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Why the Mavericks Lost


Although bias was mostly the reason for my prediction for the Mavericks to win the NBA Championship in my last article, I certainly was not expecting this team to fall victim to a first-round exit. Dirk Nowtizki was as good as he's ever been. Jason Kidd was playing as if he did not know he was 37. Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood came in mid-season and made the Mavs one of the hottest teams in basketball after the All-Star break. Earning the #2 seed in the Western Conference is a more-than-respectable accomplishment, so how could this very deep team have lost in six games in the first round of the playoffs? Well, the San Antonio Spurs certainly did outplay them, but this could have been prevented. Guys like Jason Kidd and Jason Terry did not play their best basketball in this series, but the responsibility for the loss was due largely in part to the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, Rick Carlisle.

Other than Jason Terry scoring only five points, the Dallas Mavericks had nothing to complain about after their 100-94 victory in Game 1. And then it was all downhill from there. Rick Carlisle decided that his best strategy against the “small ball” of the Spurs would be just that. Small ball. At crucial stretches of the games that would follow, Carlisle loved to have Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and JJ Barea on the floor all at the same time. Why wouldn't the head coach put in the quickest, biggest, and most clutch arrangement of five players that he has in the fourth quarter of games? If he had the guts to put Dirk at the 5-spot with Marion, Butler, Terry, and Kidd on the floor in the fourth quarter of every game in the series, we might be seeing a Suns-Mavericks series happening right now. When Tim Duncan is out of the game, the Spurs have nothing to show for in the paint. It would be only natural to exploit that. Command Dirk to drive to the hole and draw fouls. Get Dirk to draw double teams and kick the ball out to guys like Butler and Terry and even Jason Kidd. To most coaches in the NBA, this should be indisputably logical.

As far as game-by-game coaching decisions, Carlisle's selection of who played and who did not definitely had an effect on the outcome of this series. In Game 2, he elected to play Shawn Marion only 20 minutes, most of those coming in the first half. He was basically invisible towards the end of the game. However, the Spurs were just too good in that game, and one coaching decision by Carlisle was not the reason for the Mavericks' 102-88 loss. In a much closer Game 3, Carlisle “punished” both Marion and Caron Butler for basically the entire second half. Marion played just over 16 minutes in the game, while Butler played less than fifteen. In playoff basketball, I do not care what these guys might have done in the locker room at halftime to get under his skin. They are key contributors to the team and should not be benched in a game with that much meaning. The Spurs go on to win 94-90. In Game 4, it was another nail-biter, and Carlisle's aforementioned “small ball” lineup was together on the floor in the fourth quarter way too often. The Spurs win again by the final score of 92-89.


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In Game 5, the Mavericks played very expectedly. Their backs were against the wall, and they chose to remind every NBA fan how good of a team they were with a resounding 103-81 blowout. Then came Game 6. Dallas got off to an absolutely terrible start. They trailed 22-8 at the end of the first quarter because they simply were not paying well at all. The Spurs led by thirteen at halftime, but the Mavs decided to flip the switch in the second half. Their resilience prompted them to gain the lead in the third quarter. After the horrific start, the fact they could climb all the way back meant that they deserved to win this game and force Game 7 back in Dallas. The rookie, Roddy Beaubois, was going off and proving that he deserved to get extended playing time in that pivotal third quarter. Then, in the fourth quarter, the “small ball” lineup made its return, and Beaubois was nowhere to be found until the last couple of minutes, when it was too late. The Spurs closed out the series with a 97-87 win. Had Rick Carlisle applied logical coaching decisions throughout this series, we could have been seeing a different team currently trailing three games to none against the Phoenix Suns.


By: Steven Barile
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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