Each day, we are going to preview the night's NBA Playoffs action by looking at the adjustments that can be made by the losing team and showing what they can do to win.
Everything was looking good for the Dallas Mavericks, who had a 23-point lead in the third quarter of Game 4 of their series against the Portland Trailblazers. However, the Blazers were able to come back, tying the series at two games apiece. Now at home, looking to take the series lead, the Mavericks will have to make some adjustments.
Offense: Post Dirk Nowitzki More
Nowitzki's height advantage and his ability to hit a turnaround jumper makes him a very difficult player to stop in the post. In fact, in Game 4, he had success in his limited touches. Nowitzki was posted seven times, scoring eight points, good for a PPP of 1.14.
Nowitzki is very good at using his size to get to the spot where he wants to be on the court, and once he gets there he can fade away, making his shot almost impossible to defend against. That is exactly what happens here, as Nowitzki gets the shot over LaMarcus Aldridge, a very long defender.
Defense: Play More Zone
Since this was my adjustment for Game 4, I know I am starting to sound like a broken record here. However, I continue to repeat it because I feel it is so important. As a team, the Mavericks were able to build their defense around a zone over the course of the regular season, running it 10.5 percent of the time. In this series against the Blazers, they are playing a team that doesn't do well against the zone.
In terms of PPP, the Blazers are 29th in the league, scoring just 0.762 points every zone possession. The reason why they struggle so much is because they don't zip the basketball around:
In both of these clips, you see the Blazers passing the ball around, holding it too much. The reason why everyone is holding the basketball is because nobody really knows what to do. It is pass, hold, look and pass. With everyone holding the basketball you are allowing the defense to rotate, get set, and then rotate again, rather then keeping the defense moving. In addition, you see a lot of pointless dribbling.
So when you take the Mavericks and their strong zone defense and combine it with the Blazers poor zone offense, you would expect them to go to the zone as much as they did in the regular season, if not more. However, that hasn't been the case, as the Mavericks have ran a zone defense just two times (getting stops both times).
I don't know why the Mavericks have been avoiding the zone, but it just doesn't make sense, especially considering that Portland has gone on a few big runs during this series. The best way to disrupt these runs, go zone. If the Mavericks see Portland going off of them, they should be throwing their zone out there.