Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki slaps hands with team-mate Jason Kidd in LA

What the Dallas Mavericks are doing right


It’s not all Lakers mistakes.

Yes, the Lakers are making mistakes. But the narrative of this series has focused on those errors, and that has stolen a deserved spotlight from the Dallas Mavericks — they are winning this series because they are doing things well. Dallas is making plays, forcing tough decisions, then executing when the Lakers give them even a sliver of room.

Dallas is doing so many things right, and they deserve credit for it.

That starts with their defense in the paint — the Lakers simply overwhelm most teams with size. But with three 7-footers of their own — Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood — they can match the Lakers’ size. The Lakers shot only 50 percent inside 10 feet in Game 2, having their shots altered. Also, Dallas has held its own on the glass against the Lakers.

That size, combined with Kobe Bryant’s gimpy ankle, have made the Lakers’ most feared weapon a jump shooter — Kobe has one shot at the rim in two games.

On offense, the Mavericks’ ball movement has been spectacular. The knock on the Mavericks is that they are a jump-shooting team, but against the Lakers those shots have been good looks that have come off well-designed plays. This is not isolation sets that end in contested jumpers; it is good looks.

At the top of that pyramid is Nowitzki, one of the most unstoppable players the NBA has seen on offense. He is a 7-footer who hits rainbow fadeaways from a variety of spots on the floor. The Lakers have tried Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and briefly Ron Artest but none has been able to slow Nowitzki, who is playing some of the best ball of his career.

But Dallas is more than that. It is J.J. Barea and Nowitzki noticing how the Lakers were defending the pick-and-roll (hesitantly), pulling it out 30 feet from the rim, then letting the speedy Barea attack the paint at the end of Game 2 (always to the side of the floor where shooters made it dangerous for help to drop down). Force Bynum to either protect the paint and leave his man open or give up layups to Barea.

The narrative of this series is that the Lakers have blown those defensive assignments. But a more accurate one is that Dallas has found a weakness and exploited it — exactly how the Lakers won their two rings.

The Lakers will make adjustments. This is a talented and prideful team that will make plays, that will not surrender.

But make no mistake about the first two games — Dallas won those. Take nothing away from the Mavericks. They have been the better team, by both design and execution. And don’t for a second underestimate their talent.

Gordon Hayward goes behind Jordan Clarkson’s back with dribble

Gordon Hayward, Nick Young
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Utah’s Gordon Hayward abused the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson on this play.

First, Hayward reads and steals Clarkson’s poor feed into the post intended for Kobe Bryant, then going up the sideline he takes his dribble behind Clarkson’s back to keep going. It all ends in a Rudy Gobert dunk.

Three quick takeaways here:

1) Gordon Hayward is a lot better than many fans realize. He can lead this team.

2) It’s still all about the development with Clarkson, and that’s going to mean some hard lessons.

3) Hayward may have the best hair in the NBA, even if it’s going a bit Macklemore.

(Hat tip reddit)

Could Tristan Thompson’s holdout last months? Windhorst says yes.

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five

VIZZINI: “So, it is down to you. And it is down to me.”
MAN IN BLACK nods and comes nearer…
MAN IN BLACK: “Perhaps an arrangement can be reached.”
VIZZINI: “There will be no arrangement…”
MAN IN BLACK: “But if there can be no arrangement, then we are at an impasse.”

That farcical scene from The Princess Bride pretty much sums up where we are with the Tristan Thompson holdout with the Cleveland Cavaliers, minus the Iocane powder. (Although that scene was a battle of wits in the movie and this process seems to lack much wit.) The Cavaliers have put a five-year, $80 million offer on the table. Thompson wants a max deal (or at least a more than has been offered), but he also doesn’t want to play for the qualifying offer and didn’t sign it. LeBron James just wants the two sides just to get it done.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN thinks LeBron could be very disappointed.

Windhorst was on the Zach Lowe podcast at Grantland (which you should be listening to anyway) and had this to say about the Thompson holdout:

“I actually believe it will probably go months. This will go well into the regular season.”

Windhorst compared it to a similar situation back in 2007 with Anderson Varejao, which eventually only broke because the then Charlotte Bobcats signed Varejao to an offer sheet. Thompson is a restricted free agent, meaning the Cavaliers can match any offer, but only Portland and Philadelphia have the cap space right now to offer him a max contract. Neither team has shown any interest in doing so.

And so we wait. And we may be waiting a while.