With the NBA Finals in full swing, the Mavericks are watching two familiar foes -- the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat -- battle it out for the chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Both teams have key components that established them as championship contenders. Let's point out those components and how the Mavericks can learn from them.
One of the most efficient shots on the floor is the corner 3-pointer. One thing that both Miami and San Antonio have in common is that they’re both strong in terms of offense and defense from that spot.
For Miami, they were first in the league during the regular season with 309 corner 3s made. The Heat's biggest weapons were Shane Battier and Ray Allen. Battier actually led the entire league with 88 corner 3s, while Allen ranked eighth with 63. Miami maximized this strength and made sure other teams couldn’t capitalize on it as they ranked second in defending corner 3s based on percentage.
Miami ranked first in corner 3s and San Antonio wasn't far behind, ranking third with 261 makes. The Spurs had two players who ranked in the top 20. Danny Green was second with 73 corner 3s made and Kawhi Leonard had 52, ranking 18th in the league. San Antonio allowed only 156 corner 3s in the league, the seventh-fewest in the league.
Looking at Dallas, the Mavs ranked 21st in the league in corner 3s made with only 141. O.J. Mayo made the most with 26 and ranked 65th in the league. The Mavs only had two other players in the top 100 -- rookie Jae Crowder ranked 78th and Darren Collison ranked 89th. The Mavs allowed the fifth-most corner 3s in the league. They also ranked as the 10th-worst team in defending corner 3s based on percentage. Those numbers show that Dallas didn’t utilize or defend that critical zone.
Looking back at the Mavs’ 2011 championship team, there is a radical shift in the numbers between then and now. Back in 2010-11, Dallas was fifth in the league with 211 corner 3s.
The eventual champions had two players who ranked in the top 25. DeShawn Stevenson was 21st with 45 corner 3s, while Jason Terry had 44, ranking 24th in the league. Surprisingly, Brian Cardinal ranked 67th. Dirk Nowitzki ranked 96th and Jason Kidd was 99th in the league.
Like the teams in this year’s NBA Finals, the Mavs held their own defending the corner 3 during their championship run. The Mavs allowed only 158 corner 3s that season, the eighth-fewest in the league. They also ranked ninth in defending corner 3s based on percentage.
Dallas has one of the best weapons the league has to offer as a shooter in Nowitzki. They need people on the corner that can be just as dangerous of a weapon.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.