Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Difference In Game 3

The Warriors’ offense played on a bigger court than the Mavericks’ tonight.

Blame Dirk, blame a supposed lack of Dallas effort, or whatever, but I say that the Mavericks got blown out because Golden State was playing on a bigger court.

When Dallas was on offense, the lane was totally clogged with Warriors defenders, and yet there were no Mavericks open on the perimeter. There was nowhere for the Mavericks to go: if they went to the rim, they usually got blocked because the Warriors’ defenders were already right there. And yet Dallas never managed to get open shots on the perimeter.

When the Warriors were on offense, the court was completely spread with no one in the lane. Whoever had the ball just took his defender off the dribble, at which point the entire Dallas defense collapsed into the lane. They were usually too late, which meant the guy with the ball (usually Richardson or Davis) got to the rim for the layup. But if they did stop the drive, all four guys on the perimeter were open. If the driver kicked the ball out to one of them, all of the Mavericks’ defenders had their momentum moving toward the lane, so there was no chance to get back out and pressure the shooter. If they did run at the shooter, he could just make a simple head fake and then dribble in for an uncontested 15-footer. This happened almost every time down the court.

This is the nba, which means that most any guard or small forward can go around his defender off the dribble in a one-on-one matchup. Certainly the Warrriors have three or four players who can do it. Dallas let the Warriors get them in that position every time the Warriors had the ball.

Look at the box score: Dallas was barely behind in rebounding, they had just a couple more turnovers than Golden State, both teams hit the same number of free thows, and both teams shot atrociously from the 3-point line. The difference was points in the paint, and from watching the game it was obvious that on defense, Dallas never had anyone in the paint.

For the Warriors, the court was wide open; for the Mavericks it wasn’t. Good luck winning a game that way.

15 comments:

JKnott said...

I'm boycotting the next game. Mavs have to win my love back.

I'm not a "fair-weather fan." The weather is FINE. We just keep getting soaked.

Jeremy said...

Your apologetics are admirable, Scotty. You are a true believer.

But I'm not giving the Warriors an ounce of credit for being up 2-1. So far this series is all about blame, and it rests squarely on the Mavs.

Jeremy said...

As for the oft-repeated line that Dirk is getting shut down because Don Nelson knows him so well: Can you imagine Kobe Bryant going into a series against Phil Jackson and people expecting Jackson to expose all his flaws? Is it conceivable that Nelson, who knows Steve Nash as well as anyone, would be able to force Nash out of his game three games in a row? Of course not.

Some MVP.

JKnott said...

Jeremy,

You're right, that wouldn't happen for Kobe because Kobe's "flaws" are not so glarring and easy to exploit. I almost hope something happens to deny Dirk the MVP because that last piece of irony would just be too much.

Jeremy said...

Thousands of people are tuning into this series to find out what this 67-win team and its 7-foot German are all about. Dirk's unforgivable sin is this: He is embarrassing Mavs Nation.

scoots said...

I’m not defending anyone. It’s not as if the Mavericks have to leave the lane wide open for the Warriors to get to the rim any time they want. Presumably the coaching has something to do with it, or else the players are just out of position from where they’re supposed to be. I’m just describing what I saw on TV.

If the Mavericks had won 91–85 with the exact same offensive performances from all its players, no one would be talking about embarrassment. But the Mavericks have allowed 30-point games from three different Warriors this series.

And last night, what was truly embarrassing was Dallas’ total inability to get stops. They had some decent offensive sets here and there, but in the third quarter, I could almost swear that Golden State scored every time they came down the court. If they didn’t, it was because of a turnover or because they missed an open jumper. But it was never because Dallas pressured the shot.

This is playoff basketball: when you allow 109 points, you blame the loss on the defense. I can’t claim to understand how exactly defensive spacing is supposed to work in the NBA, but this is what I saw: the Mavericks seemed to be trying hard, but they had defensive sets that (for whatever reason) could not work.

Jennifer said...

When the Mavs win, Dirk gets all the credit. But when they lose, the problem is with Avery. Right.

scoots said...

