Mavs Monday Donuts: The 12 Things Going Wrong For Dallas - Fixes For Game 2 In OKC?

Our plans were not grand. They were humble. And then we were humbled further by having even considered them. The 12 Things Going Wrong For The Mavs ... and any fixes for tonight's Game 2?

Boy, we had some good ideas.

Not for the Dallas Mavericks to win this first-round playoff series against the gigantically favored Thunder, of course. Our ideas were much more modest than that. Review 'em: See David Lord's Seven (Non-Dirk) Keys To The Mavs Chances In OKC and see  Matthew Postins' "Mavs-OKC Playoff Primer'' (a fine read) ... we weren't being blind homers or preposterously optimistic and even our goals -- "make the series interesting'' were modest.

Or so it seemed.


"That was a shellacking," Dallas guard Devin Harris said after the 108-70 crushing in Game 1. "They came out and hit us. We couldn't make shots. It kind of affected our defense and we really couldn't recover."

Let's get back to the grindstone for tonight's Game 2, a 7 p.m. tip at Bricktown: The 12 Things Going Wrong For The Mavs ... and any fixes for tonight's Game 2?


The Thunder swept the season series. We have to think that for the Mavs to win, they have to do something somewhat different - and better - than they did in the regular-season matchups. And something besides "Ride Dirk.''

What Went Down

This one's easy. In Game 1, Dallas did nothing different, in a positive way. Dallas did nothing better than it did in the previous four meetings. And Dallas absolutely "Rode Dirk,'' in a such a way that in the Game 1 blowout, Nowitzki's .... points made him the only ......

A "second banana''? Nope. There was no other fruit on this tree. Tonight, there is a certain level of desperation in my mind because I don't even know who the "second banana'' is supposed to be, all part of the shell-shocked reality of having watched Dallas put up its lowest point total and lowest field-goal percentage (29.8 percent) in franchise playoff history.

And yet, Dirk is back at it as of Sunday's workout in OKC.


The Mavs certainly never slowed the Thunder in any game this season, allowing an average of about 113 points per game in the contests. Giving up that many offers plenty of stats to go around for all of them and makes them feel good about their games. So maybe, just maybe, playing the slowest pace possible might help a bit. The idea there would be that you have two stars, only one ball, and the fewer shots there are in the game, the more "needy" each might become for the ball. Maybe fewer shots throws one or the other off their game, or maybe they find a way to get theirs with nothing left for the rest of their team. 

What Went Down

Game 1 was such a blowout from the very start that the only reason KD and Westy got "fewer shots'' is because they were allowed to retire early. As it was, Durant totaled ... on shots and Westbrook ... on .. shots. The Mavs in Game 1 wished to control pace as they did to successfully close the regular season, thereby limiting possessions and keeping the score low ... and still gave up 108? Um, that's just one basket shy of OKC's regular-season average, which ranked second in the NBA.

Imagine if Dallas played at a normal pace? Yikes.

DONUT 3. JJB UP: What We Said

We called for Barea as the starter because it seemed to us he does a much better job than any of the other PGs at the three-pronged job of controlling the pace, getting good looks for the team, and making the shots given him. And hey, the runs of success the Mavs had both times when using Barea for an extended role as starter - a 4-2 stretch in late December-January and then his 5-0 record when he was starting the late-season wins -- offer pretty hard evidence here that JJB as "The Pinball Protagonist'' is a legit threat.

What Went Down

Barea did indeed get the start (nailed it!) and did so alongside Deron Williams. How'd it go? In short, for JJB, his groin problem flared up again, causing him to be shut down in the second game of Game 1, and he's now out for tonight.

"I'm very very concerned,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's a very very important guy ... Ray, Deron and Harris have to take up that slack. It's been a 'next-man-up' proposition all year long. We've been down bodies all year and this is no different.''

Ah, but wait, Coach. This IS different.

DONUT 4. DERON FOR 20: What We Said

It was our belief that the right guy to jump up offensively would be Deron Williams. Of all Dallas' point guards -- The Four Horsemen Trying To Prevent The Apocalypse (For more on these Four Horsemen, read Jonny Auping's fine Premium Mavs piece -- D-Will is the one most suited to drive-and-dish and to pick-and-roll and to hit outside jumpers and to create for himself. He's the most consistently multi-dimensional of the bunch, we think, and we were suggesting he might need to go get 20 points nightly to give Dallas a crack at this. But ...

What Went Down

Well, heck he's hurt, too.

