Of all the first-round playoff matchups, the one upset that probably won't surprise many people is the Dallas Mavericks over the third-seeded San Antonio Spurs. But not all of it is the aging, ailing Spurs. The Mavs have finally started to gel in the past few weeks under Rick Carlisle's first year. From doing a little research, there appears to have been a major turning point around February.

Some coaches are laid back, some are possessive and controlling, Rick Carlisle falls under the latter. After 2-3 months of mediocrity (offensively and defensively), Carlisle decided to bring in Darrell Armstrong as an assistant in February. Armstrong related well with the players as a former teammate and was able to communicate the message clearer. Which ultimately led Carlisle to release some of the play-calling duties over to Jason Kidd. While the defense has still be inconsistent, the changes on offense have been remarkable.

I watched most of the game last night between the Mavs and the Rockets live with some friends yesterday and took these clips from recordings. The 2 sequences in my opinion signify the offensive accomodation between Carlisle calling Nowitzki isolation plays and allowing Kidd to improvise on the fly in a Spread set,

I think this negotiated balance -- albeit fragile -- allows Carlisle to maintain some level of control while giving Kidd the ultimate say on the court. With a team full of veterans, it would appear that this is the best way forward. Consistent to either their ISO and spread offense is spacing as shown below with Dirk on the ISO and Terry on the dribble drive,


With the added benefit of not having to travel a far distance, and knowing the Spurs intimately (this goes both ways though), I think one could make the argument that it would be an upset if the Spurs won this series. If the Mavs do indeed go on to beat the Spurs, they could pose some problems for Denver or LA, but much of it will depend on how consistent they are on defense.

For more on spread offense principles, take a look at Keno Davis' DVD on his Spread Dribble Drive. Coach Davis was the 2008 AP coach of the year and head coach of Providence. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.