Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks
7:30 p.m. PST
January 15, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. How has Darren Collison’s game developed since last year when he struggled in Dallas?
Kirk Henderson, MavsOutsider, (@KirkSeriousFace): I’m not sure that it has, actually. What’s changed is Collison has found and accepted a role to which he is perfectly suited. Dallas needed a floor general to manage the game, whereas Collison is an attacker and a scorer; arguably, he is an ideal sixth man. Not every player in the league can be a starter, but with this role, Collison should remain in the league for a long time.
Luke Laubhan, (@lukelaubhan): I’m not sure Collison’s developed so much as he’s regained some confidence playing on a team that better suits his talents and mitigates his flaws. It’s worth noting Collison did post a slightly above-average statistical season last year (16.3 PER) – he wasn’t terrible – but now he’s able to focus on transition offense and set shots and less on creating, where he can be turnover prone. Plus, Chris Paul is Collison’s personal point guard ballast.
Aaron Fischman, (@aaronhartf): I don’t know that he’s significantly improved in any area from a season ago. People tend to remember that he was replaced as Dallas’ starting point guard twice. And while it is true that the Mavericks won at a higher rate when he came off the bench, his per-36 numbers were comparable to this season’s. That said, playing with a better supporting cast, especially now that he’s starting, helps Collison find more openings on the floor and gives him extra confidence.
2. Why is Dirk Nowitzki still able to maintain such success late in his career?
Henderson: Past the fact that he is a tireless worker, Dirk’s success comes from his height and his skill shooting the basketball. Those two skills don’t go decline with age. Dirk is one of the best shooters in league history and for that alone he could hang around at least three to four more years. But when that’s combined with his 7-foot frame and his signature fade-away shot attempt, you get a player who’s aged remarkably well.
Laubhan: Because he’s an angel God sent to show us how basketball is played in heaven. That, or he’s the product of a mystical German training regimen issuing out of the Black Forest. Or Dirk is just an exceptionally hard worker whose game has evolved with age, and his unique shooting ability (patented one-leg fall away, trailing the break three pointer) is a modern take on another unstoppable shot that kept a legend playing: Kareem’s sky-hook.
Fischman: It’s no secret that Nowitzki is an amazing shooter, one of the best in the history of the Association. Guys like him tend to have long, fruitful careers, because they’re not so reliant on their athleticism. Make no mistake about it. He’s athletic in the sense that he can create his own shot (a la Reggie Miller or Ray Allen), but as he’s aged and lost a step or two, his game hasn’t declined much because athleticism isn’t central to his game.
3. Blake Griffin is averaging 26.4 points and 10.6 rebounds with 76-percent free-throw shooting over his past 14 games. Fluke or sustainable for the rest of the year?
Henderson: I expect his free-throw percentage and rebounding rate to continue at that level. The free-throw problems never did make much sense and Griffin has always been a stellar rebounder. If he managed 26.4 points per game he’d be third in the league so that’s about the only area where he could drop off. He’s currently 10th at 22.3, so it’s not an impossible leap. Overall, I’d say this kind of performance is quite sustainable. Blake is a superstar.
Laubhan: Not a fluke. Griffin averages 10.4 rebounds per game for his career. The scoring average might be a bit unsustainable, simply because opponents will adjust. But we’re watching Blake blossom under the sunshine of Doc’s love: having confidence in your coach and him having confidence in you, that’s a beautiful thing. More minutes, a better free-throw percentage, a lack of fear of being fouled, strides in the midrange, a tranquil temperament – all related to instilled self-belief. He won’t lose it.
Fischman: Griffin is clearly capable, but the points are probably the least sustainable. He’s been putting up big numbers without Redick and Paul both healthy. If Paul returns within five weeks as LAC hopes and Redick and Crawford stay healthy, Griffin won’t need to score as much. As far as rebounds, 10.6 won’t be a problem. A 76-percent free-throw rate is very doable for Griffin, but may not be sustainable. I believe he’ll convert over 72 percent the rest of the way. Let’s go with that.