The Mavs weren't saying this much publicly on Saturday. But we knew it to be true. It was the word inside the team now and it fits with The Eye Test of watching Deron in the first quarter of this game -- I'm just talking about mobility and comfort now, not the scoreboard -- and then watching him in ensuing quarters.

Rick is going to ask Deron to "take up that slack'' because JJB isn't going to be JJB ... and I'm telling you Deron is not healthy enough to make such a thing happen. On Sunday, he told the truth about what bad shape that sports hernia puts him in and Dallas listed him as doubtful.

Deron won't be the "slack'' guy. So ... more Devin? Trying to do all the things he does, all the things JJB does AND all the things Deron does?


The Thunder is a dominant rebounding team featuring five players who average at least 6.7 rebounds a game, a list that includes both of their star players (Durant and Westbrook) who give opponents fits by slashing with the ball and crashing the boards from the wings. But additionally, OKC plays a rotation featuring two big men on the floor at all times.

Worth particular note, we thought,  is Enes Kanter, their backup center playing only 21 minutes per, but who puts up huge rebounding and scoring numbers in those limited minutes (12.7 points, 8.1 boards). Did the Mavs have any success in slowing him this season? Nope. In the three contested games, he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds (four on the offensive end) in only 21 minutes. The 6-11 Kanter pounds the boards for put-backs with such success that almost two-thirds of his shots come from point-blank range.

Gotta solve him. I mean, he's a backup center. Solve this!

What Went Down

We thought maybe an answer here would be to play BigBall. And you did see Salah Mejri starting and you did see Zaza ending up with more minutes than him and you did see even JaVale McGee get a crack at this with 10 minutes of burn. But now in Game 2 you may need to go "big'' not out of "want'' but rather out of "need.'' Because Kanter was among the many OKC guys who were not stopped in Game 1.

And David Lee (foot) will be unavailable again, so as with Game 1's 56-33 loss on the boards, it still won't be good enough.


I'm cheating here ... This topic actually popped up in my Sunday morning radio conversation with Skin Wade on 105.3 The Fan, when we wondered if a little bit more of rookie Justin Anderson might be worth a shot. After all, he played 18 minutes with five points and three rebounds and two assists and, as I put it, "Maybe the rookie will lack the awareness of how unready he really is for this.''

Worth noting: Despite that eventual line, Rick played Justin only four minutes in the first half.

What Went Down

Or ... maybe 18 minutes with five points and three rebounds and two assists in his playoff debut is a darn solid start for the rookie, and maybe there is a way to not only play him more -- but to actually start him tonight in Game 1.

You'd be way more athletic. You'd be a little less "small'' because of the way he plays. Anderson could take a turn on Westy (yes, because he doesn't know any better than to think maybe he can do it) and you'd rely on Rick to juggle this just right. Skin's idea: If Anderson starts, start Zaza with him so there is a vet to balance the kid. Or ... if Salah starts, start Ray-Ray with him for the same reason.

I lean to more Justin Anderson in part because not only might it give the audience some "youthful hope,'' it might give Dallas' locker room a little bit of the same.

And now the Rick quote from Sunday:  "(Anderson's) obviously going to more involved going forward. I loved the way he finished the game."


The X Factor in this series? It has to be the coaches. Billy Donovan is a good coach but brand new to the NBA playoffs, and NBA history offers plenty of examples where the wily veteran coach pulls a few tricks out of his sleeve to befuddle the newcomer with a more talented team, and before you know it, the upset has happened. Carlisle is one of the best, and is known for his willingness to go outside the box when needed, so adjustments from game to game may be significant.

What Went Down

What if this wad's already been shot? Heck, you already started Mejri. You already paired Deron with JJB. You already played McGee. Charlie V was allowed to take eight shots in a playoff game!

Rotation-wise, what else is there?

A coach friend of mine was texting me yesterday offering up suggestions on varieties of zone defenses Rick could construct as a change-up, to which I respond politely: Do we think Carlisle and staff haven't already thought of all this and either a) used it ineffectively or b) discarded the notion in the belief it would be ineffective.

Maybe there are no magic tricks here.


We cited a specific pair of examples here. One was Deron's drive-and-kick, which needed to not result in "lazy'' passes. The other was picking poison in terms of defensive execution, understanding, for instance, that KD and Westy might get theirs but that not every other OKC guy needed to do the same.

These are little things, yes. And Dallas needs to do a thousand little things right to have a shot, yes.

What Went Down

D-Will had just two turnovers and the Mavs totaled just 12. But don't let that number deceive you, or else I'll throw at you this number: Dallas normal starting backcourt, Deron and Wes Matthews, were -40 and -32, respectively, in plus/minus.

