Can Maverick Small Ball Beat All?

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Don Nelson's small ball lineup has won its fourth straight game, beating the tired and depleted Phoenix Suns124-103on Saturday. Dirk Nowitzki had 34 points in 34 minutes on 14-of-22 shooting to lead all scorers while Steve Nash tallied up 14 assists. The Mavericks as a team passed the ball well, getting a total of 37 assists. Nowitzki led five Mavs in double-figures, and Nash had nine points. Even Antoine Walker got into the swing of playing center, attempting just two three-pointers instead of his usual six hundred. He missed both but was 5-for-8 overall from the field on his way to getting a near double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds.

Unfortunately for Dallas, their small-ball lineup would face the biggest and most dominant obstacle in basketball in the very first round of the playoffs if they started today. The Mavericks would have to try to beat the Lakers on their home court, and they would have to do it with Antoine Walker guarding Shaquille O'Neal. Walker had a difficult enough time trying to guard Kenyon Martin in series past, how is he going to do against Shaq?

The answer is he won't do very well, but how will Shaq do against guarding Walker? Or is Shaq going to guard Nowitzki? Any one of their starters and most of their bench can stretch any defense by just parking their tushies on the three-point line and waiting for an assist from Nash. Walker's shooting woes notwithstanding, he can hit a wide-open three-pointer once in a while, and like the internet companies of the bubble, he can try to make up for his lack of marksmanship with volume.

Dallas is not likely to be able to change its standings much, what with only a handful of games remaining, but they can catch Memphis for the fifth spot, as they are only one game behind the Grizzlies. Most likely, however, their first round opponent will not be determined by anything the Mavs do: the top four teams are all within 1.5 games of each other. The Mavs could end up facing any of those fearsome foursome of the Lakers, Kings, Timberwolves, or Spurs.

If it's up to Dallas, they'd probably prefer to play the Kings, as they have been able to beat them, and the Kings have been slipping recently. Of course, things could change in an instant when Bobby Jackson and Brad Miller get healthy, but small-ball would probably do best against the Kings.

The rest of Dallas's season is against mediocre clubs, with the exception of their last two games, which feature fifth-seed opponent Memphis and seventh-seed opponent Houston. Their penultimate game against the Grizzlies will likely determine who gets fifth place in the playoffs and who gets sixth.

Dallas hosts another small ball, three-point chucking team on Tuesday as the Seattle SuperSonics come to town. The game starts at 7:30pm tomorrow and will be broadcast on Fox Sports South West and NBA League Pass.

Dallas was 10-of-24 (41.7%) from downtown tonight. It is the most 3-pointers Dallas has made in a game since 2/26 vs. San Antonio. Dallas is now 8-0 when hitting 10 or more 3-pointers and 23-6 when shooting 40.0% or better from behind-the-arc. The Mavericks are shooting 40.0% from 3-point range over the past 15 games. Over the 15 games prior, they shot just 30.7%.

The Mavericks won despite committing 15 turnovers. They are now 8-13 when having 15 or more turnovers in a game this season.

Three Mavericks scored 20 or more points tonight for the second straight game. Dallas is now 14-2 when accomplishing that feat.

Antawn Jamison had 22 points while the entire Phoenix bench scored 21. Dallas is 15-2 in games in which Jamison outscores the opponent’s entire bench by himself this season.

With the win tonight, the Mavericks take the season series vs. the Suns 3-1 and have won three in a row vs. Phoenix (seven straight at home).

Dallas scored 124 points tonight. They have scored over 120 points in each of the past three games. The Mavericks are now 8-0 this season when scoring 120 or more points this season.

The Mavericks shot a season-high 61.0% from the floor. They are now 16-0 when shooting 50.0% or better this season. Over the past 10 games, Dallas is shooting 52.7% from the floor and is averaging 114.1 points per game.

Dallas has now scored at least 60 points in the first half of each of the past four games. The previous longest streak of 60 or more points in consecutive first halves was two from 12/6 through 12/10.

Josh Howard
(hamstring) had negative MRIs on Friday, played 27 minutes on Saturday, and is listed as day-to-day.Tony Delk(ankle),Tariq Abdul-Wahad (knee), andJon Stefansson(ankle) are all on the injured list.


David Moore ofThe Dallas Morning News writes: No one on the Mavericks is harder on shoes than Antoine Walker.The forward, who has a graveyard of shoes piled in his locker, will run through a pair every game. "I'm hard on shoes," Walker said. "I have flat feet. That pad in there, I'll wear that out. That's usually the problem." Dirk Nowitzki remembers keeping a pair of shoes for two or three years when he was growing up in Germany. Even when he began to play in an organized league, he wore the same pair for an entire season. And now? Nowitzki doesn't like the way a brand new pair feels. He will break them in during practice for several days before trusting them in a game. After three to four games, he's on to another pair because the wear and tear on the heel and sides have compromised the shoes. "A buddy of mine was just over here, and he had his shoes for six to seven months," Nowitzki said. "He can't understand why I don't keep mine longer." Antawn Jamison remembers being in high school and hearing how Michael Jordan would wear a different pair of shoes for every game. He didn't think that made any sense. He thought it was part of a ritual more than it was a necessity. Now, Jamison said he doesn't remember the last time he went more than 10 games in the same shoes. He averages a new pair every four to five games... After Walker, Wilson said guard Michael Finley is rougher on shoes than anyone else in the Dallas locker room. He goes through a pair every two to three games. Guard Steve Nash is at the other end of the shoe spectrum, keeping his about seven to eight games.

