Monday, April 23, 2007

Texas Two-Step: Spurs, Mavs Fall at Home

John Hollinger is in a daze after the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs! Mere days after declaring that the Spurs - who Hollinger had a man-crush on all season - and the Mavs were the teams with the best chances of winning it all, the analyst now has to explain why and how both teams gave away home court advantage by honking Game 1 to the Nuggets and Warriors respectively.

I'll give it a shot for him. There's a pretty simple rule of thumb for the NBA that goes like this: when your team's star players outplay the star players on the other team, your team is probably going to win. Thus, while Duncan was looking old and Manu was looking more bald than ever, Carmelo and A.I. were superb for Denver, and that was pretty much the story of Game 1. Even an unusually valiant effort for a Frenchman (Tony Parker) wasn't enough.

Meanwhile, I'll admit to not seeing most of the Warriors-Mavs contest because I was watching the Detroit Red Wings eliminate the pesky Calgary Flames, but when Baron Davis' line looks like this:

33 pts, 14 reb, 8 assists

And Dirk Nowitski's looks like this:

14 pts, 12 reb, 4 assists

And Steven Jackson outscores all of Dirk's running mates and Matt Barnes easily outscores Dallas' entire bench, let's just say it doesn't look good.

Note that my rule doesn't hold true for team's with a star that plays well but has no supporting cast, so Kobe can score 60 a game against the Suns and it isn't going to make any difference.

I don't think anyone except The Dude really thinks the Mavs are in danger of losing this series, but they sure made things difficult for themselves. If this loss lights a fire under Dirk I'll be much more okay with him winning the MVP award.

As for the Spurs, maybe it's the homer in me but I think they now have a fight on their hands. Yes, I think Duncan and Manu will play better as the series goes on, but they had zero answer for Iverson off the dribble, and Denver made most of the hustle plays with guys like Nene, Najera and Kleiza beating the Spurs' old legs to loose balls and rebounds. Hollinger has to be at least a little nervous now!

In less exciting news, nice win by the Rockets over the Jazz, Dude.


The Dude said...

I didn't want to initiate this post, and nor did I call Head Dude last night after the game, but I will respond to Tylwalk's comments.

I've said it before and I will say it again: people just don't realize how good this Golden State team is. When I ranked them third in the season-end power rankings and predicted that they will beat Dallas in 6 games, I didn't do these things out of my personal stake in the matter, but rather, based on having watched the Warriors and the Mavericks play extensively on League Pass this year. And my conclusion, based on my scouting of those two teams, is that I would have been real surprised if Dallas can beat GS in a seven game series. I'm pretty sure the "so-called" experts who made their series predictions based on the records, or some computer algorhythm (ahem, Hollinger), didn't watch as much GS basketball as I did this season.

In any case, here are a list of reasons why GS will beat Dallas:

- Getting Jackson & Harrington for two stiffs in Dunleavy and Murphy immeasurably improved GS's ability to run their opponents ragged and, at the same time, inprove their ability to stay with athletic wings like Josh Howard

- Against GS's 2 PG, 2 SG, 1 SF lineup, you need an athletic interior scoring presence - Dallas doesn't have one (Phoenix and S.A. do, and that's why I have them as the only teams ahead of GS)

- I said it in my previous post, and last night's game was proof in the pudding: I've never seen Baron Davis play at a higher level than he is right now.

- GS is an energy team that feeds off the crowd at home - I would be stunned if Dallas can win a game at GS.

- By going five small, GS can effectively take Dampier/Diop out of the game. Without a rim protector, GS's penetrators, i.e. everyone in the rotation, have free rein to slash and create. Dallas doesn't have enough perimeter defenders to stop this onslaught.

Again, all these points are not based on my personal stake, it is based on my scouting of the Warriors and the Mavericks this season.

Head Dude said...

Well dude, apparently your "scouting" fooled you into declaring the Spurs the best team in the West, and as Tylwalk noted, that's certainly up for dispute right now. I would agree Tylwalk, with Iverson and Anthony finally clicking, the Nuggets have enough grit players to make a series of it.
And you're also right that Mavs' fans aren't tremendously concerned right now, given that their superstar and their top player off the bench both had their worst games of the season. There's no question that Nelson knows how to defend Nowitzki better than anybody in the league, but I think Avery made a tactical mistake in starting George at center over Diop or Dampier. When you win 67 games, you play your style and don't worry about what the other team is going to do. Dallas was very tentative on offense, afraid to shoot too fast and get into a track meet. But if they can beat the Suns in a track meet, as they did last year, I think they can handle the Warriors. The game reminded me of the opener against Houston two years ago -- the streaking team carried that over into the playoffs, but over the course of 7 games, the better team will win.
At this point, I'd say Dallas in 6. And that the dude shouldn't give up his day job and become a scout.

