May Day! May Day!
This is a distress alert from the North Texas Sports Disaster Service. Trained spotters in Dallas have pinpointed ominous circulation and the possibility of an unprecedented and fatal occurrence of destruction in and around the American Airlines Center. A severe warning has been issued until, oh, say, midnightish. If you are in this area tonight, please take shelter in a padded room or, even better, paint your face, shake your money maker and start acting rowdy, loud and proud.
As I wrote yesterday, Mavs-Warriors isn’t over. It is, of course, desperately desperate. Avery Johnson is getting outcoached by Don Nelson. Devean George and Greg Buckner have become liabilities. Jason Terry looks like he’s getting paid by the dribble. Josh Howard shrinks in the fourth quarter. And, most disgusting, the only thing worse than Dirk Nowitzki’s play has been his perspective: slumped shoulders and mumbling comments about the season in the past tense. “I can only take what they give me, and they’re not giving me a whole lot,” Dirk actually said Monday. Bull. Shit. Think Michael Jordan ever uttered such an asinine comment in the middle of a playoff series?
We can address -- and possibly tear to shreds -- Dirk later. For now there is a more pressing need, like finding a formula to win Game 5, which tips in, like, eight hours. One man’s recipe: DEFENSE
Let’s stop tipping our fedoras to Baron Davis and put our best defender on him. Devin Harris, take him. Harris is the Mavs’ quickest perimeter defender. His job is to eliminate Davis’ penetrations into the lane, which kick-start Nellie’s trademark “drive-and-dish” offense aimed at creating open three-pointers. If Davis makes six three-pointers, then we’ll praise him. Let’s not let him beat us -- again -- by sashaying into the paint.
Avery needs to mix up his defenses. Golden State is all about rhythm, and anything that makes them think rather than simply react is a good gimmick. Play some 2-3 zone. Even a box-and-one with Harris or Buckner shadowing Davis, forcing the other Warriors to generate the offense or create their own shots. Yes, it’s desperate. But doesn’t a 3-1 hole call for drastic measures?
When Davis gets to the rim -- and he will -- he must pay the price. Remember Nellie’s Mavs teams? What did they hate? Physical, grind-it-out games. Same with the Warriors. Golden State wants to play flag football; Dallas needs to turn it into rugby in the mud. Hard fouls send messages and set tones. I hereby nominate Erick Dampier.
And on OFFENSE...
Because of their quickness and athleticism, the Warriors are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams on the perimeter. Because of their lack of size, they are ridiculously inept in the interior. Sound familiar? Again, how did Nellie’s Mavs always lose? By teams shoving the ball right down the lane and into their throats. It’s unrealistic to think Dirk is going to become an adept post-up player overnight, but how about a pump-fake followed by a dribble drive to the hoop? Who’s going to block his shot, Matt Friggin’ Barnes? Worst thing against Golden State is turnovers on the perimeter. Dallas needs to bully its way into the paint.
The No. 1 problem Golden State presents, again, is its athleticism. Unlike most teams, they have the ability to switch pick-and-rolls without surrendering a defensive disadvantage. Their length and catch-up speed allows them to color outside the lines and gamble more than most teams. The Mavs must run more pick and rolls using Dirk and not Jason Terry, but Harris.
When guarded by Monta Ellis, the strategy will result in Dirk being guarded by a tiny point guard. Furthermore, it will leave Terry as the spot-up shooter. Sometimes the best answer is to simply ask yourself, “What does my opponent not want me to do?” For Golden State, those answers are: Slow the pace. And: Sag off us, cutting off penetration and forcing us to shoot outside. And: Foul us hard on layups.
If that doesn’t work, then so be it. A 42-win team with a six-man rotation will beat a 67-win team with the MVP. And we’ll have all summer to pass around the blame for the biggest upset in NBA history. Of course, it will work. Question is, will it work again in Thursday’s Game 6? --Richie Whitt