Saturday, April 24, 2010

Game 3: Spurs 94, Mavs 90 (Spurs 2-1)

There are certainly many great things about the NBA Playoffs. It is such a glorious roller coaster ride of elation, depression, and everything in between. But, there is no doubt that one of the dynamics that you sometimes forget about until the spring reminds you is that soul searching and feelings of despair the morning after a seemingly devastating loss.

There is no way to recover.

This thing is over.

This team is about to be destroyed.

This coach needs to be fired.

And sometimes, it is spot on (especially in elimination games). The trouble - unless it is the death game - is, you never know when the loss is as bad as it seems or just a momentary bump in the road that will be made all better the next time your team takes the court.

This morning, the Mavs' fandom is in total freak-out mode. This is bad. These last two games have doubt creeping in all over the place. The ship feels like it is sinking. Losing one game is to be expected. Losing 2 in a row - especially one in which you feel like you fought your tails off - is very disheartening.

The Mavs lost last night to fall behind 2 games to 1 in this best of seven series against the franchise that they are obsessed with. San Antonio has the jewelry, and it always seems like they have one more play when the chips are down.

So, is it the beginning of the end already? Or, is this one of those character-building, soul-searching, lesson-learning bumps in the road that every playoff has?

I don't know. Game 4 feels like a must win. Game 3 feels like a game where the Spurs confidence expands and the Mavericks begin to blame each-other.

Personally, I thought that Rick Carlisle was easily out-coached. I am normally indifferent about his job performance as I do think it is a player's league and the coaches do not affect the outcome of the game nearly as much. But, wow. Last night, I might check and make sure that Rick wasn't trying to throw that game.

Yes, small ball worked like a charm in the 3rd Quarter (although you could argue that Dirk went off - and most of the rest of the players on the floor had a good view), but to never deviate from that path - if only to allow them to catch their breath is junior league.

Take JJ Barea. Barea is great in doses some nights. And unless I am high, those doses are seldom 32 consecutive minutes. But, last night, he checked in with 8 minutes to play in the 2nd Quarter...and then never left the game. You know, JJ played very well. I liked a huge part of his game and they are not in a position to win without his contribution, but 32 minutes in a row for a guy who seldom plays 8 consecutive minutes? Talk about running a guy right into the ground. This is like having your closer throw 75 pitches. Use him how he is normally used, and get good results. Take a high energy guy and play him 32 straight minutes and you get a wild drive in the lane in the final moments.

Same thing with Dampier. And Terry. Same thing with the whole stinking line-up.

So, what did you have in the 4th Quarter? The small line-up looking tired, unable to stop the relentless dribble penetration of the Spurs that happened over and over and the inability to get good looks at the basket on many possessions. Instead, taking contested 21 foot launches as the shot clock is expiring when the game was on the line.

Where was Caron Butler? Where was Shawn Marion? Heck, where was DeShawn Stevenson? I am not saying any of them are the answer. I am saying that if Barea and Terry are your best options on Friday, get the dudes a 4 minute break at some point so they still have something in their legs at the most important point of the game.

And yes, I believe that Butler can help you get to the rim when your team desperately needs to stop trading a Spurs lay-up for a contested 22 footer with the shot clock expiring.

So, yes, I believe coaching was a big reason the Mavs disintegrated in the most important moments of Game 3.

And, no, I am not going to take part in the "Danny Crawford is out to get us" narrative that is poisoning the city.

Anyway, these are the days that test your resolve. And make no mistake; the Mavs are already up against that wall.

Other notes and observations from Game 3:

* Mavs entered the 4th Quarter up 4. Let's look at the results of each team's next seven possessions: Mavs: Marion missed jumper, Terry missed jumper, Barea offensive foul, Terry made 3-pt, Barea missed 3, Dirk offensive foul, Terry missed 3, Terry turnover. Now, the Spurs: Manu layup, Hill layup, Manu layup + foul, Manu missed jumper, Bonner missed 3, Manu layup + foul, Hill fouled on lay-up 2 free throws. Which team is playing playoff basketball? Which team is determined to get to the rim and force contact? And which team needs to stop kidding itself about small ball? Oh, and by the way, it went from Mavs up, 70-66 to Spurs up 78-73.

* Just to make sure you got my point, let's continue to look at the Mavs 4th Quarter possessions. I will pick it up where I left off: Dirk makes jumper, Dirk misses jumper, Terry misses 3, Kidd misses 3, Barea misses jumper, Terry misses jumper, Terry misses jumper, Kidd 2 free throws, Dirk 2 free throws, Dirk makes jumper, Kidd misses 3 pt... All along, no Butler, no Haywood, no taking it into the paint with any conviction or energy. And another launch party loses a tough playoff game where one team is taking 2 footers and the other team is taking 21 footers.

* Now, to this Danny Crawford thing. Yes, the Mavs are something like 1-17 now in playoff games in which he works. But, if this organization doesn't get over this persecution complex, they have no chance of ever taking the next step. Everyone on that team has Danny Crawford in their kitchen. They all enter the game completely sure that he is about to screw them. And you know what? That mental distraction changes their mentality. It changes their approach. It makes them look like babies. And it makes the Spurs an after-thought. Stop whining and play through it. I don't like him either. He seems to not like the Mavs, but you know something? Mark Cuban made this bed by publicly taking on the refs at every opportunity. Now, that bed must be slept in. And the Mavs will never totally make the leap to that championship level until the refs of the game don't matter. It just strengthens their resolve. Rise above.

