On Tap: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  December 12, 2005

Is it the chicken or the egg with the Laker offense?

Read the local papers after the loss to Minnesota and the comments follow these lines: The Lakers stopped getting assists, stopped passing the ball, and so the offense struggled. The subtext: Kobe is too selfish.

But here’s the thing — watch the game and you’ll see the role players who have been hot got good looks but missed their chances. As a team the Lakers shot 47.1% (eFG%) for the game, right at their season average. However, take out Kobe and Lamar and the rest of the Lakers shot 36.5%. To put not to fine a point on it, when the rest of the Lakers hit their shots, Kobe passes more and the offense flows (as it did during the win streak), but if they go cold Kobe (and, to a lesser degree, Lamar) take the game on themselves because even in coverage they can hit more shots than whoever they pass to.

The rest of the Lakers are going to need to be hot tonight.

Count me in the group that is high on Dallas — I was saying they were the second best team in the West from the start of the season.

I was saying that because while many in the media cling to the “Dallas doesn’t play defense” theory from their run-and-gun era, the fact is they finished ninth in the league last season in defensive rating. This season they are ranked 12th at 104.5 (points per 100 opponent possessions). That is basically tied with the Lakers (104.6), and while they are not defensive stoppers just an average defense paired with the Mavericks’ great offense is going to win a lot of games.

As a team the Mavericks are shooting 49.4% for the season and have an offensive rating of 111.9 (points per 100 possessions), the third best offense in the league. And don’t confuse these Mavericks with the run-and-gun era in another way — Dallas is one of the slowest playing teams in the league, averaging just 87.4 possessions per game (25th in the league).

The one thing the Lakers need to do is keep Dallas off the offensive glass, the Mavericks grab 31.8% of their missed shots, the second highest percentage in the league.

Obviously, the Lakers need to find a way to slow Dirk Nowitzki (although who is going to do it, Kwame? Odom? Some combination?). He is averaging 27.4 points per 40 minutes played (fifth best in the league) and adding 9.4 rebounds (grabbing 14% of available boards when he is on the floor). He is also a +16.8 (meaning Dallas is 16,8 points better per 48 minutes when he is on the floor), also in the top 10 in the league. Nowitzki needs to be in the MVP discussions this season.

But what has made Dallas a contender is that others have stepped up around Dirk. Jason Terry at the point is shooting 55.4% (eFG%) and running the offense smoothly. Josh Howard has a PER of 19.8 and Devin Harris 18.3, both well above the league averages. Erick Dampier takes a lot of flak for his play inside (and deserves to on the defensive end, the Mavs are much better defensively when he sits), but he does grab a lot of rebounds (17.9% of the available boards when he is on the floor). And watch out for DeSagana Diop (+11.3) and Marquis Daniels (+7.8), good things seem to happen when they are on the floor.

If the Lakers are going to win, it may depend on Smush and Lamar to play at their best. The best places to attack Dallas are at the point (an opponent PER of 18.2) and at the four (16.1) because while Dirk’s defense has improved he can’t hang with Odom on the perimeter.

The Lakers need the supporting cast tonight to get back to playing like they did during the four-game win streak, and Kobe is going to have to be very efficient. More importantly, the Lakers are going to have to have one of their best defensive showings of the season. And on the road in Dallas, all that will probably mean the Lakers will have a shot at the end in a close game. Which is about all you can ask.

to On Tap: The Dallas Mavericks

  1. Kurt, I agree with almost anything you say but…

    “take the game on themselves because even in coverage they can hit more shots than whoever they pass to”

    … I can’t agree with this.

    I’d rather have Sasha hitting 15 shots wide open, than Kobe forcing 5 shots. They are professional players. They can’t stop playing team basketball just because other s are weaker that day.

