Stats don’t lie… or do they?
For head coach Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks that phrase may be false when you compare the team’s record (12-5) with its inability to rebound the ball with any consistency since acquiring point guard Rajon Rondo in mid December.
In 12 wins the Mavs have a combined -37 rebound margin — including two games in which the team was beat on the boards by double digits.
In the five losses the margin increases to -48 and it includes three games the team lost the rebounding advantage by at least 10.
On the year the team is second only to the woeful Philadelphia 76ers in rebounds allowed (45.5) while only averaging 42.1 rpg.
Prior to the acquisition of Rondo the Mavs were an average rebounding team, but to acquire the all-star, GM and Director of Player Operations Donnie Nelson had to part ways with forwards Branden Wright and Jae Crowder and what was once already considered a problem is on the verge of becoming a full blown issue.
Being able to rebound the basketball is just as much about desire and positioning as it is about size and unfortunately in the 102-98 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Friday evening at the American Airlines Center neither were present for the Mavericks. Not only did the team lose the rebounding margin by 17, 47-30, Bulls guard Derrick Rose had a timely offensive rebound in the final seconds of the fourth quarter that ultimately sealed the victory.
And while Rose set the tone for Friday’s game by scoring 13 of the Bulls 30 points in the first quarter — including three three-pointers, it may have been his criticism of his teammates early in the week that was the real catalyst in back to back victories over Western Conference contenders.
Despite never leading, the Mavs were kept the game close the entire evening and were within two points, 100-98, when guard Monta Ellis was fouled on an acrobatic shot with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. On the night Ellis finished the game with 17 points, on 7-of-18 shooting, and also had five steals to go with four assists. On the season the ninth year vet is averaging 19.9 ppg and 4.5 apg and while he hasn’t publicly said it, owner Mark Cuban’s rant about the all-star game voting process was sparked because of Ellis not being named as a Western Conference All-Star starter.
While some will question whether Ellis is all-star worthy, Friday’s game showcased multiple players on both teams who will be in strong consideration for a roster spot when the reserves are named.
Dirk Nowitzki has been named to 12 all-star games and his performance Friday showed flashes of why he could make it lucky number 13 this season as he scored 24 points on 10-15 shooting and added seven rebounds.
Pau Gasol has already been named as an Eastern Conference starter and the 13 year man out of Spain has proven that a change of scenery was what he needed. Friday he scored 13 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and is averaging 18 ppg and 11.4 rpg on the season — not bad for a guy that many felt was washed up and on the downward spiral of his career.
In addition to Gasol and Rose, Jimmy Butler’s name is being thrown out as all-star worthy and while he had a quiet evening on Friday — 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting — he is posting career highs in all statistical categories including scoring (20.5 ppg) three-point percentage (35%) and rebounds (4.1 rpg)
One name that is being omitted from the conversation is Rondo’s and interestingly enough he was not seen in the stat sheet the last five minutes of Friday’s game as well. Was it ineffectiveness — he only scored six points on 3-of-9 shooting with just four assists — or just a matter of Coach Carlisle feeling more comfortable with someone else in the line-up at crunch time.
In the last eight games, including one that he missed because of Achilles soreness, Rondo only has played 30+ minutes in one game.
Could it be lingering effects from the injury or simply a matter of Carlisle trying to figure out which line up works the best… Whatever it is, it has to be frustrating to see the guy that you gave up a lot to get not on the court when it really matters.