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[Ft. Worth Star-Telegram] A Small Surprise

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Sherlock, May 2, 2005.

  1. Sherlock

    Sherlock Contributing Member

    Feb 23, 1999
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    <a href="http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/sports/basketball/11543035.htm"><font size="+1">A small surprise - Mavs turn to undersized lineup to keep up in series</a></font>
    <img src="http://www.dfw.com/images/dfw/startelegram/news/1708863-630367.jpg">
    Posted on Mon, May. 02, 2005
    By Art Garcia, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

    DALLAS - Small ball lives. Standing thankfully outside of the sideline glare, Don Nelson is a proud man.

    The Mavericks' rebound against Houston has been accomplished, in part, by those not best equipped to hit the boards. Nelson's patented small-ball lineup, left for dead during an off-season overhaul, has found a new life in the unlikeliest of places.

    <b>The playoffs.</b>

    The Mavs began the first-round series -- tied at 2-2 heading into tonight's Game 5 at American Airlines Center -- 10 days ago determined to use their size advantage. The Rockets had 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming and 7-2 backup Dikembe Mutombo, but without 6-9 power forward Juwan Howard, they were supposed to be at a disadvantage against the Mavs' frontline of 6-11 Erick Dampier and 7-foot Dirk Nowitzki.

    So what did Houston coach and former Nelson assistant Jeff Van Gundy do? He dipped into the bag o' tricks from the master of matchups and went small. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    "You have to give Nellie a lot of credit," Mavs guard Michael Finley said Sunday. "Maybe too much credit because Van Gundy saw him do that and decided to steal that strategy."

    Van Gundy elected not to start burly but undersized power forward Clarence Weatherspoon to open the series. Instead, he's gone with a pair of scrappy yet nondescript small forwards -- Ryan Bowen and Scott Padgett -- opposite Nowitzki.

    That's just the start. With do-everything swingman Tracy McGrady and Yao as the anchors, Van Gundy has a host of deadeye shooters -- David Wesley, Bob Sura, Jon Barry and Mike James -- to spread the floor. The Rockets haven't used a standard power forward in the series.

    Determined to stick to their "traditional" lineup, the kind that's supposed to win in the postseason, the Mavs were left scrambling in Games 1 and 2. They lost both at home.

    "We hadn't played small all year," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "It's something we've been forced into because our big lineup can't guard their small lineup. We found that out in Game 1, and it took me a game and a half to figure that out. Can you believe that?"

    The preference remains to use Dampier and Nowitzki together. Foul trouble kept Dampier sidelined for most of the two games in Houston, and Keith Van Horn's ankle injury early in Game 3 further limited the Mavs' options.

    "We give our big lineup a chance, but it doesn't have a long rope," assistant Del Harris said. "All the games are too important to fiddle around. We'll see what the next game dictates. Our aim is to adjust to the changing situations, and if that means small ball, then small ball."

    The light bulb going off for the coaching staff likely staved off playoff extinction. Maybe they were a little out of practice, but the Mavs didn't have much trouble reverting to their roots.

    Nelson stepped down as Mavs coach in March, but his legacy remains intact. Nowitzki is well versed in sliding over to center in the small lineup. Marquis Daniels and Josh Howard, both two-year veterans, are also experienced in the system.

    As for the Mavs' newcomers this season, small ball admittedly isn't second nature. But Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry and Devin Harris are willing to go with the flow.

    The Mavs were better equipped to react to McGrady's penetration and cover Houston's outside shooters. The foursome of Wesley, Sura, James and Barry combined for just 25 points and one 3-pointer after averaging 45 points and nearly seven 3-pointers in the first three games.

    The Mavs are grateful they can turn to another gear, but they've also mapped out their future because of the past. The organization's philosophical shift was clear after losing to San Antonio in the 2003 Western Conference Finals.

    The Mavs needed more in the middle than Raef LaFrentz and Shawn Bradley. They needed a conventional center. The trades of the last two years, Del Harris said, have been made with that goal in mind. Though it took a detour last season, the team finally has its preferred makeup.

    "We would rather our small ball be an adjusting lineup as opposed to our bread-and-butter lineup that we had two years ago," Harris said. "We had a great team, but it wasn't manufactured for the playoffs.

    "If our dominant lineup isn't big ball, at least it's certainly a significant portion of the game, or we won't be a championship team."

    Believe it or not, Nelson knew that, too.

    <b>The Mavs' smalls</b>

    Coach Avery Johnson has used his small-ball lineup more as the Mavs have evened the series. The impact the smaller Mavs have made in the past two games compared with the first two:

    Jason Terry

    G1-2: 16 ppg 7 rpg
    G3-4: 22.5 ppg 5 rpg

    Jerry Stackhouse

    G1-2: 11 ppg 1 rpg
    G3-4: 14 ppg 5.5 rpg

    Devin Harris

    G1-2: 1.5 ppg 1 rpg
    G3-4: 3 ppg 2.5 rpg

    Marquis Daniels

    G1-2: 0 ppg 1.5 rpg
    G3-4: 5.5 ppg 1 rpg

    Josh Howard

    G1-2: 17 ppg 9 rpg
    G3-4: 7.5 ppg 3 rpg

    Michael Finley

    G1-2: 7.5 ppg 6.5 rpg
    G3-4: 19 ppg 3 rpg
  2. KeepKenny

    KeepKenny Contributing Member

    May 31, 2000
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    Could Josh Howard have a bigger mouth?
  3. Dr of Dunk

    Dr of Dunk Clutch Crew

    Aug 27, 1999
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    "Yes", responded Avery Johnson.
  4. DieHard Rocket

    DieHard Rocket Contributing Member

    Sep 9, 2000
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    Hmm...the only "standard" power forward we have is on the bench in street clothes. All it takes is one look at Weatherspoon and you can tell he's not a "standard" power forward. No disrespect to him, but he's too short for Dirk and slow. Then there is Braggs, but guys that haven't even played a full season in the NBA and have only been with the team for a month aren't going to see much time.
  5. solid

    solid Contributing Member

    Apr 10, 2001
    Likes Received:
    The Mavs are not the best looking group. :D

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