    Nothing hurts more a player than seeing his teammate lost his faith in him. Maybe the Lakers would still lose the game with the role players missing their shots, but team chemistry would improve. No team is unbeatable (surely the Lakers are not) but passing the ball around even when losing is the way to go…


  2. Renato, I meant that more as trying to show Kobe’s motivation than a suggested course of action.

    But I think, at the end of games, that does and maybe should come into play. If, for example, Smush is 0-6 and you reach a key shot, is Kobe better shooting over the double team or dishing to Smush for an open 22 footer? I think that anwer may still be Kobe.

    Kobe is sharing more, he only took 20 shots against Minnesota. But he is surrounded by inconsistent talent right now.


  3. And, I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I say. What fun would that be?


  4. I will tell you though, watching that Minny game near the end when Walton absolutely fumbled away a great set up by Kobe I said to myself, “this is why he ends up shooting so much.” It’s not a matter of them not making the shots, in a lot of cases perfect gimmes become turnovers because they can’t even get a shot up.

    I know that isn’t the rule but it sure is a factor.


  5. Man Kurt you hit the nail on the head this time… I agree with you whole heartedly that Kobe is shooting more because of the reason that you stated. However I do agree with Renato in the fact that I know when I am playing and I am not shooting that well and the better or best player on the floor i.e. Kobe.. stops passing the ball to me all together it not only makes me want to play not as hard because I know that I am not even going to touch the ball but it also makes “kobe’s” shots harder because the other team can see what is going on. ( I hope that makes sense).

    I know that Dallas is beatable and I think that we have a legitimate chance at winning tonight, but my question is to Kurt.. why do you think that Andrew got the most minutes in a single game this year against the best team in the league right now. (Spurs) I watched that game and saw nothing but good things. Or as many good things as you could expect from an 18 year old rookie. Can we expect to see that anymore this year? or no because Kwame and George are back?


  6. How much Bynum plays is dictated in large part by match ups. San Antonio plays Duncan at the four and Mohammed or Nesterovic at the five. With Kwame out injured, the Lakers had to turn to Bynum to give them some needed size up front.

    I agree, he’s been better than I had expected this year and deserves more time. He’s adapting quickly, but still has a long ways to go.


  7. wow.

    i was disappointed after the minnesota game. how they lost, then the bitching about refs and talking about alibis and crap afterward. on the court they looked pretty satisfied with what they had accomplished so far with the 3 road wins. i thought they’d get killed tonight.

    kwame looked like a brand new man. not that i expect him to be able to sustain what he did in this game, at least for awhile, but dang. it was pretty amazing how instaneous his transformation came off tonight. all of a sudden good habits and plays were everywhere.

    his future is bright.


  8. One of the biggest contributing factors tothe Lakers’ recent wins is the fact that they brought up their shooting percentage. I believe its because they penetrated more often and getting those close field goals and lay-ups. We all know Kobe is almost unstopable close to the rim. He makes the shots even when foaled. Lets get the ball to Odom more often and penetrate instead of taking difficult field goals!


  9. wow…who’d a thunk it? Kwame Brown was the difference in this game, 6 for 6, doing all the little things, hustling, I don’t know what happened, but whatever it was, keep it coming!
    I wonder…do the refs really have it in for Mihm and Odom? of course they really blew it on that Kobe drive in the 4th qtr, and in the replay the same ref that called a silly bump foul on LO was the same one who (intentionally?) missed the call on Kobe’s drive…the guy was standing right there! perfect spot to see it…weird…
    what’s up with that?
    anyway, it was a well played, well coached game, pulling Kobe in the 4th was a good idea, let the other guys hold their own, learn they can do it without Kobe, which they did, and when he came back, with fresh legs, and a chance to observe the game, he was a factor iin a positive way. I have to give credit to PJ. and that he did it without getting Kb upset.
    it’s also great to see the second unit doing so well, Luke is a great facilitator, guys like Profit and George, Sasha, all rise to the occasion, move without the ball, cut to the hole, expecting the pass, and they are looking like one of the better second units in the league.