D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Mavericks, Game 7
Washington visits Dallas, Texas, tonight to play the Mavericks, the first of back-to-back games in the Lone Star State. They’ll play the Spurs in San Antonio on Wednesday. Washington is coming off a valiant effort in an overtime loss to Oklahoma City. The Mavericks (4-3) won at Milwaukee on Saturday and should be well-rested for the Wizards.
Both the Mavs and the Wizards like to push the pace and have top 10 offensive ratings. But Mavs Head Coach Rick Carlise is worried about getting into a track meet with Washington. Carlisle isn’t sure that the Mavericks will be able to match Washington’s athleticism:
“We’ve got to win games on grit and guts. … We’ve got good athletes, but if you lined us up with [the Wizards] in Speedos, it’d be a wipeout if it was based on that.”
Teams: Wizards at Mavericks
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Venue: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Mavs favored by 5.5 points. Over and Under Line at 206
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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Q #1: Living in Wizards World, I will admit to having hardly watched any of Dallas’ games (seen some highlights, though). How would you summarize the team’s first two weeks of the season? Give me some insightful Mavericks deets.
@KirkSeriousFace: This is year three in a course correction for the Mavericks. After more than a decade of success culminating in a title, the last two years have been maddening for a fan base accustomed to winning. After Cuban hoped to woo Dwight, Chris Paul or Deron Williams, the Mavericks ended up with Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and Monta Ellis. This season has been about adjusting expectations and the general assumption among fans was that this team would be fun.
And it is, it really, really is. Dirk’s been healthy, and Ellis and Calderon are fitting in reasonably well. New comer DeJuan Blair is wreaking havoc as an undersized center and second-year rookie Jae Crowder has remembered how to play basketball. The team can’t defend to save its life, so it feels like a return to the early 2000s when Don Nelson coached some of the more insane squads in Dallas history. Two weeks in, I’m happy to watch basketball, even if it’s a bit disjointed as so many new players learn their roles.
Q #2: Calderon has given John Wall fits in the past. What has his addition meant to the Mavs? Monta Ellis hushed many national media types with his fast start. What has surprised you about his game?
@KirkSeriousFace: Last season, Dallas had a laughable point guard collection. Darren Collison was the initial starter, only to be uprooted by Derek Fisher, then the immortal Mike James. The addition of Calderon means the Mavericks have a player who understands what it means to command an offense. He’s an amazing shooter from deep, giving Dallas another option to stretch the floor when Dirk goes to work in the post.
Ellis is a different story. His hot start has really been an up and down affair once you look at his game-to-game numbers. He gives Dallas a player who can attack the rim consistently off the dribble and, outside of Dirk, that’s a role the Mavericks haven’t had since … Michael Finley in his early years? So far, I’ve really enjoyed his passing. He’s capable of some brilliant decision making and has much better vision than I would’ve imagined. Of course, this only makes his poor choices that much more frustrating, as he has a tendency to miss guys when he really puts his head down.
Q #3: How the hell is DeJuan Blair fourth in the NBA with 17 steals and first in steal percentage at 5.9 percent?
@KirkSeriousFace: I have no idea. Well, that’s not true.
His role in Dallas is that of sh*t starter. Blair’s job is to enter a game and cause problems, through pushing, shoving and hustle. How he’s still effective is beyond me. He’s 6-foot-7 and might have problems jumping over a phone book. There has to be something to how unorthodox he looks on a basketball court and how that plays into how his opponents rank him. As to his steals? That’s just crazy. The Mavericks are so weak in the big man department, they usually have no real rim protection, so the goal is to scramble. Blair has really quick hands in the passing lane and opposing point teams have tried to get the ball past him (usually on the bounce) once they get into the lane via penetration.
Q #4: The Mavericks and Wizards are kind of similar in that both have strong offensive rankings and and poor defensive ones. What is your Tuesday-night prediction and why?
@KirkSeriousFace: This is hard, because if John Wall decides he’s Russell Westbrook for the evening, he could score 35 on the Mavericks just by running fast at the basket. But he’s still a point guard and his inclination is to get the team involved. Dallas can score if they aren’t defended well, and if Washington gives the Mavericks any opening, they could be down by a lot of points in a hurry.
Judging by how well the Wizards have played the last two games (and after a maddening loss in OKC), I’m tempted to say the Wizards win this in a shootout late. But if it is a shootout, I have to go with my gut and say Dirk Nowitzki’s ludicrous shot-making saves Dallas in the end. In terms of raw talent, these two teams cause all sorts of match-up problems for one another, but I think Dirk has his first good shooting game in over a week and it pushes the Mavericks past the finish line.
Q #5: Can the Wizards keep up this torrid pace of 3-pointers?
@AdamMcGinnis: The raw 3-point numbers are staggering. Through six games, the Wizards are shooting 42.5 percent from 3-point line, ranking them fourth in the NBA. Washington leads the league in both attempts (27.8) and makes (11.8). They average 35.5 points per game from beyond the arc, 33.8 percent of their total points. Both of these stats top the NBA. Washington has made at least ten 3-pointers in five games and finished with nine in the other.
The individual 3-point shooting stats are outstanding:
- Bradley Beal: 20-for-42 (48%)
- Trevor Ariza: 15-for-38 (40%)
- Martell Webster: 11-for-27 (41%)
- John Wall: 10-for-28 (36%)
- Al Harrington: 10-for-23 (44%)
- Eric Maynor: 4-for-7 (57%)
This is pleasant surprise for a team that had the worst offense in the NBA last season. Wall is pushing the ball up the court and finding open shooters in the corners. With Wall now a (more) legitimate shooting threat, the half-court offense is more effective, and the Wizards always have multiple guys ready for quick ball reversals. The fine play of Nene and Gortat has created space for open looks, too.
New York and Houston were leaders in NBA last season with around 10.5 made 3-pointers made per game. Golden State led the league, shooting 40.1 percent from downtown. Washington’s current shooting tallies are not too far in front of those end-of-year statistics. This means that the successful 3-point bombing could be a sustainable trend and not an anomaly.
Bradley, keep firing away and flashing those 3-ball goggles. Via Michael Lee of the Washington Post:
After watching his fifth 3-pointer drop on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Beal formed his thumbs and index fingers into circles and placed them over his eyes as he ran back on defense, grinning the entire way.
Beal usually maintains the same facial expression whether he’s making shots or not and might crack a smile if cajoled by teammates on the bench. But his playful enthusiasm on the night that he set a new career-high with 34 points in a 106-105 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder also signified that his early-season slump is behind him.
“The hoop was just like an ocean and I was just dropping rocks in it. That’s how big it felt. That’s how easy it felt, too,” Beal said, while adding that his 3-ball goggles were unscripted. “I was running out of celebrations. I didn’t know what to do after I made the 3, so I just started doing some stuff.”