The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night in a wild game that swung back and forth over the course of all four quarters. Overall, it was a fun game, one that saw the Mavericks yam all over the Bucks. But all the good vibes from those dunks ultimately vanished in the loss.
Outside of the Mavericks’ terrible free throw shooting, the game was decided by two plays at the close of the fourth quarter. The Bucks were able to execute a sideline out-of-bounds play to score a bucket and take the lead. The Mavericks, faced with the exact same situation, couldn’t do the same and get a clean shot off.
The reason? The Mavericks have become too predictable at the end of games. Gibson Pyper of Half Court Hoops has an interesting breakdown of the final play against the Bucks. Pyper shows that Milwaukee knew exactly what play the Mavericks were running, that Luka Doncic realized the Bucks knew the play and signaled for an audible from the coaching staff, yet no change came. By now you know the result — Doncic got off a bad look that really had no chance of going in the basket.
As Pyper points out, the Bucks knew this play was coming because the Mavericks had used the same look twice before in similar situations against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Phoenix Suns.
The Bucks knew the Mavericks play.— Half Court Hoops (@HalfCourtHoops) December 10, 2022
Luka knew the Bucks knew the play.
Nobody knew Luka knew the Bucks knew the play.
Luka had to force a step back over Jrue Holiday. pic.twitter.com/ONvXUEOIag
There’s no issue with running plays out of the same set from time to time, especially if they work. But there has to be some variation in the way you run it. Otherwise, the NBA catches on and it becomes easy to defend. That seems to be the case here.
It’s been an issue with coach Jason Kidd in the past. When he coached the Bucks back in 2016, Milwaukee lost a game to the Golden State Warriors in similar fashion. The Bucks has a chance to win at the buzzer, but Draymond Green knew what was coming because Kidd’s late-game play-calling was so predictable.
“I already knew what play they were running,” Green said then. “They have two plays that they run in situations like that. Once Giannis was down on the block, I already knew what they were running, so I was just waiting on them to pass the ball in.”
To be fair to Kidd, this lack of creativity has seemingly existed since Doncic was drafted. Kidd and his staff have to come up with more sets to get up shots in clutch situations. It’s possible they’re drawing up plays that Doncic is more comfortable with and insists on running in these situations. But part of coaching is being able to sell players, including superstars, on doing things they may be uncomfortable with at first, but are better long-term, for them and the team. Kidd’s failure to do so may result in more losses piling up as the season progresses.