Don’t Expect These Mavs To Fold

Darius Soriano —  May 3, 2011

Better than most fan bases, we who root for the Lakers understand how long a strong and persuasive narrative can survive. For example, even when Kobe was accepting double teams, hitting the open man, and generally sharing the ball expertly in the playoff run of 2009 (and beyond), the “Kobe’s selfish” meme was alive and well in the minds of many NBA fans. It takes a lot to dispel common held assumptions. So, it’s no surprise that the “Dallas chokes/is mentally soft” narrative was still a major theme coming into this series. After all, when looking at their playoff history up to this point, the first round ouster by the Warriors or their falling in the Finals to the Heat after being up in the series immediately come to mind.

Well, I’m here to tell you that if you’re expecting that to be a key component of the Lakers winning this series, you’re out of luck. I’ve come to this conclusion for a variety of reasons but mostly because the evidence is right in front of our faces speaking to the contrary. When many picked the Mavs to lose in the first round to the ‘Blazers, this was one of the common reasons. However, after enduring one of the most remarkable kick-in-the-stomach losses in recent memory, these Mavs won the next two games including a close out game on the road in the raucous Rose Garden. Last night was no different as they calmly came back from a 16 point 3rd quarter deficit by executing their sets on both sides of the ball and then closed out the game with even better execution in the final minutes.

This team is experienced, poised, and is made up of the types of veterans that have tasted defeat and don’t want to deal with anymore let downs. Beyond the clichés however, the proof is in the actual performances of these players. Dirk is simply one of the best closers in the game, scoring at elite levels with the game on the line. In the playoffs, in the last 5 minutes of a 5 point game, Dirk’s true shooting percentage is 79% and his individual offensive rating is 143.7, per NBA’s Stat’s Cube. Those are insane numbers. During the regular season, Jason Terry was among the leaders in 4th quarter scoring and has been a top performer in closing out games for years (especially against the Lakers). You add to those guys, Jason Kidd’s floor generalship and Tyson Chandler’s defense and you have the ingredients of a team that will not only score well but will defend too. Those are the exact ingredients that win games, especially close games.

Long story short, don’t expect the Mavs to hand the Lakers this series. You’ll be waiting a long time if that’s the case. The Lakers will need to win these games on their own merit; something that I’m pretty confident that they can still do.

—————————–

With all that said, some adjustments I’m looking for the next game:

*The Lakers must be more physical with the Mavs off the ball and especially with Dirk. Too often the Mavs were able to move to their preferred spots on the floor and take jumpers within the flow of the game. Dirk was especially brilliant in navigating the Laker defense, simply using a bunch of rub screens and flare cuts off the P&R to find his space and then get his shot up. The Lakers need to better stay connected to Dirk to force his catches further from sweet spots to make him use more energy to get where he wants to go before shooting. Pau can especially be more disruptive as he was the main culprit in allowing Dirk the kind of easy catches that he feasts on.

*Pau can also be more aggressive on offense. Believe me, I love that his stat line included 7 assists and I’ll never complain about Pau’s passing or how he helps his teammates succeed by setting them up for easy scores. However, his 10 shots and 5 free throw attempts aren’t enough. And while I fully support him getting more touches at the expense of the trigger happy guards to help boost these numbers, some of the time that he’s looking to initiate for others needs to be dedicated to hunting his own shots. Again, I love that he’s such a good passer but if he were to take 3-5 more shots a game while his assist number drops to his season average (nearly 4 a contest), I’d be quite happy with the result. In the first half, Gasol was extremely active looking for his own baskets but that seemed to dry up for him in the 2nd half. A lot of that blame needs to go to the guards (starters and reserves) and in an offensive attack that saw poor spacing and over dribbling rule. But, when he has the ball in his hands he needs to think attack more often.

*While there is a practice what you preach element to this, Kobe called out the reserves for not passing the ball to the post and I couldn’t agree with his statement (at least that portion of it) more. Blake and Odom are the only reserves with a mentality that the ball needs to go inside consistently. Both Shannon (most guilty) and Barnes (somewhat quick with his jumper) need to understand that they’ll get better looks later in the clock if the ball simply goes into the post on nearly every possession. There’s a reason that they find themselves open from the perimeter so often – the Mavs want them shooting jumpers. If they work the ball inside and stay away from over dribbling, the 2nd unit’s performance will skyrocket.

Darius Soriano

Posts

34 responses to Don’t Expect These Mavs To Fold

  1. Kobe also said that his shots had nothing to do with the failure to get the ball inside, which is simply absurd. Kobe shot the Lakers out of the game late in the 3rd quarter. While Kobe hoisted up repeated shots, his teammates stood around.

