Dallas Mavericks: Ty Lawson
After a loss that was a defensive debacle in Denver earlier this month, Carlisle declared that he made a drastic mistake by not pulling his starters after it was apparent that they weren’t ready to play in the early minutes. He shouldn’t hesitate to have a quick hook with the Nuggets in town Friday night.
This isn’t just an attitude issue. It’s about athleticism.
No matter how focused and intense Jose Calderon is, he’s going to have a hard time matching up with speedy Denver point guard Ty Lawson. Even if Samuel Dalembert shows up wide awake and ready to roll, a fast-paced game doesn’t play to his strengths.
If Dallas can’t dictate the tempo, the Mavs might as well rely heavily on a couple of reserves who were born to run. This seems like a game that makes sense for Devin Harris and Brandan Wright to get the majority of the minutes at their positions.
“That’s the type of game I’ve been playing my whole career -- high school, college, first four years in the league,” Wright said. “I’m used to that type of track meet -- up and down, a lot of slashing, above-the-rim type of things.”
Now comes the Denver Nuggets' Ty Lawson, who didn't look real rusty in his first game back after missing a few weeks because of a fractured rib, tuning up for Wednesday's game against the Mavs with a 31-point, 11-assist performance Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mavericks point guard Jose Calderon, left, has had trouble this season keeping up with elite point guards such as Steph Curry.
Jose Calderon, who occasionally resembles a bullfighter on defense, would have his hands full with all of these explosive point guards if he could stay close enough to get a paw on them.
"For sure, it's an individual challenge," Calderon said. "You don't want to get beat there by anybody. You're going to play as hard as you can against great players in this league. I feel pretty comfortable. The team has been helping me a lot. This year, some days are going to be a tougher challenge. You feel better or worse. But at the end of the day, it's about team defense."
The Mavs were well aware of Calderon's defensive limitations when they signed him to a four-year, $29 million deal last summer. They considered his lack of lateral quickness a flaw they could live, considering it came in a package with his savvy offensive decision-making and elite perimeter shooting.
Calderon has been as billed for the Mavs, for better and worse. He ranks third in the league in 3-point percentage (44.9) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.94-to-1). He also has the worst defensive rating (107.1) among guards on winning teams.
While Calderon is a plus overall, it will be especially difficult to mask his defensive flaws during this stretch, which started with Parker's 22-point, seven-rebound performance Sunday in the Spurs' win.
Mother Nature, the mythical force Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle often refers to when discussing injuries, had other things on her mind.
The Mavs don’t have time to feel sorry for the Nuggets, who have been hit as hard as any NBA team by the injury bug this season. But the visit to Denver for Wednesday’s game might at least remind the Mavs about how fortunate they’ve been this season.
Dallas’ starters have missed a total of only nine games due to injury or illness, not counting the night Dirk Nowitzki rested in Toronto as part of the Mavs’ preventative-maintenance program for their 35-year-old star. By comparison, projected Denver frontcourt starters Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee combined to play only five games before undergoing season-ending surgeries.
The Mavs’ bench was thinned out by injuries early in the season, with Devin Harris sitting out the first half of the season while rehabbing from summer toe surgery and Brandan Wright missing the first six weeks due to a fracture in his left shoulder. But the Mavs have had a remarkable run of good health since the season started, especially for a team with so many aging veterans.
We’ll pause to let Mavs fans knock on wood.
No, that’s not a short joke, although their sub-six-foot stature is one reason for the Barea-Larkin comparison.
|Mavericks top draft pick Shane Larkin joins Galloway and Company to discuss his future in Dallas.
“I see myself as a Ty Lawson type,” Larkin said during a conference call with Dallas reporters. “Just somebody that can go out there every night and make an impact with my speed and quickness.”
Larkin’s career path is pretty similar to Lawson’s to this point. Lawson was the ACC player of the year as a junior at North Carolina before being selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Larkin was the ACC player of the year as a sophomore at Miami before being selected No. 18 last week.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Lawson is thicker than the 5-foot-11, 171-pound Larkin, but Larkin is quicker and more explosive. Larkin has data from the draft combine to prove it, noting that he tested better than Lawson.
|ESPN NBA senior analyst Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest developments in NBA free agency. The Rockets are a slight favorite to land Dwight Howard, but the Mavericks are in the running.