Eddie Sefko ofThe Dallas Morning News writes: There are lots of reasons a basketball player's stock drops in the NBA draft. Attitude. Size. Inability to shoot. Lack of a work ethic. But rarely is a player condemned for the illusion of loafing. Marquis Daniels always goes full speed when he's on the basketball court. It's just that he's so smooth at doing so that he gives the impression that he's not going all-out.That scared off some NBA teams when it came time for the draft last summer. "It looks like he's not playing hard," coach Don Nelson said. "He has a way of looking like he's not running fast. If you put him and Josh Howard in a race, they'd probably finish tied. But Josh looks like he's going a hundred miles an hour." Different strides to reach the same destination. Howard was an integral piece of the Mavericks from the start this season. Daniels has blossomed late as the second rookie to break into Nelson's playing rotation. He's bypassed Howard into the starting rotation, although both play about the same amount of time. Daniels, a 6-6 wisp who can slide around and through defenses quickly, said he believes the perception that he is not running hard worked against him at draft time. "I heard that a lot," he said. "That's just the way I move."

Eddie Sefko ofThe Dallas Morning News writes: For the first time in four seasons, the Mavericks' record will regress this year. The team made aggressive off-season moves that were geared to give them a chance to win a title, but also would be beneficial financially in the future. So far, those moves haven't worked, at least when stacked against last year's 60-22 team. But for anybody who questions those moves, the Phoenix Suns would offer up a prime example of taking big risks in hopes of the big payoff. Themselves. The Suns have been there and done this. During the '90s, they traded for Charles Barkley. They traded for Jason Kidd. When those moves didn't net a title, they moved on, trading both players away. More Mavericks Earlier this season, they dealt Stephon Marbury. That's three major stars who have been acquired via trade and later jettisoned the same way. The Suns haven't won a championship. But they haven't stopped trying, either. Sound familiar? Mark Cuban has the same philosophy. The Mavericks haven't had to give up stars of that nature, but the current version is not afraid to roll the dice the same way the Suns have done and still do.

Eddie Sefko ofThe Dallas Morning News writes: The Mavericks reached uncharted territory Saturday night with a 124-103 victory over Phoenix that put them 20 games over .500 for the first time this season at 48-28. Last year, they were 20 games over after 28 games and never looked back. This year, it took 76 games. But who's counting, right?The more important number for the Mavericks is their fourth consecutive victory, all coming with the small-ball lineup. Coach Don Nelson has gone back to asking his Big Three of Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash to direct this ship. And they continue to look more comfortable with the duty each game. And the rest of the crew is following. Antoine Walker had his best game in weeks, and the rookies and Antawn Jamison continue to fill the holes at both ends of the court. The offense is clicking like never before this season as the 61 percent shooting Saturday showed. The Mavericks also had 37 assists.

Mike Fischer ofDallasBasketball.com writes: On Wednesday, it was the No. 6 Mavs vs. the No. 3 Lakers. Two days later, it was going to be the No. 6 Mavs against the No. 3 Kings. Over the weekend, the No. 6 Mavs could’ve contemplated opposing the No. 3 T’wolves. And after the Spurs won in LA on Sunfday afternoon while the Grizzlies lost to Minny, it could be any of those combos, or maybe Dallas playing one of them as the No. 5 seed, given the fact that now the Mavs move into the final games of the season just one game back of No. 5 Memphis. Dallas at No. 5. … hmm, should we start etching in cement who the Mavs’ foe will be at the No. 4 seed? Don’t bother. It’ll change a few more times in the next fews days.

Art Garcia ofThe Ft. Worth Star-Telegram writes: Marquis Daniels is playing himself into a lucrative contract, Travis Best isn't sure from where his next one is coming, and Steve Nash is on the verge of opting out of his. Sounds like an interesting summer for Mavericks point guards.Nash's desire to test free agency by opting out of his contract on June 30 is a forgone conclusion. Nash has stated his preference to remain with the Mavs, and though negotiations may be sticky -- he hopes to be paid at a level commensurate with the league's top point guards -- the organization has not shown signs of wanting to part with the two-time All-Star. Nash is earning $5.75 million this season, sixth highest on the team. "When my time comes, I'm sure I'll be compensated," Nash said earlier this season. "I'm not going to worry about it."