The Dallas Mavericks have been a bad defensive team all season.
It’s something coach Rick Carlisle has railed about since October.
Suffice 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 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’ve 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.”
The Mavericks’ defense had been pretty good against the Spurs in the first three games of the series — especially against the pick-and-roll.
The Spurs’ ability to shoot outside on the pick-and-pop helped fuel a 10-game winning streak against the Mavericks. Dallas changed things up at the start of the playoffs, choosing to stay with the shooters and 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 the layup-drill level on Wednesday.
“We are trying to take the 3-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 in the Mavericks on defense. They allowed too many easy shots and too many offensive rebounds. Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, the Spurs’ big men, combined for 33 points and 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 kicking Splitter in the head in Game 4, was a huge factor in the Mavericks’ poor defense. He is a former Spurs player who knows their schemes and he brings much-needed toughness and intensity.
It also didn’t help that center Sam Dalembert hurt his ankle early in the first quarter and hobbled the rest of the way.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t necessarily backtrack from what he said Monday night when he called the idea of forcing Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling out of the league for his racist comments “a slippery slope.”
But in his first public interview since NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave Sterling a lifetime suspension and promised to remove him as owner, Cuban declined further comment before Game 5 of the Spurs-Mavericks game.
“Here’s what I did,” Cuban said. “I went and looked at a picture of my house, since I’m on the road, and I saw that it was made out of a whole lot of glass.
“So I decided I don’t have anything else to say on the whole topic. And that’s my statement.”