*Larkin was timed in the three-quarters-court sprint at 3.08 seconds, the fastest at this year’s combine. Lawson’s time: 3.12.
*Larkin’s time in the lane agility test was 10.64, the sixth-best at this year’s combine. Lawson was timed at 10.98 in 2009.
None of that guarantees that Larkin can be an NBA starter or even a rotation player, but his athleticism, pick-and-roll pedigree and perimeter shooting ability are among the reasons that the little guy thinks big. There’s also a healthy chip on the shoulder of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin’s son, who enjoyed hushing those who didn’t think he could play Division I basketball, much less star in the ACC.
"People are saying now that I can't be a starter, I can't be a successful player in the NBA,” Larkin said. “I'm just going to use that as motivation."
Larkin’s immediate goals aren’t too large, though. He simply wants to earn playing time and be productive as a rookie.
It’s a pretty good plan to continue following a similar path to the one traveled by Lawson, who primarily came off the Denver bench during his first two NBA seasons before emerging as one of the West’s better starting point guards the last two years.
That’s what Larkin is aiming for. If he ends up being the next Barea, that’s not bad, either.
No. 5 Denver Nuggets
George Karl's group plays it fast and loose and likes to have fun -- and Karl is having more fun ever since the exits of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. The Nuggets showed it in a steamroller performance on Dec. 26, the second game of the season, with a 115-93 whiplashing of the Mavs. Of course, the Nuggets weren't as good as that game might have suggested and the Mavs weren't as bad. Dallas took the next three meetings with both teams missing various key players in each game. Much has changed since their last meeting on March 19 starting with center JaVale McGee's arrival and Nene's departure a few days earlier -- although the sometimes comically erratic McGee didn't play in that series finale against Dallas -- as both squads bring new looks into the 2012-13 season.
Nuggets 115, @Mavs 93
Mavs 105, @Nuggets 95
@Mavs 102, Nuggets 84
Mavs 112, @Nuggets 95
This season's games
Dec. 28: @Nuggets
April 4: vs. Nuggets
April 12: vs. Nuggets
The Nuggets had a deep roster dotted with impressive players last season, but boasted not an All-Star among them. That changed last week with the four-team blockbuster Dwight Howard deal that sent longtime 76ers wing Andre Iguodala to Denver with the Nuggets sending shooting guard Arron Afflalo and reserve forward Al Harrington to Orlando. Iguodala, a 2012 All-Star and member of gold-medal winning Team USA, will share the backcourt with speedster point guard Ty Lawson and he'll bring a missing defensive mentality that can only help the league's top scoring team last season that finished 29th in scoring defense. A long and versatile frontcourt includes Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and the 7-foot McGee. Denver also made a nice pickup with 6-11 Dallas native Anthony Randolph to add to a solid bench that includes ever-steady point guard Andre Miller, Chandler -- if Karl chooses to make him the sixth man -- Corey Brewer and a couple of 7-footers in Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos.
How the Mavs match up
New Mavs point guard Darren Collison, a 6-foot, 180-pound blur, certainly gives the Mavs more backcourt speed than ever before to stick with the shifty 5-foot-11 Lawson. That should come as music to the ears of small forward Shawn Marion, who too many times last season was asked to take the opposing point guard because Jason Kidd and Vince Carter simply couldn't. Marion won't be singing long now that Iguodala gives the Nuggets a formidable trio at the wing with Gallinari and Chandler now potentially popping off the bench. This type of squad could be a situation in which Mavs rookie forward Jae Crowder becomes a valuable addition as a strong, 6-6 wing defender to assist Marion. Shooting guard Dahntay Jones also gives Dallas another defensive option on the perimeter it didn't have last season. Iguodala really helps the Nuggets' defensive situation. Against the Mavs he'll be able to stick O.J. Mayo, who the Mavs hope will emerge as the second scorer behind Dirk Nowitzki. Denver still has no answer for Dirk, not that many teams do. Last season against the Nuggets, Nowitzki averaged 22.5 points in 29.3 minutes and shot 53.8 percent from the floor, well above his season average of 45.7 percent.
