Second Round Preview: When The Mavericks Have The Ball

Phillip Barnett —  May 1, 2011

Yesterday, Darius kicked off our second round preview with a segment on the Lakers offense against the Mavericks defense. Today, I’ll get into what the Lakers need to do against this Mavericks offense.

When speaking about the Mavericks’ offense, you almost have to begin and end with Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk is one of those rare players who has a unique scoring style, one that we haven’t seen before and one we may never see again. He’s a 7-footer with shooting touch like an off guard; he’s often used in the way Ray Allen is, moving around and catching passes off screens; he can score in the post; and he has one of the most unguardable shots in NBA history, that off-balanced, turnaround fadeaway. It’s Jordanesque in footwork, but the added 6 to 7 inches in height makes it nearly impossible to defend. You can only hope he misses — but when he’s on, hope can become lost during his hot streaks.

Defending Dirk isn’t easy, but the Lakers did a fairly decent job on him this season, holding him below his season totals in scoring, field goal percentage and free throw attempts. To do this, the Lakers sent a lot of defenders at Dirk, and did their best to keep him off of the spot on the floor he’s most comfortable operating on. As I mentioned earlier, the Mavericks like to move Dirk around a lot, using him in a lot of pick and roll situations, or running him off a  lot of off-ball screens. Darius explains this further:

Watching a lot of Dirk’s possessions in the half court, it’s obvious that the Mavs love to take advantage of his excellent movement off the ball by using him in countless screen actions. On nearly every play, Dirk is either delivering or receiving multiple picks to free himself up from his man and generate the space he needs to make the catch and then get his shot off. It’s not that the Mavs are extremely creative in these actions – most are just simple down screens for Dirk or plays where he’ll set a back screen on the wing or a screen on the ball handler – but they’re highly effective because of the way that Dirk moves off the ball and where he’s going after he makes the catch. He may not have the quickness of a wing player, but he moves like one as he’s often popping out to the wing or flaring off a screen into open space. Most big men that guard him just aren’t used to navigating these types of screens or moving to the positions that Dirk forces them to and that’s one of the main reasons he gets so open.

So there isn’t a question that he can operate anywhere on the floor, but Dirk’s sweet spot seems to be on the left wing, where he can go into isolation and post-up situations and knock down that turnaround fadeaway from short to mid-range distances. I went into Synergy and logged all of his field goal attempts against the Lakers during the regular season. By far, his most efficient spot on the floor was on the left wing taking shots from 3-15 feet away from the basket (even more efficient than the field goal attempts around the rim). The following chart shows his field goal percentage from each distance on the floor on the left, straight away, and right sides of the floor, respectively. (Note: There was only one field goal attempt from the two locations where his fg% is 100).


After Dirk, the Lakers have to find guys in transition or in secondary transition. With Jason Kidd running the show, the Mavericks aren’t going to be the fastest team in the league, but they’re still able to get a lot of shots up early in transition. Guys like Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler benefit the most from Kidd handling the ball, with his ability to get the ball near the rim for them to go up and get. However, Jason Terry is notorious for his pull-up jumpers in transition and Dirk is always a threat trailing the offense and spotting up for open jumpers. More from Darius:

The Mavs may not play at a fast pace that generates a lot of possessions (they were 18th in the league in pace), but they do enjoy a lot of success in early offense situations by pushing the ball up court and looking for shots before the defense is set. According to, in the regular season, 34% of the Mavs field goal attempts came in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. On those shots they had an effective field goal percentage of 57.8. The Mavs love to push the ball up court, force the defense to recover to the paint, and then shoot jumpers against late closeouts by those retreating defenders. Jason Kidd is a master at picking out his shooters in these situations, especially Dirk and Terry who love to run to the three point line in transition and then either fire away from deep or use the threat of that shot to dribble by closing out defenders in order to shoot their mid-range jumpers. Besides Kidd’s ability to push the ball and find his teammates, a key to the success of this style is Tyson Chandler’s great ability to rebound and then run the floor. Chandler is excellent running post lane sprints, running directly to the front of the rim and collapsing the defense into the paint in the process.

