The Dallas Mavericks truly answered the call tonight at the American Airlines Center. In a virtual must-win situation the Mavs made some fundamental adjustments to take control of the series, which they now lead 3-2 over the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
The Dallas Mavericks were murdered by Brandon Roy in game four on the road in Portland. The Mavs played one-on-one defense and were seemed checked out of the game once they built a deceiving 23-point lead late in the second half. In game 5, the story was quite different. In the second half the Mavericks upped their defensive intensity and effectively disrupted the Trail Blazer’s offense. The Mavericks were extremely active on the defensive end, and began to act rather than react.
The Mavs cleverly established their defensive foundation when they began to use a variety of full court pressure sets in the second half.
One specific instance had PG and SG lining up on the block for Dirk’s second free throw attempt, ready to pick up the pressure once Dirk hit the free throw. This full court pressure allowed the Mavericks to generate much more pressure on Portland’s offense by keeping them off balance and not letting them run their specific set plays.
Other sets included picking up the pressure at the time line (half court) or ¾ the court length. This allowed the Mavericks to either force Portland’s backcourt to one side of the floor or to get the ball out of his hands. This ultimately disrupted the flow of the Trail Blazer’s calculated offense and put them on their heels. Quick reversals of the ball from one side of the court to the other and isolation sets were eliminated. The Mavericks were able to quickly and effectively rotate help defense and close out on open defenders.
In game 5 the Mavericks did exactly what they learned from game 4. They refused to wait for mistakes to occur, but forced them through their extremely aggressive mindset of extending pressure throughout the entirety of both the court and the game. Rather than watching Brandon Roy or Andre Miller calmly set up the play at the top of the key with plenty of room, Portland was forced to initiate the offense in ways they were not totally comfortable with.
Peja's Lockdown D.
Another adjustment that must be acknowledged is the Maverick’s shrewd use of zone defense throughout the second half. The Mavericks won many games this season when relying heavily on zone defense. However, throughout this series we have seen the Mavs go away from zone in some questionable situations. In game 5, the Mavs used zone exactly when they needed to.
When Peja or Barea were on the floor together, the Mavs gave Portland a healthy dose of zone. Both Stojakovic and J.J. can certainly be liabilities defensively during man-to-man defensive sets. Whether it be the lack of height or athleticism, I tend to cringe when there is a Roy-Barea or Wallace-Peja confrontation. However, Carlisle used the zone to perfection. Not only did it mask the weaknesses of our basic man-to-man defense, but it also preyed on the weaknesses of Portland.
When Batum or Matthews are not on the floor together, the Trail Blazers have little to no 3-point shooting. Andre Miller has four 3-pointers this series, tying his season total.( I would rather see him shoot 3’s all day then post up with Aldridge sliding through the back door) The Blazer’s do not like taking jump shots—their offense relies on cutting-- but the Mavs’ zone forced them into taking them. In fact, at one point, the Blazers missed 10 straight shots (mostly jumpers) in the fourth quarter—which allowed Dallas to take a commanding 17 point lead.
While Dallas was unrelentingly driving to the basket, Portland was stuck taking shots outside the paint. Perhaps this is why the Mavs won the FT battle in game 5.
Disclaimer: Could have also one FT battle because the Mavs were at home. Good ole’ NBA officiating!
Tyson Chandler rips down another offensive rebound.
His stat line speaks for itself. 20 rebounds in the game (playoff career-high), 13 of which on the offensive end (second highest in playoff history to Shaquille O’Neal). Tyson Chandler reminded Mavs fans how embarrassing it must have been trying to defend starting Erick Dampier for the past decade. Chandler literally did everything he could for the Mavericks in game 5. He was a force inside, allowing the Mavericks to win the points in the paint battle. He was a force on the glass, allowing the Mavericks to dominate the rebounding game. He was a force in the arena, constantly pumping up the crowd and his teammates on the court. He was the reason we were able to make the defensive adjustments we needed to with confidence. He is the reason Mavericks fans are starting to say “Defense wins championships” proudly. He is the best center we have ever had.
Earl Barron, who I believe logged his first minutes tonight in Game 5's garbage time, began a tweeting war with a Mavs fan yesterday morning. Check it out on twitter, if you're willing to make an account.
Barron's tweet to the Mavs fan stated, "You wish you was where Im at. You got 2 more games that you can change your name cause tall done. #MAVSCHOKE6..#MFFL"
The series has been extremely chippy on the floor in the first 5 games, but now Earl Barron has gone too far! Mavs fans unite!
In all honestly though, the NBA officiating has continued to be sketchy. Another missed goaltending call during Game 5 only adds more fuel to the fire.
Also, the Mavs have sent off two separate plays they would like reviewed that occured during game 4 in Portland, but the NBA has yet to reply.Mark Cuban will most likely be fined for his comments criticizing the officiating of late, but what else is new?
The Mavs will look to close out this series on the road Thursday in the Rose Garden, a place they have yet to win in four tries this season. The Mavs have also lost 8 straight road playoff games.