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Monday, May 10, 2010
Mavs weaknesses stick out after Suns' romp

By Jeff Caplan

The No. 2 seed Dallas Mavericks made themselves feel better by referring to the San Antonio Spurs as no ordinary No. 7 seed.

And then the Phoenix Suns quickly reminded everyone that throughout the regular season the Spurs were a mediocre defensive club, had trouble integrating a slew of new players, most notably Richard Jefferson, and often couldn't get out of their own way.

And, really, only a final-week collapse by the young Oklahoma City Thunder prevented San Antonio, which did play better in the final month-and-a-half of the season -- mind you, without the injured Tony Parker -- from finishing as the No. 8 seed in the tightly contested West.

So how do the Mavs reconcile their 4-2 first-round defeat to the Spurs, whose supposedly stalwart defense so short-circuited Dallas' offense, after the run-and-gun Suns took the broom to San Antonio?

It's not rocket-science. The Suns (109.5) averaged nearly 17 points more a game than the Mavs (92.8) by excelling in three areas in which Dallas failed.

One and Two: Sensational offensive production at the point guard and post positions. At 36, Steve Nash might be at his all-around best. He averaged 22.0 points and 7.7 assists against the Spurs. His uncanny ability to slice the defense, get into the lane and score, or force defenders to collapse for kick-outs to open shooters or dump-offs to Amare Stoudemire, torched San Antonio. Stoudemire is the second aspect. He averaged 20.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in the four games. Stoudemire is a powerful force coming off the pick-and-roll and he's become an efficient shooter off the pick-and-pop.

The Mavs did not get Jason Kidd at his best, having averaged 8.0 points and 7.0 assists. Kidd could not get into the lane and create for others and he was way off with his 3-point shot. And, the Mavs got nothing in the post. While Dirk Nowitzki was able to drive and get some scoring in the paint, he's obviously a player who lives by the step-back jumper. That leaves offensively limited centers Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood to score down low. How'd that go? The pair combined to average 6.0 points in the six-game series. Dampier did not have a single field goal. During the series, Nowitzki acknowledged that the Spurs weren't even guarding the Mavs' centers, allowing for more pressure on the perimeter.

At those two critical positions, the Suns averaged nearly 30 points more a game than the Mavs.

Third: 3-point shooting. The Mavs want to play like the Suns, but lacking a point guard that can get into the lane and with no inside scoring threat to run the offense through, perimeter shooting better be near-perfect. Dallas shot 32.8 percent from beyond the arc against San Antonio. If Jason Terry and Kidd aren't hitting 3s, as they weren't, the Mavs are in trouble. Caron Butler is not a consistent 3-point shooter and Shawn Marion hasn't shot them since he left Phoenix.

The Suns, meanwhile, as they have done all season, shot a blistering 41.2 percent from long range for the series with a bevy of different players -- Nash, Jason Richardson, Goran Dragic, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley all producing on the big stage.

Those are big holes the Mavs will try to address this summer. They can thank the Suns for making it all the more apparent now that they've exposed the Spurs as a true No. 7 seed.