Memphis and Dallas are almost the basketball foils of each other this season. One is a jump-shooting perimeter oriented team that hasn't cracked 100 points only once in its last 13 games whilst the other is a slow paced, defensive minded team that has reached that mark only twice over the same span. Nonetheless, at this point in the season, they're both butting heads over the 8th seed in the west, so how can the Conley-less Griz shut down Mark Cuban's Mavs?
DOMINATE THE GLASS
This one's fairly simple, Dirk isn't an elite rebounder (although he had 19 the other night), neither is Branden Wright, whilst both Dejuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert are just okay for their position. Against an offensive force like the Mavs, we need to close out defensive possessions and create easy opportunities for ourselves by controlling the offensive and defensive glass.
PICK AND ROLL
The reason why the Mavs have such a great offensive system is that there's endless opportunities in their pick and roll sets. Jose, Monta and Devin Harris are all great running the pick and roll with Nowitzki, Branden Wright and Dalembert, and the range of skill sets from player to player means that the defense has to be aware of who they're guarding and how to play them. There are so many different options so I'll show a few and how i think the Griz need to defend them.
1. Nowitzki/Dalembert Pick and Roll
Just kidding, but this just seems so cruel to the Pistons.
2. Jose/Nowitzki Pick and Pop
A dangerous 3 point option, Jose is a lights out shooter from the top of the arc whilst Dirk is Dirk. A few rules here (from Dec 18th) :
Step out and hedge quickly on the pick (OK from Z-bo, but.....)
Don't lose track of Dirk! (credit Z-bo, he made him step inside for a 2, but he was a little slow to recover after hedging a bit too long)
It will be a tough match-up if Calathes and Z-bo have to guard this all night. Hopefully the coaching staff will respond as the game goes along, but if these two are killing us on these sets, look for some Ed Davis/Johnny Leuer minutes as well as the lack of true PG line-up that closed the game against the Thunder (Lee/Johnson/Miller/Z-bo/Marc). Although Marc would be the best cover on Dirk, I'd still prefer to have him roam the paint and put another man on Dirk.
The below shot was the Spurs-Mavs game at the start of January in which Boris Diaw became the Lebron AND Dirk stopper. He's played it perfectly, discouraging the drive from Jose whilst sticking with Dirk trying to fade away on the perimeter.
3. Monta Pick and Rolls
Monta doesn't work so well with Dirk as he needs to get in closer than Jose to get a good look for a jumper. He's more effective with the roll men in Blair, Dalembert and Wright, through which he can utilise his quickness and his mid range pull up from the elbows (I swear I'm not lying).
Monta can still shoot the ball, but as opposed to Jose, you'd like him to take shots from the top of the arc and clang them ('Monta Ball'). In the below play, JJ Redick went over the screen, whereas I believe it may have been better to go under to prevent the drive or put him in a better spot to contest the jumper. Due to this Deandre has had to over commit (from his poor position too far from the bucket), leading to an easy dunk by Dalembert.
Kawhi and Timmy have forced Monta into the mid range jumper below by going under the screen and guarding the paint. Monta made the shot but you'd prefer to make the Mavs work for their points and reduce the assist numbers, so the ball isn't moving and every player doesn't have to work hard on every possession, ie Tony Parker and Danny Green here.
There's a whole lot of combinations here I haven't shown, like the Branden Wright fake pick where he slips to the basket, Jose faking the pick and stepping behind for a three, or even the Vince Carter mid range game. The Mavs are a versatile machine on the pick and roll but these three guys are the cogs that keep them running, so to shut them down we need to guard the arc against Jose and Dirk, and force Monta into jumpers (as opposed to finishing at the rim or feeding his big men).
THE DIRK CONUNDRUM
Dirk in the post is close to unstoppable, and Z/bo, Ed or Leuer are going to struggle to guard him on single coverage (although they're better suited guarding him on the perimeter). Double teaming will most likely lead to easy jumpers for a trigger and pass happy team, so the only option if he's scorching would be to shift one of our towers of Gasol or Koufos onto him.
(Dallas' Shotchart - NO RED!)
We have the take the lesser of two evils with Dirk, and I'd much prefer making him work in the post against our more agile power forwards, rather than popping easy looks along the perimeter all night. But if he is on fire, look for Marc to step up and guard him, with another possible 'Two Towers' sighting, sharing the floor with Koufos.
Although we're not matched up against one of the elite teams in the West, the Mavs are a dangerous opponent and this is a big game. Guarding by player on the pick and roll is essential in shutting down the Mavs, whilst if Dirk catches fire, enjoy but look for Koufos or Gasol to step out to try and shut down the German.