Short answer: at this point, I’m not 100-percent certain they can. I will believe it’s possible until when (or if) the Spurs knock them off. But I’m not certain it’s going to happen. Anyway. After the jump, my longer answer.
Go small. Then, go smaller. Before I even get to what I’m suggesting, I’m sure the comments will be filled with, “But what about defense?” While defense may win championships, and it may even win this series, right now I think the Mavs need more help on the other side of the ball. Erick Dampier gives them nothing on that end. Brendan Haywood looks like Robert Parish in comparison. So here’s a lineup I would like to see used: Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson/Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki. I think the decent looks they’re getting now become great looks, with the Spurs losing time on close outs since they can’t entirely ignore whomever is playing center. For a change of pace, then, go to this five: Kidd, Terry, Marion, Dirk, and Rodrigue Beaubois. That’s right, I said…
Rodrigue Beaubois. He’s seemingly proved Rick Carlisle correct in his decision to severely limit his playoff minutes in the short stretches he’s played thus far. I think two things were happening: 1) he was too excited and 2) he knew he had a short leash. But I still believe. I think he can be a factor if he gets decent minutes and is allowed to make mistakes. Is he going off for 40? No, of course not. And he is going to make mistakes. Maybe even some really dumb ones. But I think he can lock down Tony Parker or George Hill for stretches, and he’s is a key component to what they really need to do to change the complexion of this series. Which is…
Run. Run, run, run. The Spurs are going to beat the Mavs in a half-court game most of the time. They are too well-coached, they have too many options, etc. and so on. But they can’t keep up with a running game. Not really. Maybe for short bursts, but not for a full 48. Run after misses. Run after makes. Run. I’ve seen Beaubois turn a simple sideline inbounds pass in the backcourt into a one-man fast break. Put the Spurs on their heels. Make Tim Duncan lug that giant knee brace up and down the court as much as possible. Test Tony Parker’s still-developing conditioning.
No long twos. Do the Mavs take too many three-pointers? Probably. But what is really frustrating is their propensity for long two-pointers. Caron Butler is especially guilty here, but he’s not the only one. Give Dirk a bit of room here, but for everyone else, it has to be — has to be — from 15 feet and in or a good look at a three. Anywhere from 16 feet to 20 is worthless. The Spurs want you to take that shot. Please don’t.
Toughen up. I’m not saying follow Eddie Najera’s lead and start headhunting. I’m saying they need to keep their composure, deliver hard fouls when necessary, and stop worrying about the refs. They’re going to miss calls. They’re going to make bad ones. The Spurs are maybe the worst team about complaining about every single call. Duncan’s bug-eyed reaction to any call against him is legend. But here’s the deal: they shake it off. When the play is over, the play is over. They move on. The Mavs should, too.
And if they can, they might move on past this series as well.