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1. The Dallas Mavericks played a pretty good game last night signifying how far they’ve come as a team in Oklahoma City last night. But they still lost to the Thunder 95-91.
It was impressive how Dallas was able to maintain their lead despite losing Brendan Haywood in the opening minutes and getting beat on the boards all night. Shawn Marion grabbed 10 rebounds but no other Mavs had more than five. The Thunder got several second chances on possessions and, most importantly, got to the free throw line a lot more in this game.
With Brendan Haywood out, the Mavs paint defense was much weaker than usual. Lamar Odom wasn’t much help as he slumped back down to Earth with just six points and two rebounds in 24 minutes. As a result, Kevin Durant attempted as many free throws (10) as the Mavs did as a team. OKC made several more trips to the line with a 33-10 edge in free throws. Admittedly, there were a couple of questionable calls made toward the end of the game, but it doesn’t change the fact that Dallas really suffered this loss because they didn’t have control of the paint.
Technically, they outscored Oklahoma City underneath the basket, but accounting for the foul shots made as a result of their more aggressive play, the Thunder gain the edge back.
Based on one of those bad calls at the end of the game, Jason Kidd accused the refs of not treating the Dallas Mavericks like they deserve to be, as champions. But the problems that Dallas has had in getting to the free throw line has more to do with the way their offense runs than them getting “respect” from the referees.
Dallas doesn’t have slashers that get to the basket. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry aren’t the kind of guys that drive into the paint to run the offense. Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones are the only guys on the roster that do this. Beaubois plays off the ball when he’s on the court (he played 21 minutes and scored nine points last night) and Jones rarely plays now that the Mavs have Beaubois and Kidd back.
Dirk Nowitzki plays with his back to the basket, but his moves to the hole are only made effective by his deadly fallaway, which he’s rarely fouled on. And no big man has the offense run through them to the point where they’d slow down the game and pound it in to someone like Haywood, Odom, or Ian Mahinmi.
The Mavs rank 25th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game. The teams in the top 10 are versatile and athletic (Denver, OKC, Indiana, Miami) while the teams in the middle ten rely a lot on their size (Grizzlies, Lakers, Trailblazers).
The Houston Rockets surprisingly have this same problem. They actually rank lower than Dallas in free throws per game and, just like the Mavs, it has to do with their lack of size in the middle which has been the bane of their season. San Antonio ranks 19th in the league with Tony Parker leading the team in free throws per game and Tim Duncan right behind him.
What separates Dallas from the rest of the Lone Star State though is that their ceiling is higher when it comes to their championship chances because they have Lamar Odom. And, if he can somehow figure out how to help the Mavs become a more aggressive team… well, we’re not holding out breath on Lamar Odom.