And the defensive crispness? Skin cited a Game 1 play when Dallas closed way to aggressively on a Roberson perimeter shot, resulting in an easy basket, almost certainly not a strategy taught to Mavs defenders by the coaching staff.

There just isn't room for mental error here. Dallas didn't lose on a lack of physical ability alone in Game 1, and has one true way to close the gap in Game 2: Above the shoulders.


A post-game quote from Westy: "I thought we did a great job of coming out with a defensive mindset, especially against a good offensive team.''

Thanks, Russ, but it is my contention -- don't hate me for this! -- that Dallas really isn't a good offensive team, and really isn't a good shooting team.

Oh, with a full complement of players the Mavs can occasionally be effective getting to the rim (and even above the rim) and that's really how you show as a "good shooting team'' -- you shoot from one inch from the rim. And yes, there are streaks and stretches when this Dallas bunch pours it on on the offensive end.

But is Devin a naturally good shooter? Is Justin?

And is JJB a consistently good shooter? Is Charlie V? 

 What Went Down

In Game 1, the Mavs shot just 29.8 percent from the field, 4-of-8 from three and 61.5 percent from the line.

The poor free-throwing is a fluke. The rest of it is part-and-parcel with being a team that relies solely -- even after all these years -- on Dirk as the only guy who matches quality with consistency as a shooter.


Flashing back to something I mentioned in Donut 7: OK, so OKC’s Big 2 might get theirs. And they did, KD and Westy combining for 47 points in 56 effortless minutes. But how about if you limit Dion Waiters, who this year vs. Dallas averaged 14.8 points and 54.5 percent from 3?

What Went Down

Statistically, this goes down as Mission: Accomplished. In 28 minutes, Waiters managed just 1-of-9 for five points. But I actually read this as a negative, for it means a key guy who is eight notches deep in the OKC rotation did absolutely nothing on offense and his team still beat you by almost 40.

Want to be more depressed by a bookend number? Fellow Thunder bench guy Randy Foye -- who in his NBA career has had scoring seasons of 13, 13 and 16 -- played 18 minutes and was 1-of-6 shooting. So the Thunder won while getting almost nothing from a pair of quality bench guys who might be as good as some of Dallas' front-of-the-rotation guys ... and inevitably, Waiters will explode sometime in this series ... and Foye might, too.


This was all based on quotes from Carlisle and from Wes, the idea being that "just making the playoffs'' wasn't satisfying enough.

"I'm happy for our organization and happy for the fans,'' Matthews had said. "But we've still got a job to do.''

I'm still buying that the head is willing, that the heart is willing, that the Basketball Soul is willing ...

What Went Down

But that for all that will, the bodies are not able.

DONUT 10. What We Said

We took note of Salah Mejri's pre-Game 1 confidence as he talked openly -- not cocky stuff, but certainly confident stuff -- about his track record for shot-blocking against OKC. In a fun debate with our David Lord, I suggested that even though the 29-year-old rookie from Tunisia had a track record of success in rim-protecting against the Thunder, maybe "laying low'' would be a preferred tactic, D-Lord countering that maybe Mejri's comments would throw a monkey wrench into OKC's thinking.

What Went Down

Mejri wasn't ineffective because he expressed confidence. He was ineffective - no blocks and no baskets in Game 1 -- because he got attacked by a Thunder team that is very good going to the rim, because his gift as a shot-blocker is mostly as a weak-side shot-blocker, and because as Skin pointed out in our radio talk, "He has no base.'' That is to say, Mejri's lower-body strength is non-existent. So while he does have some jumping ability and does have a knack for timing, he is not going to body his way up and over KD when challenged.

I do like Salah's spunk, though.

DONUT 11. What We Said

We thought this would be more fun than having a 2-percent chance of a top-three lotto ball. 

What Went Down

The only fun the Mavs have had so far?

Hey, maybe we all just need a laugh so we hang out with comedian Amy Schumer, in OKC to put on a better show than the Mavs are presently staging.


We insisted, going into this thing, that "momentum in this series will be a fickle thing. Every game is so big, that an unexpected outcome in any one game will cause craziness. Until, of course, another unexpected outcome happens. We learn this anew every year, and we'll learn it again in 2016.''

What Went Down

Um, no.

Now, we're going to watch on TXA21 (maybe even from The Maverick Bar!) and we're going to discuss all day and night on Boards and on Twitter at @FishSports. And hey, Mavs research informs us that five teams in NBA history have lost a postseason game by 35 points and nevertheless come back to win the playoff series.

But ... um, no.


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