ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reports
Mavs Clutch Play
Consider the Mavs the kings of crunch time during these NBA playoffs.
Just check their numbers in the moments widely considered clutch, which is when the score is within five points with five minutes or less remaining. The Mavs have outscored their playoff foes by 29 points in 19 such minutes.
The Mavs performing well in clutch situations is certainly nothing new. They’re 29-12 in games decided by three points or less under coach Rick Carlisle. But they’ve taken it to a totally different level during the playoffs.
According to NBA.com’s Stats Cube, the Mavs’ clutch net rating (points per 100 possessions) in the playoffs is plus 73.91. That dwarfs their outstanding regular season clutch net rating of plus 25.12.
Their are two key elements to being an elite team in closing out tight games:
- The ability to create high percentage shot attempts – most likely through an elite creator, be it a scorer or playmaker.
- The ability to stop the other team from getting quality shot attempts – to get stops, an elite defensive outfit
So how does Dallas achieve these two goals?
The Go-To Scorer – Dirk Nowizk
“Well, it helps to have Dirk,” Jason Kidd said. “When you have a go-to guy, nobody panics. You kind of welcome that atmosphere and that stage. We always are under control and try to make the right play. It helps to be able to go to a guy like Dirk who really welcomes that stage.”
How dominant has Dirk Nowitzki been during playoff crunch time? He has 25 points and no turnovers during those 19 clutch minutes. His true shooting percentage (which factors in the value of free throws and 3-pointers) during that time is an off-the-charts 82.5.
A top notch shot creator who’s mere presence on the court creates copious amounts of time and space for his teammates. An elite one-on-one scorer, an elite pick and pop threat and very good as a screen setter off the ball because opponents are more worried about him than the guy he is freeing up (usually Jason Terry).
The Defense – Gotta Get Stops
But Dirk’s numbers, as ridiculous as they are, aren’t the most impressive thing about the Mavs’ playoff clutch dominance. That would be their defense.
The Mavs are allowing only 84.95 points per 100 clutch possessions during the playoffs. By comparison, no team allowed fewer than 100 points per 100 possessions during the regular season.
The main catalysts here are Tyson Chandler and/or Brendan Haywood. They give Dallas quality interior defense, strong rebounding and shot blockers at the rim.
Dallas also has multiple options on the perimeter defensively. A high quality defensive forward in Shawn Marion + a solid defensive two guard in DeShawn Stevenson + Jason Kidd who is a high level team defender at the point plus an above average man-to-man defender at the two.
Kidd’s defensive ability and namely his defensive versatility (ability to cover wings as well as PGs) gives Dallas the freedom to play Jason Terry in it’s late lineups. Giving Dallas another go-to scorer, ball-handler and elite shooter.