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Top 5 reasons why the Mavs lost to the Thunder plus my final thoughts on the season

May 9, 2012

The first was the luck of the bounce. If Durant’s shot in game 1 that was out didn’t bounce in and if Dirk’s shot in game 2 that was in didn’t bounce out the Mavs would have been going back to Dallas up 2-0 and looking at a sweep. I would argue that the sweep would have taken place as the Thunder were a team with a fragile psyche and were coming off a 4-1 series defeat to Dirk and Jet last year so going down 2-0 on late game heroics by those same Mavs probably would have caused them to lose their cool and left them unable to compete the rest of the series. It happened to the Mavs in games 3 and 4 and I think it would have happened to the Thunder if the ball had simply bounced another way on two shots.

The second reason was the refs. I went over it before and don’t feel like taking it on again but I feel that the refs in games 1-3 were pretty awful and the Mavs reacted to the poor officiating even worse. An evenly called series in games 1-3 would most  likely have allowed Dallas to come away with at least one of those games and the series would probably still be going on right now.

The third reason was Carlisle’s coaching moves. Carlisle is coming off a championship run where he outcoached Phil Jackson and others so he can’t be criticized in this town right now but quite a few of his moves were very strange and I believe led to the Mavs early exit.Dallas’ bench was outscored regularly by the Thunder’s yet that’s to be expected whenCarlisle rarely allowed one of his most dynamic scorers to ever enter the game. In games 1-3 Roddy B. had a total of 12 minutes of action despite Kidd and West being unable to defend Russell Westbrook and the Mavs being atrocious on offense (40% FG as a team). He exacerbated the problem with his bench by not only excluding Roddy B. from the rotation but excluding Brandan Wright as well. Brandan is a tall, athletic big man who is horrible against bigger lineups (think the Lakers) but is outstanding in up tempo offenses without a legit post scorer (think the Suns/Thunder). He fit perfectly at center in this series against the young, perimeter oriented Thunder but somehow he only played 6.8 minutes per game in these playoffs despite being a better rebounder, shot blocker, and stealer on a per minutes basis compared to Brendan Heywood. It’s shocking that Carlisle didn’t play those two players more when he saw the struggles Vince Carter had offensively (29% FG) and Haywood had on both ends (29% FG plus the per minutes rates I mentioned earlier). By game 3 the Thunder were doubling Dirk and Terry and forcing other players to make plays yet with two good options stuck on the bench the Mavs rarely were able to counter this strategy and it shocks me thatCarlisle stubbornly kept his rotation to the bitter end.

The fourth reason was the Dwight Howard/Derron Williams effect. This season was designated from the get go as a throw away season where the team would bring in the best talent available on 1 year contracts and give it their best shot while angling for the free agent prizes this summer. I liked the strategy as adding Derron to pick and roll with Dirk could extend his window by another few years but it’s a bad strategy in trying to win a title this year. Not only were Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea unable to be replaced on the court but one of the best locker rooms in basketball the past few years was ruined by this “give it your best shot….but we won’t be helping you” approach. There was Terry complaining about not getting an extension, the non-stop ring ceremonies for last year’s Mavs in their return to the AAC, the cancer named Lamar Odom, and numerous other off the court issues thatDallas isn’t used to. This isn’t LA or NY, where off the court issues are expected, butDallas where there usually is a superstar who isn’t vocal and a locker room full of good guys that don’t make waves. The locker room vibe was different this year with so many newbies and the mixture never seemed to quite get right. The Mavs in the 4th quarter of games 3 and 4 showed a little quit in them and that’s a rare sight under Cuban which I would argue stemmed from the volatility in the locker room this year.

The fifth reason was that the Mavs just couldn’t hit shots. I know it’s a strange reason to give but every year there is a team that gets hot and finds their collective shooting stroke at the perfect time. In the 2007 playoffs it was the Golden State Warriors who had numerous shooters come alive (Baron Davis a career 32% 3 pt shooter shot 46%, Stephen Jackson a career 34% 3 pt shooter shot 48%), in the 2009 playoffs it was the Orlando Magic who shot the Cavaliers out of the gym by connecting on an NBA record 62 three pointers in the 6 game series, and in the 2011 playoffs you could argue that it was the Mavs who caught fire on their way to a sweep of the 2 time defending champs, an easy 5 game series win vs. the Thunder, and culminating in a 4-2 series win against the Heat who were widely regarded as the best team in the NBA. This year’s Mavs team not only failed to play above their season averages but almost all of them shot worse in the playoffs than in the regular season. It could be the Thunder’s D, it could be tired legs from a long season, it could be an old team looking old, or it could be that there were just too many players on the roster in the midst of a shooting slump at exactly the wrong time. Terry began the series well but Westbrook was on him more and more and it clearly effected him. Dirk had his moments but overall wasn’t the dominant figure like he was last year. Kidd was dominant in other areas (24 assists, 24 rebounds, 12 steals, and 1 block in the 4 game series) but he was completely inept in the first 3 games of the series offensively (27% FG) and was a key reason why the Thunder defense slowly strangled Dirk and Terry’s pick and roll game which initially was effective in the series. The big three weren’t that big and needed to be enormous as the role players all struggled (VC, Haywood, etc.).

Final Thoughts: The Mavs success this decade has been the efficiency of Dirk and his wing man (Nash/Terry) on the pick and roll. It’s unguardable by two players but the Thunder threw the kitchen sink at them and dared Kidd and Carter to nail a long range jumper or a Mavs big man to convert an interior shot against Serge Ibaka. Neither occurred frequently enough to force Scotty Brooks to call off the strategy and eventually the Mavs were swept by a team that is very close talent wise to them. It was the first playoff sweep of the Mavs in the Mark Cuban era and also was the first time I saw a team with Dirk, struggle that much to put the ball in the basket. Some are saying it’s the end of an era but replace Terry with Derron Williams and Haywood with a legit NBA center and I’ll be pretty confident that the 2013 playoffs won’t end the same way that these playoffs did. Dirk will be fine, it’s time to get him some serious help.

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