Mavs' spot in the standings: The Mavs and Nuggets are both 11 ½ games behind the top-seeded Spurs, but Denver is in control of its destiny when it comes to securing the sixth seed. The Nuggets (35-28) have one fewer loss than the Mavs (36-29) and are a couple of percentage points ahead in the standings. The Mavs own the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, whose three remaining games are at home against the Magic and on the road against the Thunder and Timberwolves.
Nuggets 118, Suns 107: Ty Lawson had 29 points and 10 assists as Denver clinched a playoff spot.
Bulls 93, Mavs 83: The Mavs put up a decent fight against the East’s first-place team despite Jason Kidd and Jason Terry sitting out to rest.
Rockets 99, Warriors 96: Houston snapped a six-game losing streak and kept its slim playoff hopes alive.
Grizzlies 93, Trail Blazers 89: The Grizzlies almost let a 12-point lead slip away in the last four minutes, but Memphis held on for its 14th win in 18 games to pull within a half-game of the Clippers for the fourth seed.
Jazz 117, Magic 107 (OT): Devin Harris scored 21 points, including a dagger 3-pointer in overtime, as the Jazz seized control of the fight for the West’s final playoff seed.
Thunder at Lakers
Rockets at Heat
Cavaliers at Spurs
Magic at Nuggets
Hornets at Clippers
If the playoffs started today: Mavs vs. Thunder
DALLAS -- The NBA has issued the Defensive Player of the Year award since the 1982-83 season. In the 1988-89 season the league might as well have renamed it the Defensive Big Man of the Year award.
The lone small forward ever to be named Defensive Player of the Year was the formerly named Ron Artest on Rick Carlisle's 2003-04 Indiana Pacers.
Is a second one lurking?
The Dallas Mavericks certainly think so. Owner Mark Cuban has trumpeted the tireless work of 6-foot-7 veteran Shawn Marion for more than a month. Carlisle has not been far behind. On Friday night, with Marion missing his third and final game with a sore left knee likely caused to a large degree by his maxed-out defensive responsibilities, Carlisle said Marion is "probably the Defensive Player of the Year this year."
On Monday, Carlisle upped the ante: "I think he’s a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year because of his versatility and because of his impact on our team. We lose [Tyson] Chandler and we’re still the No. 1 defensive team in the Western Conference on points per possession. That doesn’t happen without Marion and what he’s doing guarding multiple positions."
The operative word is "multiple." Marion has always been the man to defend top opposing wings like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. This season, particularly when guard Delonte West was lost to a fractured finger on Feb. 15, Marion became Mr. Everything to a defense that had already lost its heart and soul from the championship team in Chandler -- the third-place finisher in last season's DPOY voting -- and plugged in newcomers and somehow just kept on ticking.
"We’re the No. 1 defensive team in the Western Conference largely because of how he’s guarded guys individually," Carlisle said. "He always has the best player, and a lot of times he’ll have a guy like [Ty] Lawson or like [Goran] Dragic, who’s a key guy not only scoring, but getting other guys involved. He’s just been phenomenal."
During the stretch from West's injury to the All-Star break, the 33-year-old Marion was tasked with chasing, in order: Lawson, Ricky Rubio, 6-foot-11 power forward and All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, Lawson again, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams, Jeremy Lin, Paul Pierce and finally Kobe Bryant.
And throughout this physically demanding shortended season, Marion's assignments read like an NBA who's who list, from Deron Williams and Steve Nash to Paul Millsap and Michael Beasley; from Manu Ginobili and Russell Westbrook to Caron Butler and Carmelo Anthony.
Of all those offensive weapons, advanced analytics, which make it possible to break down matchups possession by possession, tell us that Marion's opponents have shot 34 percent against him.
Take Kobe as just one example. In two games, Marion held the league's leading scorer to an average of 14.5 points on less than 28 percent shooting. In last Wednesday's game against the Lakers in which Marion's knee kept him out, Kobe hit for 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting (61.1 percent).
On Monday, Marion mostly deflected credit while processing his coach's praise.
"That speaks a lot about me and my teammates because it’s not just one person out there, it’s all of us collectively," Marion said. "So, hey, I’m just doing what I got to do to help the team the best way I can."
