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Mavericks Vs. Thunder, Game 4 Adjustments: More Movement, Don't Hedge Off Of Dirk Nowitzki

In Game 3, the Dallas Mavericks punched the Oklahoma City Thunder in the mouth early in the first quarter, winning that quarter 27-12. That poor Thunder start was due in large part to the lack of offensive movement in the first half. When OKC was finally able to get close, they were unable to stop the Jason Terry/Dirk Nowitzki pick-and-pop.  If the Thunder want to even up the series and give themselves a chance at making the NBA Finals, they are going to need to fix both of these problems.

Offense: Get More Movement

The lack of movement in the Thunder's offense has always been a problem, but when Kevin Durant struggles and is unable to bail the Thunder out, these problems are amplified.  When watching the Thunder on offense, you usually see three or more players simply standing around possession after possession:

This time down the court, you have Russell Westbrook bringing the basketball up and attempt to try and call something while dribbling the basketball to the wing.  Then nobody moves.  After waiting for a while, Kendrick Perkins finally comes over and sets a screen, and Westbrook uses it.  After coming off the screen, he tries to kick it out to James Harden, but Shawn Marion is able to get his hand on it and create the turnover.  Now, the lack of movement is what allows Marion to get the turnover.  He knows that Harden isn't a threat to cut off of his help, so he is able to dive in, stop penetration, and then shoot back out to get his hand on the ball.

Far too often, the Thunder run one action and think that is enough to get the job done.  Here, Durant sets a screen for Westbrook in an attempt to run a pick-and-pop and then gets a screen on the backside from Perkins.  Durant kind of jogs through the motions, and since Perkins isn't a threat on the offensive end, Tyson Chandler is able to play the passing lane and take the over the top pass away from Westbrook.  Now once this action finishes, it is stand around time as everyone stands and watches Westbrook dribble the basketball.  Westbrook is forced to try and create, missing the jumper out of isolation.

Here is another example of just one action (setting a screen up top) with everyone standing and watching.  This time, we at least get to see a pass, but it goes to Durant who is stepping back to about 30 feet away from the basket.  Durant makes the catch, but because he is so far out, his dribble penetration takes him just to the elbow, where he misses the jumper.

What really makes this frustrating is that when the Thunder are actually spaced properly and are moving, they look great (as they should with two of the better players in the league).

On this possession, you know that the Thunder are running a set from the start. Westbrook quickly gets the basketball out of his hands and cuts through as the Thunder start a set.  Eventually, Westbrook attacks, but with good spacing, he has a teammate making himself available, kicks the ball out, and then the ball quickly shoots around the outside, forcing Dallas to recover.  Eventually, Thabo Sefolosha gets it, pump fakes, and gets the easy lay-in.

The Mavericks have a good but not great defense.  There are a few older guys on their roster who aren't even close to being as quick as the guys on the Thunder's roster.  You zip the ball around and have guys cutting, you are forcing the Mavericks defense to rotate and recover, when that happens, the Thunder are going to have opportunities to penetrate.  They need more of this in Game 4.

Defense: Don't Hedge Off Of Nowitzki In Pick And Pop Situations

In the fourth quarter of game three as Oklahoma City started to fight back, the Mavericks went to a Jason Terry/Dirk Nowitzki pick-and-pop (which is the new Barea/Nowitzki pick-and-pop), and Nick Collison's tendency to hedge on this play led to a few open jumpers for Dallas.

On both of these plays, Collison hedges out on Terry in an effort to keep him from penetrating.  While that is a solid strategy against a normal pick-and-pop, but with Nowitzki, you can't do this.  Collison had success stopping Nowitzki by staying in his body and not giving him any space.  Once you hedge on the pick-and-pop, you can't stay with Dirk or in his body.  This gives Nowitzki enough room to hit jumpers.

I understand that Terry is almost as much as a threat as Nowitzki in the fourth quarter, but you can't leave Dirk. Maybe send a rotating defender from somewhere else, maybe hope that Terry's defender can get through the screen, but don't leave Nowitzki open.