Thursday, April 1, 2010

Points in Paint: Why the Mavericks will never close the deal.

Last night marked Dallas's 50th win and 10th 50 win season in a row.  Today, the local radio station discussed other such teams (60's Celtics, 90's-2000's Spurs and Lakers) and indicated how each of these teams picked up at least 3 national championships in their time.  So, why haven't the Mavs locked up even one ring?  Points in the Paint.

I allege that the Mavericks suffer an identity crisis between a wide-open fast breaking offense, and a sharp shooting "setup-variety" offense, the result of which being a fundamental destabilization of the way the team scores points.  A fast breaking team will launch the ball down court and focus on getting offensive behind the D ideally finishing off plays with uncontested, or 2-on-1 driving moves right at the hoop.  Setup offenses focus on moving the ball to clear defenders by taking advantage of player shifting.

Lane penetration is a key component to scoring.  Lane penetration will always be the key by virtue of the fact that shots in the zone are high-percentage.  By definition, the success rate of high percentage shots like finger rolls, free throws, and dunks varies much less under stress of opposition, physical conditioning, and crowd noise.  These factors cannot be underestimated when the playoffs roll around.

Lane threat is a tool.  Activity down low draws penalties, sucks the D down and away from the arc, and, perhaps most usefully of all, can control the pace of the opposition.

Sure Dallas can shoot, and for quite a few nights in a row, they can shred the back of the net with three-balls.  But a championship team can afford to get cold and lose momentum neither in playoff games, nor in playoff series.  They cannot rely on playing from behind with low percentage fade away jumpers at the elbow, which Dirk has built his career on, when it's discovered that for whatever reason, there exists a general unwillingness to get physical (setup O) or tired (fast break O).

To steadfastly refuse to balance the team's scoring is to accept the "Best of the Rest" designation that looms when commentators ruminate on Dirk's support staff before and after his Hall of Fame induction.  In basketball, as in war, go with the team that bitterly defends its own zone, while passing freely inside and out of the opponent's.  Failing that, ask yourself:  what would Jerry Stackhouse do?  Then do the opposite.