How will the suspension of DeJuan Blair affect the Mavs?
The NBA ruled on Tuesday that Mavericks backup center DeJuan Blair is suspended for Game 5. Blair's suspension is the result of a "hostile act" towards Spurs center Tiago Splitter with about three minutes remaining in Game 4. While each player lay on the floor after battling for a rebound, Blair appeared to kick Splitter in the head. This incident resulted in an official review and the eventual ejection of Blair from Game 4 while Dallas was making a furious comeback attempt. That attempt came up short as the Mavericks fell to the Spurs 93-89. Blair finished the game with 12 points while connecting on all of his five field goal attempts and 11 rebounds.
Game 4 was the second strong game for Blair in the series. He played well in Dallas' Game 2 rout of San Antonio totaling eight points and seven rebounds. Aside from flashes from Samuel Dalembert, Blair has been the most active interior rebounder for the Mavericks. He fights on every possession for the loose ball and his energy is contagious. It was his effort that helped spark Dallas' comeback in Game 4. The entire roster is going to have to give it everything they have to make up for the lack of Blair's energy and intensity in Game 5. This is especially true on the offensive glass. San Antonio will try to limit the Mavs' second chance opportunities so it is imperative to pick up the slack in Blair's absence.
Which Dallas role player will have to step up?
Brandan Wright would be a natural choice to step up. However, he has been nullified over the last three games by the Spurs. He simply doesn't have the body mass to battle down low with San Antonio's bigs. What the Mavs need him to do is come in and be as offensively potent as possible. He will see an increase in minutes and has to score and score often.
Wright's scoring opportunities are often predicated on the play of Devin Harris. Harris, like Wright, has been quiet for a couple of games and needs to re-exert himself into this series. He has to attack the paint early in order to collapse the defense around him. This will free up opportunities for Wright to cut to the rim and look for the pass.
A few points from Jae Crowder will also be useful. Crowder hasn't played badly in limited minutes; however, he hasn't played spectacularly either. He is mostly on the floor to spell Shawn Marion. It would be great if he could knock down some of the open three-point looks he gets each game.
It's not really fair to ask much more of Vince Carter at this point in the series. He has battled and sacrificed his body in each game. In Game 4 he was even asked to guard Splitter at points down the stretch. Yeoman's work does not begin to describe Carter's contribution.
Would it be inappropriate to consider Dirk Nowitzki a role player at this point? He's getting decent looks but his shot isn't falling with consistency. If he gets in foul trouble, like on Monday, he becomes a complete liability on the defensive end. Are we going to see a "Dirk Game" during this series?
Can Manu Ginobili be any more frustrating?
UGGH! Ginobli has to be one of the most frustrating players for opposing fan bases to watch. He simply does not stop. It's really aggravating how well he plays. What is most frustrating, though, are his reactions to contact. You know what I'm talking about but I don't want to come right out and say it because to do so would take away from his talent and the high level at which he approaches the game.
The Mavericks have to limit his opportunities. Crowder found himself chasing Ginobili around on defense for part of Game 4. That didn't work out too well. Marion played him to take away drives to the left. Ginobili is left handed. Visually, I don't have numbers to back this up, it appeared to be effective. Maybe show that to Jae?
What do the Mavericks have to do to win Game 5?
They have to do everything. Dallas cannot afford to try and climb out of a major deficit again. To quote Carter after Game 4, the Mavs have to "hit first, hit often, and hit for 48 minutes." The Mavericks have looked like the better team for much of the series and they need to pull together and show that they are what they believe themselves to be. This is now a best of three series and the Spurs have home court advantage. Dallas needs to steal that away. Doing so without Blair will be difficult but not impossible.
Monta Ellis needs to attack the basket early and often. He appeared timid in the first half of Game 4 before asserting himself during the comeback and aggressively getting to the rim. He needs to sustain this effort throughout Game 5. If Ellis makes a concerted effort to get to the rim, it will free up Jose Calderon and Marion to knock down open jumpers. But, it isn't just Ellis, though. The team needs to consciously get to the rim.
Rick Carlisle is going to have to reach deep into his bag of tricks once again to give his team the upper hand. Limiting the Spurs' role players will take priority once more. If the Mavs do that they will give themselves a chance to win. Also, a "Dirk Game" would really be great right about now.