There were two plays during Friday night’s loss against the Miami Heat that annoyed the hell out of me. I’m going to show them to you right now.
These two plays had no real impact on the game’s outcome — they were from the second quarter, way before the Mavericks battled back to take the lead and then gave it all away in the fourth quarter. They matter as much as any one possession in the NBA matters, which is a lot, but not game-losing bad.
They annoyed me because I’ve seen them happen a lot. When I’m annoyed, writing about it makes it go away so here you go.
Up first, this Delon Wright specialty where he gets absolutely cooked by Goran Dragic.
By my rough eye-test estimate this is the 8,234,231st time someone has blown by Wright for a layup this season. This is very accurate and scientific data.
In reality though, it does feel like this happens to Wright a lot, especially someone regarded as a good-to-great defender. Defensive metrics are really hard, but regardless of if Wright is on the floor or not, the Mavericks defense barely shifts — giving up 109.8 points per 100 possessions with Wright on the floor compared to 109.1 points per 100 possessions with him off. He’s 10th on the team in defensive win shares, according to NBA.com/stats. He’s 29th of just point guards in defensive real plus-minus. He’s also first on the team in steals and deflections by a pretty decent margin.
The point is, it’s really hard to quantify defense. Even if the numbers are bad, bad teammates hurt and bad scheme hurts too. Who knows what the Mavericks are actually telling him to do compared to what we watching on TV or in the arena want him to do. There’s a difference.
At a certain point, 1-on-1 blow-bys just have to stop, like in the play above. Wright isn’t getting screened or caught in a certain action. He’s picking up Dragic near half court and gets roasted after one crossover. The Mavericks help defense isn’t there, which isn’t Wright’s fault, but eventually the onus has to be on the guy getting beat to start it all, right? In short, I’m sure Wright is still a solid defender but these plays are annoying. Please stop!
Here’s the second play and if you’ve read me for most of the season, you know this is a particular pet peeve. Congrats to the Mavericks sturdy dead-ball transition defense for being compromised yet again!
As I’ve written before, the Mavericks are inexplicably horrible at matching up after a made shot or dead-ball situation. In the play above, it’s even worse because all of the Mavericks are back on their side of the court by the time the Heat inbound the ball. It’s not like Miami caught Dallas off guard after a layup with a player stuck under the rim. Everyone is back! This is basketball 101!
THE HEAT DON’T EVEN DO ANYTHING. They pass it up to Jimmy Butler, who no one on the Mavericks wants to guard, so Kristaps Porzingis has to pick him up. That leaves a small on a big, with Bam Adebayo guarded by Dorian Finney-Smith. He immediately gets a foul called, since as much as the Mavericks like Finney-Smith as a defender, he should not be guarding potential All-NBA bigs!
My only guess is that the Mavericks do not talk well or communicate on defense. Obviously the Mavericks are at best an average defensive team, but these types of errors should be beneath them. Maybe not, because it happens just about every game.
Anyway, these two plays were in the second quarter, so the Mavericks didn’t lose on them. But these types of plays contribute to losses, as the Mavericks seemingly suffer death by thousand paper cuts over the course of a game. Hopefully these things can be cleaned up. Judging by the fact that we’re about to start the last month of the regular season and it still happens all the time, my bet is it will not.