I do believe that the Lakers have the right personnel to force the Mavericks into tough shots, and they won’t have to exert so much energy into defending one player who can both score and create for everyone else on the floor. However, Dallas can create some favorable matchups, and that can lead to offensive rebounding. The Maverick bigs aren’t known for their offensive prowess, but Dirk’s ability to draw double teams and Jason Kidd’s ability to find open guys can cause unfavorable rotations that can leave the back side glass wide open. Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood won’t have any problem attacking the offensive glass, and a lot of their individual offense will come that way. Honing down on Dirk, contesting the Mavericks early offense and ending defensive possessions with rebounds will be the key issues for the Lakers defense this series. If they do those things, Dallas is going to have a tough time maintaining their 107.6 offensive efficiency and the Lakers can end up having a very successful series.

Phillip Barnett


to Second Round Preview: When The Mavericks Have The Ball

  1. Ugh, Watching the Heat/Celtics is like ‘Sophie’s Choice’ in reverse. You want both to die but you have to choose one to live . . . difficult.


  2. I choose to focus on the positives. I’m enjoying Boston getting their a**es handed to them, and I’ll ignore that it’s Miami that’s on the other end.

    I know a lot of people are rooting for Boston, but to me, the Celtics are just as arrogant as the Heat. This series may be similar to Detroit-Boston 2008. One old, prideful champion seeking to punish a newly formed Big 3 that’s been extremely hyped. Possibly a taking of the torch.

    I really am enjoying watching Pierce let James Jones get into his head. Was the 2nd T on Pierce unfair? Probably. But I am loving Pierce’s trash-talking tough-guy act backfire splendidly on him.


  3. Devil you know is better than the devil you don’t…I’d much rather see the Celtics in the finals.


  4. I really don;t like watching either of these teams play, and would like both of the to lose in the same game (is that possible?), but the refs are pretty hackjob in this one.
    J Oneal got a flagrant for setting a pick on a cutter and Pierce got ejected after DWade approached him. The refs are protecting the heat, thats wh Bron and Wade dont get techs, like ever…


  5. And I also don’t see Miami/Bos going more than 5 games. Boston has almost no offensive firepower outside of jump shots. They have no post presence and no guy they can rely on to get them a bucket. Meanwhile Miami has 2 guys that can go SuperNova at anytime, and don’t need to worry about defending the post because the Celts never go to it.

    The Bulls are going to have the same problem in the next series. This Miami team spells all sorts of trouble for the east, and possibly the league.


  6. I’d also much rather see the Celtics in the finals. But that doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy them getting humiliated.

    The flagrant on Jermaine O’Neal was bush league. All he did was step in the path of a cutter. I’ll admit I’m surprised. If there’s one team I thought would be allowed to play physical with the Heat, it’d be the Celtics and all the leeway they get with their physical style. But Cdog’s right, the whistles definitely favored the superstars over the C’s bruising style.

    Fun afternoon in all. Aside from the Hawks, every team left is legit. The Grizz continue to earn my respect with the way they execute. Kudos to hard-nosed Lionel Hollins; his team’s slowly taken on his personality.


  7. Your Dudeliness,
    Horace Grant on that Lakers team was line 38 years old and couldn’t defend Robert Horry let alone Tim Duncan. He was a stop gap for Horry since Robbert wasn’t big enough to bang against PFs for a whole game.


  8. Funky Chicken May 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    1. If this year’s Laker team plays to it’s potential it absolutely can be rated alongside or even better than any Laker team in history. Of course, this shouldn’t come as news considering that Jerry Buss said as much before the season even started. I think he’d know….

    2. For anyone who thought Lamar was robbed by not being named an all-star, I’d like to introduce you to one Zachary Randolph.


  9. Renato Afonso May 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    On the Celtics-Heat matchup… While I enjoy seeing Boston lose, I would rather see them in the Finals because they’re way more accessible than the Heat or Bulls and also because it would be so sweet to beat them twice in a row as we catch them in NBA titles.

