The Mavericks are down 2-1 in the NBA Finals right now and while there is no need to panic, there are needs to make adjustments. I think we can agree that the Mavs didn't play up to their potential so far but at some point, starting tonight, they just have to win. Surely both the Trail Blazers and the Thunder did like the position they were in after Game 3. And even the Lakers refused to think that the series was over after facing a sweep because they did say the exact same thing: If we do better, we'll win. So here's how the Mavs actually can do better:
Replace Peja Stojakovic with Corey Brewer in the rotation
Peja has played for approx. 50 possession in the Finals and took 5 shots. The Offensive Efficiency with him on the floor is 75.50 and the Mavericks have been outscored by 21 over the three games. His usage rate was cut in half in the Finals. It's one thing that he can't get a shot to go, but he doesn't even get looks against the Heat's defense. That's a problem. Because if he can't provide any offense he is basically useless. My projection before the series was that Peja has to hit 45% of his threes to come up for his defensive liabilities. But I also thought that he would get 4-5 attempts per game. That isn't happening. Combine this with the fact that the Mavericks starting unit isn't able to outscore the Heat early in the game and you get an idea why they can't build or hold a lead in the series. The starting unit is -9 over the three games. That isn't too bad and in fact a lot better than I personally anticipated, but when Peja subs in for Dirk Nowitzki midway through the first quarter, the Mavericks basically run with two lineups until Jose Barea, Dirk and the backup center sub in late in the first: Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler and Peja or Marion, DeShawn Stevenson, Kidd, Tyson and Peja. Both these lineups have been outscored by 19 over the first three games. So what happens is that the Mavericks statistically will constantly play from behind with their substitution pattern and against the Miami Heat you won't win a lot of those games.
A solution could be using Brewer over Peja here. Brewer provides a lot more defense than Peja and I doubt that the offense would suffer too much because it isn't working with Peja anyway. So there is not much too lose.
Terry should play 40 minutes
He once again made bold comments during yesterdays practice. So he should live up to that. As stated above: Although the starting unit isn't as devastating as thought, the discrepancy between Stevenson and Terry in the lineup is huge. It's 40 points over the three games. The starting unit is -7 and the "closing" unit with Terry is +33. In Efficiency Differential that's a swing of 60.17! Personally I am now at a point where I don't care how much the team wants Stevenson to be out there as a feel good experience. Forget it. It's not working. It hasn't been working the whole playoffs and if your point is still defense then I'll give you that: The starting unit has a Defensive Efficiency of 105.14 in this series (98.61 for the playoffs). The closing unit? 99.80 (92.26 for the playoffs). If the team for some reason just "feels better" with Stevenson starting the game than do that. Play him 3-4 minutes in each half and use him as a role-player the rest of the game. But he shouldn't reach 10 unless somebody is in foul trouble.
The supporting cast has to hit their shots
That obviously is easier said than done but Kidd, Barea and Terry are a combined 26-80 (32.50%) from the field and 7-26 (26.92%) in the 4th Quarter. Kidd hits 41.28% of his treys, so I would put the major blame on Terry and Barea here. Especially Barea (5-23) hasn't had any impact so far. And like Stojakovic he just has to score to be efficient. The AST/TOV-Ratio is 1.00 with him on the floor. That's scary. Ball movement has been the Mavericks strength and against a challenging Miami defense this is even more important. The Offensive Efficiency is 92.70 with him and the team got outscored by 13. As long as he doesn't provide more scoring he should get no more then the backup minutes at the point.
Lineups that should be avoided
I was stunned by some of the lineups Rick Carlisle threw out there in Game 3. One I'd like to mention is a 3-Guard Lineup with Stevenson, Barea and Terry. This was an inefficient lineup during the whole season (OffEff: 97.39 - DefEff: 110.59) and although it actually went 6-5 over 9 possessions I felt like throwing away those 9 possessions with a lineup that wasn't supposed to work. 3-Guard Lineups for the Mavs have been successful with Roddy and Kidd or Barea, JET and Kidd. Don't even try another combination ...
And the Mavs better hope that Haywood is good to go tonight. Mahinmi looked lost out there and small ball with Dirk at the 5 has also been ugly this postseason (Off: 67.11 Def: 124.16). I'll keep my fingers crossed.
Make Spoesltra earn his salary
This sort of includes all of the above. In my eyes Spoelstra has had one of the easier jobs so far at the sideline. Over the first three games, he didn't need to change his rotations or react too much during the game. Miami should be up 3-0. So they really don't need to make major adjustments. But if you mix it up a little bit, create different looks for their offense and defense, I'd be intrigued whether Spoelstra might struggle. He already took pressure for not taking the foul to give in Game 2 so I think there's a chance.
Overall I would be very surprised if Carlisle kept his substitution pattern in the first quarter. At least Terry needs to get in earlier and Dirk needs to be subbed out later. Even better would be using Brewer over Peja early in the game to see how much he can help. It's always hard to change things in the middle of a series but I think that most of these changes had to be done a bit earlier anyway and in most of the cases you don't have a lot to lose.