Friday, May 04, 2007

Warriors-Mavs Observations: The Shrinking MVP; Key Sequence Breakdown; Dirk for KG???

Jay Aych will dig in shortly, but I wanted to offer some quick observations following the shocking Game 6 of the Mavs-Warriors series.

Congratulations to the Warriors fans more than anything else - you guys truly deserve this.

Going into Game 6, I agreed somewhat with the John Hollinger analysis (Insider) that, while Dirk certainly was underachieving and not stepping up as an MVP should, he was not playing as poorly as the avalanche of criticism warranted, because he was doing things other than scoring.

Now, of course, it's a different story following Dirk's truly pathetic Game 6. Previously, the standard for an MVP's underachievement in the playoffs was David Robinson in 1995, but that was less because the Admiral shrunk from the moment and more because Hakeem Olajuwon stepped up and took the mantle as the best player in the world from him with the most inspired play of his career.

Dirk has now set a new standard in this series, capped off by a shocking lack of aggressiveness in Game 6. Yes, GS played him tough, but it got to the point in the second half that Dirk was not even turning to face the basket after he caught the ball.

(Let me preface this by saying that the one bad thing about the Warriors making the playoffs over the Clippers is that we have been deprived of the signature Arnovitz-style breakdown that was some of the absolute best stuff about the NBA on the web last spring. So, in honor, here's a an Arnovitz-style breakdown of last night's key sequence.)

Among the many amazing things about Game 6 is that I thought it was the worst game that Golden State played. All series long, they had been the aggressor, but in Game 6, Baron's absence in the first half left them rudderless, and then when he came back he obviously didn't have the explosiveness he had previously used to propel his team.

That's the thing - whereas Golden State had taken its first 3 wins from Dallas, the Mavs absolutely handed this game to the Warriors with brain-dead play.

Let's look back at the key sequence of the game, early in the second half, when the score was Golden State 56, Dallas 54 with 9:16 left:

- Side out-of-bounds, S Jackson inbounding. Why is Dallas in a zone?! Baron cannot penetrate, threes are the only way they can beat you! Jackson inbounds the ball, steps in, is completely ignored by the Mavs, gets the ball back and hits the easiest standstill 3 imaginable. I can't fully describe how pathetic this play was. Most wide-open threes come off after you've made the defense rotate or in transition or something. Dallas just allowed one of GS's better shooters to walk up to the line and execute a casual catch-and-shoot. And this started it all.
GS 59, DAL 54 (9:10)

- Dirk misses a 3 under duress against the GS zone. Why is he not on the low box, as he should have been all series?

- GS runs a pick-and-roll with Davis (covered by D Harris) and Jackson (Nowitzki). Dirk comes over and doubles Davis. WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! Baron is no threat to penetrate. Jackson is wide open and hits another of the easiest threes you'll ever see. (UPDATE: As Kevin A. himself points out, Dirk actually did nothing moreso than coming over to double.)
GS 62, DAL 54 (8:30)

- Terry misses an open three. Somewhere, Jay Aych is fuming that Dallas is not attacking The Painted Area. (In case you missed it, Jay Aych did a really nice job after Game 4 of breaking down how it was G State's D that was surprisingly taking Dallas out of the series more than the O.)

- TO by Richardson as he gets stuck under the basket.

- Howard hits a 3 after Dallas scrambles for an offensive board to keep a possession alive.
GS 62, DAL 57 (7:30)

-Defensive three-second violation after Dallas doubles J-Rich in the post vs. Terry. S. Jack hits the FT.
GS 63, DAL 57 (7:15)

- Barnes penetrates to the seam of the zone - DALLAS: WHY ARE YOU IN A ZONE?!?!!? WHY? WHY? WHY? - draws the D, and kicks to Jackson, who - and you're not going to believe this - is standing wide-open at the 3-point line. D Harris closes out well, but it's a good look for Jack. He knocks it down and it's now bedlam at Oracle.
GS 66, DAL 57 (7:10)

- Terry misses a three from the corner. Somewhere Jay Aych is fuming that Dallas is not taking the ball to the painted area.

- OK, now you've allowed Jack to get in the zone, and this one's ridiculous. Barnes is coming down in transition, and Jackson basically sprints over from the across the court to the 3-pt line line right behind him. Barnes drops it behind him and even though Stack gets a good close, Jackson is just too hot now.
GS 69, DAL 57 (6:44)

And Dallas never recovered from there. Ballgame. Thanks simply to series of simple breakdowns by Dallas coaches and players that handed a struggling, wounded team a series a wide-open 3's.


I know that Mark Cuban is recently on record as saying that they wouldn't make major changes if they lost this series, and I am generally a big proponent of the idea that you can't overreact to a playoff loss in terms of personnel decisions - lots of times it takes teams years and the experience of tough playoff losses to grow into champs.

But I don't know how you cannot make a significant change after such a monumental failure based primarily on mental weakness, esp. on the heels of the collapse in last year's Finals.

I think that - on a dime - the most obvious and fascinating questions of the offseason have become this:

If you're Dallas, would/should you trade Dirk Nowitzki for KG?
And if you're Minnesota, would/should you?


I am required, by terms of a bet, to state publicly that my girlfriend - forever looking to challenge my notion that the best team almost always wins a 7-game series - picked the Warriors to win this series. Congratulations, baby, you called it.

At a certain level, it's ridiculous for me to be on the side of the Mavs - readers of this space know that I've been high on the Warriors for the last month (I thought the Warriors would take two home games and play Dallas tough, but I certainly didn't think they'd win the series, and what truly shocks me is that they were able to win with so little production from Al Harrington and Monta Ellis), but I made the bet and those were (some of) the terms.

And so it goes.


At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Rob said...

Haubs --

One of the things I've been saying all series is that while most everyone calls what the Warriors play "small ball" in reality, they were bigger and stronger than the Mavs at nearly every position, save center. And Diop and Dampier can't affect the outcome of a game.

Dallas would have been better off starting Croshere. At least he can shoot.

That, and Dirk played small. Very small. One of the best plays he made all series was a backdoor pressure release cut near the end of Game 5 in Dallas. He made the hoop and was fouled. An easy three. I saw that ONCE the whole series from.

A disaster from start to finish for the Mavs.

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just got my 'WE BELIEVE' GOLDEN STATE OF MIND t-shirt!

At 5:37 PM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

Rob: that's a great and fully accurate point. I thought that one of the most telling pieces of analysis from Steve Kerr (who I thought was really great last night) was when he said that GS was able to guard Dirk in part b/c they could switch b/c their guards were so strong.

At once, both a pathetic statement about Dirk ("their *guards* were so strong) and also completely accurate.

Anon: represent, brother. Hawk as much Warriors gear as you'd like. You all have earned it, and then some.


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