Note: All stats unless otherwise specified came from the NBA Gametime app
As a Mavericks fan this game was so hard to watch. So painful. Especially in the disastrous 3rd quarter in which Mavericks were outscored 31-18 (half of which came from Chandler Parsons who narrowed it down to a 5 point deficit halfway through the third).
The Mavericks tried a lot of things in this game. Some of it actually worked, especially in the beginning. The Mavericks showed their offensive prowess pretty early on. They were unstoppable in the first quarter when they decided to attack in the paint. At least 17 of their 24 first quarter points came from people either driving into the lane or passing to players like Tyson Chandler and Al-Farouq Aminu when they cut to the basket. And speaking of Tyson Chandler, man does he plays with defensive fury. Not only did he finish with three blocks, but the way he clogged up the middle, specifically in the first quarter, made it very uncomfortable for any Trail Blazer who dared to come in there. Where the Mavericks ran into trouble was when they started going for quick release jump shots. This would cause them a lot of problems later in the game.
Defensively the Mavericks actually were not bad in the beginning. Although Portland has three capable big men in LaMarcus Aldridge, Robyn Lopez and Chris Kaman, they tend to rely on their jump shooters, specifically on those shots that come from three point range. So at first the Mavericks had a great defensive scheme where all five players stayed near the top part of the key (except for Tyson Chandler who would float back underneath the basket at times). This strategy worked really well for a time, I’d say for about a quarter and a half, because it limited Portland’s ability to take those jump shots that it loves to take, while simultaneously filling up the key. However when LaMarcus Aldridge entered the game, that gave Dallas a lot of problems. He is so good and so big that Dallas was forced to double him. But it worked well enough for a while and Dallas entered half time with a two point lead.
And then the third quarter happened. In all five games thus far Dallas has lost the third quarter by an average of 12 points and today was no different (31-20 against the Spurs, 29-24 against Utah, 37-20 against New Orleans, 38-24 against the Celtics and 31-18 tonight).
Dallas has always struggled on the defensive end, specifically on the interior. Apart of Chandler, they have no real defensive interior presence. Portland, to their credit, took full advantage of this and at one point played Kaman (who went for 12 points and 6 of 6 shooting), Aldridge, (who had 20 points on 10 of 16 shooting while sitting out the ENTIRE FOURTH QUARTER) and Robyn Lopez all at once. This meant that every time one of the bigs got the ball he not only drew the double team but effectively drew the whole team in to help out.This in turn, gave the players on the perimeter the freedom to do whatever they wanted. And once those shots started going in, all Hell broke loose. At that point Dallas panicked and started to play man to man which meant that those jump shooters were able to attract the defenders out to the three point line which left the entire middle section of the key exposed. Dallas is tied with Cleveland and Washington with being the fifth oldest team in the league (the average age of the players on the Mavericks’ roster is 29). Portland is the sixth youngest team in the league. Somehow, despite their difference in age AND athletic ability, Dallas decided that their best defensive strategy for almost the entire second half was to play man to man and force each player to try and keep up with his opponent. This did not work out well.
In my opinion Dallas should have stuck to the defensive strategy that they had in the beginning where the players pretty much stayed at the top part of the key. Not only would they have the limited the options of the jump shooters, but by stuffing up the lane they would’ve stifled, at least a little bit, Portland’s ability to give the ball to its bigs.
Admittedly, part of the reason that Dallas was stuck with this awful defensive strategy was because of what Rick Carlisle was trying to do offensively. He decided to go with the smaller, jump shooting lineup in an effort to neutralize the bigs. The idea, I think, was that if the smaller guys can quickly weasel their way in between everyone for some easy points.Combine that with some three pointers and then you can change the momentum of the game Honestly, that might have worked if Dallas had kept enough ball movement going so that Portland’s defense had to rotate in such a way that it exposed small holes which could then be exploited. However, they did not do that. Instead, they wasted possession after on quick release jumpers.I cannot even count how many times the Mavericks would bring up the ball and shoot it with 15 seconds or more left on the shot clock. It almost made me wonder if it was Mike D’Antoni was communicating via an invisible earpiece to Rick Carlisle. Not to mention all the times Chandler Parsons, whom I actually love as a player, and Monta Ellis et all would quickly run up with the ball and abruptly jump, turn in the air and shoot. No offensive schemes, which resulted in multiple turnovers and a win for Portland: 108-87.
Some key stats for the night: due to poor shooting and a lack of interior defensive presence the Mavericks were out rebounded 53-34. Also Portland shot 52% from the field while Dallas only shot a measly 37%
Aminu contuines to be fairly impressive with his defensive effort. He was the only Maverick other than Tyson Chandler to register any blocks. Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki both had a tough time. Parsons finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds and an assist while Dirk finished with 17 points, 3 rebounds and an assist. Brandan Wright is, I think, undervalued as a player. He entered in tonight with having gone 19 of 21 from the field for the season and tonight finished with 6 points (on 3 of 5 shooting), 3 rebounds and an assist in only 12 minutes.
Portland on the other hand showed how strong they can be. Aldridge, as I said before, had a very impressive stat line that also included 7 rebounds while Nicolas Batum finished just shy of a triple double (8 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists). Robyn Lopez also finished with 8 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 blocks while Damien Lillard had 18 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal. The surprise factor for me was CJ McCollum who finished with 13 points on 4 of 8 shooting (including 3 out of 4 from 3 point territory), 2 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in 21 minutes and this is only his second year in the league.