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Open thread: Regular season game 14

The essentials:
Wizards (6-7) at Mavericks (9-4)
8:30 p.m.
American Airlines Center

Last year:
November 21: Mavericks 107, Wizards 80
December 5: Wizards 106, Mavericks 97

Notable Mavericks numbers this season (pound the salt):
6th in expected winning percentage (.692).
19th in pace factor (90.2 possessions per game).
1st in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (114.5).
18th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (107.1).

Notable Mavericks numbers last season
2nd in expected winning percentage (.742).
28th in pace factor (88.2 posessions per game).
2nd in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (113.0).
5th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (104.7).

Key links
Mavs Moneyball
Showboating blog preview
Competition Discussion: Dallas

Starting lineups:

PG: Devin Harris
SG: Trenton Hassell
SF: Josh Howard
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: DeSagana Diop

PG: Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brendan Haywood

Tonight's lines:
Wizards at Mavericks: Mavericks by 12
Over/Under on total points: 207

Both teams come into tonight's game looking to put an end to 2 game losing streaks, but for the Wizards it's more like a six game losing streak since the Wizards haven't won in Dallas since 2001.  The outlook isn't good, but the Wizards did beat the Mavericks last year in D.C., maybe they still have some tricks up their sleeve from that game.  Or maybe Antawn will try to go for 60 against his old team, who knows.

This is an open thread so if you think Reggie Miller (or Popeye Jones) would be a good fit for the Mavericks, you can argue about it here.

Update [2007-11-26 15:46:23 by Pradamaster]: Threadjack, by me, because I have the day off from the newspaper (sorry Jake).

We all know defending the three-point line has been this team's Achilles Heel. In the last two games, opponents have shot 48 percent from three, which, simply, can't continue. And it's not like it's a new problem either; the Wizards allowed the second-highest three-point percentage in the league last year.

So why exactly is Eddie Jordan making excuses?

"It's probably a little bit of [that], probably a little bit of being undermanned and having tired legs at the end," Jordan said of the Wizards, who are dressing just 10 players because of injuries. "We had tired legs at the end, but we fought hard and came back. We put ourselves in position, but at the end they just made shots. We just couldn't contain drives."
It's not the tired legs, stupid. This has been a problem for three years running. Perhaps you need to reevaluate, or at least redefine, your philosophy on "protecting the lane," instead of blaming your small roster (5 players play at a time, silly) or the back to back stretches (every team plays them). Wasn't Randy Ayers supposed to solve this problem?

I know, I know, it's only been two games, and the defense has looked much better for most of the season. But it's getting to the point where teams fire away because they know the Wizards sag. Opponents are shooting an average of nearly 24 three-pointers per game this season, and while you can argue that only occurs because of the emphasis on protecting the rim, it's still a really high number. This is where we need Blatche and Haywood to be physical presences inside, because a point guard shooting over a big man is a much lower percentage shot than a 2 or 3 spotting up for a wide-open three. Don't stop penetration, funnel it.

As for Dallas, as you probably noticed, they're 9-4, but are getting very close to returning back to their pre-Avery Johnson ways. They've mostly returned the same players, but have made lots of changes to their lineup. Jason Terry has been moved to sixth man, and he's thriving, with an insane 60.6 eFG% and 64.1 TS%. I scoffed at the Devin Harris extension this summer, but so far, he's made me eat crow, as he has a 20.3 PER and a really high 24.4 assist rate. One would think his improvement has come from hitting more jumpers, but really, his entire game has improved, as his eFG% numbers have gotten better from all over the court (here's last year). Dirk and Josh Howard are also doing their things, leaving Dallas with four guys with PERs over 20.

Alas, that's about all the good we can find with them, unless you want to count promising youngsters Brandon Bass and J.J. Barea. Jerry Stackhouse, predictably, has fallen off, and he didn't even play against Milwaukee Saturday. Trenton Hassell is in the starting lineup for defense, but with the Mavericks struggling on that end, combined with Hassell's atrocious PER, he's basically providing nothing.

Yes, they're 9-4, but they're coming off two bad losses. I guess I'm trying to say that they aren't as good as they were in the past two seasons.

The good news is that they aren't a three-point shooting team, except for Terry, who's hitting an insane 49 percent. Stopping Terry has to be the key, because Dirk is going to get his points, and Howard will do his thing. Terry, though, has been their spark, and it's imperative to make him put it on the floor instead of shooting wide-open threes. Harris and Terry are small guards, so I'd like to see Blatche and Haywood play together to clog the lane. Wizards guards should play both tightly, knowing they have Blatche and Haywood back under the basket. Please, no small ball.