Mavs Tuesday Donuts: The Game 2 Alterations
Among the pantry-full of issues raised by the Mavericks' Game 1 effort, the biggest problem to me is that the Houston Rockets just simply looked faster and more aggressive in Game 1 of this series.
There’s no metric that I can quote to show you this is true ... but if you watched the game you know it’s true.
Sleepwalking through quarters and halves has been a recurring theme with the Mavericks throughout this season. In spots, it feels like there’s no urgency and that the veteran players are wandering through crucial parts of games assuming their names alone are worth 10 points and that they can fade any deficit. That’s fine when you’re playing the Kings on December 14th and they’re just waiting for an opportunity to quit. Good teams will make you work your ass off to climb back into games and playoff teams will wear you down to the point where you’ll have nothing left for a second punch which will be necessary.
The Mavericks trailed by as many as 15 in the first quarter and eventually stormed back to take a brief three-point lead before half but in the end (see our Game 1 story here detailing the 118-108 loss) what did that cost them later in the second half?
“We’ve just got to be a little more ready,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “I thought there were a couple of things that were too easy there, and we were kind of a step slow.”
There simply is not enough time to address all of the things that I didn’t like about Game 1 during the Mavs' full system failure ... so here’s a list. Most of them I will address but some of them we won’t have time for ...
-Targeting Dirk on defense
-Dirk’s lack of touches Do we know he needs 15 shots better than the Mavs know it?
-Dirk lazy passing
-Transition defense despite hedging offensive rebounds to get back
-Allowing Harden to assist and secondary assist
-Playing with zero edge
-Way too many Amar’e post-ups early in possessions
-Barea dribbling the life out of the ball
-Not finding open Parsons in the corner
-Not enough Aminu minutes
-Somehow not defending the paint or perimeter
-Poor three-point shooting
-Not forcing turnovers
-Terrible ball movement
-Not taking advantage of Houston’s lack of a rim defender without Howard
-Allowing below-average defenders (Terry, Capella, Smith, Prigioni) dictate your ball movement
-Outpacing Houston by 14 possessions but losing by 10 points
-Turnovers on the fast break
-Harden’s free-throw total
-Not challenging Harden on defense
-Not denying the ball or playing passing lanes
Fish picked his "favorite'' "What Went Wrongs'' here. You do the same. Pick your five favorite and I’ll pick mine and explain to you why the Mavericks have zero chance if they don’t correct them by tonight.
Let’s start with the thing that nobody wants to talk about, Houston exploiting the fact that Dirk has become the worst defensive player in the playoffs.
We as a collective were hoping that this would wait for one more year or at least one more series. That doesn’t appear to be a luxury we have. That wolf is at our backdoor.
The Rockets took the early lead by targeting Dirk on defense and then jumped back in front later in the game by focusing on Nowitzki on the opposite end (in the rare moments that the Mavericks weren’t forced to play zone defense). What Houston was doing in specific was initiating the pick-and-roll by having Nowitzki’s assignment be the screen-setter. This repeatedly created a situation where Dirk was either switched onto Harden or chasing Terrence Jones back to the backset, forcing Tyson to rotate up and leave Dwight Howard open.
When the Mavericks started countering that tactic, the Rockets began to set horizontal pin-down screens on Dirk with the big he wasn’t guarding, creating a lob situation at the basket as Tyson Chandler chased the action back towards the hoop.
The Rockets could have done much more damage than they actually did in these situations. There were at least three turnovers caused by bad lob or entry passes to Houston’s bigs that just weren’t on point.
Dirk can’t guard any of Houston’s bigs. They’ll exploit him to the point where it cripples the rest of the scheme. The numbers read as a 114.3 defensive rating -- nearly 10 points higher than his regular-season tally of 104.8, and 13 field-goal attempts with Dirk defending with Houston hitting a 53.8% clip. His season average was 11.3 field-goal attempts against with a 49.5% field goal percentage.
