Brandon Bass and DeSagana Diop absorbed the brunt of coach Avery Johnson’s disgust over the botched final 3 minutes of the third quarter Monday that jump-started a Knicks comeback that sliced the Mavericks’ 23-point lead to seven.
Johnson was hot after the game and he remained spirited Tuesday, pinpointing a breakdown in low-post defense, with Bass and Diop patrolling the paint at the time, for giving the Knicks life in a game the Mavs eventually won 99-89.
The rally hacked Johnson because it prevented him from resting Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse in the fourth quarter and didn’t allow Devean George to play extended minutes in the final period.
“We had a 20-point lead and they allowed 10 points or 12 points in the paint in a three-minute stretch,” Johnson said. “So, until we get them to defend the paint better and rebound and bring energy, which they’re supposed to do.... they have to defend the paint better than Dirk and Damp [Erick Dampier], that’s their role.”
Interior defense remains a major concern. The Mavs have allowed an average of 54.6 points in the paint in the past three games. That’s not all on Bass and Diop, but against the Knicks, Johnson put the onus squarely on them, saying, “They let the whole team down.” Low-post defense was a big focus in practice Tuesday.
“They’ve got to understand their responsibility to the team,” Johnson said. “I can’t run a drill for you to necessarily protect the paint, that’s will-power, that’s toughness, mentally and physically.
“So, they got the message.”
-- Jeff Caplan