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Nash, Marion end Mavericks season

The Mavericks lost a big lead, again, to the Phoenix Suns, and lost 130-126 in overtime in Game 6. Nash hit a game tying off balance 3 pointer to send the game to overtime, and throughout the game, the Mavs had no answer. He scored at will with 39 points. He passed it to whoever he wanted, with 12 assists. He even pulled down 9 rebounds. The Mavericks contained Stoudamire and forced him to foul out, but Nash just got the ball to Marion instead. Marion had 38 points and 16 rebounds.

So, what’s wrong with the Mavericks? Why couldn’t they win it all? I’m going to look at a few things I think is wrong. It’s probably going to sound pretty negative, but I feel pretty negative about it at the moment, and that’s the fun of blogging, right? You say what’s on your mind at that moment.

1) The Mavericks have no point guard. Jason Terry is a nice player, but I see him more as a “Lightning in a Bottle” role player off the bench. In 8 minutes, the supposed Phoenix weakest link — Leandro Barbosa, backup point guard to Steve Nash, had 2 assists. Terry, playing 48 minutes (out of a possible 53, with overtime), had 2 assists. Last I checked, a point guard is supposed to distribute the ball and get his teammates involved. Terry is a scorer. He is not a point guard.

Nowitzki had a good night in my estimation, given that he’s having to create all of his own shots. He scored 28 points, had 13 boards and 6 assists. He played 51 minutes, and tried to win it by himself in overtime — but wasn’t hitting. Stackhouse tried to win it in regulation by not taking a timeout and going for a three pointer without looking at his teammates — he couldn’t win it by himself. Terry did have 36 points, but was playing a lot of one-on-one basketball, trying to win it by himself. See a trend? The Mavericks don’t need a point guard that plays one-on-one ball. Stackhouse can fill that role. They need someone to distribute the ball, get it to Dirk and Dampier where the two can be effective. Terry is not that guard.

The Mavericks need Devin Harris to make big strides next year. He has the makings of a true point guard — quick to the basket but looks to pass rather than score. I think he should have seen some playing time in this series. He’s a quick defender that could have come in and pressured Nash with his fresh, young legs. But he sat on the bench, having fallen out of favor after a couple of turnovers in the Houston series.

With Terry in the lineup, the Mavericks can’t take advantage of Dampier’s size. No one is getting him the ball in a position where he can score. Early in the game, the Mavericks’ gameplan was clearly to go to Dampier on the drive and dish. And it was effective — the Mavericks were ahead during that period. But Dampier got into foul trouble and had to leave the game, and was never really into it when he got back. Avery Johnson was seen imploring him to get into the game, but he never recovered.

2) This Mavericks team doesn’t play like a team. After Dirk took a fadeaway three pointer at the end of the game that missed, Bill Walton summed it up: “That play was a microcosm of this Mavericks team. They don’t have any chemistry and play one-on-one basketball.” The Mavericks, as a team, had 13 assists. Dirk had 6 of those. Steve Nash alone had 12. 13 assists on 42 made baskets. That translates to a lot of dribbling and little passing.

I get the feeling this team doesn’t like each other much. They don’t seem enthused at each other when the baskets go in, and gripe at each other when they don’t. First, Dirk was calling out Dampier (rightly, in my opinion) earlier in the series for being just a lump. At the end of regulation, Dirk was furious at Terry for not using his head to foul Steve Nash rather than letting him have the good look at a 3-pointer when he was on fire. I think missing the stabalizing factor of Nash hurt the team almost as much as losing his point guard skills. Dirk has shown a little temper, which he never really did in the past — is he upset at the lack of chemistry without Nash?

Nash is a cerebral player. He’s not the quickest, the strongest, or the best jumper, but he knows how to play the game. He knows how to get his teammates involved. He knows how to lead a team to victory. The Mavericks need that kind of player. And they had that kind of player. The Mavericks got the semifinals on the remarkable individual talents of the team. But they won’t win it all without playing like a team.

