1. The biggest adjustment in the series was finally made and it was actually two adjustments, both made by Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. While many are looking at the insertion of J.J. Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu into the starting lineup for game four as a result of injuries to Rajon Rondo, Raymond Felton, Chandler Parsons and Richard Jefferson, only one of those injuries really impacted the decision of Carlisle. Parsons would clearly still be starting and playing the bulk of the minutes at small forward had he been able to avoid surgery on his right knee. But Jefferson and Felton, the game three starters, were both healthy enough to play and it seems safe to say that Rondo is too, he’s just not wanted in Dallas anymore, since the team is clearly more effective when he’s not playing.
No, the change was performance based, the two most effective Mavericks in this series have been Barea and Aminu. So starting them and playing both of them more than 35 minutes was the obvious play in game four and it clearly was successful. Dallas shot an astounding 68.4 percent from the floor when Barea and Aminu were on the floor together in game four.
The chart below shows the Mavericks two best players in Net Rating (team net points +/- per 100 possessions) over the course of the first four games, along with the Rockets two best players, along with Harden.
2. The Rockets defense was tortured in the two games in Dallas, allowing 249 points in the two games. Dallas shot 53.3 percent overall in their two home games and you’ll see from the chart below, that essentially came from an enormous jump in their shooting percentage inside the 3-point line, especially in game four.
3. As it relates to wins and losses in this series, nothing of great consequence is gleaned from the comparison of fast break points or points in the paint for the teams in the first four games of the series. Through the first three games of the series, Houston was averaging four more second chance points per game than the Mavs (19.3 – 15.3 points per game). Also, neither team had more than a five rebound advantage in any of the first three games. But in game four, the Rockets were manhandled on the boards and it helped created a monstrous advantage in second chance points. Dallas has grabbed 13 more offensive rebounds in the series and most of the advantage came in game four when they nabbed 16 offensive rebounds and allowed Houston just seven.
After the game four loss, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale acknowledged he probably should have played Terrence Jones more, which might have helped the Rockets rebounding. Jones had 13 points and six rebounds in just under 18 minutes. After playing the first 3:35 of the third quarter, he checked out and was never called upon again.
The Rockets point guard duo of Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni are not going to all of a sudden be able to slow down Barea, who has been pushing the pace brilliantly against them in this series. But they can put the ball in the basket, which was a huge reason why the Rockets had three wins, but also their inability to do so contributed mightily to the one loss. Through the first three games, Terry and Prigioni combined to make 9-of-18 3-pointers. In game four, they combined to make just 1-of-8 3-pointers. What’s worse is according the NBA’s SportVU player tracking data, only one of those eight 3-point attempts was contested.
Obviously, they were not the only culprits with poor shooting as the team made only 7-of-31 3-pointers in game four and if Dwight Howard didn’t have the worst free-throw shooting performance of his post-season career, that could have helped. Additionally Trevor Ariza is struggling to make any shots in this series, now shooting under 30 percent both overall (11-37, 29.7 percent) and from behind the 3-point line (4-15, 26.7 percent).
Houston will try again to close out the series and advance to the western conference semifinals for just the second time since 1997 on Tuesday night at Toyota Center.