    Sure, you can blame teammates for not being more active, but when your best player is firing off 29 shots and manages NOT ONE assist, it’s pretty clear that he is not absolved of responsibility for this loss, and for him to point the blame exclusively on the bench is, frankly, too Shaq-like for my taste.

  2. About the game-I thought Ron had a couple great looks that would’ve staved off the third quarter run.

    I thought LO waited too long to start attacking the rim, he needs to be more assertive on that second unit.

    I thought the last 3 Laker possessions (2 turnovers and the missed 3) could’ve been handled better. We executed well on the last-second 3, but the other two possessions were awful.

    I think we will be able to adjust and win the next game, probably the next 2.

  3. #1. That’s why I said I agreed with *that portion* of his statement. My full opinion is that Kobe’s statement was abrasive and a bit to self absolving, but not lacking truth. (I mean, the bench should work inside out.)

    And not to defend Kobe, but he was pretty good in the 3rd period. 6-10 shooting, 15 points, a steal, a block, a rebound, and no turnovers. It was Ron’s three missed jumpers (and turnover) as well as Pau’s 1-3 (with two turnovers) that were issues in that period. That said, I still wanted Pau to get the ball more, but I’m not sure if Kobe should have been sacrificing too many of his shots (maybe 2-3 of the 10 he took that period) or if they should have come at the expense of Ron who did take some early J’s in the shot clock.

  4. I hear you, Darius, but 10 shots in one period is probably not something we need Kobe to repeat–particularly when those 10 shots were practically all long jumpers with plenty of time left on the shot clock (and there’s that “no assists” problem, too). I’m all for him (or anyone else) taking open jumpers when the ball goes into and comes back out of the post; but that’s not what I saw in the 3rd. I saw a guy who took it personally, then broke out his strut a wee bit early….

    There was a time when I was much more lenient in my criticism of Kobe’s shooting, but that was when he didn’t have the kind of support around him that he now does. Andrew Bynum repeatedly looked dejected after hustling into low post position, calling for the ball, and being ignored (not that I’m defending Drew for hanging his head). It’s just frustrating that come playoff time we seem to get one extreme version of Kobe or another. We don’t need him taking 30 shots, and we don’t need him taking only 10.

  5. The stat line says Kobe and Gasol had good games but we saw some of their worst tendencies.

    No way Kobe should have 3 times as many shots as everyone else and no way Dirk should be fighting Gasol off post spots.

  6. I’m done feeling upset about these Lakers. Phil Jackson is going to make better substitutions, Kobe is going to balance his offense, and the bench esp. Shannon trigger-happy Brown is going to tune down the jumpers, or else they will be going fishing pretty soon. These guys are paid millions to make us feel miserable.

  7. Kobe knows he can’t beat the Mavs all by himself? If he doesn’t bring out the best from his teammates, he will not tie MJ for 6 rings?

  8. DirtySanchez May 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Repost:

    How many times do you hear Bynum is the difference in a champion=ship or being just a team in the hunt? Chucking jumpers and losing 16 point leads within 2:30 mins(in LA) is unacceptable. Drew has to be engaged, whether on d or o, it doesnt have to be both. Last night he was in first half and the beginning of the third quarter. When the jumpers started flying he checked out and never returned. Still got faith in my boys to get it together, just made the ride to a chip a little bumpy.

  9. 3 plays from game 1 that stand out to me:

    1) Shannon Brown refusing to dive for the loose ball near half court. In game 6 of the 1987 Finals against Boston, James Worthy laid out in a similar situation that resulted in a Magic Johnson dunk. Pat Riley called that play “dynamite in a log jam”. The Lakers rallied off that 3rd quarter hustle and closed out the Celtics.

    2) Fisher having to jack a rushed 3 to beat the shot clock late in the 4th. This followed a timeout. Would like to think you can come up with a better shot than that after a timeout.

    3) Pau trying to force the handoff to Kobe when Kidd was in a “lock and trail” with Kobe. Very difficult to pick a defender who is on the same plane as your teammate.

    In game 2, I would like to see:

    1) Lakers exploiting defensive weaknesses of Stojakovic, Terry, and Barea with better matchups.

    2) Bringing our bigs into clean post position through little-on-big screens

    3) Andrew finishing his drop steps with one strong pivot, as opposed to the two he’s taking to complete his rotation. This allows Chandler to recover and bother the shot.

  10. all I want is for Phil to wake up, call earlier timeouts and make adjustments during games for a change, letting our 16 point lead get down to 3 and waiting till 6 minutes left to bring kobe and pau back was criminal

  11. Face it, Drew will not be engaged unless he is at least acknowledged in the offense. That really is to point of the triangle offense – we are running that offense, aren’t we?

    Oh yeah, and that will resolve some of our defensive problems too.

