Jordan White is a frequent emailer and author of his own blog, Blame It On The Basketball. This is his first HoopSpeak post.
The Dallas Mavericks have become the most excitingly predictable team in the NBA.
They keep the game close, or at least moderately close for three and a half quarters, and then, at about the halfway mark of the 4th quarter, almost like clockwork, there’s a noticeable shift in the persona of the Dallas Mavericks; their defense becomes suffocating, forcing bad shots and turnovers, such as when they forced the Heat to commit six turnovers in the 4th quarter of Game 4. Dirk Nowitzki, flu or no flu, becomes the definition of unstoppable, hitting every shot in his arsenal, from his patented fadeaway to nifty finger rolls at the rim. Suddenly, what was once a comfortable lead for the opponent has now become a tie game, with all of the momentum favoring Dallas. This has been the story for Dallas throughout the entire playoffs, and in spite of this trend, we’re still surprised every time they mount another comeback in the fourth quarter to win the game.
The popular opinion of Dallas’ multiple come-from-behind victories is that they’re an aberration; that they simply can’t continue throughout this series. My question is: why not? Which of the Basketball Commandments state, “Thou shalt have no more than four come-from-behind victories in the playoffs?” Hasn’t Dallas already proven, from the opening round with Portland to the conference finals with Oklahoma City, that comeback victories, for them, are part of the norm? Maybe what’s keeping us from accepting that Dallas 4th quarter rallies are as common as Jim Carrey-Rick Carlisle jokes is common sense.
After all, it’s common sense that tells us that 38 year-old Jason Kidd should be a defensive liability. It tells us that a Big Three should beat a big European and his rag tag team any day, that there’s no way a fade-away, off-one-foot jump shot should go in time after time after time. And yet, with every impossible shot that falls and every successful 4th quarter rally, Dallas proves there is no place for common sense in these playoffs.
Common sense also says that that Dallas will be too tired to maintain their 4th quarter fury. But if you take a closer look at how Dallas has come back, you’d see that fatigue might not be as big of an issue. Unlike Miami’s fourth-quarter rally in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which was the stereotypical heaving of three pointers and crazy shots that just so happened to fall, Dallas? comebacks have been remarkably…efficient. There were few, if any, heaved three pointers, impossible shots, or pure-luck plays. It was great defense, great adjustments by Carlisle, and a very efficient and methodical offense that allowed Dallas to claw their way back in to the game and ultimately win it. Though they turned up the energy, the Mavericks don’t get frantic or wild.
So if the Mavericks are down in the 4th quarter of Game 5, don’t be so surprised if their defense suddenly locks down, their offense runs more fluidly, and they win the game; it’s just what they’ve been doing for the entire playoffs.