All was fine and dandy when the Dallas Mavericks were soaring amid a blistering 13-game win streak.
Now? Not so much.
After three consecutive defeats, the Mavericks now face a 3-1 deficit to seasoned San Antonio Spurs, who didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned with their Game 1 loss. As the Spurs know best, losing comes with the territory.
The Mavericks don’t have that same swagger and confidence about them. They’re definitely pressing. It doesn’t help that there’s a looming suspicion that this will be the franchise’s last chance in a long while at an NBA title.
Dallas blew a 48-37 halftime lead to lose 92-89 in Game 3. Dirk Nowitzki, the team’s star, shot just 4-10, representative of the team’s 41 percent shooting for the contest.
The color commentator mentioned during the game that Dirk is the only player Dallas has who can put his head down and score. If that’s the case, they don’t stand much of a chance to win when he’s off.
San Antonio, on the other hand, has three guys — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili — who can get the shot they want without being set up.
So, in the upcoming elimination games, what does Rick Carlisle have to do to win some games?
He has to go away from featuring Dirk so heavily as an isolation scorer. This isn’t a time to take a chance on a hot night. Instead, take advantage of the point guard you gave up Devin Harris for. The point guard who led a decent New Jersey Nets team to two consecutive finals appearances. Yes, let Jason Kidd run the show while he still can.
Obviously Dirk still fits in to the picture. But you need to give Kidd free reign to find the open jumpers for Dirk, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, and the rest.
Instead of letting Duncan or whomever one-on-one defense on Nowitzki, get the ball moving. Get those tired Spurs legs moving. That was Gregg Popovich’s concern all year: keeping bodies fresh.
So, Carlisle, take advantage of your deeper (by far) roster. Or give Nowitzki 18-foot contested fadeaways. Your choice.