When you build a 10-point lead over the Spurs with 7:45 remaining, you’ve done something right. So, honestly, the Mavs don’t need a complete overhaul heading into tonight’s crucial Game 2 of the Western Conference Playoff series in San Antonio.
But one glaring tweak seems necessary: Devin Harris needs to start in place of Jose Calderon.
After Spurs’ point guard Tony Parker dismantled his Mavs in Game 1 back in 2006, head coach Avery Johnson inserted Harris into the starting lineup for Game 2. Harris stayed in front of Parker on defense and ran past him on offense, leading Dallas to three straight victories and a series win en route to the NBA Finals. And in the 2011 NBA Final head coach Rick Carlisle made the move of the series, injecting the energy of J.J. Barea into the starting lineup and benching DeShawn Stevenson before Game 4.
So why not Harris for Calderon now? I know the Mavs won 49 games with Calderon as their starter, but against the Spurs it is broke, and it indeed needs fixing.
The Spurs are the best team in the NBA. They’ve got the three-time Coach of the Year in Gregg Popovich. They’ve beaten the Mavs 10 consecutive times. Beating San Antonio four out of five games seems impossible, making tonight, in essence, a Game 7. To have any chance in this series the Mavs have to win one of the first two.
And to have any chance of winning tonight they’ve got to somehow neutralize Parker, or at least keep him from getting to the rim on every possession.
Calderon has been a great acquisition for Dallas, but if he’s not hitting his outside shot he becomes a liability in this series because of Parker’s quickness and savvy. Harris has a better chance of balancing that matchup. If Calderon starts but Carlisle decides to put Shawn Marion on Parker, look for Popovich and the Spurs to exploit the matchup of Monta Ellis attempting to guard the bigger, stronger Kawhi Leonard.
Dirk Nowitzki will be better tonight. His history suggests he always bounces back after bad games. But the Mavs can’t count on the Spurs missing 14 of 17 3-pointers again.
They are a desperate team in need of a desperate change against a superior opponent. If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to keep on getting what you’ve been getting.
In this year’s NBA Playoffs, six of the eight underdogs have already won a game — or two — on the road. If the Mavs are going to join that club and make this a competitive series, Devin Harris needs to play a bigger, earlier role.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.