Wow. That was some great basketball by the Mavs down the stretch last night. I definitely find it amusing that I got worked over betting on the team I love to hate. Serves me right.
After 2 games, Phil Jackson finally made the adjustment of double-teaming Dirk in the post and on the elbows. It didn’t take Rick Carlisle 2 games to make a counter-adjustment. He adjusted immediately, which made my admiration for him grow by leaps and bounds. I already liked Carlisle as a defensive genius and master of matchups, but if he sweeps the Lakers out in this series, he will enter my pantheon.
The adjustment he made was this: he moved Dirk out to the three point line, and got him the ball with simple high picks. From then on, it was POINT-DIRK. Beautiful, Don Nelson-inspired basketball. The Lakers defense was strung out at the three point line, with the lumbering Andrew Bynum left in the middle guarding no one, and not fast enough to make the final necessary rotation.
Note to Joe Lacob: You do not beat the Lakers with low post basketball.
As to Nowitzki, this game answered the question for me. He has grown enormously as a player since We Believe. But a large part of his growth is directly attributable to the genius of his coach. Carlisle makes immediate adjustments, moving Dirk away from the defense, and coaching him in immediately swinging the ball out of the double teams. Avery Johnson, like Phil Jackson, specializes in pounding round pegs into square holes. He didn’t make the adjustments that are making Dirk a legitimate superstar.
Carlisle is exposing Big Chief Triangle badly as something I have always been convinced of: a terrible playoff coach, whose record is directly attibutable to the dominance of his rosters.
Look at this lineup the Mavs went with down the stretch: Kidd, Terry, Nowitzki, Stojakovich — with Chandler in the middle. 4 players over 30, 3 of whom were never good defenders to start with. And yet Phil Jackson couldn’t find a way to exploit them. He didn’t iso Odom against Peja until the 2:00 mark, and Odom is so unused to that situation he made a botch of it. No pick and roll with Kobe and Gasol to expose Dirk. The Lakers offense down the stretch was a complete botch. They didn’t even go to Bynum, which begs the question, why was he even in the game down the stretch? Wouldn’t the Lakers have been far better served with a frontline of Gasol and Odom, getting Shannon Brown on the court? Making themselves much quicker and better able to rotate to the three point shooters? Getting their most dangerous (in this game) offensive rebounder on the floor? Pulling Tyson Chandler away from the basket? Of course they would.
As Don Nelson would tell you.
I’m still of the opinion that the Lakers are not dead in this series. If they manage to finally close out a fourth quarter and win game 4, and win game 5 at home, then they will get to a game 6 in Dallas for all the marbles with the weight of the world on the Mavericks’ shoulders.
But the Lakers fourth quarter collapses in games 1 and 3 are clearly not flukes. The Mavs have the blueprint to beat them, drawn up by one of the best coaches in the league.
The Lakers have the better roster. But the worse coach. Which will prevail?