There are a number of reasons why the Oklahoma City Thunder have a 3-1 series lead over the Dallas Mavericks. The Thunder have two of the best players in the league in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Beyond that, OKC is more athletic, quicker, faster, younger, and more talented almost to a man when compared with Dallas. Then there are the injuries. It's almost surprising that the Mavericks have any healthy players at this point. They're the walking wounded.
The injuries have caused a cascade effect on the Mavs' performance and they have impacted the lineups that Rick Carlisle has at his disposal. Even though Carlisle's hands are tied in terms of personnel, he has repeatedly run out lineups that are almost confounding because they just don't work. None is more frustrating than that of Raymond Felton, Devin Harris, Wesley Matthews, David Lee, and Zaza Pachulia.
Coming into Game 4, that lineup had the worst plus/minus on the team. It's no surprise then that when that lineup took the court in Game 4 with 5:13 left in the first quarter, the game quickly got out of hand. When Lee and Harris checked in for Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Barea, the Mavs were tied with the Thunder at 13. OKC proceeded to go on a 20-5 run after that.
The run can't be entirely blamed on that lineup. Carlisle rotated players in and out as he scrambled to find something that could counteract the Thunder's surge. Yet, his instance to go back to that lineup, or a similar variation of it, is perplexing.
This lineup does not offer much offensively. The floor isn't spaced well, scoring becomes increasingly difficult, and there isn't a true ball handler on the floor. Yes, Felton is listed as a point guard but he works better as the off-ball guard which has been his role for much of the season. During the regular season, this lineup appeared in seven games, shot just 30.4 percent, and had a plus/minus of -1.1. Against the Thunder in the playoffs, it's shooting just 20 percent with a plus/minus of -7.5. Only one other playoff lineup has a worse plus/minus after Game 4.
Replace Matthews with Justin Anderson or Pachulia with Salah Mejri and the results are similar. The ability to move the ball, create open looks, and knock down shots simply isn't there and the lineup hemorrhages points on defense. Nothing works. It's the catalyst for what I refer to as "Marvs" basketball on Twitter. It also shows just how important Nowitzki still is to this team. Without him on the floor, the Mavs look lost.
Luckily, it looks as though Carlisle has seen enough. Once the Thunder went on their run in the first quarter of Game 4, he never went back to the lineup. Hopefully we've seen it for the last time. If the Mavericks have any hope of winning Game 5, they need to avoid it. It stagnates everything. Unfortunately, with mounting injuries, Carlisle may have no choice but to roll it out there once again.