The Mavericks still have it, tired legs and all. So does Bruce Bowen, at age 37. Old is new again at the TrueHoop Network.
Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game: "Part of me wants to cheapen this win. The voice in my head is telling me 'Well pffft, any team can win if they make their jumpshots and play half-decent defense.' This is entirely true, and the Mavs haven't had much trouble winning when they actually do those two things. Unfortunately, the defense tends to come and go with the shooting. But you know what? This one counts, and it counts big. The Mavs weren't killing the Blazers' playoff chances like they did to the Suns the night before, but they also implode when faced with adversity and low expectations. Myself and countless others hoped for a win in Portland, but generally resigned ourselves to the fact that the Mavs might go out and lay an egg. It was the second night of a back-to-back, they played an awfully good Portland team that has been ridiculously good at home lately, and when the Blazers offered some resistance in the second half, the Mavs had every reason to fold. They were on tired legs, and again, no one was scoring outside of Dirk and Terry. But they stood their ground, and as a team the Mavs came up huge. Dirk and JET took and made all the big shots, but the impact of players like Erick Dampier, Antoine Wright, and whoever invented the zone defense cannot be discounted.
So much of what the Mavs were able to accomplish in this game hinged on their play in the first and third quarters, which have been the most troublesome all season. They started things off well, and though they were down one at the end of the first, it was evident that this was the Mavs' game. The Blazers made their runs and had their chances, but it was a Maverick world and they were just temporarily leasing in it. The third quarter, in which the Mavs typically implode on their way to a double-digit loss, instead had the Mavs standing their ground against a Blazer resurgence. The storm was weathered, the Mavs bounced back, and the day was won. Huzzah!"
Graydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "At 37 years old, Bowen is undoubtedly in the winter of his career. Since joining the Spurs in the 01-02 season, Bowen started in every game in which he played before this year. During the Spurs' early season struggles, Popovich moved Bowen to the bench and decreased his minutes significantly ... Given Popovich's preference for veteran players (a tendency that has led him to continue to utilize several players far past their prime), Pop's decreased utilization of Bowen suggests Bruce must really have slid a peg or two.
But plenty of data (as well as the plain old tactic of trusting one's eyes) suggests otherwise. Bowen is most often used in the 4th most common 5-man unit deployed by Popovich. The four other men he most often plays with are Matt Bonner, Michael Finley, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. It's important to note that of the other four, two are generally regarded as defensive liabilities, particularly for the Spurs' standards. Of the five most common units, this group of players has the strongest defensive efficiency rating: 87.3 ... To put that rating in perspective, the best defensive team in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers, has a defensive efficiency rating of 98.4.
The fact of the matter is, Matt Bonner and Michael Finley aren't lockdown defenders. And although Duncan and Parker are both known as good defenders (Duncan is more accurately described as a 'great' defender), they can be found on the Spurs unit with the worst defensive efficiency as well. Like it or not, Bowen's presence on the court remains a (if not the) key factor in the Spurs having a good defense versus having a great defense."
Matt McHale of By the Horns: "I've tried to be patient with [Tyrus Thomas]. I've tried to defend him. I've tried to embrace the notion that he is part of The Future in Chicago. I've pleaded with Vinny Del Negro to give him minutes, to work with him, to focus on his development. But I've got to tell you: Tyrus is driving me nuts. He took 13 shots against the Magic. Two of them were attempted within his range (i.e., at the rim) while 11 of them were jumpers. Quick quiz: Is Tyrus Thomas a jump shooter? Quick answer: NOOOOOOOO! ... Why is he so quick to chuck it up from the outside? Dwight Howard was in foul trouble for most of the first half, but instead of taking it to Howard and trying to get him off the floor, Tyrus was content to just let 'em fly.
A lot of people hold Vinny responsible for Tyrus' lack of development as a player this season. But I can't believe that Ty's love affair with the jump shot is Del Negro's fault. I sincerely doubt he's instructing Tyrus to concentrate on his outside shooting. And if he is, I want him run out of Chicago on a rail.
Ty's coverage on pick and rolls was almost as awful as his shot selection. His lackadaisical help on the pick and roll led to three wide open layups for Rafer Alston during that killer third quarter. Tyrus honestly looked like he had no idea what to do in that situation. He didn't crash the offensive boards either. He finished with a measly 5 rebounds in 37 minutes. It was a lifeless performance."
THE FINAL WORD
Roundball Mining Company: A smart look at Denver's offensive woes (last night notwithstanding).
Hoopinion: Acie Law IV -- serviceable NBA point guard.
Raptors Republic: Toronto circles the drain.
(Photos by Sam Forencich, D. Lippitt/Einstein, Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)