3) Michael Finley needs to take a secondary role. Finley has his moments, and I love the guy — he singlehandly carried the Mavericks to victory in game 2 — but like Walton said, he’s showing his age. He had an ordinary Finley night — 7 points and 5 rebounds.

Players will have off nights — but can help their team in ways other than scoring. Finley isn’t doing that. In game 5, Finley went 3-11 for 7 points, 1 rebound, and 2 assists. In 35 minutes. You can sit on your ass in the lane for 35 minutes and grab 1 rebound. Steve Nash, giving up a solid 4 inches to Finley, had 13 rebounds in game 6.

Game 6 was more of the same. 7 pts, 5 rebounds, 1 assist in 32 minutes. You could argue he did a good job of limiting his counterpart, Quentin Richardson. Richardson’s shot wasn’t falling. But he hustled to 13 rebounds and 3 assists. 32 minutes of playing time has got to get more results than 7-5-1.

Watching him on offense, he stands at the three point line and stands around, waiting for someone to deliver him the ball. If he gets the ball and someone closes out on him, he drives twice to his left and shoots a fadeaway. It’s almost painful to watch. I don’t see how the coaching staff can leave him in there for so long — Stackhouse wasn’t having a great game, but at least took the ball to the rim and got himself 11 made free throws.

4) Dampier is definitely not the 2nd best center in the league. Heck, he wasn’t even the second best center in the Houston series most of the time — both Yao and Mutumbo outplayed him. He gets into a funk more easily than any player I have ever seen. He’s been playing decent defense in defending the rim, but on offense he’s been next to useless. He started out well in game 6, grabbing the ball and flushing it home. But after picking up 2 fouls in the 1st quarter, he disappeared for the rest of the game offensively. He ended up with 13 points and 6 rebounds. Did I mention that Nash had 13 rebounds? The entire Phoenix starting lineup outrebounded Dampier, except for (surprisingly) Stoudamire, who had 6 rebounds as well.

He’s got to get his head on straight. We have him for 6 more years, and the last thing we need is another Bradley. The problem is, he needs an above average point guard to get him the ball in situations where he can be successful. And see item 1.

5) Avery Johnson did a good job as a rookie coach — but was still a rookie coach. He couldn’t find the right buttons to push. It’s easy to second guess him after the game — did Finley play too much? Should he have run a zone? Should he have had a different pick and roll strategy on Nash, since whatever they were doing was failing miserably?

The problem I have is that he took a supposed Maverick advantage — a deeper bench that could wear out Phoenix — and turned it into a disadvantage. The Mavericks used 6 players — Dirk, Finley, Howard, Nash, Dampier, Stackhouse. Henderson saw some playing time for the first time this series, with 15 unproductive minutes. Armstrong saw his usual playing time — 5 minutes before getting yanked. Harris and Marquis Daniels never got off the pine. Why not? Finley was ineffective. Howard was in foul trouble and couldn’t guard Nash anymore. Stackhouse’s shot wasn’t falling. Did Harris and Daniels play so poorly that they didn’t merit a single minute of playing time?

I feel that Avery got outcoached by Mike D’Antoni. ESPN showed both of their huddles, and pointed out the difference — Avery was yelling and screaming and going nuts (as he does all game long — he makes me uptight just watching him. I think he needs to learn to relax a little) while D’Antoni gave his players positive re-enforcement, told them to relax and go play basketball. Which team got tight and folded at crunch time?

The Mavericks have a long summer to try to fix their problems — a summer that might be extended because of looming labor issues between the NBAPA and the league. But I’m not sure that there’s any personnel changes that could fix their problems. They need a real point guard, and those aren’t easy to come by. They might have one on the roster, but he needs to develop. They might be able to trade Van Horn or Stackhouse, but is their value high enough to get them the players they need? Unlikely.

Avery Johnson has his work cut out for him. He needs to turn a group of guys into a team.

Easier said than done. But I really hope he can pull it off. And I think he will.

My prediction for next year? Mavs NBA champs.

