second half, Justin Anderson was whistled for a technical foul after a hard foul on Cody Zeller. Later in that same frame, David Lee was hit with a flagrant-1 after another hard foul on Zeller. Meanwhile, Hornets coach Steve Clifford, point guard Kemba Walker, and forward Nic Batum picked up Ts for arguing calls and Batum popped Parsons in the face with his off hand during one possession. I don’t know that these teams liked each other too much in this game, so the officials had plenty of work to do. But hey: That’s what time of year it is. The Mavs have said themselves they’re at a crossroads, and the Hornets are tying to climb into the top half of the East playoff bracket. Both teams wanted this game and they played like it.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (34-33) play the Cleveland Cavaliers (47-18) Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. Central.

  • What To Watch For: Mavs at Hornets

    The Mavericks capped off their four-game homestand in convincing fashion. After outscoring their opponents by a combined 67 points in the last two games of the set, Dallas now has the highest point differential in the Western Conference and the highest net rating in all of basketball. Dallas played like a juggernaut after falling behind to Sacramento, clawing itself out of that hole and into a three-game winning streak.

    But now it’s time to head on the road for a quick two-game trip, first in Charlotte and then in Washington. The Hornets (not Bobcats, remember) are off to just a 4-6 start this season, but it’s widely assumed that when all is said and done they’ll be one of the top-eight out East. This is the Mavs’ first road game against an Eastern Conference team this season, and it’s going to be a doozy. The Hornets play a gritty style built around their All-NBA center Al Jefferson. Tyson Chandler is going to have a heck of a challenge on his hands, and those bruising matchups inside are always fun to watch.

    Before we go any further, let’s dig into the numbers and see what the Hornets’ defense is made of.

    OFFENSE
    Mavs Offense Hornets Defense
    Points/100 poss. 115.0(1) 102.7 (13)
    eFG% 54.2 (2) 50.0 (16)
    TOV% 11.9 (2) 14.1 (20)
    Off/Def Reb% 25.7 (15) 78.8 (2)
    FT/FGA .257 (23) .234 (2)

    Where Charlotte beats teams is on the glass; free-agent acquisition Lance Stephenson, a guard-forward, is near the top of the league in rebounds per game. Jefferson adds nearly seven a game himself, and point guard Kemba Walker even averages 4.2 per contest. This is a team that looks to end offensive possessions as soon as possible, so Dallas must make its field goal attempts count.

    That could prove to be slightly difficult, however. The Hornets are 13th in defensive rating this season but have been the third-best defensive team in home games, per NBA.com. They allow opponents to shoot just 42.7 percent in Time Warner Cable Arena, the fifth-best mark in the NBA. The Mavs, however, are well-equipped to perform well in the difficult environment. Dallas scores 107.8 points per 100 possessions on the road this season, sixth-best in the league, and is one of just eight teams with a positive net rating in games played away from home. Veteran teams generally perform well on the road, but this will still be a tough test.

    As good as Jefferson is on the offensive end, he’s almost as capable defensively. He blocks 1.4 shots per game and opponents shoot a hair over 53 percent at the rim against him, per SportVU. That’s not an elite number, necessarily, but for reference, Tyson Chandler holds opponents to exactly 50 percent shooting at the rim and he’s considered one of the best rim-protectors in the game. After setting a franchise record by scoring 76 points in the paint against Minnesota on Saturday, the Mavs will try to keep that type of pressure on and test Jefferson’s defense for 48 full minutes. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that Charlotte doesn’t give up many free throw attempts — fewer than one FTA for every field goal its opponent attempts. Monta Ellis and the other guards must look to finish and not draw contact, as the Hornets aren’t going to bail them out by committing any cheap fouls.

    The Hornets have been playing without forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the last couple games as he’s battled a right foot injury, and it’s still unclear if he’ll take the floor against the Mavs tonight. As Charlotte’s starting small forward, he’d be the one with first dibs on guarding Chandler Parsons while teammate Stephenson checks Monta Ellis. However, if MKG is unable to take the floor, former Texas Legend PJ Hairston could get the start instead. Hairston is big and strong for a 2-guard, but his size is less of a factor if he’s slid over to the 3-spot. That would play to Chandler Parsons’s advantage.

    At this point, it’s becoming pretty clear that there’s no such thing as a bad matchup for Dirk Nowitzki, who continues to put up ridiculous stats every game. Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller will guard Nowitzki tonight. While Williams has the length and Zeller has the height needed to slow Nowitzki down, neither player has both. Look for another big night from Dirk — but, really, you could say the same thing every night. That’s what makes him one of the best.

    DEFENSE
    Mavs Defense Hornets Offense
    Points/100 poss. 103.6 (18) 98.1 (26)
    eFG% 51.8 (24) 46.9 (26)
    TOV% 20.0 (1) 14.3 (12)
    Off/Def Reb% 69.4 (30) 23.3 (22)
    FT/FGA .288 (15) .296 (15)

    The Hornets play a pretty old-school style of offense, attempting just the 24th-most treys per game in the league. Instead, Charlotte favors playing an inside-out style through Al Jefferson on the block. Big Al was named to the All-NBA Third Team last season and is off to another good start in 2014, averaging 21.4 points per game. He’s one of the most-talented post players in the league. Per Basketball-Reference, Jefferson’s usage rate of 30 percent is the highest of his career. The Hornets work through him early and often.

    Stephenson and Walker assume most of the ball-handling duties on the perimeter, with the former acting as the facilitator to the latter’s scoring-minded play. Former Spur Gary Neal comes off the bench as the sixth man and is by far the team’s best three-point shooter, converting at a 42.9 percent clip this season. Neal is the type of “microwave” player who can turn a game around if he comes in and hits a few shots in a row. It will be important for Dallas to keep track of him on the outside and force him into tough, contested jump shots.

    As a whole, the Hornets’ perimeter players have struggled to shoot the ball this season. Neal’s 39.8 FG percentage is the highest of any guard on the club. Charlotte has come out of the gate slowly this season on the offensive end, but the Mavs obviously aren’t going to let up defensively because of it. Dallas has put together two solid defensive efforts in a row, and that’s not even including the masterful effort against Sacramento to erase the 24-point deficit. Head coach Rick Carlisle has said all season long that his goal is for the team to finish higher in the defensive ranks this season than it did last season, and so far that’s the case with Dallas, which sits 18th in the league in defensive efficiency. If the Mavs can maintain that position all season long while continuing to stay dominant offensively, this team is going to win a lot of games.

    The Hornets are struggling to score, but they aren’t struggling to defend. There’s a chance neither team will crack 100 tonight. But if the Mavericks can come out hot early, Charlotte might not have the firepower to get back into the game. The formula, then, is simple: Score the ball and limit Al Jefferson. It’s not an easy task, of course, but it’s the one at hand tonight.