If the Rockets' offensive action involved a scenario in which Dirk was being screened or responsible for diagnosing the screen, it was murder on the Mavericks defense.
My solution: let Dirk guard Ariza. The Rockets' bigs are too athletic and strong for him to do any damage against, specifically in pick-and-roll situations. I don’t assume the Rockets would run much pick-and-roll with Ariza being the screen-setter or screening for him. The basic premise is that even if Ariza creates a scramble situation, the Mavericks have a few extra seconds to react to the problem because it would be along the perimeter. Ariza is a decent shooter and ball-mover but he’s not much of an attack-off-the-dribble guy and he isn’t a pick-and-roll specialist.
Yes, Ariza could get hot from three but it’d take that possibility over demoralizing lob dunks or kick-out threes.
In this scenario Parsons or Aminu would guard Terrence Jones or whomever Houston wanted to play at the 4. This makes much more sense to me.
Let’s examine what Dirk did in the second half. Once you get done being pissed about how unacceptable his lazy passing turnovers were you’ll realize that Dirk actually shot the ball really well but didn’t touch the ball enough.
Dirk was getting calls and knocked down most of his 14 shots. So, three other Mavericks players got more shots than him and they went a combined 17-of-47 from the field. Amar’e almost eclipsed his shot total yet he only played 15 minutes. Nobody else made more than 7 shots. Dirk made 10.
Yes, the turnovers were atrocious but they weren’t in situations where Houston was crashing him on the offensive end. They were just poor-judgement passes that didn’t match the tempo that Houston had set.
It was pretty clear that was something they had been coached up on defensively. That was Dirk’s sixth career playoff game of six or more turnovers in his 136 career playoff games. That was only the fourth time in his playoff career that he’s shot fewer than 18 combined field goals and free throws and the first time since Game 4 of the 2011 series against the Lakers. All of the other three instances came in 20-plus-point wins or losses. Dirk averages 18.3 shots per playoff game for his career and it’s for good reason even in his advanced age.
I really wouldn’t care how many shots Dirk took when he makes 71% of them so long as other players were knocking down their looks but they weren’t. The rest of the Mavericks team shot 40% from the field in Game 1. Dirk needs more looks and should be featured for extended stretches of the game. so he can be allowed to be "Playoff Dirk.''
The Rockets will turn the ball over. It’s in their DNA. They had the third most turnovers in the league this season and averaged an incredibly large amount against the Mavericks in particular (18.8). So, why did the Mavericks turn the ball over as if they were the Rockets and vice versa?
Dirk is a big part of that equation.
Six turnovers from a guy that isn’t a primary ball-handler is absurd. The 17 total turnovers weren’t great but that’s not a crippling number. What was crippling is the amount of turnovers that happened on Mavericks fast-break opportunities and how many happened in the backcourt, creating easy Houston points, 23 to be exact.
The majority of this is to be expected when you look at the outline of how Houston goes about winning basketball games, but the one thing that’s the outlier is the lack of Rockets turnovers. Houston has mastered the art of the high-risk pass and by “mastered” I mean “gotten proficient enough at it to where it doesn’t cripple their offense.” When the Mavericks were forced to switch to a zone defense, they lost their ability to play passing lanes aggressively and stopped forcing turnovers. After picking off the Rockets 11 times in the first half, they only drew 2 second-half oskies. The Rockets cough up the ball (3rd most) and they allow transition baskets (3rd most) but one doesn’t happen without the other.
The Mavericks can’t play zone against this team. If you take away their ability to create easy fast-break points then the playing field is no long even. This was one of the rare areas that I banked on the Mavericks having a decided advantage. Yes, they turned the ball over against the Rockets more this season than their normal profile displayed but you’d assume the Mavericks would resort back to form (low turnovers) and Houston would stay closer to their true character (high turnovers).