Of course, it's easy to understand why power forwards, and particularly centers, have dominated this award. Blocked shots and rebounding and team scoring averages are in your face to see and tally up and measure against other players and teams. While clearly centers can be great defenders -- and there's a long list of them -- so much of a center's job comes in the form of help defense and not the grinding, every possession work of a mano-a-mano, on-ball defensive stopper such as Marion.
"It is what it is," Marion said. "It’s sad sometimes that people don’t really sit back and really look at what you’re doing sometimes. But it is what it is. I just got to continue to do what I got to do."
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard leads the NBA in rebounds (14.8 per game) and is tied for second in total blocked shots with 108, numbers that dwarf Marion's 6.9 rebounds and 26 blocked shots, and the Magic rank fourth in the NBA in scoring defense. A massive, 6-foot-11 specimen who patrols the paint with humbling ferocity, Howard is a leading candidate to win the award for a fourth consecutive season. Only Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo lay claim to four trophies, but neither did it four years in a row.
Marion has never even been selected to an all-defensive team, although he probably should have been at some point during his eight full seasons playing on those high-powered Phoenix Suns squads.
"At the time where I was doing it before, we scored so many damn points, didn’t nobody care," Marion said. "They wanted to focus on something else."
Marion's defensive run with Dallas really started last season and began to gain recognition during the playoffs when he bounced from Gerald Wallace, Brandon Roy and Aldridge to Kobe to Westbrook and Durant and finally to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
So maybe if Marion's capable of continuing this level of 'D' for another 16 games, just maybe the focus will turn to a small forward doing one big defensive job.
"It’s what it’s about," Marion said of being in the DPOY conversation. "Everybody’s got personal goals that you want to accomplish throughout your career and legacies that you want to leave behind. I think that would definitely be a great piece to it."
"Just finished a great few hours of treatment," Marion tweeted around 2 p.m.
The bad news is the 6-foot-7 small forward remains in Dallas where, according to what coach Rick Carlisle told reporters at the team's shootaround in Denver, Marion was to have his left knee "thoroughly" examined today. Tonight will be the second consecutive game Marion will miss because of a knee situation that he has played through for weeks.
It is now becoming a concern to Carlisle.
"When you’ve a guy that’s played every game and then he misses two games, it’s a concern,’’ Carlisle said. "We care about him a lot because he’s one of our main guys and he’s really been one of our warriors all year long. We’ve got to get to the bottom of it and hopefully we can get him back quickly because we need him. Defensively, he’s the best we’ve got."
Defensively, Marion has been tasked with guarding up to three positions in any one game. He's been a life saver during the past month with guard Delonte West shelved with a broken right finger. The Mavs' elder backcourt of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter simply can't keep up with many of the young and quick point guards they face most nights and Marion has led the charge against them.
His absence now puts Rodrigue Beaubois on the hot seat to come through with high-intensity play at both ends of the floor.
Tonight, Beaubois, working on four consecutive strong outings, will surely get plenty of time matched against Denver's Ty Lawson. On Wednesday, new Lakers guard Ramon Sessions will be a challenge and Friday, a well-rested Tony Parker will give Beaubois another test.
Of course, the Mavs are hoping that Marion, 33, is back in the lineup for the Lakers game to take on Kobe Bryant and that the soreness in his left knee will simply fade away.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki has scored 27 points in each of the last three games. In three games this season against tonight's opponent, the Denver Nuggets, Nowitzki has averaged 19.0 points a game on 50 percent shooting, a number that is rather remarkable considering he is 1-of-10 from beyond the arc in those games.
|ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin wonder about Jason Terry's mouth and play Dirk Nowitzki's reaction to Jet's talk.
Once shooting the 3-ball at about 18 percent, Nowitzki is now shooting it at a much more respectable 35.6 percent. To raise his percentage that much means he's been dropping the 3 at a tremendous rate recently.
He hit his only two attempts in the second half of Saturday's win over the Spurs. In his last four games he's connected on 8-of-16. In 10 games in March, he's 20-of-41 (48.8 percent).
