NBA Playoffs 2012: Mavs Coach Rick Carlisle Returns to the Chess Table

Rob MahoneyNBA Lead WriterApril 30, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 08:  Head coach Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks reacts during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 8, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 96-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Rick Carlisle was an excellent NBA head coach long before last year's playoffs, and yet the interactive adjustments of the postseason managed to fully cement his previous esteem.

Dallas may still be figuring out how to function this season, but at the helm is an impressive basketball mind with a secure vision for where this Maverick team can go and how they need to go about getting there. That in itself doesn't guarantee that Dallas will remain consistent in their first-round series against Oklahoma City, but if offers a useful mechanism for in-playoff adaptation.

Carlisle pushed the Mavericks all the way through last year's postseason by exploiting matchup advantages and making key changes to his rotation and strategy over the course of each respective series.

That chess match begins anew. The Game 1 gauntlet (isn't that how chess matches begin?) has been thrown by Thunder head coach Scott Brooks and now Carlisle will be tasked with finding ways to free Dirk Nowitzki from OKC's pesky defense, get Jason Terry open after the Thunder blanketed him in the second half of Game 1, and find a counter for the offensive contributions of Serge Ibaka.

Dallas only lost Game 1 by a single point following a terrific—and difficult—shot from Kevin Durant, but Carlisle's responsibilities in light of his team's performance are many. He's more than capable of changing the orientation of sets. The nature of his rotation and the placement of certain players if need be, and it should be interesting to see how Carlisle goes about navigating Game 2 after his team's near-win.

Dallas played well, but hardly well enough to remain static. Considering the Mavs' struggles and circumstances, it's crucial that Carlisle not only come up with reasonable counters to Game 1's difficulties, but also think several moves ahead of Brooks and his staff. 

The Mavericks are outmatched and if their regular season gives any decent indication into their nature then they're also woefully inconsistent. Carlisle's ability to change the team's direction mid-series might be one of the more profound advantages that they have, and the manifestation of that edge begins tonight.

Brooks is oft-criticized for his lack of x-and-o acumen, but thus far he has the upper hand on Carlisle, just as his team has the upper hand on the Mavericks.