Mavs Lucky to Be Up in Series
The Mavericks are in control of their first round series with the Spurs, thanks to Vince Carter hitting a 1-in-50 shot to end game three. With Dallas now leading the series 2-1 with game four at American Airlines Center tonight, the Mavs could take a shocking 3-1 lead if they can keep home court advantage on their side. Back to game three. The Mavs were in an almost winless situation in the final 24 seconds of the game. The Spurs had the ball and could run the clock down to the wire, put up a shot in the last second and either hit it and head to the locker room or miss it and go into overtime.
I didn’t like the way it played out, before Carter’s heroics, because the Mavs let the Spurs do exactly what they wanted to do. Manu Ginobili held the ball at the top of the key until 7 seconds were left, he went to his left (as he always does) and hit a short bank shot that was practically a lay up. In theory you hope to play tough defense and force Ginobili to miss his shot and force the overtime. That’s really about the best outcome you can hope for. Knowing that Ginobili would hold the ball and go to his left to either take a shot or get fouled, I say, come out on him early, make him do something with the ball and if he tries to drive, play him tough but foul him if you have to with 7 or 8 seconds to play.
This way, even if he hits both free throws (no guarantee at the end of a playoff game) you have ample time to get off a couple of passes and a good shot and maybe an offensive rebound. At least the Mavs would be pro-active with the ball in their hands to either tie the game or win it with a three (assuming Ginobili hits both free throws). Most of my friends didn’t agree with my philosophy, but I think you’ve got to think outside the box of conventional strategy when you’re the 8th seed and you’re playing such an experienced playoff team like the Spurs. When Ginobili had the ball on the final Spurs play, I said to my wife, “He’s going to hold the ball until just a few seconds are left on the clock, then he’s going to go to his left and either get fouled or take an uncontested shot.” If an idiot like me knew that’s what was going to happen, Rick Carlisle and both teams knew it as well.
Don’t just let them dictate the outcome. Again, I realize things worked out beautifully for the Mavs, but Carter won’t hit that prayer again. If the Mavs hope to win this series (and if they do, who knows how far this team goes with all the confidence they’ll have) they’ll need to be unpredictable. And it will help if Monta Ellis scores another 29 points and Jose Calderon has 16 points and 9 assists. The last time Dirk was held below 20 points in three straight playoff games was is first post-season – against the Spurs – in 2001. Monday night will be huge.