Jordan Kahn breaks down the latest NBA trends in video form. You can find more of his work at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
The Thunder and Mavericks played a great game to kick off their series. Let’s break down some of the crunch time action and figure out what went wrong for the Mavericks.
The Thunder took advantage of the oft-used Dallas zone defense on this possession and got points by forcing a mismatch. First, they set up their offense with nobody occupying the middle. Because of defensive three second rules, the Mavs were forced to get out of the lane or at least remain within arm’s length of their man. Ian Mahinmi starts in the middle of the zone but moves out to the free throw line to cover Kevin Durant. As Mahinmi vacates the middle, Dirk moves under the basket, but has to stay within arm’s length of Serge Ibaka to avoid the three second violation. With Dirk out of the picture and Jason Terry reluctant to leave James Harden, it’s just a game of two-on-two at the top of the key. Durant sets a screen for Westbrook, and Dallas switches, as is the nature of a zone defense. That leaves Mahinmi to guard Westbrook. Westbrook drives him back with a few dribbles and ends up with an open 15-footer. The full play is below.
Late in the fourth quarter, prior to Dirk’s and Durant’s heroics, the Mavs’ initial offense was stopped by Russell Westbrook. Dallas ran a play in an attempt to free up Jason Terry; it started with Terry attempting to set a screen for Jason Kidd. Dallas was likely expecting Westbrook to help on Kidd, but Westbrook stays attached to Terry the entire time. He can do this without fear because Kidd is no threat to turn the corner and attack the defense. After Westbrook stops the initial action, Dirk tries to set a screen to get Terry open, but at this point, James Harden has knocked the ball loose. This disjointed possession leads to a Vince Carter fadeaway jumper. Video of the complete play is below.
On Oklahoma City’s next possession, they run a familiar action to give Kevin Durant a chance to create. Kendrick Perkins sets a ball screen for Russell Westbrook, and then, instead of rolling to the hoop, sets another (illegal/moving) screen for Durant. Considering the screen, Shawn Marion does a good job of harassing Durant, but he is still able to drive and draw multiple help defenders. This creates an open look at the rim for Serge Ibaka. The play is below. While this particular play was a bit ugly, it has worked well in the past. For a full breakdown of it, click here.
On Durant’s game winning basket Shawn Marion played great defense, as many pundits have already noted. However, the way the play was originally set up, Durant would not have had to deal with Marion at all. With Westbrook inbounding the ball, Kendrick Perkins sets a screen for Durant to come receive the ball. The Mavs switch on the screen, leaving Ian Mahinmi to guard Durant. This would be a big mismatch, but Delonte West effectively denies the inbounds pass. Durant is forced to come back to the top of the key to receive the ball, where Marion is waiting. The Mavs switch back and get their best defender back onto Durant. Durant hits a great shot anyway, but perhaps things could have been much easier against Mahinmi.
Expect Rick Carlisle to scheme his way into a win or two this series. However, the Mavericks seem outmanned, and were definitely out-executed down the stretch of Game 1.