The Dude said...

If the Mavs fans aren't worried, they should be.

There's a reason why Nowitzki and Stackhouse had awful games - GS's defense, which can be swarming when its players are playing with effort.

One could also point out that GS's Al Harrington and Monta Ellis performed poorly in the 1st game; or that the game wasn't even as close as the score indicated.

If Dallas goes back to its traditional lineup, look for Al Harrington to have a huge game.

GS didn't win last night in a track meet, they won by imposing their will on the Mavs and through Baron Davis post-ups.

I think the Spurs will be okay. They have the personnel to match up with Denver. I'm afraid that Dallas don't have the personnel to beat GS (Trust me, I'd love to be proven wrong; I'd much rather Houston play Dallas than GS in the 2nd round if we get by Utah).

The Franchise said...

Well, it's nice to see we all disagree on the West! That's why these playoffs are off to an entertaining start despite coming on the tail end of a pretty boring season.

I don't pretend to have The Dude's encyclopedic knowledge of the Warriors, but I should note that even Don Nelson is downplaying their chances. Yes, that's probably a coaching tactic too, but I think Nellie is wise enough to know it's a long series.

Yes, Golden State fans will be loud - they are crazy even when the team sucks. But I don't think I would be "stunned" if Dallas won a game or two on the road. You don't win as many games as the Mavs without winning in a bunch of hostile arenas. I still like Dirk and company, but in six or maybe seven, which could make Dallas more vulnerable in later rounds. We shall see.

And I didnt say I think the Nuggets would win, just that it's a series now. I can't see the Spurs winning, say, four straight including two in a row in Denver after what I saw last night. With Finley and Horry guaranteed to be wheezing in the mountain air, I like our supporting cast better at home. Duncan is going to continue to be bothered by Nene and Camby, so it will be up to Parker to score ('cause we can't guard him) and Manu to get his head out of his ass. If the Spurs are as good as all the "experts" think they will bounce back with a convincing Game 2 win, because all that first game did was convince everyone that Iverson could get off any shot he wanted.

The Franchise said...

BTW, I agree with what Charles Barkley said last night and others have repeated here: when you are the No. 1 seed, you don't match lineups with the No. 8 seed! Dallas should have started its traditional five until proven otherwise. It couldn't have turned out any worse than last night!

The Dude said...

Here's one thing to which people, including Barkley, may not be paying attention: the Mavs tried to go with their traditional lineup against GS - it didn't work.

GS and Dallas played one game this year when GS had its current roster and Dallas wasn't resting its rotation players. Dallas was riding its season-long 17 game winning streak and got absolutely hammered, trailing by 30+ points heading into the 4th quarter.

Dallas started its traditional line with Dampier, and Diop off the bench. Not surprisingly, Harrington hit all five of his shots, including 2 3pters. Look, Avery Johnson isn't dumb - he knows his team better than any one of us (and Charles Barkley). Dallas just don't have the answers for GS. (Only way for Dallas to win is for Dampier & Diop to play like a beast, esp. on the offensive boards - I just don't see that happening).

Head Dude said...

Dude, you're missing a few points:
1) When the Mavs got waxed in Golden State a few months ago, they were coming off a 30-point win over the Lakers the night before, got fat on their success, and tanked.
2) I hate arguing this because our goal is to win a title, not stay close with an 8 seed, but last night's game was back and forth until the last 3 minutes, when Golden State pulled away. To say the game wasn't as close as the score indicated was to indicate you didn't watch the game.
3) The Mavs' traditional lineup actually did work quite well. They were +8 with Diop at center, and -20 with George at center. Not to mention they closed out the first half strong in the few minutes Dampier played, and he got a few offensive boards.
4) Regarding having to win in Golden State, let's not forget the Mavs won a game 7 in San Antonio last year and won the Western Conference title at Phoenix. Somehow I don't think having to win a game in Oakland is as intimidating a prospect.
5) Barkley's right -- Avery sent the wrong message by going small.
6) Tylwalk makes a great point -- Denver is the exact wrong place for an old team like the Spurs to play given the altitude. You can't really expect Finley and Horry to be racing up and down the court against the likes of Eduardo!

Grizzly said...

"Avery sent the wrong message by going small."

I think that's the only message Avery knows how to send. Look at him.


ThadisRad said...

I know that April baseball is not worthy of a post (unless you're Head Dude bragging), but it is certainly worthy of a comment...

Back-to-back-to-back-to-back against the Yankees? I was happily jumping out of the couch in pure delight.

Okay, back to the feud...

PS- Vic, aren't there other things you could be doing instead of watching a season's worth of Golden State basketball?