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Old 04-10-06, 02:56 AM
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Mavs own version of 4-down, with adjustment, helps get win in SA

http://www.hoopsworld.com/article_16880.shtml

In SA – The Downlow on the Downplay
By Emmett Shaw
for HOOPSWORLD.com
Apr 8, 2006, 14:57


“It’s nothing to get too overly excited about.” So said Avery Johnson of his Dallas Mavericks’ 92-86 victory in San Antonio. He wouldn’t even put it at the top of his “guttiest wins” category. And from the Spurs, “You can’t hang your head on this loss. We’re still in good position.” Bruce Bowen viewed the game that way. In their various ways, all his teammates said the same.

These two clubs which sit atop the Western standings (San Antonio has a single game lead) downplayed the importance of last night’s outcome. Simultaneously both teams showed discretion, keeping their mouths fairly shut about the details of how they are defending and attacking each other. But the implications for an expected playoff series in May were on display last night.

Cross-matches tend to begin the game when one of the teams has the player who should certainly be the leading MVP candidate in the NBA. At least when this player stands 7-0, draws double-teams miles from the bucket, gets guarded individually by two Defensive Player of the Year-types, and closes out a 30-10 performance with in-your-face shots for the game-winner, then the game-sealer.

Yes, Dirk Nowitzki did all this. In his team’s biggest game of the year. Against the defending NBA Champions. In their building. LeBron is a magnificent player; Kobe is a phenomenal scorer; Nash is a skilled genius running a team. Unlike those guys, Dirk is leading a team to 60+ wins, and without particularly more talent around him than those other candidates, whose teams will finish the standings as dots in the Mavs’ rear-view mirror.

The cross-matches that Nowitzki creates, because opposing big men either can’t keep up with him and/or would get taken far away from their main defensive functions in the paint, mean that a very capable player like Josh Howard is then guarded by PFs. No wonder that Howard has led Dallas in scoring more than 10 times, even while missing 23 games.

What developed in this game is that Dallas found offensive alignments that made San Antonio double-teamers come from further away, and from where Dirk could see them coming. On the wings, Nowitzki can be blind-sided by help – and versus such Mavericks formations, doubles worked well for the Spurs earlier in the season against him. But last night the Mavs set Dirk up top – with the pumpkin and with his dribble still unused. Help could only come by overt frontal assault, giving the Dutchman (Emmett you mean Deustchman) time and vision to pick out his most open teammate.

Johnson said, “People were really critical of (Dirk), because he hadn’t played good against this team, and now you kind of see why. They double- and triple-team him, and he needed his teammates to really make plays. And we thought his teammates really made plays tonight. And when he got single coverage, we thought he got some good looks.” In single coverage, Nowitzki can be un-guardable. Sometimes you just tip your hat. “You understand he’s gonna be ready for games of this magnitude,” said Bowen.

Nor can the Spurs double-team him every possession. It also has to be sporadic to keep Nowitzki guessing. But with Dallas now using its 1-4 (or a spread-out 2-3) look, Dirk got the easy read, and exploited his chances in big situations. Of the Spurs’ defense on Nowitzki, Avery said, “It’s something that we kind of prepare for. Fortunately, we’ve seen that before in practice, and we were able to execute it in the game. So it wasn’t nothing that caught us by surprise. We kind of know that Dirk draws a lot of attention.”

“They have an offensive scheme,” said Michael Finley, “and we have a defensive scheme. They bank on getting mismatches with (Dirk). And being at 7 feet, there’s a lot of people he can just shoot right over. He’s been making a living doing that, and tonight was no different. You can’t shut him down because, first, the amount of shots that he gets. And, two, because he’s a player capable of putting the ball in the hole.”

Finley spent a few possessions guarding his former Dallas teammate, having some success at it. But he thinks the Spurs will tweak their defensive approach based on what they saw from the Mavs last night. Further review of the footage should bring adjustments by the Spurs. Or maybe not. They still held Dallas to 92 points, a reasonably low number. San Antonio should be able to exceed that figure with its own offense. But not last night.

Johnson praised the defense of DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier, who “tried to make (Tim Duncan) work” for his point production. That they did, as Tim had only 13. And Tony Parker, the Spurs leading scorer, came in 9 points shy of his average. But Avery said some of his team's success was simply because the Spurs’ stars missed some shots they can make.

Indeed, Tim said he can make all the shots he tried. It just wasn’t his night. “Honestly, they just played solid defense,” said Duncan of Diop and Dampier. By that, he meant the Mavs’ bigs were good defensively, but not so great to discourage him at all for subsequent games against them. Likewise Parker didn’t have a good game, neither converting his signature floaters, nor getting inside a lot. Tony can play much, much better than he did last night.

Finley said that right now, the emphasis is the Spurs' next game (versus Memphis), but that San Antonio will go back to the drawing board for their best strategy before facing Dallas again. When they do, the Spurs will probably find a bit more to encourage themselves on the game tape than Dallas will.

Because principally last night, San Antonio’s two leading scorers had an off game. Dallas can’t count on that happening in the playoffs.
Bowen looks to that future; he pointed out that the Spurs are still in 1st place. “We worked all year for this position, so you go from there.” But in milking Dirk in the high post, Dallas is on to something. Looking ahead, it's a problem for the Spurs.
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Old 04-10-06, 08:24 PM
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Hmmm...I guess I'll just have to respond to my own thread

As Emmett Shaw states, the Spurs can choose to stand pat because they only lost because Tony wasn't in the game mentally and Tim couldn't get his normal shots to fall.

But they can also choose to take some lessons and make adjustments.

The Dirk 4-down has him at the top of the key with the live dribble. It usually comes from a pick-and-pop with Jason Terry. Because both Terry and Dirk are terrific shooters, the Spurs elect to switch to deny them the easy look. That means Bruce/Tim on Terry and Tony on Dirk. After the switch, Terry swings the ball to Dirk in the middle, where he can back down Tony to about 15 feet, then shoot the fadeaway.

From that vantage point, Dirk can also see where a double team is coming from, and neutralize it with the pass to an open guy.

If the Spurs want to continue that strategy, then Tony will have to do one or two things that are not quite Spur-like. First, he'll have to try to steal the ball from Dirk. Hand in his face isn't going to work because Tony is just too short. But the guy is still a 7 footer. If he puts the ball on the floor, Tony has a chance of getting it. Of course the first step is to crowd Dirk so he WILL put the ball on the floor.

And if the steal attempt fails? Leak out. No point boxing out because Tony is too small. But with his speed, and position at the top of the key, no Mavs guard is going to be able to catch him. So even if Dirk scores, just throw the long ball and you get 2 points back.

Suns-like strategy? Perhaps. But I think it might throw off the Mavs a bit.
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Old 04-10-06, 09:05 PM
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Nice analysis. Only one problem. You forgot that Terry, who is very quick himself, will anticipate that, and not let him receive a deep pass.
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Old 04-10-06, 09:14 PM
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Old 04-10-06, 09:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Another3
Nice analysis. Only one problem. You forgot that Terry, who is very quick himself, will anticipate that, and not let him receive a deep pass.
Terry is at the wing when Tony leaks out from the top. There's no way he can catch up with Tony, unless if he is actually far quicker (which he is not).

The only guy who could disrupt the overhead baseball pass or run back on D would be Dirk, because he's at the top as well.

My basic idea is that if the Mavs are allowed to exploit a Tony-defending-Dirk matchup, then we should reverse that and get Tony to burn Dirk at the other end.
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