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Shawn Marion must be on playoff closing committee

4/20/2012

DALLAS – There is no crunch-time controversy at small forward.

No ranting about feeling like a rag doll.

No issue at all with Vince Carter playing every second of the fourth quarters (and three overtimes) in the last two games while starter Shawn Marion watched from the bench.

“We’re trying to win games right now,” Marion said. “They had a good rhythm going. I think that’s all it was.”

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was similarly dismissive to a question on the subject: “You guys are making too much of this. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal.”

It’s not a big deal because Marion isn’t sweating it. Especially not after Carter played a critical role in Wednesday’s comeback win over the Rockets, scoring seven of his season-high 23 points in the fourth quarter.

“They had everything going and coach didn’t want to change it up,” Marion said. “That’s OK. It’s a matter sometimes of circumstances and the way the game is going.”

It’s also not a big deal because it isn’t likely to last long enough to become a trend. The Mavs probably won’t be able to afford to have Marion serving as a spectator when the game is on the line during the playoffs.

Maybe the Mavs can get away with it against the Clippers. But that’s about it among teams that they’ll see in the Western Conference playoffs.

They’ll need the man they’ve campaigned for as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate during crunch time against the other three teams they could face in the first round. All due respect to Carter, but it’s asking for disaster to give him the defensive assignment on Manu Ginobili, Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant with a playoff game on the line.

A case can be made for using Carter in crunch time. He has a history of hitting big shots and ranks in a class with Kobe Bryant and a couple of teammates (Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry) among active players with the most career buckets in fourth quarters. His perimeter shooting spaces the floor, and his ability to create puts another offensive initiator on the floor for the Mavs.

However, there’s a shiny gold trophy in the case (or Mark Cuban’s kitchen) that gives credibility to Marion’s importance on the closing unit.

The Mavs’ miracle comebacks over the Thunder and Heat would have been impossible without the Matrix’s lockdown defense on Durant and LeBron James. He was a critical component for the best closing team in basketball last season.

For whatever reason, the Mavs have been mediocre closers this season. If Marion isn’t part of the solution, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Mavs will be making tee times in mid-May.