“NBA Finals predictions anyone? I’m going with Miami/Dallas.” — Steve, April 11, 2011
“I think the Mavs can win it. I think things have to break right for them, and they have to continue to play at the level they’ve been playing. But why not?” — Don Nelson, May 12, 2011
I think a lot of veteran NBA types were amazed by how this series played out. The three most interesting comments I saw were from 1) Steve Nash, who was perplexed that the Heat didn’t go small and get Lebron on Dirk (something that I thought was the key to the series in my preview); 2) George Karl, who was surprised by Lebron’s lackluster last two games (something I attribute directly to the Heat’s offensive and defensive gameplans); and 3) the Warriors’ own Reggie Williams, on the post-game show, who stated that Spoelstra’s failure to get shooters on the floor (in particular James Jones) is what allowed Dallas to effectively zone Dwayne Wade and Lebron.
You can see Nellie’s influence in all of those comments.
Dallas’ phenomenal 3 point shooting in the last 2 games was obviously a huge factor in the series. But I really think the deciding factor was Wade’s game 5 injury. He was averaging 30 points a game shooting over 50% prior to that, and was the focus of the Heat’s attack. He clearly wasn’t able to reach that level in game 6 (6-16 for 17 points), even after 3 days off.
And not just on offense. In his post-game interview, Jason Terry made reference to the Heat’s defenders “wearing down.” That was Dwayne Wade he was talking about. It was not an accident that Dallas shot 24-45 from three in the last two games.
Despite the pushback I received from commenters in the previous thread, I continue to feel that this series was a tremendous vindication of Nellieball. Look, did you ever see the Mavs walk the ball up the court, and throw it into the low post? Hell no. They don’t even have a low post player. The Mavs pushed the ball relentlessly, to prevent the Heat from setting their defense, and they took the first open shot, no matter where on the court it was created. They averaged an incredible 21 threes a game in this series. (As an aside, can you imagine if Bob Fitzgerald had called this series? “Dallas is in danger of falling in love with the three!” “It’s all on the perimeter!” “Corner threes lead to layups and dunks!” “Dirk Nowitzki is becoming a volume shooter!”)
The Mavs willingly sacrificed size in the backcourt and at small forward, in order to establish the shooting, passing and quickness advantage. And of course, they started a spread 4, which is a Don Nelson invention. That spread 4 also happened to be Dirk Nowitzki, who is a Don Nelson creation. And the Mavs subbed a spread 4, Brian Cardinal. This completely opened the floor for the isolations and pick and rolls of Terry and Barea. The Mavs were absolutely unguardable, by even the best defense in the NBA.
Are these not the hallmarks of Nellieball?
On the defensive end they covered up their size and athletic deficiencies with “gimmicks” (as Nellie detractors liked to phrase it) — their zone, and their creative matchups. Is this also not a hallmark of Nellieball? The only difference is that when Carlisle made the decision to start Barea over Stevenson, no one accused him of “not caring about defense.”
In the comments to my last post, White Hat expressed doubt that Jason Kidd is a Nellieball player. I strongly disagree. Jason Kidd is an offensive genius, who in 2011 has serious athletic limitations. Would Don Nelson not have wanted such a player on his team? I find that hard to believe. Nellie’s career was built upon finding roles for players like this. What was Steve Nash? Stephen Curry? Chris Mullin? Nowitzki himself?
In his use of Kidd in this series, Carlisle all but incarnated Don Nelson. Carlisle used Terry and Barea — the Mavs’ best offensive guards — almost exclusively to initiate the Mavs’ offense. Although Kidd still brought the ball up (and did a fine job pushing the tempo), in the half-court offense he was most frequently used OFF THE BALL, to spread the floor as a three point shooter. In this role he resembled the many multi-talented defensive wings that Don Nelson employed over the years, going back to Mario Elie.
And in fact, Kidd was frequently played alongside both Terry and Barea, and used to guard Lebron James. What exactly was Kidd’s position at these times of the games? I’ll tell you what it was:
Rick Carlisle recognized that Kidd’s BEST position in this series was at small forward, because while Kidd had absolutely no prayer against the healthy Dwayne Wade of games 1 through 4, he was absolutely terrific at guarding bigger players like Lebron James.
Now I wonder… where in the world could Carlisle have gotten that idea?