Records: Mavs (26-20); Nuggets (25-20)
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: With Shawn Marion (sore left knee) out of the lineup for a second consecutive game, will coach Rick Carlisle give Rodrigue Beaubois another start? It would make sense considering the quickness of Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson. Vince Carter, who started at small forward against the Spurs on Saturday, will be needed to guard hot-shooting Danilo Gallinari, who is averaging 18.0 points in the last three games.
Key matchup: Danilo Gallinari vs. Vince Carter/Lamar Odom
Carter, who started at small forward against the Spurs on Saturday, will be needed to guard the hot-shooting Gallinari, who is averaging 18.0 points in the last three games after getting off to a slow start in his return from a sprained ankle. Gallinari won't have to deal with Marion's long arms and he'll have a quickness advantage over Carter. Odom has had trouble guarding small forwards.
Injuries: Mavs - G Delonte West (fractured right ring finger) is out; C Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) is out; F Shawn Marion (sore left knee) is out. Nuggets - None.
Up next: Los Angeles Lakers at Mavs, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday
More mysterious? The Nuggets, winners of seven of their last 10, did just make the most stunning trade at the deadline, sending Nene to Washington for talented, but blooper-reel center JaVale McGee. They also just reached a long-term deal with forward Wilson Chandler, who headed to China during the lockout. Both players are expected to be available for tonight's game.
As for the Mavs, with 20 games left can anyone claim to pinpoint where this team is headed -- down the drain or on their way to another championship? Injuries are again forcing odd lineups such as this one that actually got some run twice and held its own against the Spurs on Saturday: Jason Terry, Rodrigue Beaubois, Brian Cardinal, Lamar Odom and Brandan Wright.
Dallas might have to go there again tonight at Denver. They know center Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) won't play and guard Delonte West remains out. It was against the Nuggets more than a month ago that West's right finger bent in a way it never should when he reached out try to make a steal.
The big question is whether small forward Shawn Marion (sore left knee) will be back after missing his first game of the season against the Spurs. Dallas needs him badly on the road to help defend Danilo Gallinari, whose sprained ankle kept him out of the last matchup, and possibly even point guard Ty Lawson, who Marion held to three points and two assists last month.
Since West's injury, Marion has been charged with guarding point guards, which begs the question in tonight's game -- with or without Marion -- if Beaubois will make his second consecutive start after stringing together four impressive outings.
Coach Rick Carlisle doesn't divulge plans for starting lineups, but he did suggest that he might not be particularly hip to the idea of starting Beaubois at shooting guard.
"One of the downsides to starting him is his minutes get run way up," Carlisle said. "He's not used to playing 35, 36 minutes a game. We've got to be mindful of it because of the frequency of games."
At 23, who better to run up big minutes, especially if Beaubois is playing well? The Mavs have two back-to-backs in the next seven games, which isn't crazy by their recent standards.
Beaubois played 35 minutes against the Spurs, recording 16 points and eight rebounds, and he might have gone longer than that had his 3-pointer with about four minutes to go in the game hadn't of missed the basket entirely. Carlisle used that as a cue to get him out of there. In his other recent start at New Orleans on March 2, Beaubois scored 25 points in 31 minutes.
The announcement of tonight's starting lineup will be interesting. Will he or won't he be in it?
Tonight: at Denver Nuggets (25-20), 9:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: TNT/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Gallinari is back from an awful ankle sprain and after a four-game breaking-in period in which he averaged 4.5 points on 5-of-25 shooting, his touch has returned over the last three games as he's averaged 18.0 points on 17-of-36 shooting, including 7-of-16 from beyond the arc. A rare site on the Nuggets' game-day notes is a blank injury box. The Nuggets, already one of the deeper teams in the league before bringing Chandler back into the fold, hit hard times without Gallinari but seem to be hitting their stride again. They'll push the tempo all night and force the Mavs to keep up.
Wednesday: vs. Los Angeles Lakers (28-17), 8:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN, FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Mavs know they won't have to worry about a late 3-ball again from Derek Fisher. The Lakers shipped him out at the deadline in favor of younger, more athletic point guard Ramon Sessions, who comes to Tinseltown via Cleveland. L.A. saw its five-game win streak snapped Sunday night against the Jazz. It was only the Lakers' third loss in 22 games at home. On the road, L.A. hasn't exactly been Showtime at 9-14. The Mavs will get the Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back -- they're in Houston on Tuesday. Led by Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, L.A. did get a 96-91 road win at Dallas in the final game before the All-Star break and it sent the Mavs spiraling down a bad path. Odom left on a personal leave prior to that game, but the former Laker is expected to be around for this one.
