It seems only one team was able to solve the Miami Heat in the NBA finals. What can the San Antonio Spurs learn from the 2011 Dallas Mavericks?
Gregg Popovich employing flow offense like Rick Carlisle
In a recent documentary about the 1984 NBA draft, Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle talked about his life as a player and how it eventually transitioned to coaching. That, as everybody knows led him to Dallas where Mark Cuban put him in charge of a team that was still smarting from losing in the finals a few years before and desperate to get their owner and star player Dirk Nowitzki a ring before it was too late. Carlisle, using his lessons from his playing days with the Boston Celtics, focused on playing a team-oriented style featuring an unpredictable flow offense that demanded unselfishness and precise passing. A few years into his tenure that style was put to the test against the Miami Heat in the finals. Dallas overcame an early hole in the series to win in six games. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has taken lessons from that series well. Through three games his Spurs have averaged 105 points with four players averaging double figures in points. This against a Heat defense that has allowed 94 points per game during the playoffs.
Suffocating defense on LeBron James and Dwayne Wade
Speaking of defense, that was the second ingredient to the Dallas Mavericks plan of attack. Centered around their front line of Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion their job was to aggressively attack the dynamic Heat duo of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. That meant getting back quickly in transition to prevent easy baskets and then attacking the pick-and-roll, not giving either player a chance to breathe. San Antonio has done the exact same thing, finding their matchups and maximizing them as much as possible. The results are hard to miss. In three games the normally explosive Heat have failed to score 100 points or more. James and Wade have had their moments but not with any consistency. Above anything else what the Mavericks taught and what the Spurs have employed is a style of relentlessness on both ends of the court. That is what it takes to beat a champion and it’s something San Antonio must take beyond Game 4 if they want to exorcize their demons of last year.