The Mavs looked to be on the ropes after dropping the first 2 games in NOLA. I watched both of those games, and while Game 2 was a disaster for the Mavs, they actually played pretty good in the first half of Game 1 before Chris Paul decided to own it.

One of the biggest adjustments that I saw from games 1 and 2 to game 3 back in Dallas was how the Mavs decided to play the PNR with Paul and Chandler. In games 1 and 2, the Mavs tried to trap Paul. The problem with that strategy is that nobody on the Mavs has the footspeed to successfully trap Paul and either he split the double or he found Chandler for multiple alley-oops.

Instead, for game 3, Coach Avery Johnson made the adjustment to fight thru the picks, and stay at home on Chandler protecting the basket. Then they would rotate from the weak side to prevent penetration and only allow the mid-range shot. Here are 2 sequences from the 3rd quarter that illustrate this nicely,

Trapping the Ball-screen:

Normally, I like trapping the ball screen. I've written about a half-dozen or so posts just on that topic alone. I feel that it puts a lot of pressure on the offense that likes to use ball-screens a lot and forces them to scramble to run something else.

The exception is if you're playing a dynamic point-guard. Someone who has the quicks to split and dribble out of the double or make the pass out of the double with poise. That player is Chris Paul.

This is from game 2. You can see the Mavs trying to contain Chris with Dirk hedging. In this case, Paul split right through the gap and scored an easy layup,

Fight Thru and Stay at Home:

The adjustment in game 3 was to fight thru the screen and for Dirk to stay at home. No point to play up as Chandler won't pick and pop, he's not good enough of a shooter. We've seen David West go pick and pop, but not in this series. Dirk stays at home to protect the basket against a rolling Chandler and Terry chases Paul around the pick. The only shot Paul has is a 5-footer which he misses,

I like the second clip from the video. It's the Mavs good defense leading to good offense. Dirk is so deadly in the fast break running his lane on the wing and stepping into a 3-pointer.


The playoffs are so great to watch. From a coaches perspective I couldn't help but watch the pressure start to show on the coaches faces. Many say that if the Mavs lose this series, Avery Johnson is on the way out. The Suns are down 3-0 and D'Antoni was practically booed off the court tonight, hard to imagine that someone won't take the fall for a first-round exit. Flip Saunders is starting to pace a lot more quickly than we're used to seeing, Joe Dumars isn't afraid to make a move especially now that Larry Brown is available. It's not always fair, but the reality we live in is a fickle world where fans/managers/owners only see short-term results.

To learn more about the PNR and how to defend, take a look at Jeff Van Gundy's DVD on the pick and roll and how to defend it. Van Gundy is a master of the PNR having coached some of the best guard-forward tandems in the NBA. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.