    On the current analysis, which is far more important than that series, you guys did a really insightful job on the way the Mavs play. However, I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t mention the progress that Kidd made in shooting the 3-ball throughout his career. Having that kind of shot available on a PG with that size means you have to think twice before providing any help defense, which frees up Dirk more than teams want to. However, what Kidd isn’t is a fast shooter. His shooting mechanics is rather slow and with proper communication on defense, the Lakers should be able to:

    a) the guy who’s defending who makes the pick (except for the one matched up with Dirk) can provide some help defense using his arm and preferably the entire body. It will leave the defense open for a lob pass, but if whoever is defending the ball carrier swarms him, the pass will not be good enough

    b) Rough up Dirk a little as he is passing by. Just a small touch with the shoulder or whatever. Big guys do it with PG’s and SG’s all the time…

    Doing the above will result in Dirk receiving the ball 3 to 4 feet further from where he was intended to and he will have to put the ball on the floor if he is going for the fadeaway or drop step move. And any Mavs possession that involves Dirk putting the ball on the floor is a good thing for the Lakers D.

    I honestly believe that we may see more of the Odom-Bynum combo than we’re used to due to the nature of the Mavs frontline. If it’s a good thing, it remains to be seen.


  10. @9. Yes, Kidd has a really slow release on this threes. If one of our defenders makes a decent show of running out on him, he’ll miss a lot more than he makes.

    @Aaron. Horace was still 35 when that season ended, and the primary difference between the 2001 Lakers and the 2000 Lakers was that they had him starting at PF instead of AC Green. In 2001, Wallace shot 19-51 from the floor (37.3%) against Grant and Horry in three games and averaged only 4.7 FTA per game. In 2000, he shot 59-119 (49.6%) against Green and Horry in seven games, and averaged 7.7 FTA per game in the six games where he played the full game (ejected in 2nd quarter of Game One).

    Chris Webber was 42-100 (42.0%) from the field in the four games vs LA in 2001, and averaged 7.0 FTA per game. In the five games in 2000 with Green as his primary defender, he was 47-110 (42.7%) and averaged 6.8 FTA per game. However, what I remember from the 2000 and 2001 series is that the Lakers had to double Wallace and Webber with Green in the lineup, but rarely doubled them when Grant was their primary defender. Horace excelled at pushing those guys away from their spots and not falling for their pump fakes, while AC was just the opposite.


  11. Grant wasn’t the best help defender (the Lakers version of Grant, I mean) but Dude is right, he was a great position defender. And the biggest difference between 2000 and 2001 was not getting reamed by the elite PFs in the Western Conference. Grant obviously wasn’t the same athletic defender he was in the early 90s, but he was a big step up from a small and ancient AC Green.

    Great matchup preview, by the way. Our defense is obviously key, but I’ll be watching to see what Pau can do offensively against Dirk. Dirk is a much more traditional matchup that Pau should do well against.

    I’ll also be interested to see if Artest can post up Kidd, if that matchup presents itself. Kidd hasn’t been an elite defender for years, but he’s still extremely strong – he’s no Bellinelli. Posting up Artest worked well in the last round, so we’ll see if the Lakers try to exploit that at all.


  12. Alright Duder,
    I’m having a white Russian by the pool in palm dessert and thinking of you (here for stage coach! Don’t knock country music!). It’s def no CCR though. There is no doubt old Grant was better than even older AC. Those shooting percentages had more to do with the Lakers team defense (Shaq) than Grant playing effective one on one defense in my opinion. So give me your best Lakers team of all time. Not talent wise one through eight… But talent overall. What Lakers team would win in an all Lakers playoffs? I’m going the 2001 Lakers because PF Shaq amd Kobe in their primes. It was the first prime year for Kobe and the last prime year for Shaq. I’ll take them in seven over this years version. Young Fisher although still bad is much better than old Fisher. Young Kobe is better than old Kobe. Artest of course is much better than Fox… But Fox was built in the Artest mold but just wasn’t as athletic as Artest. Gasol vs Grant and Horry is a joke. Grant was too slow and Horry was too small. The difference in the series comes down to Shaq vs Bynum. Shaq wasn’t his dominant best but this was the last year he was hanging on. We’ve seen Bynum hang with Dwight but Howard is smaller amd lighter than Drew. Shaq was heavier and almost as athletic as Amdrew at this time. Of course when Shaq was in his athletic prime In the middle to late 90’s Shaq would be just too quick and explosive for Bynum.


  13. 1… Awesome.


