The Back Story (Clippers lead the season series 1-0):
|Clippers 119, Mavericks 112
The Big Picture:
The Clippers beat the Mavericks in Dallas 12 days ago and have won five of their last six including that game, and have also won three straight at home. And most of those victories, including the final 18 minutes in Dallas, have been played without their superstar point guard Chris Paul, who suffered a separated shoulder against the Mavs. The Clippers have been quite impressive in the three wins of this homestand so far -- but to be fair, those all came against some teams that are really struggling at present. The Mavs on the other hand have won three in a row and are no doubt looking to avenge the loss in Dallas where they blew a seven point lead in the last four minutes. Darren Collison has been at his best filling in for Paul, and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are simply playing the best basketball of their careers. J.J. Redick returned from his injury to face the Lakers on Friday and looked like he hadn't missed a game, making a slew of first quarter baskets. Rookie Reggie Bullock is now healthy enough to play as well, giving Doc Rivers everyone on his roster -- except for his most important player. The Clippers leave for the Grammy trip after this one, so a win before hitting the road would be very nice.
I keep expecting the Mavericks to fade a bit. Teams like Denver and Minnesota and Memphis, on the outside looking in to the playoff picture in the Western Conference, seem more talented and more coherent to me. When the Mavs lost three of four beginning with their loss to the Clippers, I thought that was the start of a decline. But Dallas has won three straight since to remain firmly in sixth place. Heck, these guys are only three games back of the Clippers. Monta Ellis is playing the best basketball of his career and Dirk Nowitzki seems to have found a fountain of youth (he went for 40 a couple of games back). Actually, about half of the Dallas rotation needs that fountain, which may be why I keep expecting them to fade, but it hasn't happened yet. Their offense is ranked just behind the Clippers despite an almost complete lack of post scoring options because no one does a better job of playing to his team's strengths than Rick Carlisle.
- The Questionable Blogger. For the second meeting with the Mavericks in a dozen days, I turned to the citizenry to submit questions, which Rebecca Lawson and her Mavs Moneyball cohort ably answered. I also answered questions submitted by MMB readers.
- Comparison of key metrics. The Mavericks are right behind the Clippers in offensive efficiency, but are a below average defensive team this season. The return of Brandan Wright may help there as it gives them more rim protection.
- Marion back. Shawn Marion missed Dallas' last four games with a bruised shoulder and ribs, but it appears that he'll be back tonight against the Clippers.
- No more patsies. The first three games of the Clippers homestand came against three struggling teams -- arguably the three worst teams in the entire league at this moment in time. That ends tonight. The Mavs have won three straight and are currently in a solid playoff spot in the West. Even some of the teams they'll see on their road trip to the East -- like New York and Toronto and Chicago -- have been playing well. Beating the Magic and the Celtics and the Lakers without Chris Paul was one thing; keeping the streak going will be more difficult.
- Get away game. The Clippers leave tomorrow on their second seven game road trip of the season, the infamous Grammy trip. And it's not just a seven gamer. In their infinite wisdom, the NBA schedulers have chosen to follow up the trip with a single game at home, followed by a trip to Oakland the next night (a TNT game against the Dubs, natch), followed by another game in L.A., followed by a game in Denver, before they finally return home and actually remain for more than a day. That's more like an 11 game road trip, where you just happen to sleep in you own bed two nights. Thanks, NBA.
- Domination. The Clippers absolutely destroyed the Lakers in the last game they played and were similarly dominant nine days ago against Orlando. Those games were likely helpful for developing confidence in the absence of Chris Paul -- but let's hope the team doesn't feel overconfident. Things were getting a bit crazy against the Lakers; by the second quarter, Griffin was just goofing with them. It's not always going to go that well.
- Rest vs. rust. The Clippers are coming off an unusual break in their schedule that saw them have four full days between games. For a player like Jared Dudley who has been battling tendinitis all season, a little time off was very welcome. And the team should be champing at the bit to play again. But how will their execution be in the first quarter after so much time off?
- Bullock ready. Reggie Bullock will be in uniform and available for this game according to Doc Rivers. That means for the first time this season, the Clippers have 14 healthy bodies, and Doc Rivers will have to inactivate one of those bodies. All of which seems to make the rush to sign Hedo Turkoglu all the more difficult to fathom. Who will be inactivated tonight, Maalik Wayns or Darius Morris? Or could it be someone else? Either Wayns or Morris (whose 10 day contract expires before the road trip starts) will clearly be the player waived to make room for Hedo Turkoglu, but that will still leave the Clippers with 14 healthy bodies and only 13 active spots for games. Assuming Doc's not planning to sign Hedo just to leave him on the inactive list, and assuming he's not going into a game without a backup point guard, that means Rivers will have to inactivate someone else to make room for Turkoglu each game. That someone would almost certainly be Byron Mullens.
- Different backcourt. In the meeting 12 days ago, the Clippers starting backcourt was Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford. This time it will be Collison, as Paul and Redick swapped placed on the injured list. The Clippers have been somewhat fortunate at least in regard to where they've incurred injuries. They have quality depth in the backcourt, with four starter quality players and the reliable Willie Green to boot.
- Jordan's big night. DeAndre Jordan scored a career high 25 points in the last meeting on 11-14 shooting while also grabbing 18 rebounds. It was probably the best game of his career. It's no accident that he had a big game against the Mavs. Dallas doesn't like to play Sam Dalembert a lot, and the rest of their bigs are either giving away size or strength. Carlisle doesn't want Nowitzki expended to much energy defending Griffin -- but Dirk doesn't have the strength to contend with DeAndre. He's not likely to score 25, but don't be surprised if the Clippers look to get Jordan a few more touches than usual against the Mavs.
