Last week I described the role an advanced scout would take in preparing for the Finals match-up. Here’s Part II of an abridged version of what those scouts might have found.
Once Dallas is in the half-court defensively, they rely on a rotation-based man to man defense with doses of their 2-3 zone sprinkled in. While the 2-3 look is the base, it essentially morphs into a match-up zone due to the NBA defensive 3-second rules. They rarely use it for an extended period of time and tend to employ it on dead balls or after timeouts for a handful of possessions.
They have great positional flexibility with both Kidd and Marion able to guard at least three different positions. Neither are what they used to be, but this flexibility allows Dallas to hide some of their weaker defenders easier against non-threats. Given their size in the front court, they look to funnel teams toward the middle of the floor with their pick and roll coverage due to the ability to consistently have a shot-blocking threat protecting the rim at the center position.
The interesting part of the Mavs defensive scheme is the way they protect Dirk. A team defense based on rotations (as opposed to stunting) naturally and necessarily puts its players in a position to rotate into a mismatch. Given Nowitzki’s offensive value to Dallas, it is an absolute must to keep him from getting into foul trouble or being ground down by tough, physical match-ups.
The twist in the Mavs’ scheme basically requires Dirk to avoid any potential mismatches by only switching or rotating onto other non-threats. The following video shows you Dallas’ rotation out of trap of Kevin Durant off a pick and roll. This is a good look at how a typical rotating team executes. You will see Terry step up to jam the roller and Marion sprints over to contest Thabo Sefolosha’s jumper. It’s textbook in terms of execution, Sefolosha just makes the shot.
When watching Nowitzki operate inside the Mavericks defense, you will see that he rarely is asked to switch or rotate onto any player that can give him trouble. In the Thunder series, Dirk would be allowed to switch from say Collison to Ibaka, but tried to avoid moving from one of those two to the physical Perkins or one of the Thunder’s extremely agile wings.
The following is a clip shows how conscious the defense is about Nowitzki avoiding fouls or punishment. Dirk switches onto Perkins off a pick and roll and Haywood, so concerned about leaving Dirk one on one with the bruising Thunder center, that he dismisses Serge Ibaka sitting wide open under the basket to rush over. The result is an ‘And 1’ for Ibaka and a tongue lashing for Haywood from Nowitzki.
Chandler and Marion, when he is at the 4, will occasionally even switch onto guards in pick and roll situations should the ball handler’s defender get caught up on the screen. That is only asked of Dirk in situations where the shot-clock is winding down.
Overall, the Mavericks defensive scheme is a very heady one that takes advantage of the veteran nature of the team. The team moves seamlessly in and out different defenses, rotates effectively, and switches actions between two similar-sized players (Kidd-Stevenson, Barea-Terry, etc) with cool efficiency. Carlisle doesn’t have a team full of dominating defenders, but has done everything in his power to make sure his team stays competitive on the defensive end of the floor.
Check out the Mavericks offense scouting report!
All play diagrams created with Fast Draw