Coach Em Up: Jet's Failure To Launch vs Spurs

Jet is a key to Mavs success, a consistent end-game killer - in the regular season. The playoffs? Different story. Is it just Terry wilting under pressure? When we study those situations of Spurs-Mavs in the playoffs, we see more logical explanations. With Spurs-Mavs on tap for Friday, We use X's-and-O's, words, pictures and video to diagnose Jet's ‘Failure To Launch' - and to offer solutions.

We think most of Jet's failures with the Dallas Mavericks come playoff time can be traced back to what we'll call the "Spurs Blueprint."


When the post-season rolls around, there are two standard philosophies when it comes to defending the Mavericks:

One, stop Dirk at all costs.

Two, set up Dirk to play one-on-one and make it tough on everyone else.

The Spurs' Gregg Popovich has routinely been on the side of the latter concept, creating massive roadblocks for everyone else on the Dallas roster not named "Dirk.''

On the most elementary level, it makes so much sense. Look at the Mavs' winning percentage when they score 100, or when five-plus players reach double-figures, or when Dirk and someone else score 20-plus.

The numbers are pretty staggering, but Dirk can't score 100 by himself.

So the strategy: "Let'' (in the loosest sense of the work) him get his. And focus on stopping the more stoppable Mavs.

So what, exactly, do the Spurs do that has been so potent? They tradionally run what can be termed a "soft-double" at Dirk when he catches the ball in his favorite spots. This soft-double-team allows the defense to deter Nowitzki driving into the middle while not giving more than a few feet away from a shooter.

Check out this clip from last year's playoffs (we've slowed some of our videos to 50-percent speed for easier evaluation):

Dirk catches the ball in his favorite mid-post spot. You can see that Manu is playing centerfield here and Parker is splitting the difference between Kidd and Terry. If Dirk makes a move to the middle, Ginobili will come for the full-double and Parker will wait for the pass to be made before rotating to the shooter. If Dirk does what the Spurs want him to do, and drives baseline, McDyess will step over to prevent the easy lay-in and Ginobili is in the passing lane to deny the kick-out to Terry.


Conversely, when Terry gets the ball on the move, San Antonio will immediately double-team him. (Let's make sure we get this: The Spurs DON'T really double-team Dirk. They DO really double-team Jet.)

Now, Terry is many things, but "patient'' is not one of them. By running a double at him immediately, the Spurs – who know how Terry's high-octane offensive motor pushes him to impatience -- are hoping that he will either force a shot or make a sloppy pass that allows them to recover.

Watch the following clips:

In every one of these clips you can see that Terry is met with two defenders every time he goes around a screen. If Dirk is the screener the weak-side guard will rotate to him quickly, but if it's Dampier or Haywood the Spurs are just going to leave him alone.


Assorted strategies and strengths and weaknesses all are puzzle pieces that teams must fit together. Note our previous "Coach ‘Em Up'' studies … and recognize that as we talk about Jet, this is where the "Chandler Effect" and the "Peja Presence" can come into play.

Are the Spurs really willing to let Chandler roll to the rim without an escort? Are they OK with leaving Stojakovic alone for the corner 3? We strongly doubt it. Their talents give Jet and the Mavs some hope here.

The other interesting thing the Spurs do defensively is apply some token full-court pressure to Kidd and Terry. This is done with the express intention of wearing them down by the end of the game and eating some valuable seconds off the shot clock. No legs at the end of the game means missed shots. Being rushed at the end of the shot clock means missed shots. Applying token pressure forces the Mavs to initiate each set further from the basket and rush through each set just a little more in order to make up for the time lost bringing the ball into the front court.

All of those things result in lower percentage shots on a given possession and tired legs come crunch time. The Spurs can get away with this because they believe they are (or have been) deeper in the backcourt than the Mavericks.

The Mavs can hope that thanks to the development of Roddy B (and maybe help from others) the gap has closed this season.

So how can Terry (and therefore the Mavs) have success against the "Spurs Blueprint?"

For starters, this is something they've never had before:

Furthermore, this year's edition is equipped with more shooting than they've had in a long, long time (maybe going back to the 02-03 Nash-Dirk-Finley-Van Exel days). The improvement of JJ Barea and Rodrigue Beaubois along with the addition of Peja Stojakovic means that the floor could be far too spread out for the Spurs to effectively run double-teams at Terry every time he comes around a screen. If the Spurs are going to give enough respect to all of the Mavericks' shooters, we are going to see quite a bit of this:

The other place where Terry has had success against this type of defense is when the Mavericks abandon the two-man game and start running the curl and post play with Jet and Dirk. Check it out:

When the Mavs run this action, Terry is either going to end up with a great look or Dirk is going to get a good opportunity in the mid-post. As you can see, when Terry makes his initial move, every Spur within a 10-foot radius reacts.


In this image, you can see that when Jet finally comes around the screen, McDyess has the choice of stopping Terry or staying on Dirk while Parker chases behind. Or, there's another choice that is even worse: McDyess and Parker could simply switch. But that would result in an easy turn-around shot for Dirk over the smallish Parker.

If the Mavericks can do more of this, Terry is going to have a very good chance to succeed.

The other wrinkle that could make a difference for the Mavs is the Terry-Chandler screen and roll. Check this clip from the Jazz game:

Unlike previous Mavs centers, Chandler can go above the rim to finish a lob, so he has to be accounted for. If there are shooters surrounding the arc there is nowhere for the double to come from. You can see in the still shot that four out of the five Jazz defenders actually move towards the paint because they are so concerned about Chandler or Terry. Their concern is so great they leave Dirk alone in the weak-side corner, which is obviously a benefit to Dallas. (Worth noting: Dirk from the corner is as much a part of the Dallas attack this season as it has ever been. It's as if Dallas is flexing this gameplanning option in preparation for what is coming.)


We're not ready to predict that Terry is going to continue to produce points at his recent regular-season clip come playoff time. Strategies aside, it still comes down to shot-making, and jump-shooters sometimes miss shots.


We still expect the Spurs (and just about every other playoff opponent Dallas might face) to follow the blueprint outlined here. But we do believe this roster, using these strategies, represent the best opportunity Jason Terry will ever have to demonstrate that his regular-season brilliance CAN translate to postseason success.

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