Ball movement. It’s a simple concept, but at times can be easy to get away from. It’s something the Dallas Mavericks aren’t great at remembering to do. Often times the ball can get sticky when the Mavs have possession. But when they remember to keep it moving, they’re a tough team to beat.
That was the case Friday night against the Houston Rockets. The Mavs were without their two best players, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but everyone else stepped up thanks in large part to an infusion of ball movement.
All of the phenomenal ball movement came to fruition on one play late in the third quarter. Check it out.
Tim Hardaway Jr. grabs the rebound and starts to look up the floor. He spots Frank Ntilikina dashing along the sideline and throws the ball ahead. Ntilikina takes a few dribbles into the. middle of the court and hits Josh Green who’s trailing on the play. Green immediately tosses it back to Frank at the top of the key. Frank swings it to Hardaway in the corner. Hardaway takes one dribble and then tosses a perfect lob to Marquese Chriss for an emphatic alley-oop slam. It was absolutely beautiful.
The true magic in the play is what Marquese Chriss does off the ball while Frank Ntilikina and Josh Green are playing catch with the ball. As soon as Frank gets the ball into the middle of the court, Chriss wisely starts motioning to Hardaway for a flare screen. Chriss sets the screen behind Hardaway’s defender (who couldn’t care less) and it opened Tim up in the corner. After Chriss sets the screen, he darts to the rim immediately and Hardaway rewards him.
None of that would’ve been possible without the ball snapping around. If one guy held it on the wing, it’s too easy for the defense to rotate to the action off the ball.
After the game, I asked Hardaway about the Mavs’ ball movement and if he remembers the play I walked through above. He said he remembered it and then continued to break it down exactly how it went — to every detail. Then he praised the ball movement.
“It was very exciting for me just because the ball finds energy,” Hardaway said. “Coach has been preaching that for the longest. When you’re doing that, and moving without the ball, and having fun, playing with pace... like I said, the ball will find the energy.”
Energy. That’s the keyword.
When the Mavs were zipping the ball around, they felt energized. They looked energized. It was noticeable. After that thunderous dunk by Chriss, the Mavs took a 29-point lead and the rest is history. That was the nail in the coffin.
The Mavericks desperately need more of this. They need to move the ball, and let it find the energy.