A playoff series is all about adjustments. Once you figure out what the opponent is doing against you, you try to capitalize on opportunities after you watch some film. Another thing about playoff series: the idea of momentum is a farce. Momentum doesn’t carry over from game to game, mainly due to the spacing out of games. Intensity and urgency certainly translates from each game, but that’s about it.
Dallas will need to adjust and have a strong sense of urgency in Game 2. When leading a best-of-7 playoff series 1-0, the San Antonio Spurs have a series record of 24-6 and a Game 2 record of 22-8. When trailing a best-of-7 series 1-0, the Mavericks have a series record of 6-11 and a Game 2 record of 8-9.
Teams that are in Dallas’ spot, starting without homecourt advantage and behind 1-0, in an opening round best-of-7 series are 12-54 in Game 2s and have a series record of only 10-56. A promising note is that the Memphis Grizzlies showed that a win is possible as they won their Game 2 matchup against Oklahoma City, thus stealing the homecourt advantage.
That’s all this game is about now: stealing homecourt. The frustration of Game 1 can evaporate in a hurry if the Mavericks head back to Dallas with a split. That’s what any road team is looking for to start a series. With that in mind, let’s look at three potential adjustments that both teams might look to make in the pivotal Game 2 matchup.
Possibly more Jae Crowder
It’s hard to argue against the notion that most were relatively stunned to see Jae Crowder having a surprisingly efficient Game 1 against the Spurs. Crowder went two-of-two from three-point range (two-of-three from the field) for six points, with four rebounds, one steal and one block. The biggest surprise was the fact that Crowder hit both shots from long range, from the always dangerous corners. The Spurs will likely give that shot up to Crowder every game. It’s just a matter of Crowder being able to deliver more in the time he’s out on the floor. Another important note is that Crowder logged 12 minutes in the first game of the series.
Based on the given matchups, it wouldn’t hurt to have him out there as Shawn Marion’s replacement, specifically on the defensive end of the floor. If the Mavericks are going to continue to switch on all screens, they’ll need versatile options. While he still struggles with consistency on his jumper, Crowder does have the footwork and build to combat most of the perimeter options on San Antonio’s roster. He won’t stop Tony Parker off of the switch, but he’s another option that can be thrown out.
If that’s the case, where do the minutes come from? As Rick Carlisle loves to say, that’s why he’s paid the money on his contract. He’ll have to walk the tight rope of determining what works best in terms of the rotational minutes.
Posting up Kawhi Leonard
For the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard will likely become the biggest benefactor of Dallas’ belief in switching on all pick-and-rolls. There were a few instances in Game 1 where Monta Ellis was switched onto Leonard. There’s clearly a size disparity between Leonard and Ellis (the Mavericks guard is giving up four inches in height and at least forty-five pounds), which is going to be incredibly problematic.
The easy thing would be for Leonard to methodically post Ellis up and either pound him into submission or do just enough to force Dallas’ hand and make a double to come towards him. If that’s the case, the Spurs will have already won that battle as they’ll get back to their death by ball movement ways and they’ll get looks from three-point range. There is an element of danger to this theory though because Dallas might allow Leonard to operate by posting up. Why would Dallas do that? Because it further cements San Antonio into playing isolation basketball. It slows San Antonio down in terms of pace and makes them predictable. Over the course of the season, the Spurs only played ISO ball 5.2 percent of the time, per Synergy. It more than doubled in Game 1 as ISO was used 11.9 percent of the time. It’s a tricky situation if they try to exploit the mismatch with Leonard.
This is an instance where Crowder getting a few extra minutes might not hurt. Crowder would only be giving up an inch in height and roughly ten pounds in weight. If they elect to keep Ellis out on the floor more, Ellis can try to front Leonard to make the entry pass more difficult. That is an option, but it starts to create dissonance in Dallas’ plan of trying to avoiding giving help. If you front, you need support behind you because a perfect pass leads to an easy look at the basket.
Another step or two by Monta Ellis
The Spurs attempted to make Ellis settle for the dreaded long two-point shots rather than getting to the rim. The Mavericks will have to continue to find ways to get him to the rim. A byproduct of him getting to the rim is manufacturing more trips to the free throw line. Dallas only had 13 more free throw attempts in Sunday’s games. Easy points come at a premium and Ellis can help in that department.
Dallas loves to run the double screen action, mainly with their bigs, and that can create more space for Ellis. Nowitzki and the center on the floor at the moment will set staggered screens for a guard. This is a prime opportunity for Ellis to use that to his advantage, especially if Brandan Wright is the second man setting the screen. The Spurs flat out won’t leave Nowitzki, so they will gravitate towards him. The room created by the staggered screens should give Ellis enough room to work with. If he can get that extra step, he’ll build enough momentum to get to the rim. The remaining Spurs on the floor might try to build a wall in the paint to stop Ellis. If they do, he needs to continue to crash into the lane and find the kick-out option on the corner. That’s Spurs basketball destroying the Spurs’ defensive scheme if the Mavericks can execute just like that. If they don’t build the wall, Ellis has his clear path to the rim.
Ellis needs to avoid falling into San Antonio’s trap of the long two-pointer. He needs to trust his instincts and believe that good will come if he attacks and remains aggressive in relation to getting towards the rim.