- Better Defense. When these two teams met in Dallas, the Clippers gave up 39 points in the first quarter and 70 points in the first half. They were lucky to come away with the win, playing terrible defense in the first half and then losing Chris Paul in the third quarter. They'll have to find a way to stop Dallas, especially Nowitzki, tonight.
- Home record. The Clippers are 17-3 at home, the second best home record in the NBA behind only the Indiana Pacers.
- Old guys. There are 22 active NBA players 35 years or older. Three of them play for Dallas -- two starters (Nowitzki and Shawn Marion) and their sixth man (Vince Carter)! They also start two 32 year olds (Jose Calderon and Sam Dalembert). This is not a young team.
- The long and short of it. I am curious to see how Rick Carlisle decides to defend Griffin. Will he go with Dirk or Dalembert or Marion at the start of the game? Off the bench, he can pick a hyper long bean pole in Brandan Wright, or a hyper strong fireplug in DeJuan Blair. And of course he can mix things up to keep Blake guessing. The book is to defend Blake with length, so we may see a combination of Dalembert and Wright, but there are a lot of options. How Blake handles it -- using his strength against Wright, stepping away from the basket against Dalembert, using his height advantage against Blair, etc. -- will be the most interesting part. And of course someone else will have to defend Jordan, who put up 25 himself in the last meeting.
- Extra motivation for Collison? The Clippers' Collison spent last season in Dallas. After losing the starting job to George Hill in Indiana, the Mavs acquired him for Ian Mahinmi, which seemed like a steal at the time. He began the season as the Dallas starter -- but it wasn't long before the Mavs were desperately looking for an alternative, any alternative. They signed Derek Fisher to start in front of him, and when that didn't work out, they signed Mike James from the D-League, a 37 year old who had played a total of 166 NBA minutes since 2009. Collison has been nothing short of terrific filling in for Chris Paul so far, shooting 60% from the field as a starter this season. He played the final 18 minutes in Dallas two weeks ago, leading the Clippers to victory over his former team. That had to feel good for him.
- DeJuan Blair. When citizens complain about the dreadful reserve bigs on the Clippers bench, I tend to remind them that there weren't a lot of options available at the Clippers price point, which was essentially the veteran's minimum (Byron Mullens' contract isn't technically a min deal since it has a second season, but Mullens, Hollins and Jamison are all making the min this season). Were there really better options out there? Well, yes. DaJuan Blair signed a veteran's minimum deal with the Mavs on August 7 -- that's after the Clippers had signed both Hollins and Mullens, but before they signed Jamison. Blair sat on the free agency market for a full month before landing with Dallas. Blair -- a guy with per 36 career averages around 15 points and 11 rebounds on 53% shooting -- is averaging, guess what, 14.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per 36 for the Mavs, shooting 56%. Now, to be fair, Blair PROBABLY sat on the market for a month because he and his agent wanted more than the min -- meaning that he was out of the Clippers price range at the start of free agency. But could they have offered him the third big role on a better team in early August, before he signed with the Mavs and before the Clippers signed Jamison? Obviously Doc Rivers wanted floor stretchers in that roster spot, and Blair is not that -- but damn, the dude's PER is close to 18 this seasons and he was just sitting there. So yeah, there were alternatives. Hindsight is 20/20 and perfection (i.e. making the perfect decision in every case) is a tough standard, but Blair was a pretty obvious option, even at the time.
- End of an era. The Mavericks missed the post season last year after 12 straight trips to the playoffs. With Dirk nearing the end of his career and the Mavs missing out on the big names like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul with their free agency money, it seemed likely that they would be out of the picture for awhile. But here they are, in position to start a new playoff streak this season.
- Carlisle and Rivers. During the Doc-udrama this summer, as the Clippers were pursuing Doc Rivers to be their new head coach, I was somewhat surprised to learn that Rivers was one of only four active head coaches with an NBA title. Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Larry Brown have all won a title in the last decade, but those guys aren't coaching anymore, leaving Doc, Gregg Popovich, Eric Spoelstra and Dallas' Rick Carlisle as the only active NBA coaches to have coached their way to a ring. It's an exclusive club.
- Carter and Jamison. Carter and Jamison have been linked for two decades now. They were teammates for three seasons at the University of North Carolina, where they advanced to the Final Four twice. On draft day in 1998, they were chosen fourth and fifth, and were traded for each other. And they are both members of the NBA's very exclusive 20,000 point club. They will remain linked at some level even after they retire, as they will both test the sensibilities of the induction committee when they become eligible for the Hall of Fame, since 20,000 point scorers usually get in, but neither Carter nor Jamison had much playoff success in their NBA careers.
- Connections. Collison was a Maverick last season. Antawn Jamison played for Dallas in 03-04 where he won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award. Jamison and Vince Carter were college teammates (almost 20 years ago). But while the Mavs have had a habit of signing former Clippers in recent years (Lamar Odom, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand) there aren't any former Clippers currently playing for the Mavs. Monta Ellis was teammates with Matt Barnes on the Warriors and with J.J. Redick in Milwaukee last season.
- Get the Dallas perspective at Mavs Moneyball.
- Shakespearean reference:
The Taming of the Shrew -- Act V, Scene 2 -- Katherina
Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor.
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman mov'd is like a fountain troubled-
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience-
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am asham'd that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you forward and unable worms!
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband's foot;
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready, may it do him ease.
The word "maverick" is a modern American addition to the lexicon and clearly did not exist in Shakespeare day. I turned to the thesaurus and came up with "rebel" as its Elizabethan analog.