Oct 31, 2012, 3:26 AM EDT
Hanging out in the shadows cast by the debuts of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, the Princeton Offense and the return of Kobe Bryant was the Dallas Mavericks, a team everyone assumed would play the role of wrestling jobber — hang around for a few minutes, show off a few moves, and then take that fall late in the match. No Dirk Nowitzki, no Chris Kaman and no star should have meant no chance, but the beautiful thing about opening night is that all is equal, even when it isn’t.
The lasting image of the night wasn’t a Howard dunk or a Nash lob, but rather second round draft pick Jae Crowder, all 6-foot-6 of him, shoving a forearm into the back of 7-foot Pau Gasol, battling a fight on the block that he shouldn’t have had a chance in. That was the story all game long, as the Mavericks pulled off the upset, 99-91.
You see, there are just some things most NBA teams cede to their opponent. Usually a point guard can come up the floor with very little pressure — maybe they get turned once, or have to go through their legs, but the pressure is token at best.
And when a 7-footer has a chance at an easy dunk? Usually undersized forwards don’t hack at their arms like they’re chopping down a tree. You give up the two points and live to fight another day.
These are like the little unwritten rules of NBA basketball. Most teams observe them.
The Dallas Mavericks do not.
The Lakers should have known they had a fight on their hands the second Darren Collison began to implement a one-man full court press, making Steve Nash work just to get the ball across half court. When Pau Gasol lobbed three straight passes to Dwight Howard over the top of the defense — only for a swarm of Mavs to come-a-hackin’ — that should have been an indicator of the night that was in store for the Lakers. Nothing easy, everything earned.
It actually ended up being the Lakers who made it too easy for the Mavs. There’s a reason post play in the NBA has fallen off drastically — it’s not as effective against today’s quicker defenses. The Princeton Offense, in it’s most optimal state, is supposed to present the Lakers with multiple options. It’s not a set of rigid plays — it’s a way to enable players to read and react. Problem was, the Lakers didn’t read and react — they had already predetermined what what they wanted to do based on their opponent’s size.
The Lakers saw the height of the Dallas big men, and went there repeatedly. Nevermind that Elton Brand is one of the best post defenders in the league — the Lakers just kept marching straight forward with chaos surrounding them from all sides, seemingly impervious to the fact that Dallas was happy to engage in this type of battle. This was the Mavs utilizing Guerrilla Warfare at its best, and Darren Collison (17 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds) running his team and controlling the tempo much better than Nash did.
Of course, there are a few reasons Lakers fans shouldn’t panic. The whole “first game together in a new system” thing is one, but even more importantly, the Lakers still hovered around 50 percent shooting from the field all night. Point the finger at the free throw shooting before anything else, as the team went 12-for-31 (38%) from the charity stripe. Yes, Howard is dreadful from the line, but that probably won’t happen again.
It’s also hard not to imagine a player as smart as Nash figuring out the balance between getting others involved and running his game in the pick-and-roll. The Lakers could benefit from a more varied attack offensively than they displayed tonight, but the inability to get back on defense is the more pressing issue. Steve Nash can only serve as a speed bump stopping the break, and the Lakers defense suddenly loses a lot of wallop when Dwight Howard is on the wrong side of halfcourt.
Was it a rocky start for the Lakers? Yes, but let’s wait and see how the Lakers look when they get to play their own game — just as soon as they find it.
Oct 2, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT
LeBron’s age, contract complicate decision
Oct 2, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT
Garnett: ‘Absolutely not. Hell no’
Oct 2, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT
There’s going to be a lot of this in the coming season.
Oct 2, 2014, 10:20 AM EDT
It’s another year about development.
Oct 2, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Celtics president Danny Ainge agrees that’s a fair request
Oct 2, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
This is a court unlike any other
Oct 2, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
After 10 years in the league, how much change do we really expect?
Oct 2, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Gasol chose the polar vortex over the beach.
Oct 2, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut dominated last season and return for more
Oct 1, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Kobe takes championship-or-bust mentality
Oct 1, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
George wants to re-join the Pacers for the playoffs
Oct 1, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT
Thunder forward says he doesn’t (unless he’s joking like Kevin Martin)
Oct 1, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Get fouled on a missed 2-pointer – one free throw worth two points
Get fouled on a missed 3-pointer – one free throw worth three points
Oct 1, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
OK, what did I get wrong?
Oct 1, 2014, 6:40 PM EDT
Two young players trying to prove to new coaches they deserved minutes. This is a real setback for both.
Oct 1, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
The show is on Disney XD. I suppose there are worse things your child could watch.
Man sues Madison Square Garden saying he was ejected from Knicks game for saying “Carmelo, you stink”
Oct 1, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
A Madison Square Garden spokesman called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
Oct 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Dirk loves him some Hoff.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
Thing is, Rodman fit the triangle and what Jackson wants to do with a team. Smith…. not so much.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT
Monroe had a busy offseason in terms of appearances in the NBA’s news cycle.
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 preview: Orlando Magic 2
- Hey John Wall/Dion Waiters, Stephen Curry says Warriors have best backcourt. And he’s right. 43
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Charlotte Hornets 6
- Kobe Bryant plans to play in all 8 preseason games for Lakers 11
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat 9
- Mike Miller points to him being amnestied as start of LeBron James leaving Miami 15
- Kobe Bryant thinks he could physically play beyond contract extension 14
- Trey Burke, in wake of nude-photo scandal: ‘My judgments will be much better’ 11