While I’m as excited as anyone about the Mavs win over the Spurs on Saturday, I certainly don’t think there is any justification for thinking this series is over or that the Spurs will be easily handled. That said, I should note that my comments from Friday are still in effect: The Mavs offense is so deadly, the team could realistically get to the Conference Finals while playing mediocre defense.
With that in mind, I thought I’d bring a much needed reality check to the proceedings by providing a short
theft of homage to Mike Fisher over at Dallasbasketball.com with my Sunday Donut Holes:
Donut Hole 1: The Spurs dictated the pace of the game. The Spurs entered the playoffs as the fourth-slowest team in the league, and a big part of their game plan is working within those confines. This provides a real comfort level for San Antonio when they can make the other team play their game, and that was exactly the case on Saturday. The Mavs are an average-paced team but look like the roadrunner when compared to the Spurs. In terms of specifics, the Mavs average 91.6 possessions per game, and the pace of Saturday’s game was a glacial 82.4 possessions, which as Wes mentioned was the second slowest game of the season for Dallas. The Mavs only had 4 fast break points, as well.
It would be foolish to say that being forced to play slow is a fatal problem for the Mavs, but make no mistake about it—the Mavericks would much prefer to be playing a faster game with more fast break points.
Donut Hole 2: The Mavs defense stunk. Sure, the Mavs played some great defense during stretches of the game, but that can’t hide the fact that we gave up nearly 100 points in a game played at a snail’s pace. To put this game in perspective, the Mavs had a defensive efficiency of 119.8. This is very similar to the defensive efficiency they had in the Utah game on February 5, which was actually a slightly better 118.6. The result of that game where the Mavs played better defense? Well, you may remember it—the Mavs lost by 28, 115-87.
And this, in a nutshell, is the scary part of the Mavs this post-season: Their offense has become so spectacularly good that they can play worse defense than in a game they lost by 28 earlier in the season and still win.
The frustrating part is that if the Mavs defense improved just slightly, this game would have been a double digit blowout. In terms of efficiency, the Spurs were helped a lot by some good offensive rebounding and a tremendous night beyond the arc. Think of it this way, if the Mavs perimeter defense had led to just two more missed threes, the Mavs win this game by 14 points. And even then the Spurs would have shot lights out from three point range.
Donut Hole 3: Tony Parker doesn’t need to solve J.J. Barea, he simply needs to remember this is a team game. This was a game of two halves for Parker, and the tale of the second half was Parker’s misguided attempt to single-handedly win the game by finishing at the rim. As a result, he turned the ball over and missed layups. Certainly some of that was due to Barea, but a bigger part was simply Parker’s pig-headedness. What makes this especially mind-boggling is how well his guards were shooting from the perimeter.
Don’t expect this to go unnoticed. In fact, I expect Popovich to look for more mid-range solutions to exploit the openings that Parker creates. My guess is that Finley’s minutes get dramatically reduced and Ime Udoka gets much more burn. Udoka is badly needed on the defensive side of the ball, and he can knock down a mid-range jumper if he’s wide open—which he will presumably be if his man is helping contain Parker. Also, I expect Duncan to have at least one or more 30+ point games.