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How Jason Kidd approaches closing games

“There’s always change...”

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd raised a lot of eyebrows when he pulled forward Christian Wood with 6:41 to play in the fourth quarter of Dallas’ first game of the season. Wood was playing well, having just rattled off 16 points in a row. Still, Kidd saw fit to make a defensive substitution.

We know what happened next. The Phoenix Suns got hot, went on a run, and eventually took home a 107-105 win to open the season. Kidd’s decision called into question how he and the coaching staff approach closing games. After practice on Friday, Kidd shed some light on the process.

“You go with the ones who’ve been through it, Game 1. Game 5, it could be different,” Kidd said. “As a staff, we’ll talk about it well before the game of who we’re going to end with down the stretch, close or blowout. We have two groups that—if there’s a blowout that will finish the game, and if it’s a close game, who we’re going to go with the last three minutes, the last six minutes. So, we’ve already scripted that.

“There’s always change of who’s going and who’s not going, in the sense of who’s shooting the ball well or who has the hot hand, but also who’s participating on the defensive end too. You can always know that if the game is tight, 77 will be in the game, and then you work the other four around him.”

While Kidd and his staff might script the lineups, per se, they aren’t strictly looking for one thing or another, being offensive or defensive minded exclusively. Kidd says that there is flexibility to who he chooses to go with.

“You can look at it both ways,” Kidd said. “It can be an offensive group as long as you can get the subs in to play defense. We feel that we have a group that can play defense and offense. When you look at the group that ended the game with Maxi [Kleber] out there, being able to space the floor, knock down shots, and being one of our best defenders on the floor.

“And then looking at C-Wood, here, as we go forward, having C-Wood be able to finish games too.”

A former Mavericks head coach used to speak about the fluidity of lineups at the start of the season. Kidd, without using the word, is essentially saying the same thing. The first game was a hiccup, but it should be a learning experience. How the Mavericks close games in the coming weeks is certainly something to keep an eye on.