Blog Entry

NBA Finals: Carlisle's tinkering pays dividends

Posted on: June 8, 2011 5:04 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 6:00 am

Posted by Matt Moore

Rick Carlisle looked befuddled at a certain notoriously bombastic reporter's question if he had coached "a hell of a game." 

"Who is this guy?" Carlisle asked with a laugh. "Next question."

Truth be told, he would have been right to say he had.  In the NBA Finals, neither team wants to blink first. Both teams want to assert their dominance over their opponent and have things played on their terms. Rick Carlisle talked all week about "playing [their] game." But he was the first to blink, the first to crack, the first to make a substantial adjustment, and doing so might have just saved the Mavericks from the brink of elimination, and allowed them to regain momentum.

Carlisle switched his rotation on Tuesday night in Game 4, inserting J.J. Barea into the starting lineup, shifting DeShawn Stevenson into reserve small forward, removing Peja Stojakovic from the rotations, and going to Stevenson down the stretch instead of Marion. Marion was a huge part of the Mavs' success on both sides of the ball, but had also put in heavy minutes trying to score consistently, make plays, and defend LeBron James full-court. It was a strategy that Rick Carlisle said he had to adjust.

"I knew we had to take Marion's minutes down. He can't play 43 minutes."

Instead of balking or sulking at being removed from the starting lineup, Stevenson said he was more than happy to come in and close the game, helping to shut down his long-time nemesis LeBron James (even if Stevenson is not LeBron's). Marion admitted that he wanted to be in the game to close the Heat out but played the "We got the win" card. Having so many guys willing and able to contribute is a luxury for Carlisle, who used it to make a strategic adjustment.

The Heat never adjusted, didn't know how to adjust, and when what they do didn't work, they just tried doing it more and doing the same things harder. Effort goes a long way but you've got to be smart. And while Carlisle deferred and said that what the Mavericks are doing isn't complex, in reality, it's those adjustments that make the difference. They did in Game 4.

And they might end up being the difference in this series.

Since: Oct 21, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:29 am

NBA Finals: Carlisle's tinkering pays dividends

That is a really good point - I like the tinkering the Mavs (and Coach Carlisle) are making. Not a lot has been made of the coaches this series, but I think Dallas gets the edge there. Spoelstra is good - but young. I wonder if most of LBJ's mental problems would be solved with a coach like Phil Jackson on the Heat bench.

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