Friday: at San Antonio Spurs (29-14), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN, FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Tony Parker claimed that he and the boys were worn out from a playoff-atmosphere win at Oklahoma City on Friday and didn't have the energy they needed to win at Dallas on Saturday. It is certainly true that the Mavs were happier about getting that much-needed win than the Spurs were unhappy about dropping it. San Antonio will be better rested for this one. They face Minnesota at home on Wednesday night. Stephen Jackson will also be better integrated into whatever role coach Gregg Popovich sees fit for him. This will be the final game of four this season with the Spurs looking to gain the split. And don't look now, but a first-round playoff series is not out of the question.
Saturday: at Houston Rockets (24-22), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN, FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Wait, these guys are still in the NBA? The Rockets are the only Western Conference team the Mavs haven't faced this season despite being division foes. Dallas might be getting them at the right time, although the week will ultimately bare that out. Houston has played beyond expectations for most of the season but is dangerously close to being knocked out of the playoff mix by the red-hot Phoenix Suns. If the Rockets have an advantage in this one, it will come on two fronts. One, Houston does not play a back-to-back this week and it will be at home all week. Two, it added center Marcus Camby at the deadline to back up Samuel Dalembert. Along with clever power forward Luis Scola, the Rockets might be able to take advantage of a Mavs team that is expected to still be without Haywood and coming off Friday's game at San Antonio.
After successfully chasing Kobe Bryant for 37 minutes Wednesday night, the latest in a mammoth, eight-game defensive grinder, Marion, the lone Dallas Maverick to play in all 34 games prior to the All-Star break and the indisputable first-half MVP, is deserving of and desperately in need of a recharge.
"Honestly, It’s been really, really, really bad for me," Marion said after the Lakers' 96-91 win in which Marion pressured Bryant into more turnovers (seven) than he made baskets (four). "It hit me in Philly (last Friday); I was tired, I was beat up. It’s not easy trying to fight off and contain these little fast guys and guys who get all these shots up, and I ain’t 27 no more, 25 years old no more. I’m going to do what I can to sustain it and make sure I put ourselves in a position to guard them better."
Since Jason Kidd's return to the lineup at Minnesota on Feb. 10, and because coach Rick Carlisle chose to continue to start Vince Carter at shooting guard instead of re-inserting feisty defender Delonte West, Marion has been charged with not only defending the league's top wing players, but manning up on quicker point guards that Kidd and Carter simply can't keep up with.
West fractured his finger on Feb. 15 and Roddy Beaubois has been away from the team for a week, losses that have exacerbated the backcourt mismatches. The 6-foot-7 Marion is easily the only small forward in the league that can claim a two-week stretch defending Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams, Jeremy Lin, Paul Pierce (in lieu of suspended Rajon Rondo) and then finally Kobe.
Those assignments have boosted his minutes and put a strain on his offense. He's logged between 36 and 38 hard, two-way minutes in three of the last four games, and has averaged 33.5 minutes over his last eight. Marion, 33, caught two breaks with blowouts over two depleted teams, Denver and Boston. Those are the only two games in the last eight in which he's played fewer than 30 minutes.
His offensive game paid the price Wednesday when the Mavs could have used more. He missed 10-of-13 shots and had eight points, yet still corralled eight boards, six offensive. It was the third time he scored in single figures during the eight-game stretch. By the time Marion finished fighting through muscled-up Lakers screens, the last thing he wanted to focus on was the nine games in 12 nights Dallas will play starting Tuesday.
"It’s tough, it’s very tough," Carlisle said, who reflected back on his playing days with the Celtics. "This was always one of the things Kevin McHale always used to joke about and complain about is that [Larry] Bird would be on one end hitting shots on a guy and talking trash to him and then McHale would have to guard that guy on the other end. And when you shoulder the kind of defensive responsibilities that we’re asking Shawn to shoulder, it’s going to take a toll on your offense and every night somebody’s got one of those perimeter players, it doesn't matter who it is."
