Mar 17, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) rests on the bench during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 106-99. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Prescriptions for Failure and a Lame Mavericks-Spurs Preview

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As the Mavericks head down I-35 to face the third in a series of four games against the league’s elite, a number of things are obvious in their struggles.   Sound defeats from the first two teams on this tough stretch, the Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies, had a different character but ultimately, the end was the same.

The Mavs have struggled all season with some obvious undeniable truths they will have to face to turn things around.  They will also have to do it without Derek Fisher, who ended the latest in a series of unsuccessful attempts to integrate an ex-Laker when he asked to be released from the team this week.

Almost every night the Mavs are outrebounded and significantly so and they are the worst rebounding team in the league.

I have theorized about why this continues despite the presence of experienced solid rebounders in the lineup and last week I came to the conclusion that the only explanation might be that without Dirk the other team’s bigs have no reason to move away from the basket but clearly that can’t be the only explanation.  Since the discrepancy is entirely on the offensive end it does make some sense but even if that’s the reason and having Dirk back fixes it, it’s senseless to need one player for even modest success and moreover, Dirk can’t fix everything else.

On any given night they shoot the ball very poorly and the post game is sadly lacking.

It’s never a prescription for victory to shoot poorly and the Mavericks have struggled all season long.  The most consistent shooters on the team, Brandan Wright and Bernard James, get limited minutes and Chris Kaman is frequently absent during crunch time.   Being relegated to a jump-shooting team is rarely for the best, even if you get away with it when you have some seven-foot German guy who can consistently drain it from anywhere on the court.   It took Tyson Chandler to make Dirk a champion.

On any given night the Mavs turn the ball over 20+ times.

This is the season of giving and in general, it is better to give than to receive but perhaps a little less giving would be helpful in this case.

The losses usually involve 2 or more of these coming to bear.  Versus Memphis, the Mavericks fell behind early and yet managed to tie the score in the 3rd quarter.  They stayed in the hunt for much of the game but ultimately with 24 turnovers leading to 29 Memphis points and shooting under 41% as a team the die was cast.  That’s in addition to the usual rebounding disadvantage 47-42.

These are the obvious globally-condemning stats, as are missing not only Nowitzki but having significant other injuries going on all season, which makes it harder to find a rhythm.   Still, there is more.

It has been often said that as O. J. Mayo goes, so go the Mavs and that has proven true.  What is more elusive is an explanation for why no one else is taking up the slack.  One of the benefits of having multiple potent scoring options is not just working in tandem but that your teammates cover you when you have an off night.  That is not happening for Dallas.

The stats on Mayo in victories vs. defeats are significant and revealing.  What is more of a mystery (and I haven’t seen them produced) would be the stats on other players when Mayo has a poor game.   I can state with confidence that many of this years wins have been with solid games from Mayo coupled usually with Chris Kaman; at the same time when Mayo struggles, who steps up to take over?  Right now, no one…

Kaman for example, vs. the Grizzlies has 8 points on 4-of-12 shooting.  Versus the Heat, also 8 points on 4-of-10.   The pattern is similar throughout the season so “as O. J. Mayo goes, so go the Mavs” has an even greater significance.  It isn’t just the team as a whole; it’s Chris Kaman and other individuals as well.

Brandan Wright is back in the fold and playing well but Bernard James was absent again during the Grizzlies game after a very solid performance against Miami.   On team lacking rebounding and interior defense also missing Elton Brand, not giving James some time doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

When a guy like Dirk doesn’t shoot well for a game or two, you keep him on the floor and let him keep trying.  That philosophy may not work for Jae Crowder, who is now shooting 36.5% for the year and under 29% on threes.  I’m somewhat reminded of then-Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman’s speech at the 2008 GOP convention in support of John McCain and I’m not making a political statement here…

Lieberman said “Senator Barack Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who I think can do great things for our country in the years ahead,” the point being that agree or disagree, at the time Lieberman felt then-Senator Obama had great potential but wasn’t ready for prime time.  Such may be the case with Crowder – it’s great that he had a super preseason and shows promise but at this point, giving him minutes as opposed to Wright or James or the incoming Chris Douglas-Roberts seems an exercise in futility.   (Douglas-Roberts is a 6-7 combo guard being brought up from the Texas Legends).

Have I mentioned this week I miss Josh Akognon?

I could go into a lot of detailed analysis about what the Spurs are doing and do the usual analysis of where their strengths are and what the Mavericks can exploit.   The reality is, the Spurs don’t have a lot of weaknesses.  They are the third-best scoring team in the NBA and in the middle defensively.   Dallas is one of the worst defensive teams in the league and that in and of itself spells disaster.

My prescription for success is simple:  take good shots (and hopefully make them), crash the boards and don’t turn the ball over.  Play Wright and James a lot and and give Douglas-Roberts as much time as possible to see if he can transfer his D-League success back to the NBA.   Crowder has had a lot of leeway and for now it isn’t working – give someone else a chance.

The good news is that Dominique Jones appears to be finally coming into his own and while that won’t turn things around in and of itself, perhaps it will help stop the bleeding.

Oh yeah, and trade for Jose Calderon (but not with Wright in the package).

I sincerely hope I’m not doing a carbon copy of this rundown for the Oklahoma City game but the Mavs will have to do something different if I’m going to have any significant insight to present after tonight.

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