* The real shame last night is that the Mavs wasted a singular Dirk performance. He was a warrior in full "Terminator" mode. I loved his game and it seemed like he was determined to play physically and punish the Spurs in the paint. He was just hung out to dry in my estimation.

* Jason Kidd has resembled a 37-year old point guard with high miles in the last 2 games. I trust that will change quickly.

Game 4. Go get it. Or this thing may really be in shambles.


JonJon said...

I think Rick out-coached himself last night. I still don't understand any of the logic in keeping Butler out so long and leaving Ericka in until the Spurs made a comeback. When is that contract over?

Spot on about leaving JJ in way too long and about the bed that Cuban made.

What are your thoughts about Rick bringing in Roddy just to get the Mavs fans to shut up about the rookie?

I personally think we should have the Spurs chase around the small-ballers (Roddy included) for a while instead of vise versa. But just don't leave them in when it's crunch time.



Matt said...

I was in shock that Barea kept coming out of the huddle in the fourth quarter. He was clutch in the third quarter, but his effectiveness quickly wore off, and we had Butler on the bench while everyone else was jacking up three pointers.

And then the slow start AGAIN. Just a poor coaching job getting this team ready once again. At what point in this series has Carlisle out-coached Pop?

Solaam said...

Hey Bob,

I agree with you on Cuban making his bed with the ref bashing but what can you do when atrocious calls like the charge on Dirk that negated an and 1 against Bonner or touch fouls for Ginobli layups happen over and over again? All these in crunch time in the 4th.

I agree you have to fight through it but the Mavericks have never been a good enough team to overcome bad breaks. Unless they play perfect ball, they'll never win.

And please spare me the self righteous act of calling out Mavs fans about officiating when you yourself whined about the refs during March Madness when Duke's goons were allowed to commit assault in the paint while the opponents fouled out on the other end.

amerball said...

it is VERY predictable that you would blame the coach or the players NOT PLAYING for the loss. GOD FORBID, we actually blame the PLAYERS PLAYING that we LOVE SO MUCH and wear their jerseys. GOD FORBID, we hold the 12 million/year shooting guard to a higher standard than 1-7 in the 4th quarters... i mean, thats just not fair because he's such a GREAT cheerleader and he gets the JET on the runway, right?! GOD FORBID, we take the high road and make the players make plays. BUT you can keep being a typical homer and just blame the coach for not substituting propertly or dirk for only getting 35 points, or the players NOT in the game. SO EFFING TYPICAL.

Sturminator said...

@solaam I am pretty sure I did not mention fans whining. My issue is with the team and team officials whining.

@amerball. If you say it is typical of me to blame Carlisle, then I am sure it would be easy for you to find when I have called him out before, right? I have 2,000+ entries here on this blog, so find one. Good luck.


Doug75225 said...

I'm just curious... if you had been told before the series that Butler, Haywood, and Stephenson would barely be playing during an entire half of a playoff game... would you have EVER picked the Mavs to win the series??
I really don't understand the strategy of spending millions to get some good players - and then watching basically the 2008 Mavs lose in a round I playoff series.
Maybe we can still get Diop and Josh Howard back, along with Stackhouse and Devean George - what a GREAT team that would be, huh??

Somesuch said...


I really appreciate your blog, sir, as well as your fine contribution to The Ticket's wall-to-wall coverage of the NFL draft these past few days. Now back to this kick-in-the-jewels topic known as Dallas Mavericks playoff basketball. First, as a life-long DFW area inhabitant, I LOVE my Dallas franchises; always have, always will. I think that's why Friday night's loss has me on the verge of veering into oncoming traffic. I saw something in this past game that was all too familiar - Mavs turning into a Jet Terry led jump-shooting, brick-laying machine whilst supervising a lay-up drill for the opposing squad. Why do they continue to resort to this?? Was last night particularly worse because of the Dan Crawford factor? I really hate to accept that there is something to that theory but I'm afraid that there is. The 1-16 record is hard to ignore. Now is it ingrained in the team so much that they become afraid to defend for fear of touch fouls being called by DC's crew thus getting into foul trouble?

I'm with you on Dirk, Bob. He was a beast. Without him, I fear how sub-par this team would be. My heart is really starting to break for him now considering how much he gives to this team year in, year out, only to see the rest of the team fold in crunch time.

Sorry for the long comment. I'm just frustrated. It's tough to take these gut-wrenching losses with the nagging possibility that there is indeed an NBA grudge against the Mavs that affects the team and the fans as much as it affects their intended target, the GREAT Mark Cuban. It only adds to the frustration that the Spurs front-running contingency continues to grow in numbers and volume as this series marches on. As a fellow sports fan that detests front-runners, you know what I mean. The generic North Texan whose uncle's friend's cousin's nephew once visited Austin in 1991 and therefore said Generic North Texan feels justified to claim the Spurs and their rings as their own. Can't STAND front-runners! Unfortunately, Spurs front-runners have had over a decade to well...front run. Will the era of Pop, Timmy, Tony, and Manu keeping San Antonio on the map ever end??

See you Monday at noon, sir.

P1 Eric