April 24, 2010
San Antonio 94, Dallas 90; San Antonio leads the series, 2-1
Since 2000, it's been Mark Cuban's modus operandi to stack his roster, to fill it with contributors with as much money as his revenue streams and the NBA's salary cap bylaws will allow.
And this year is no different. He and personnel boss Donnie Nelson aren't exactly going all Bob Whitsitt on things, bringing heaps of talented head cases and letting the beleaguered coach sort things out, but they have put together a pretty impressive rotation.
And, though I believe it to be in spite of coach Rick Carlisle's best efforts, that rotation is letting the Mavericks down.
This could be an overreaction piece. Dallas lost by four points on Friday night, on the road, to a very good Spurs team that probably half of those with an on-air or in-print voice picked to win this series. But though things have been close, and the series is just 2-1 in San Antonio's favor, the signs aren't right.
Dirk's been about as good as I've ever seen him, and likely the MVP of the Western bracket so far. Ridiculous production from the soon-to-be 32-year old nine-time All-Star, averaging almost 32 points on 56 percent shooting, pulling eight rebounds, and most impressive of all? He's turned it over one time for every 40 minutes he's played this series.
No, Dirk's existence is fraught with peril. He backs in defenders from the three-point line to the free throw line, turning over either shoulder and leaving himself susceptible to a swipe from the help at every, literal, turn. He drives pell-mell into the paint. He puts the ball on the floor after an aggressive defensive close-out, leaving himself prone for the pick from behind or the charge from ahead. If he were averaging four turnovers a game, we'd understand.
But three turnovers all series? Astonishing.
And his lack of help from his teammates? Disappointing.
Dallas' second-leading scorer is Jason Terry(notes), and though the former 40 (three-point), 50 (from the floor), 80 (free throws) percent guy is shooting 39.5 percent, he hasn't been too terrible. Jason Kidd(notes) has been too terrible, missing seven of his nine two point attempts on the series and shooting 25 percent overall. And unless he's completely locking down defensively or dishing 13 assists per game, this sort of production is a huge detriment.
Instead, Kidd has been a step slow defensively, failing to stay in front of a step-slower Tony Parker(notes), and getting beat on the interior when the Mavs go small and essentially run JK as a point forward. 24 assists on the series to four turnovers, very impressive, but one make from the floor for every four tries? Yikes.
Shawn Marion(notes)? He's defended well, as has been the case all season, but he's essentially splitting floor time with Jose Juan Barea(notes), and nobody should have to split floor time with Jose Juan Barea. He's shooting 35 percent, offering just seven points and three boards a game against a team that has long made life miserable for him for years.
Erick Dampier(notes) has played 79 minutes in this series, and he's yet to hit a field goal. Caron Butler(notes) is averaging 13.7 points per game, and it's taken him 13 shots per game to get there - seven for his last 20 in Games 2 and 3. Rodrigue Beaubois(notes)? His five minute stint in the first quarter of Game 3 was his first appearance of the series. And save for a 17-second cameo at the end of the game, this was his only appearance in the contest.
This is the problem with small sample sizes, because the Mavericks are getting good enough looks (not to take away from San Antonio's defense), and just not connecting. But the first round -- despite its length, and despite a potential seven games - is a small sample size that can end your season. You see it all the time in baseball; it's unfortunate that you're going through a 10-day slump at the worst time of the year to do it, but it doesn't mean you can't be blamed for the losses as a result.
Everything could change on Sunday. If Dallas wins, it's a best of three with two games to be played in Texas. Well, all three would be played in Texas, but two would come on Dallas' home court. A couple callas go Dallas' way on Friday, and they've already grabbed home court advantage, and we'd be left wondering what happened to George Hill's(notes) (32 percent) shot.
Sunday's going to be something else. But if Dallas wants to compete for a championship, Dirk's supporting cast can't afford to be something typical. The man is going to need some help.