After losing in Sacramento Monday night, the Golden State Warriors (30-37) will look to bounce back tonight when they host the Dallas Mavericks (47-20). Dallas lost a close game to Lakers last Saturday and also lost to the Portland Trail Blazers last night, which might have an impact them as far as playoff seeding goes; consequently they cannot afford to take any opponent lightly in this last regular season stretch.
On offense, Dallas scores 100.2 points per game (11th in the NBA) on 47.7% field goal shooting (third in the league). There is no other way to say this: the Mavericks can literally shoot the lights out. On the year, this team only averages 20.0 shots at the rim per game (28th in the association) and a mere 35.6 points in the paint per game (29th in the NBA).
As a result, most of their field goal attempts come from the perimeter. And yet, they are fourth in the league in field goal shooting, which says a lot about their ability to shoot the ball. Granted, good shooting teams need to be able to share the ball in order to get high quality shots; and the Mavericks are no exception as evidenced by their 23.6 assists per game (third in the NBA).
Indeed, the Mavs do a decent job of screening for their shooters who in turn assess whether they are open enough to shoot or if another player has a better look because a defensive player is in a help situation. Normally, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry get their numbers called in offensive sets and are able to deliver. After defenses adjust to thwart them, they figure out how to find players such as Kidd, Cardinal, Beaubois, Marion and Cardinal for open shots. The beauty of the Mavs offense is that they do not run typical isolation plays. Instead, they prefer to incorporate some off the ball movement even in isolation sets which often times results in a player catching the ball in movement from midrange for an open shot (that’s usually how Marion gets the majority of his runners).
If there is one area of concern for this team, although they are a terrific shooting squad as we can see from their 37.2% three point field shooting (seventh in the NBA), they attempt 21.1 three pointers (sixth most in the league) per game. On a night where shots aren’t falling from the perimeter (could be an off night or defenses could be closing out on shooters really well), the Mavericks might struggle to score.
On defense, Dallas surrenders 96.3 points per game (10th in the NBA) on 45.0% field goal shooting (11th in the league). The Mavericks defense is predicated on keeping teams away from the rim and they are able to accomplish that in part because of Tyson Chandler but also because they play collectively as a defensive unit.
In the event that a player gets beat, there is always another player that steps up and helps out his teammate. It usually forces them to rotate on defense but they figure out a way to patch things and cover up for mistakes for the most part. The Mavericks might be the best “bend but don’t break” defense in the league because of that.
As it pertains to Tyson Chandler, his importance to the Mavs defense cannot be overstated. He does an excellent job of fighting post players for position and pushing them out of their preferred spots. Also, when opposing big men catch the ball in the post, he sits on their go to move and is thus able to contest their shots and force a miss. In addition, he does a good job of helping and recovering in the pick and roll action.
According to Hoopdata, the Mavericks only allow 23.3 shot attempts directly at the rim (10th in the league) and this is a result of the team’s effort to keep the ball away from the rim but also because Chandler anchors the team’s defense.
His overall impact really seems to jump out when he goes to the bench. Brendan Haywood is a serviceable big man, however he is no Chandler. Indeed, Haywood gets sealed off easily for post position and is not always active defensively. He does not react quickly to loose balls and is also foul prone. Consequently, teams prefer to attack the Mavericks interior defense when Haywood is on the floor.
Given the fact that Dallas plays well as a unit on defense, they are one of the few teams in the NBA to use the zone defense for extended stretches. The strategy helps keep teams outside of the paint and force perimeter jumpers. The tactic also helps offset one of their weaknesses on defense: midrange shooting. The Mavericks do not allow many shots from three point range or at the basket, however everything in between is tougher for them to defend because teams often try to take advantage of players such as Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowiztki by posting them up or taking them off the dribble. This explains why the team surrenders on average 12.4 shots from 3 to 9 feet (eighth most in the NBA) and 8.1 shots from 10 to 15 feet (fourth most in the association).
To help offset that, Dallas employs the zone. The one problem with the zone though is that teams essentially concede shots to some areas on the floor depending on which shooters are on the court.
For the Warriors to win, it will be important for them to find their shooters and get them the ball once open. Also they will have to limit the Mavericks’ shot opportunities at the basket. In the previous match up, Dallas manufactured 28 such attempts and also snatched 16 offensive rebounds. The Dubs will have to match the Mavs physicality around the basket to protect the basket area and control the boards.
Dallas game notes: In his last five games, Shawn Marion is averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 block per game on 55.2% field goal shooting.
Golden State game notes: Since the All-Star break, Stephen Curry has been averaging 20.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists on 49.2% field goal shooting and 48.5% three point field goal shooting.