  14. @11. Snoopy, my guess is that DAL will start Stevenson and play him for 15-20 minutes as Kobe’s primary defender, leaving Marion to guard Artest. The absence of Butler really hurts the Mavs a lot more in this series than just about any other. Only one other team in the league has an elite SG plus an unimaginably strong SF. I would imagine that when Stevenson goes to the bench, the Mavs will switch Kidd onto Artest if Ron is still on the floor.


  15. @1. I’m hoping for a long and bloody BOS-MIA series, with the men in green winning in seven games and then getting taken out by a rested team in Chi-town.


  16. Thanks for the analysis, so from this chart its safe for our guys to let dirk shoot the three at the center and left areas as he is almost 0% from those spots.

    This Memphis Team is no fluke they are playing great basketball right now and to think of it they are playing without Rudy Gay.

    As for the Heat-Celtic Match-up, I w3ant both team to loose but it cant happen so I would root for our rival and hope to see them in the finals and sweep them to Humiliation.


  17. @12. I’m honored that you are having a White Russian in my honor while sitting by the pool, watching the tumblin’ tumbleweeds go by 😀

    The answer to your question is dependent on which set of rules we go by. If it’s the zone-legal, no handchecking on the perimeter rules of today, I would rank the best Laker teams as this:

    1. 1985
    2. 2001
    2a. 2011

    The 1985 team was the greatest Laker team of all, IMO. It would take out today’s team in five or six games, and likely take out the 2001 team in six or seven games. The 2001 Shaq would be double-teamed without the ball by Kareem and Rambis to limit his touches, with Grant being more or less left alone around the FT line. Scott and Cooper would tag-team Kobe, who would still get his but would have to work very hard. On defense, there’s simply no way that Fox would be able to check Worthy. Kobe would have to use a ton of energy to guard Magic (it’s also possible that Kobe could guard Worthy and Fox Magic), and Fish’s tendency to help on D would leave Byron open (don’t forget that Byron led the NBA in 3-pt % that season).

    1985 vs 2011 – Kareem’s last truly elite season…his sky hook was unstoppable. He owned powerful defenders like Bill Laimbeer and Robert Parish. He would get his 30 against the 2011 Laker defense. Artest would likely defend Magic (and vice-versa), leaving Kobe on Worthy (and vice-versa). Those are two tough matchups for the 2011 Laker team.

    2001 vs 2011 – here is where the rules come into play. The 2011 team could conceivably beat the 2001 team in seven games with today’s rules, but would definitely lose with the 2001 rules, possibly in five or six games. An 80% Bynum on an island vs a Shaquille O’Neal in his prime? Not going to happen…Fish or Kobe would have to double down, leaving their ten-year younger dopplegangers open.

    Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my rambling wreck of a comment. And in my honor, this weekend I hope you get the chance to object in a loud voice, “Hey careful man, there’s a beverage here!” to any roughhousing young ‘uns by the pool that you might encounter.


  18. Haha… Thanks for the insight. You say an 80% Bynum? Are you saying Andrew is hurt or that he is 80% the player he will be in a couple years?


  19. Goes without saying, but there aren’t a lot of NBA franchises whose fans can have a spirited debate over which of their multiple-championship teams was the best.


  20. @18. Because of the knee. Let’s say the Lakers win it all this year, then there is a lockout, and then they settle and the season starts around January 1st. That would give Kobe and Drew a lot of time for resting and strengthening their legs. A long rest would help the veteran Lakers to a greater degree than the other teams in the league. Perhaps that could mean a 90% Bynum next season 😉


  21. Renato Afonso May 2, 2011 at 5:02 am

    I hate seeing us discuss which championship team was better… Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves, no? Sure, we’re not playing but I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.

    This Mavs team is far from easy. And even(when) we get through them, we’ll have either OKC or Memphis waiting for us and I’m not sure which one is more dangerous to us (leaning towards Memphis since they have plenty of wing defenders with solid inside play). The road to a title is though and this season even more. Let’s talk about what can/must be done and then we can discuss the multiple championship teams… Maybe in August when there’s nothing else to talk about.

    NOTE: I would vote for Mikan’s Lakers with the rules from back in the day. No 3pt shots, no palming the ball, no travelling when going for the dunk nor in the first step…