Marion played "really exceptional" defense, as Carlisle described it, on Bryant, who has scored 29 total points in two games against Marion and the Mavs, equaling his league-leading season average. Marion stripped him in a late-shot clock situation in the third quarter that led to a Dirk Nowitzki 3-pointer. He forced a travel in the fourth by suffocating Byrant along the sideline and then he forced a bad pass.
Bryant finished the game 4-of-15 from the field with 15 points and is 11-of-37 in the two meetings. Yet, the Mavs haven't managed enough offense to win either.
Carlisle has tough decisions to make before the Mavs return to practice on Monday. West's injury complicates things and might hamstring Carlisle from making changes, but the coach has to wonder how much more he can ask of Marion defensively on a nightly basis. When West returns, Carlisle might have no choice but start West and bring Carter off the bench so that West can start games against most opposing point guards.
"The way it’s been going, he’s going to be on that guy," Carlisle said of Marion. "I’d like to give him a break sometimes, but on a night like tonight when we’re down and we’ve got no [Lamar] Odom, we’ve got no Beaubois, we’ve got no West...getting ourselves whole is a lot of what this is going to be about."
Except West won't be ready when the Mavs begin another monster stretch on Tuesday. And Marion, for better or worse, will assume the brunt of it.
DALLAS -- After the Dallas Mavericks held the league's highest-scoring team to 20 points below its season average and to 35.7 percent shooting, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl couldn't help but state the obvious.
"Dallas has turned into an incredibly good defensive team," Karl said after Wednesday night's 102-84 Mavs win. "I think we’re a pretty good offensive team and we couldn’t find many things."
Karl's team was also playing extremely shorthanded with starters Danilo Gallinari, Nene and Timofey Mozgov all injured. Still, Shawn Marion and company limited explosive point guard Ty Lawson to a single field goal and three points and two assists.
The rest of the league is realizing that Dallas is one of the tougher defenses in the league to get good looks against and score against. In fact, they just might be the toughest.
The team that looked as disorganized defensively as any in the first two games now shares the top spot of the NBA rankings in field-goal defense. The Mavs and Los Angeles Lakers are both holding opponents to 41.7 percent shooting. That's better than the Boston Celtics (41.8), the Miami Heat (42.5), the Chicago Bulls (42.7) and the Philadelphia 76ers (42.1), Friday's hard-nosed opponent.
Dallas also continues to move up the rankings in points allowed, giving up 91.3, tied for fifth with the Orlando Magic. Only Boston (87.1), Philadelphia (87.3), Chicago (88.0) and the Los Angeles Lakers (90.5) give up fewer points on average.
During this season-high-tying five-game win streak, the Mavs have allowed 92.4 points and 40.4 percent shooting. At the other end, Dallas has averaged 100.8 points, a significant uptick for a team that's been middle of the pack at around 94 or 95 points a game.
"Right now our efficiency on offense really helps our defense," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the Mavs shot 46.2 percent against Denver with 28 assists on 37 field goals. "It's going to be even more pronounced when we get on the road. It's important that we're tight in all areas. Philadelphia is going to be a different kind of team than [Denver] -- same kind of quickness, but a little different style."
DALLAS – At first glance, a backcourt featuring Jason Kidd and Vince Carter appears to be an ill fit at their advance age.
After all, somebody has to guard all the good point guards the Mavs will see. And almost all of the Western Conference contenders have one: Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, the Clippers’ Chris Paul, San Antonio’s Tony Parker, Denver’s Ty Lawson, Houston’s Kyle Lowry.
Shawn Marion can solve a lot of problems, including the mismatch issues with the geezer guard combo. At least, that's what the early evidence indicates.
We got a glimpse of how the Mavs might approach the opposing point guard problem on Friday night, when Kidd returned from a six-game absence. The Mavs stuck with Carter as the starting shooting guard instead of putting Delonte West in that spot and gave Marion the assignment of defending rookie sensation Ricky Rubio.
“This is nothing new,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Marion’s ability to be a defensive problem-solver regardless of position. “He’s been one of the most versatile players that we’ve had at both ends of the floor in the game in the last decade. It helps. He’s always up for those kinds of challenges, too.”