  12. If Phil has a weakness as a coach, it’s in-game adjustments. That’s not really any secret. But at the very least, he could start calling timeouts to stem tides in meaningful playoff games.

    Is it Phil’s MO to not call those timeouts? Sure. But as the coach, he needs to understand this team’s MO. The bench’s MO is to squander leads by ignoring the bigs and forcing too many jumpshots. This team as a whole relaxes far too often and stops executing when we go up double digits. Sometimes we play through rough stretches, but it’s far more common for our team to squander leads with poor execution. Phil’s the man, but I wish he’d show a little less rigidity.

    Wow, these refs are really protecting the Heat. This looks like the 2006 Finals, but the protection’s applying to Wade and Lebron.

  13. Darius,
    Gasol should never get the ball against Chandler. The last few seasons half of Gasol’s attempts on Tyson have been blocked, and the rest have ended in turnovers. Its a maricle if the ball gets to the rim.

  14. DirtySanchez May 3, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I dont blame Drew for spacing out when his teamates act as if he’s invisble for long stretches. Drew tires out the defense over the course of a game because of his size. Dallas seemed to have more energy at the end of the game,LO and Kobe were the only players active.

  15. In some sense, Aaron’s right. I’d much rather get the ball to the big being guarded by Dirk, for obvious reasons. Bynum’s beasted Chandler before, but I’m not as confident in Pau against Chandler. When Chandler’s physical and allowed to push Pau off his spots, it might not be the best idea to force Pau to go 1-on-1 in that situation. We lost a couple possessions where Pau tried and failed to back Chandler down.

    Miami looks intimidating. Their moves to the rim are unstoppable, and they’re allowed to play physical on D, but are protected by the whistles on the other end.

  16. And how many games this season have the Lakers won when Kobe comes out shooting? The answer is not many. He has to get his teammates involved early. But he is right… The second unit need to drop the ball down to Bynum or to e high post with Gasol every time down the court.

  17. Before we have a LETSHANONDUNK.COM now can we have letshanonsit.com and lettreyjohnsonplay.com.

    Those contested jumpshots doomed us in the third quarter and in the early fourth quarter. I would rather have Kobe taking those contested jumpshots than having Shanon take those shots. At least the percentages of kobe making those shots would be higher than Shanon’s.

    I have asked this before how ill is Pau with that Upper respiratory illness?

  18. Spartacus
    I was thinking about a letshannonsit.com last night too
    LOL

  19. I dont know what adjustments Phil will do but can we have Barnes and Artest guard Drik tomorrow. Leave Pau to Marion and that would be a better match up for us.

  20. I believe that the biggest game 1 blunder was Phil’s. This game was clearly lost in the fourth quarter. Regardless of what happened in the first three quarters at the beginning of the quarter we were up 78 to 71. During the fourth we were outscored 25 to 16. This means that we were poor offensively and defensively. So what happened in the fourth?

    On offense while Kobe and Pau (our best offensive players) played only 6:37 each.

    Novwitzki and Terry (their best offensive players) played 10:28 and 12:00 minutes each.

    On defense our best defender Andrew Bynum play only 6:03.

    Its clear to me that the Mavericks’ coach did everything that he could to secure this win. The fourth quarter of a playoff game against a legitimate contender is no place to lose with your second best players on the court.

  21. So how many possessions are there in a game per team? Then you figure that most of those probably result in 1 or maybe 2 (OR) shots before it ends. Maybe the bigs should probably be getting at least half of those attempts, instead of the guards and small forwards jacking up more than half of those attempts which are contested bad J’s from the perimeter, left and right. Dallas seems built to take those type of shots though, not the Lakers.

  22. All this being true and well considered, I still HOPE the Mavs fold…

    Actually even that’s not true. I want L.A. to face the toughest fight Dallas can give and come out ahead so that they are properly prepared for simllar fights in the next 2 rounds. Hoping for accidental championships is weak whiskey.

  23. Please help me here. Who would you like Kobe to pass the ball to? Ron tbe Brick who missed 4 straight shots in the 3rd quarter blow up that culminated with another of his signature air-balls?

    How about Kwame Gasol who acts like the ball is made of butter and fumbles away.

    Maybe he should throw to Brown on the bench who will no doubt try a 90 foot jumper from there while doing a double back flip.

    Oh yea how about 36% shooter Blake or bring in 34% $5 million dollar an Luuuuuke!

    Come on guys either Kobe shoots or these guys could go scoreless for a entire quarter.

    You know like the 4th quarter when Phil left Kobe on the bench for 6 minutes. Must have thought this was a pre-season game. Age will do that some times.

    Kobe shoot, shoot, shoots because that’s what you must do on tbe team that could’t shoot straight.

  24. The game plan for the first 3 periods should be to beat up Dirk. Run center-opposite to get Bynum onto Dirk, back him down, spin an elbow to his face, whatever it takes – just keep beating up on him.

