Despite the fact that everyone seems to be talking about Russell Westbrook and his benching, the Dallas Mavericks were the team that ended up losing both game two and the homecourt advantage in the Western Conference Finals. If Dallas is to take back homecourt advantage and take a 2-1 series lead, they are going to need to make adjustments to their pick and roll game on both sides of the basketball.
Offense: Be More Aggressive In Pick And Roll Situations
In game one, the Dallas Mavericks used J.J. Barea as the ball handler in a pick and roll ten different times, having great success creating space for Barea and allowing him to attack. In game two however, the Mavericks ran a ball screen for Barea just five times. Out of four of these five ball screens, instead of attacking Barea settled for three point shots. Although he hit two of the four threes, this lack of aggressiveness kept Barea out of the lane and kept him from creating havoc:
On all of these three point attempts, Barea had himself a chance to turn the corner and get into the lane. However, instead of doing so he settled for the three point shot, and this is exactly what the Oklahoma City Thunder wanted, baiting Barea into taking these shots by going under every single ball screen. In each one of the plays above, Barea's speed would allow him to turn the corner (or at least try to), opening up a number of things. His shot in the lane, a kickout to the corner for a three, and maybe most importantly, when Barea attacks, he tends to draw the hedge man out (usually the defender covering Dirk Nowitzki), leaving Dirk open for the easy jumper.
J.J. Barea needs to start attacking again, putting the defense on their back foot if he wants to replicate the success he and his teammates had one game one.
Defense: Turn Kevin Durant Away From Ball Screens
Something the Oklahoma City Thunder did with Kevin Durant in game two was use him in ball screen situations. The Thunder ran pick and rolls with Durant as the ball handler five different times, allowing him to score six points in the process. One of the reasons Durant was able to have success with the pick and roll is because of the way the Mavericks were defending him:
Watching the two possessions above, you should notice that the Mavericks are playing this pick and roll very passively, giving him the space to come off of the screen and create (once getting fouled and once getting a wide open jumper. It was interesting that the Mavericks were playing it this way, especially considering who the screeners were. Both Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka aren't the biggest threats to knock down a jumper in pick and pop situations.
To me, it was almost as if the Mavericks took their pick and roll strategy for Russell Westbrook (giving him plenty of space, letting him take jumpers instead of driving) and used it when Kevin Durant started coming off of ball screens. That wasn't going to work.
Later in the game, the Mavericks got a little bit smarter when it came to defending Durant:
The Mavericks had success making it tougher for Durant by turning him away from the screens by showing really early and hard on the hedges. These hedges basically forced Durant to go away from the screen, allowing his defender to play Durant one on one and not having to fight through a screen. The result was a turnover and a tough shot after an even tougher move.
The Durant pick and roll is something the Thunder had success with, so you can expect to see more of it in game three. The key will be whether or not Dallas gives Durant space when he comes off of the screen. If they can force him to go away from the screen like they did in the final two possessions, they can make stoping Kevin Durant a little bit easier.