The Difference is a recap on the game that was, with one bullet point for every point in the final margin.
- Without Dirk Nowitzki, beating the Toronto Raptors on the road seemed unlikely, so slowly watching a 21 point lead disappear into an eight point loss is down right frustrating. The Mavericks had a chance to steal one on the road against one of the better teams in the league and were unable due to excessively sloppy basketball. As the season winds down and the schedule tightens up, Dallas will wish they had a win against Toronto to give them cushion in the ever competitive Western Conference.
- The game changed in the second quarter with the insertion of journeyman Chuck Hayes (five rebounds, three score). His box score was more or less empty, with the exception of ‘plus-minus’ here he boasted an absurd plus-18 in a mere 17 minutes of action. Hayes changed the tone of the Toronto defense and it proved infectious. Whereas in the first quarter, Maverick ball handlers got wherever they wanted, in the second Hayes began hedging hard on screens, causing cascading problems for the Dallas offense. On plays where his man was not the primary screener, Hayes clogged up the lane, resulting in a number of strips. The aggression from Hayes bled over into his teammates, and the defense held Dallas to 52 points over the final three quarters of the game.
- That defense resulted in an uncharacteristic 21 turnovers for the Mavericks including a game deciding nine in the fourth quarter alone. Toronto scored a whopping 25 points off of those turnovers.
- Dallas can live with Monta Ellis being overly aggressive and the turnovers that sometimes result. Against the Raptors, most of the eight miscues from Ellis were a direct result of him trying to make something happen in response to a Toronto bucket. What Dallas can’t live with is his wandering, aimless, and downright terrible defense. As mentioned before, what Ellis brings to the table offensively usually outweighs his negative impact on defense. Against Toronto, though, his man DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 40 points. Obviously, DeRozan hit more than his fair share of shots against other Mavericks, but those only came after Ellis let him have a number of easy looks at the basket. Ellis must stop biting on pump fakes and be aware of where his man is.
- The Maverick pick-and-roll coverage was terrible. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to whether the ball defender was to go over the screen or under it or whether or not the help defender was to show on the screen, hedge hard, or play the middle. Part of this stems from the fact that none of the Maverick forwards or centers are very capable defenders out along the perimeter. Both DeJuan Blair and Brandan Wright attempted to play the middle of a pick-and-roll, showing towards the ball handler, then waiting for the ball hander’s defender to recover. It didn’t work very often as Toronto got a number of great looks off of the pick-and-pop and pick and roll.
- The re-post is a lost art in the NBA. Despite some stellar offensive work in the first quarter, the best offensive basketball play for Dallas happened half way through the third as the Mavericks struggled to hold on to their lead. After receiving the ball on the right block, Shawn Marion opted to kick it back out to Jose Calderon at the top of the key. Marion took this chance to seal his defender, who had relaxed a bit after the pass back outside. Calderon recognized this and immediately passed it back in to Marion, who took one dribble towards the center of the lane, drew help defense, and kicked it back out the opposite side of the lane to a wide open Ellis for a short corner three.
- A great example of the poor pick-and-roll coverage happened early in the second quarter, with Greivis Vasquez handling the ball while being guarded by Shane Larkin. Amir Johnson set a screen on Larkin which DeJuan Blair did not call out. Blair flashed at Vasquez then stepped back, waiting for Larkin to recover. It was too late, though, as Johnson rolled to the rim and caught an alley oop pass for a flush.
- Monta’s most hair pulling defensive mistake came with just under two minutes in the second quarter. He was matched up with backup point guard Greivis Vasquez, who used a right wing screen to get by Ellis. He then used a skip pass to Johnson who passed it to DeRozan on the opposite wing. As DeRozan drove, Ellis did not help off the right elbow, nor did he notice his man slide over from the wing to the corner. DeRozan then passed to the open Vasquez, who drilled the three over the outstretched hand of the very late Ellis.