The other angle of not forcing turnover comes from the Mavericks perimeter defenders just turning and watching Harden move with the basketball. I’ve noticed this before. When Harden starts to do his flash mob routine the 2-3 players that aren’t involved in the offensive action turn and watch him and often times stop tracking their man. They do this so that they can intelligently bitch about the call that he’s about to get. It’s incredible.
Harden tallied a very noteworthy 11 assists (5 of which on threes) in game one and even had an incredible 4 secondary assists. You have to bait Harden into passes that aren’t there. You can’t be caught watching or playing a lazy zone against him. He’ll carve you up like he did.
Guess who else thinks Harden and Company needs to be made to work harder?
"We’ve got to pick up fullcourt and deny the wings, making things more difficult for them,'' Tyson Chandler said. "I think they were way too comfortable bringing the ball up the floor and way too comfortable getting into their offense.”
This is almost "Lesson in Lethargy II.'' Mark Cuban might be right regarding the Rockets "not being very good.'' But his players cannot think that. His players, tonight for the 8:30 start at Houston for Game 2, need to realize that in Game 1, Harden only made four shots and Dwight only played 17 minutes and the Rockets still dominated you.
This is the No. 2 seed. They are pretty good.
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Here is is. It's "The Playoff Primer For Smart People.'' It's long and busy and full.
The stuff in there was not only applicable to Game 1 ... it's even more applicable now. Please enjoy.
The Dallas Mavericks are listing forward Chandler Parsons and guard Devin Harris at "questionable'' for Tuesday after they sat out the team’s practice on Monday inside the AAC.
“They did not do anything today on the court,” Carlisle said. “They did lifting and some rehab work. They’re listed as questionable and see where we are tomorrow.”
The Mavs are down 0-1 in this first-round series and obviously would like to have all hands on deck. But Carlisle suggests a decision about his two players' availability might not come until just before tip-off.
"We may be able to update you in the morning, we may not,'' said the as-always-coy Carlisle.
Parsons missed the Mavs’ final six regular-season games with a balky right knee. He played 37 minutes in Game 1 but left for a moment in the second quarter for treatment on the knee. Parsons, the former Rocket who was booed every time he touched the ball, was not especially effective on Saturday, when among his issues was on 0-of-4 effort from the arc.
“I thought he played well,'' Rick said, "considering that he hadn’t played in six games.''
Harris sustained a "turf toe'' injury in Dallas' final regular-season game and its bothered him since. He exited Saturday’s game in the first half and did not return.
The Mavs returned to Dallas after Saturday's game, did not practice on Sunday, and departed for Houston on Monday after the AAC workout.
I really wish Monta Ellis would stop paving his road out of Dallas in such an ugly fashion. I mean where the hell was he in Game 1? When Dwight Howard was forced to leave the game because of foul trouble, Houston did not have a player on the court that resembled a rim protector. Still, Monta didn’t seem interested in asserting his will on this game. He drove the ball 8 times and shot 16.7% on those drives. It looked promising for Monta early, scoring 7 points in the first frame but he only tallied 9 more points for the entirety of the game ... and 3 of that came on a desperation three late in the third. That’s without mentioning how embarrassing he was defensively.
He was Harden-from-last-year bad on the defensive end. He looked like he was guarding a phantom that would only appear every 8 seconds or so. The only times I noticed Monta at all in this game was when I was yelling about why he wasn’t within 10 feet of an offensive player on defense.
Monta drew a 113.1 defensive rating for his Game 1 efforts and I thought that was gracious. He defended on 15 Houston shots and they hit 53.3% of them (+8.9% above league average). If Monta isn’t going to be engaged and Parsons is hobbled then you’ve got 3 players in your starting lineup that are defensive problems from the word "go.''
I can’t really explain how disappointed I am in Monta’s Game 1 performance. He was a ghost. We have to get more if this is going to be a series.
“We’ve got to come out and be the aggressor.'' -- Tyson Chandler.
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