Here we are — two peas in a pod.
Both the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves have been survivors through the first two weeks of the NBA season. We both lost our star power forwards for about a month to start the season. They’ve lost Shawn Marion after a hot start; we’ve lost Chase Budinger, JJ Barea, and parts of Brandon Roy after our hot start. This leads to the inquiry by some as to whether or not this basketball team or even Minnesota sports in general are cursed.
I have a hard time believing in curses because I’ve never experienced a ghost or any paranormal activity, I’ve never believed in astrology, and I don’t watch wrestling anymore. Most injuries are freak occurrences and largely coincidental. Look at a team like the Knicks. They’ve lost significant players for key stretches over the last year due to injuries. Nobody thinks they’re cursed. The Golden State Warriors can’t seem to stay healthy. There isn’t a wide contingent believing they have a paranormal target on their backs. The Blazers have lost more players due to injuries over the last few years than anybody and nobody thinks they are curs… well maybe that was a bad example.
I think the Wolves are dealing with injuries in the same way many teams deal with injuries. It just happens. Luckily the Wolves have actual, tangible depth this season on the roster. They’re far more equipped to deal with it than a lot of other teams are prepared to do. It’s part of the reason the team is 4-2 so far. Love will be back in a couple weeks. Ricky will be back in a few weeks after that. Roy and Barea could be back any day know. Chase should be back within two months.
Maybe the Wolves are getting injured a lot but I’m just happy the coaching staff has brought in the right guys to deal with it.
For today’s 3-on-3, I’ve got two of the best Mavs’ voices in the business. Rob Mahoney of SportsIllustrated.com and TheTwoManGame.com is also the author of Mavericks Stampede: Dirk leads Dallas to the 2011 NBA Championship. He’s smart about the Mavericks and less smart about basketball movies (he loves Sixth Man). LJ Rotter from MavsMoneyball.com is the managing editor for SB Nation’s Dallas Mavericks blog, which manages one of the more fun Mavericks communities on the internet. She has a fantastic handle on everything Mavs and everything that happened inside the SB Nation Vegas Summer League house.
Let’s do it to it.
Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated: Dallas has surprised with an instantly cohesive offense, which is pretty unbelievable considering the turnover on the roster. Only three of the eight Mavs averaging 20+ minutes per game this season were with the team a year ago: Vince Carter, Brandan Wright, and the currently inactive Shawn Marion. Without any kind of familiarity or joint experience to use as an offensive foundation, Dallas should be somewhat disjointed. But O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, Jae Crowder, and Elton Brand have assumed their proper places in the rotation without issue, and helped push the Mavs to a flabbergasting offensive start. Rick Carlisle is among the best in the league at making sense of a seemingly broken roster, and his strategic talents have been put to great use with a bunch this versatile and energetic.
LJ Rotter, Mavs Moneyball: This is a question many of us have been asking ourselves! One thing this team has consistently been able to do is rely on role guys to step up at different times. They never know exactly who it will be, but Dallas always has a stable of players with specific skills (Marion’s defense, Mayo’s outside shooting, Murphy’s rebounding) that collectively add up to compensate for Nowitzki’s absence. If you look at those losses, they’re obviously games where Dirk would have likely been able to change the outcome because of his poise and willingness to hold the team together late in a game.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: Rick Carlisle is just such a great coach. You could tell me you think he’s the second best coach in the NBA behind Gregg Popovich and I would have a hard time disagreeing with you. The players just buy into what he’s selling and the system is good and proven. They find a way to plug guys into the system, believe it will work, and he’s tweaked the attack based on the new personnel just enough to stick to what they do well while maximizing the weapons at their disposal. Much like the Wolves have done to piece together a good start to the season, everything with the Mavs is a collective effort.
2. OJ Mayo is shooting 60.9% from 3-point range. Any chance this stops tonight?
Mahoney: Considering how ridiculous Mayo’s shooting percentages have been thus far, I’d say there’s a chance he’ll take a hard fall back to earth at just about any given minute. Dallas’ offense has helped Mayo a ton, and he’s done well to improve his shooting efficiency by working through full possessions as opposed to settling for the quick pull-ups that were his staple in Memphis. But that three-point shooting percentage is only as outstanding as it is temporary; Mayo will trip at some point, and Dallas can only hope that he settles in somewhere around 40 percent when the dust clears.
Rotter: Is there a chance? Of course. O.J. Mayo is shooting insanely well and his percentage seems statistically unsustainable. A regression towards the mean is always waiting just ahead. But then again, he has expressed how much he likes playing for his new team, and how much he’s enjoying his current role as primary scorer. Something about it has him playing out of his mind and if the other players continue to find him shots, I think he’ll keep making them. His stroke is just too pretty.
Harper: I’ve never been a Mayo guy. I’ve looked at him like a shooting guard version of Michael Beasley thus far in his career and wanted the Wolves to avoid getting into a bidding war for his services. He’s never been much of anything other than a volume scorer with Memphis. So far, Mayo’s shooting in Dallas has been incendiary and it’s boosted his impact on the court considerably. I’m still not sure he’ll be a great productive player when the shooting calms down. I hope he slows down tonight because I’m selfish.
3. The Wolves are all kinds of banged up. The Mavericks are pretty banged up themselves. What’s the key factor in deciding tonight’s game?
Mahoney: Which team can best upset the other’s balance. Both Minnesota and Dallas are staying alive without their respective stars by running fairly deep rotations and drawing heavily from a handful of contributors, but plenty of this game’s individual matchups have the potential to upset either team’s equilibrium. The margin for error on both sides is equally thin, though, which traditionally makes for a compelling game. Let’s hope that’s the case tonight; one would expect two teams as well-coached as these to keep their wits about them when the scrap and scramble inevitably compromise the night’s natural order, but neither roster is entirely above seeing an otherwise competitive contest devolve into slop. That’s just the way of it for teams on the razor’s edge; dramatic though it may be, continuing on this same, dangerous path for long enough is bound to get a bit messy.
Rotter: If the last two games are any indication, rebounding and turnovers. The Mavs have scorers. They show flashes of sophisticated defense. But they have absolutely shot themselves in the feet by giving up rebounds and giving away the ball. Having Shawn Marion would certainly help mitigate the rebounding problem but Troy Murphy will have to suffice. As for turnovers, Dallas can’t slow down because their tempo is what often gives them an advantage. What they need to do is make better decisions with the ball and keep the Wolves from capitalizing on their mistakes.
Harper: I have to answer with rebounding and turnovers too. The Wolves are so inconsistent with taking care of the ball and Darren Collison has been known to get fumbly with the basketball. I think if the Wolves can win the turnover battle or at least keep it under 17 for the game while getting back in transition when they do turn it over, they can steal one on the road. But we may need to see a giant night from Nikola Pekovic on the boards to make all of this happen.
Place: American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas
Time: 7:30pm Central Time
Viewing and listening pleasure: FS North tonight and you can listen to it on 830 WCCO.
Records: Wolves are 4-2 and Mavericks are 4-3.
I’m only 2.5 surgeons confident right now. The Chase injury sucks because he was playing really well and the Wolves need shooting like he provides. The Mavs are banged up just like the Wolves are. Even on the road, Minnesota has enough firepower and depth to make a run at stealing this game. Roy is a game-time decision, but if he can’t go then it’s up to Alexey Shved and Malcolm Lee to continue to provide good minutes off the bench.