    If Dirk is on Odom, take him into isolation and make him dance, just to wear him down.

    If Kobe sees Dirk as the first help, take it hard to him, even if it means a charge.

    Just keep hammering Dirk. Without him, the Dallas team is fairly mediocre. He is the key to everything they are doing, and Lakers have all the tools to constantly take it to him, even without really leaving their own sets.

  25. I live in Dallas and you should hear the local talking heads. They KNOW that LA GAVE them Game 1. They’re convinced that Kidd got away with one on that push that sent Kobe into Pau on the screen at the end of the game, and giddy that we kept Bynum on the bench or away from the ball most of the game.

    Mavs Nation is utterly terrified of Bynum. At the March game in Dallas, there was an audible groan everytime we fed it to Bynum–he ate their bigs alive in that game.

    I’m still sick about Monday’s loss. Totally avoidable and totally inexcusable to give away a game like that in the playoffs.

  26. Excellent point by khjohn, @ # 20, regarding the mins distribution n the 4th quarter. With that being said, there’s no logical explanation on why your starting shooting guard should accumulate more shots (29) than your entire starting front-court combined (26). Keeping n mind that our starting front-court consists of a perennial All-Star, a former 20 pt per game scorer and a future perennial All-Star (health permitting) who was arguably your best offensive player n the 1st round. Yeah, you’re correct, No Slouches offensively. Also, this same starting 2 guard garnered not 1 single assist. Not One. I think that we can all agree that, long term, this isn’t the recipe for success. Starting tonight, lets get this corrected.

  27. I am one of Kobe’s biggest fans. For 15 years i have defended him and even when the Shaq/Kobe debate raged it was a no brainer for me. It’s been 15 years now its time for Kobe to stop acting like Shaq and start realizing that he needs expand his vision and accept the reality that this isnt the Kobe of even 4 years ago. Great yes he is but no assists? seriously? Kobe come on. At the end of the day you blew it. Yes you can point to the bench. You can point at ron-ron, you can nit pick, but Kobe was responsible for this debacle. Ego is an appetite that blinds us to reality. Kobe’s ego got in the way of the needs of this team and ultimately cost the team the win in game one. 29 shots? No assists? Mostly on ill timed jump shots. It has to stop if the Lakers are going to 3 peat. Only 8 shots for Drew? Kobe should have been pumping the ball down low to Drew, facillatating and distributing. It looked to me like he saw the 16 point lead and decided to make the game about him. Wake up call Kobe. You are great now its time to be legendary, use you BB IQ, pass direct, get the ball to your bigs. It wasnt injuries, it wasnt the Mavs D, It was Kobe being selfish and putting himself above the needs of his team. I cant happen if the Lakers are going to win. And if he doesnt wake up, the Lakers dont deserve to win nor does Kobe deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the Great ones. MJ, Kareem, Magic.

  28. Assists are a tricky stat. If Kobe passes the ball and his teammates don’t make the shot, then he doesn’t get the assist. Many times he passed it only to have Artest brick or Pau sit there with the ball for 10 seconds before he decides to make a move. However, Bynum needs to see the ball more and it’s on all the guards, Blake, Kobe, Shannon and Fish to see to it that he gets it.

  29. Kobe’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If he shoots too much, fans are saying that he is selfish. If he is a facilitator, then fans wanna know why he isn’t shooting. Kobe will probably not take a shot in the first quarter tonight in Game 2 and we all better hope his teammates step up.

  30. The defensive end is where Mr. Bean and his teammates need to step up. Closing out on shooters is a must with this jump shooting happy squad from Dallas. The offensive end will always come and go, but the effort on D has to be consistent for LA to win. The team put forth the effort for 36 mins on Monday, now they need to do it for 48. Series is not over with by no means, but the time has come to start playing like two time defending champs.

  31. #30 – I agree that offense will come and go, but where I disagree with you is that I feel like the Lakers were playing hard on defense in game 1. Dallas hit everything. I just feel like if they shoot like that we really can’t beat them. How do you stop those shots? We contested most of them.

  32. darius: kobe’s 26 foot shot goes in, the subject turns to greatest closer ever. it’s all rhetoric.

    speaking of which, the estrogen level appears to be going up for both paula galsal and lamara khardashian like the price of gasoline. time to fill up with testosterone.

    one last thing: Go Lakers !!

  33. #32. Not sure what you mean with your comment. Even if Kobe hits that shot, it doesn’t change the fact that people expecting the Mavs to just fold shouldn’t waste their time.

    Also, Gasol and Odom had good games on Monday. It was Bynum and Artest that really had the poor games. I think your comment is off base. Except for the Go Lakers part. We agree there. :)

  34. darius: touche !!