Has any pro sports franchise authored more playoff meltdowns in one five year stretch than these Dallas Mavericks? They already own the greatest collapse in NBA Finals history. Then they became the first #1 seed to ever lose a best-of-seven series to a #8 seed. Last year they lost in the first round as a #2 seed to the #7 seed. Now, following Saturday's historic collapse, they are hunting the trifecta: become the only NBA franchise to lose in the first round as a #1, #2 and #3 seed. Amazing.
There are so many things that are hard to understand about Game 4, and about the Mavs in general. Everyone is talking about how Dallas defended Brandon Roy (or didn't defend him). Everyone wonders why they didn't double him or play a zone. My question is this: why give him the right-handed drive over and over and over again when he burns you every time? The book on Roy may be to force him right, but after he burns you time and time again to the right, how about simply planting your body between Roy and rim? Why do you have to force him to one side? I was amazed at how both Kidd and mainly Marion were encouraging him to drive right, into the lane (where there was never any help defense!), over and over and over--with the same result (Roy making a basket). Maddening. Not to mention, the guy with the worst knees on the floor is the guy who is burning you repeatedly!
Marion's foul on Roy on the three-pointer was comical. So was the Dallas offense for most of the 4th quarter.
I kept waiting for Dirk to get pissed. When a 23 point lead is down to six, that's when your superstar has to take over. That's when Dirk has to say "get me the ball, dammit, and get out of my way!" Your star has to stop the bleeding. Your star has to make a couple of shots in a row to silence the crowd and win the game. Yes, they tried to run the pick-and-roll with Dirk and Kidd or Terry a few times--that's not how you play that situation, in my opinion. If your star is a seven-footer, you post him. Simple. Entry pass, and let him work. Quickly, before the double-team. If the double comes, someone is open, and that someone is found much more easily from the post than the perimeter. How many times did the Mavs do that in the 4th quarter? None. How many shots did Dirk make in the 4th quarter? One. How many turnovers did he have in the 4th? Two. How many shots did he take in the 4th? Three. All absurdly silly numbers--fitting for an absurdly silly loss.
Following the Golden State collapse, which followed the Miami collapse, I said this team had to be gutted. It's been a painfully slow process. So slow, in fact, that the loser mentality has been allowed to seep in and be passed on from season to season. The makeup of a 50-win regular season is always washed away by the ugliness of the playoffs--where the Mavs prove year after year that they've learned nothing. They can play defense, for a while. They attack the rim, for a while. They walk with a swagger, for a while. But at some point during every series, they stop playing defense, stop attacking the rim, and walk around looking dazed and confused. Every year.
One thing every NBA champ has had: a killer instinct. This generation of Mavericks continues to show us that they are devoid of that quality.
And, for those who think I'm just a Spurs homer--some thoughts on the San Antonio-Memphis series. The Spurs are threatening to become the second #1 seed to ever lose to the #8 seed in a best-of-seven. I said before this series started that it would be a very difficult series for SA. Memphis played them very tough in the regular season. They physically beat up the Spurs. I thought this would be a 6 or 7 game series, and it will be.
I don't like this edition of the Spurs. They are very good, but not championship caliber. They don't play defense like they used to, and a big reason for that is because they are a very short team. Tim Duncan is 7ft tall, but in his old-age he plays smaller than that. Antonio McDyess can't leap like he used to, so he plays smaller than his 6'9. Dejuan Blair is a very short backup C and PF, and he can't jump either. Matt Bonner is tall, but plays small. They have very little length inside. They may win this series on moxie and pedigree, but they will probably lose to OKC--and if not, they will definitely lose to Los Angeles.
If, in a few weeks, you think we'll be talking about a Spurs-Mavs Western Conference Final, then you're as insane as a 23 point, second half comeback.