Friday, April 30, 2010
Yes, the 2010 Opening Round Series with the San Antonio Spurs is Over. That much was made very clear last night as Game 6 ended the same way that Games 3 and 4 in San Antonio did also. With too many plays made by the Spurs, and not enough big moments late in the 4th Quarter by Dallas, the outcome of this series took absolutely no observers by surprise.
But, perhaps I am also talking about the Jason Terry Era being over. A man who has hit so many big shots in his seasons here in Dallas made a significant contribution to the cause. But, I have reason to believe it is over after the last 2 playoffs have seen him score a mere 13.6 ppg. And in 16 playoff games, just 2 20-point performances. 12.7 in this series, and 2 last night. For the "1a" option in the offense to put that game up in an elimination game, well, you can understand if the Mavs are bothered by a guy who averaged 19.6 ppg in the regular season last year dropping that far; and his shooting percentage falling from 04-05's 50.1% to this year's 43.8%. He may be done as a big time 4th Quarter scoring option.
Or, maybe I was talking about Jason Kidd Era being over. The 37-year old point guard has been so good in so many ways since his return to Dallas, but we are all wondering when he will start to look his age. Well, we may have found it. In the 3 crucial playoff losses in San Antonio in this series, Jason Kidd looked absolutely shocking. The often dependable outside shooter was challenged by the Spurs, and he failed said challenge miserably. 5 for 22 is 22.7% from the field in those 3 games, and he hardly hit a shot in that arena in 3 complete games. It is unfair that 27 year olds can have bad games and we leave it at that, but 37 year olds play the same way and we surmise they are old as dirt. But, that is how the game works.
Or, perhaps I was saying that the Rick Carlisle era is over. Or maybe I just wish that this was the case. I am not sure I have seen a coach mis-manage his roster and substitution quite like Rick Carlisle did this series. He got the switches in Game 3 amazingly wrong by benching Caron Butler the entire 2nd half - for a tired JJ Barea. He took 30 regular season games and 4 playoff games before it occured to him that Brendan Haywood might be a better idea than Erick Dampier in the post. How about sitting Shawn Marion when you needed someone to guard Manu Ginobili in crunch time? And then, of course, perhaps the inscription on his tombstone - the man who could shut down Roddy Beaubois. Despite the Spurs having no ability to stay in front of his quickness and penetration, the Mavs coach did everything he could to make sure that Beaubois doesn't have a chance to put his stamp on the game. You would almost think he was trying to get himself fired. Occasionally, you can find a decision to debate with a coach, but seldom does he give you this many different decisions that appear to be dead wrong. It is a coach's job to know his roster and utilize it properly. I swear, Rick Carlisle got it all wrong.
And, finally, perhaps I was talking about the Dirk Nowitzki Era. I think anyone reading this knows that he is my favorite basketball player and I want this story to have a happy ending so badly. But, Dirk has been the constant as we have seen the Mavericks 4th Quarter offense and defense fall short in these brutal playoff battles time and time again. The coaches changed, the players changed, but Dirk has still been the cornerstone of a great regular season team that seems to come unraveled when the playoffs arrive. I will defend him to the end, but I will also concede that jump shots are not as dependable as lay-ups. And because of Dirk, the Mavs take a lot of perimeter shots in the 4th Quarter. And, partly because of Dirk, the Mavs have trouble shutting down opponents in the 4th Quarter on the other end of the floor. He has faught valiantly and with amazing heart. But, at what point to we admit that we have tried it from every angle with Dirk? And, sadly, he lost his poise badly last night. His foul decisions in the 1st half were amazingly poor. If he was a rookie, we might suggest he will learn from that. But, at his age, 32 this summer, we must assume he may never learn to always keep his head. I don't want to admit he is the problem, but I think it is foolish to suggest that he has nothing to do with the problem.
I just don't know where to turn now. If Mark Cuban would ask me what to do next, I would have a million ideas, but none that I really like. You are married to many of these players and you just cannot keep flipping the entire roster every season and expect to get anywhere. At the same time, we see how well keeping Dirk, Jet, and Dampier together has worked as well.
Full marks to the San Antonio Spurs. They cranked their defense up to a level the Mavs could not deal with. They made plays down the stretch with relentless guard play, led by, of all people, George Hill. His performance in this series did take me by surprise, but there is no doubt that his plays made a ton of difference.
They are a team that has won many trophies and has earned them all. And now, when they pulled the Mavs into the uncomfortable deeper waters of the playoffs, the game was won. They pushed the Mavs around, and proved that they understand what works in April and May.
I have a number of other opinions that I may in fact add to this post a bit later in the morning, but that is all for now.
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