It worked wonderfully against the Timberwolves. Rubio had a so-so outing, scoring 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting and dishing out eight assists. Meanwhile, Kidd keyed a Mavs win, as Dallas outscored the Timberwolves by 23 points in Kidd’s 27 minutes.
Marion’s ability to defend point guards keeps Kidd’s lack of elite quickness from being exposed and limits the wear and tear on the 38-year-old. It allows the Mavs to continue starting Carter, who has by far the team’s best plus-minus this season, and ensures that West will be available to play all the backup point guard minutes.
It worked against Rubio. What about against an elite point guard like Paul? We’re about to find out.
DENVER – There are a lot easier places to snap a losing streak than the Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets are an NBA-best 140-36 (.795) on their high-altitude home court since the beginning of the 2007-08 season. They’ve won six of the last eight meetings against the Mavs in Denver.
Plus, the Nuggets have established themselves as a superstar-less threat in the Western Conference. The first four-game losing streak of the Dallas’ season is a distinct possibility, especially if the Mavs can’t figure out how to avoid repeating their recent post-halftime horror shows.
Then again, this is as good a time as any to face the Nuggets, who will be missing scoring leader Danilo Gallinari for about a month due to a severe left ankle sprain and have a few other rotation players nursing injuries. Denver has lost five of its last six games, including three in a row at home.
Records: Nuggets 15-10, Mavs 14-11
Where: Pepsi Center
Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Mavs will try to get out of a nasty offensive rut – averaging only 87.0 points during their three-game losing streak – against the NBA’s highest-scoring team. They better hope that Dirk Nowitzki’s sudden groove continues and that the guys who stepped up while the Mavs’ MVP was struggling can get going again.
Key matchup: Ty Lawson vs. Delonte West/Rodrigue Beaubois
Lawson, who has emerged as one of the West’s best young guards, presents a whole different set of problems for the Mavs’ combo guards, who are struggling to fill Jason Kidd's shoes. The lightning-quick Lawson is averaging 15.5 points and 6.4 assists, and he’s the primary reason the Nuggets average an NBA-best 21.2 fast break points per night. He’ll have the ball in his hands even more often with Gallinari sidelined. Lawon had 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the Nuggets day-after-Christmas rout in Dallas. West and Beaubois had enough on their plate anyway, struggling with the burden of orchestrating the Mavs’ out-of-sync offense while Kidd recovers from a strained right calf.
Injuries: Mavs – G Jason Kidd (right calf strain) is doubtful. Nuggets – F Danilo Gallinari (ankle) is out; C/PF Nene (heel) is questionable; C Timofey Mozgov (ankle) is out; SF Corey Brewer (personal reasons) is doubtful; SG Arron Afflalo (ankle) is probable; SG/SF Rudy Fernandez (back) is probable.
Up next: Mavs at Minnesota Timberwolves, 7 p.m., Friday.
The Miami Heat led by 35 early in the third quarter and the Denver Nuggets could threaten that with a 27-point halftime lead. The Mavs trailed 47-41 at the 6:28 mark. That's when Denver went on a 20-0 run -- that's right 20-zip. The Mavs only broke that up thanks to an illegal defense and Dirk Nowitzki free throw.
Dallas went 13 trips without a point. Meanwhile, Denver scored on 19 of 25 second-quarter possessions, so there's that for the Mavs' defense. To end the final 6:28, it was Denver 22, Dallas 1.
The Nuggets backcourt of Ty Lawson (21 points, 8-of-9 FGs) and Andre Miller (14 points, 6-of-8 shooting) has killed the Dallas defense with drives to the bucket and splashing wide open 3-pointers. They're 5-of-6 combined from beyond the arc.
On the other side, the Mavs have 10 turnovers turned into 18 Denver points. Dallas is losing on the boards, 26-15, losing points in the paint 34-10, second-chance points 8-2 and fastbreak points 12-4.
Dirk Nowitzki has 10 points and Jason Terry and Jason Kidd each have six. Al Harrington has 14 for the Nuggets, who shot a Miami Heat-like 57.4 percent in the first half.
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