Fri May 20th, 2005 11:44 pm

3 comments

  1. Chris said:
    June 2nd, 2005 5:01 pm

    Mavs have a number of problems, but lots of positive things to build around. First, a solid core of young players: Dirk, Howard, Terry, Daniels, Harris. None of these players should be going anywhere anytime soon and should all be very serious contributors for the foreseeable future. In addition they have some veteran players who can still contribute to some extent: Finley, Stackhouse, Dampier, Henderson, Bradley, Van Horn Armstrong. Aside from being sure to keep either Finley or Stackhouse, any of the above I could really take or leave.

    If I’m Mark Cuban or Avery, I’m looking to develop a young center, and I’m looking for a more distribution conscious point guard. I’m not intimately familiar with the contract situations of the Mavericks players, but from what I understand, Michael Finley’s is a difficult contract to trade or eat. Sounds like for at least one more year, we’re stuck with him. Oh well, I hope he doesn’t mind a less significant role then.

    Jason Terry isn’t a starting point guard, that much is clear, but I think he’s more than just lightning in a bottle off of the bench. Actually, I’d say at worst, he’s a sixth man, and at best, he’s a starting shooting guard. Really, maybe the Mavs need a player who can run the point from the 2 spot, so Terry doesn’t become a mismatch and a liability on defense. Either way, the Mavs need someone in the starting lineup that averages more than 5.4 Assists per game (Terry led the Mavs in assists at this precise rate).

    It’s so true that the Mavs had the very player that they need and lost him, but there’s no sense crying over spilled milk.

    There are really two ways to play this if you’re Mark Cuban. The first is to really commit to youth; get rid of Bradley, Stackhouse OR Finley but NOT both, Van Horn, and commit to giving players like Harris, Daniels, and Mbenga a larger role. Keep cheap guys like Henderson and Armstrong, and maybe sign a few more blue collar type players. I guess keeping Dampier would be good too.

    The other would be similar, but more Cuban like and that would be to acquire a big name PG and a reasonably big name inside presence, either at PF or C. What would Golden State’s asking price be for Baron Davis? On a more conservative level, what might be New Orleans asking prices for players like Speedy Claxton or PJ Brown? Would Toronto ever dream of trading Chris Bosh? (Ok now I’m just being silly).

    In any case, the Mavs future is looking up, in my estimation. Dirk, Terry, Stackhouse, Howard, Daniels, Harris are all approaching or near after their primes. A few minor adjustments here or there, and another piece or two emerging from the roster or coming this offseason, and the Mavs could be in a position to get over the hump next year. Dirk’s approach to offense is maturing and that’s scary. If he can learn to play with his back to the basket, he could be even better than he is now, and that is scary.

  2. Chris said:
    June 2nd, 2005 5:03 pm

    and aside from the unfortunate redundancy at the end of my comment, I’m reasonably satisfied (stupid not having an edit option)

  3. Andrew said:
    June 2nd, 2005 5:33 pm

    Great comments — you’re right to look at the bright side. I was really frustrated when that last post was made, and it showed in the negativity.

    I really do love this team — and they do have a lot of upside. I like your idea of the 2 that can run the point. That leaves Terry able to score from the 1 but not making him be a distributor, and gives Harris another year to develop. I don’t really like Terry at the 2, he’d be too small. With Harris and Terry in together, they get really small. Too small, I think. Man, I’d give my left testicle for Chris Bosh. Hell, is there any way we can convince Chris Young to go two way?

    Dampier disappointed me, and so did Finley. Finley just had surgery on his ankle, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a better 05-06. I just don’t see a lot of productivity out of him any more. I’d start Stack in front of him, at this point (as much as I love Michael Finley).

    With the roster as it is right now, I’d throw out a starting 5 of Harris, Stack, Howard, Dirk, Damp. Terry 6th man, with Finley 6.5th man. I want to see Daniels get more PT again, too — 6.75th man. Van Horn is a nice bench option, too — 6.9214th man, or maybe 6.65th man, depending on the opponent.. Maybe Daniels is that 2 guard that can run the O? I think Terry and Daniels together could be a good combo.

    I donno that an old veteran PG will really help the Mavs — they’d just take minutes away from Harris. Harris is this team’s future — the distributing, electrifying point guard they need.

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