Going into this series Dallas’ bench was going to be a huge factor.
Well, they have been, just not in the way anybody was picturing.
While single game +/- stats (how a team scores with a player on the court) can be misleading, we have an unmistakable trend broken out by Jeff Fogel at HoopData.
Here’s the breakdown in plus-minuses so far from the Dallas perspective:
Game One: with Dirk -2, without Dirk -6
Game Two: with Dirk +13, without Dirk -11
Game Three: with Dirk +12, without Dirk -14
Because Nowitzki finishes every game unless he’s fouled out, we’ve developed a pattern where the Mavericks fall behind during his rest time…then spend the fourth quarter trying to climb back to equality. They successfully rallied to equality in Games Two and Three, with coin flip endings splitting out one apiece to each team.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s a +23 when he is on the court and a -31 when he sits.
That is -31 in 19:32. Dirk has been off the court less than 20 minutes total in three games.
Dallas’ bench ran into a couple of challenges this series. One is that Miami doesn’t really have a bench, so they don’t play them — in Game 3 one of the Heat “big three” was on the court for every minute of the game and at least two of them for 44 minutes of it. This isn’t a bench-on-bench situation, this is your bench playing against some of the game’s elite players.
Miami’s defense is also different. Dallas is a jump shooting team, they scored a lower percentage of their points in the paint than any team in the NBA. But the Heat are athletic at every position and on the perimeter they close out quickly on shooters. They rush you. They get in your head a little. And the result is Jason Terry shooting 38 percent for three games, J.J. Barea 21.8, Peja Stojakovic just 1-for-5.
Dallas has been close, the last two games have truly been coin flips. Their bench could put them over the top. But it better start soon. Time is running out.