No, when the Mavs win, Dirk is the most valuable player. Winning always depends on the whole team and the coaching staff. They can’t win 67 without him, but he couldn’t win 50 without them.

Dirk is an atrocious perimeter defender, which I don’t think anyone would deny, but he’s worked hard all series to contest shots near the basket, and he’s got 6 blocks to show for it. (Last night, unfortunately, he got 5 fouls to show for it too.)

I maintain: poor team defense is the reason Dallas lost last night’s game. Their bad shooting was only incidental.

scoots said...

BTW: You’re signed in a Jen again.

JKnott said...

Scott,

It seems that the Mavs' defense, while very successful during the regular season over all, is flawed more in essence than just incidentally last night. They seem to be a team built for beating teams like the Spurs and the Heat who have a dominant inside man. But a team like the Warriors or the Suns will punish them because of their ability to be both quick and moderately big in several positions, rather than just big and dominant in one or two.

scoots said...

Yeah, I don't really get it, because the Mavericks really do have some decent perimeter defenders (I doubt that more than a couple of teams have two starters as good as Harris and Howard), and ordinarily Dampier and Diop guard the rim well.

Presumably the Spurs, Rockets, and Pistons could slow these guys down, but wouldn’t pretty much any other team in the league be getting ripped to shreds right now too?

Maybe I’m wrong about defense being the problem, and you have to concede the Warriors all their points (they averaged 106.5 in the regular season) and then outscore them. Or maybe they can’t keep it up for a whole series, and they’ll self-destruct (like game 2) and fold before it’s said and done. I just don’t see how either of those things could describe the kind of ugliness we’ve seen from the Mavericks so far.

It’s certainly conceivable that the Dallas players just aren’t trying hard enough, or that they aren’t playing with pride, or whatever. I’m just saying that that’s not what I saw on the court last night. Yeah, Greg Anthony and Bill Walton say it just takes determination and pride, but to me it looked like spacing. I’ve never been impressed with the claims commentators make on TV, so at this point I trust my eyes over their words.

Either way, Jason, I think you’re right that it seems more like there’s an essential flaw with the Dallas defense right now. My prediction is that after Avery watches the game tape, we won’t see the open lane in game 4 like we did in game 3.

scoots said...

Or actually, I won’t see the open lane, since you’re boycotting the next game. If the Mavericks lose this series, I might boycott all of next season.

Jeremy said...

Greg Anthony and Bill Walton say it just takes determination and pride, but to me it looked like spacing.

With that comment, I think you jumped the shark. Walton played four years under John Wooden and won two national championships. Then he won NBA titles playing for Jack Ramsey and alongside Bird and McHale. Greg Anthony learned the NBA game from Pat Riley. But to you they're just commentators?

This is one of those situations where the conventional wisdom is correct. The Mavs had 82 games and a preseason to figure out their spacing. The playoffs are about heart.

scoots said...

Have you heard some of the things Bill Walton says on TV? I love listening to the guy, but that doesn’t mean I’ll take him at his word.

Seems to me I’ve heard about three hundred times in the past two years that the playoffs are all about adjustments. Both are true I’m sure (heart and adjustments), but when you have Dirk trying guard Stephen Jackson one-on-one at the top of the key, and no one is in the lane to provide help defense for the drive, I say that’s a structural problem needing adjustment. When it happens 30 times in one game, I say it’s the coach’s fault.

JKnott said...

Scott,

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks Avery's coaching sometimes leaves something to be desired. Ok, so he's a young coach of only three years (give or take). But just because his faults are forgivable (and that's arguable) doesn't mean they don't exist.

I think he has some major mental blocks about making adjustments needed, especially toward the end of games. The Mavs' perennial choking problem has as much to do with him as with any particular player (Dirk especially). Sometimes the Mavs seem to just keep playing the same way even when they're getting beat, but sometimes they unwisely change what they had been doing, going into survival mode and trying to grind it out with teams like SA and Miami (who are better grinders b/c of their dominant inside men) or try to hold off a team like Phoenix who can score at will, rather than continuing their play that had gotten them the lead down the stretch to begin with.