by Brett Edwards
It takes 82 games to gain home court advantage throughout the playoffs, but it only takes one to lose it. Golden State played well on both ends of the court to take Game 1 from Dallas, completely obliterating my prediction in the process. As I watched the Mavs go away from the starting lineup that effectively won them 67 games in the regular season, I started to think back to the last post-season game that the Mavs played in, and the following question came to mind: Is Avery Johnson a bad playoff coach?
It's unbelievable to me that the team with the league's best record in the regular season would completely change what got them there to try and match up with an eight seed. Granted, the Warriors did beat Dallas in all three meetings before the playoffs, but I thought the Mavs (at least in their minds) had excuses for each one. Apparently the coaching staff wasn't buying it, as they changed their starting lineup by going with Devean George (really?) in favor of Erick Dampier or DeSagana Diop. The thinking was that the big men wouldn't be able to hang with the speed of the Warriors, and starting George would add some much needed defense to slow a Warriors team that was dropping 116 on people the last 10 games of the season.
The defensive adjustment seemed to work, but Dallas was out of sync on offense all night, largely due to the fact that they were playing with unusual lineups that they did not frequently use during the regular season. Ironically, Dallas seemed to play best with Dirk on the bench and Diop in the game, a lineup which, now I'm just guessing here, will not take you very far in the playoffs.
The last playoff game that the Mavs appeared in was Game 6 of last year's Finals, where Avery Johnson also made some very poor decisions, especially in the fourth quarter. Since I discussed this with such supremely intelligent commentary at the time, let's just go ahead and blockquote myself for the details:
Equally awful was the fourth quarter strategy in the series-ending Game 6 loss. The Heat were over the limit in team fouls with almost 8 minutes to play in the game. You would think that would lead to a constant attack on the rim, with players refusing to settle for jumpers, right? Wrong. From the time Dallas would have gotten free throws for every foul call until the end of the game, they unconscionably jacked up 9 three-pointers!! What the hell kind of strategy is that?! How about going to the hoop and drawing some fouls? Dwyane Wade certainly had no problem figuring this out, and that's a big reason why he's an NBA Champ.
Finally, with the game on the line, instead of turning to Dirk to go to the basket, you run a pick-and-roll with Eric Dampier, who has no hands and dropped the pass out of bounds. Really?!
So in the last two games, Avery played down to his competition (literally) against the Warriors, and had no concept of what was going on offensively against the Heat. Hopefully the coach can figure out that he has the best team here, and that he needs to make his opponents adjust to what his team does instead of the other way around. Otherwise this off season will seem a hell of a lot longer than the almost six months that the Mavs spent getting those 67 wins.