By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
San Antonio _ The Dallas Mavericks have been a bad defensive team all season.
It’s something coach Rick Carlisle has railed about it since October.
Suffice it to say, Carlisle will be up and arms again about the Mavericks poor defense following Wednesday’s 109-103 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the Western Conference playoffs.
The Spurs did a veritable layup drill, scoring 54 points in the paint, to take a 3-2 lead in the first-round playoff series, while putting the Mavericks on the brink of elimination.
“They just had it going all night,” Carlisle said. “In the third quarter we did a better job, but we got to be better from start to finish over the whole 48 minutes. I've been talking (defense) for seven months. Our defensive numbers weren't where they should be, and so that's dispositional stuff.”
The disappointing thing is the Mavericks defense had actually been pretty good against the Spurs the first three games of the series _ especially against the pick and roll.
It was the Spurs ability to bomb away from the outside on the pick and pop play that helped fuel a 10-game winning streak against the Mavs. Dallas changed things up at the start of the playoffs, choosing to stay with the shooters, causing the San Antonio offense to bog down.
The Spurs turned from the pick and pop to the pick and roll for easy layups in a Game 4 victory at Dallas on Monday and took it to layup drill level on Wednesday.
“We are trying to take the three point shot out of the game and trying to stay home on their shooters,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “If we do that then the roll is there. They have figured it out the last couple of games.”
It wasn’t just the roll and layups that did the Mavericks in on defense. It was also the intensity. They didn’t give enough energy. They were a step slow. They allowed too many easy shots and too many offensive rebounds. Tim Duncan and Tiago Spiller, the Spurs big man, combined for 33 points 24 rebounds.
“We were a step slow in all of our losses,” forward Vince Carter said. “They exploited us. They had too many easy baskets in the paint. You have to make it tough.”
Not having forward DeJuan Blair, who was suspended for the game because of an unintentional kick of Splitter in Game 4, was a huge factor in their poor defense. He is a former Spurs player who knows their schemes and he also brings a toughness and intensity that few other Mavs possess.
It also didn’t help that center Sam Dalembert hurt his ankle early in the first quarter and hobbled the rest of the way.
Still the effort on defense wasn’t good enough. While the Mavs kept it close, they trailed the whole game and couldn’t get the necessary stops to get over the hump.
“I don’t think we lost the game offensively,” Nowitzki who had a game-high 26 points. “We lost the game on defense. We got to dig deep. It’s the guards and the bigs. You can’t give Duncan and Splitter uncontested layups. We have to have more energy. They had five turnovers. That’s a joke in 48-minute game. We have to be the more desperate team on Friday to win.”
And keep their season alive.