It didn’t take long for Chandler Parsons to make an impact in his return after a seven-game absence.
The small forward finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and two assists against the Lakers in his first action since a Feb. 20 win against the Houston Rockets. He provided two pretty good examples of what the Mavs missed while he was out. In his first offensive possession of the game, Parsons drove through the Lakers defense and finished at the rim. Then, he connected with Tyson Chandler for a sweet alley-oop.
As the third playmaker in the Mavs starting five, Parsons has the ability to work on the weakside of the floor, either one-on-one with his defender or in a pick-and-roll with a big, usually Chandler. There aren’t many forwards in the NBA capable of driving and finishing like Parsons can, and there certainly aren’t more than a handful who can run the pick-and-roll with the type of proficiency he does.
He also did this, which was pretty cool.
Parsons was a sight for sore eyes for Mavs fans, but not because Richard Jefferson didn’t perform well as his replacement in the starting lineup. Jefferson shot the ball extremely well and provided some spacing relief for the club while Parsons was out. However, Parsons adds a dynamic to this team which cannot be duplicated by anyone else. He can break down a defense and take big guys off the dribble, even in tight spaces, and he runs the floor well in transition. Both of those things matter to this Mavs team, as it’s best when moving quickly from defense to offense and fighting against defenses that hope to pack the paint.
More importantly, Parsons is a solid defender and good rebounder for his position, which is especially important as the team looks to close out games. Parsons’ on-floor net rating of 17.8 was second-best on the team (behind only Jefferson’s 23.4), and Dallas allowed just 88.0 points per 100 possessions with Parsons on the floor, which was the best mark of any player on the team.
THE FOURTH QUARTER RUN
Much of Parsons’ defensive rating had to do with the fact that Parsons was on the floor for the game-defining run which turned a difficult situation into a strong win.
Trailing 90-84 with 6:35 left in the game, the unit consisting of Rajon Rondo/Monta Ellis/Parsons/Al-Farouq Aminu/Chandler launched 16-1 run over the next 5:27. Disregarding a meaningless layup the Lakers scored at the buzzer, that unit limited LA’s offense to 0-of-6 shooting and six turnovers for the rest of the game once the Lakers went up 90-84. Most importantly, the Lakers didn’t grab an offensive rebound during that stretch after securing 15 throughout the game. That’s just a remarkable stretch of defensive execution, and it’s one that turned an iffy situation into a victory.
Taking the lead on the Mavs’ defensive effort was Aminu, who recorded six steals and three blocks against the Lakers. He’s the first Maverick to put up those numbers in one game since Derek Harper did the same in 1990 — 25 years ago. All told, seven of the 10 Mavs who played recorded at least one block or steal. Aminu has been terrific as of late and he continued that trend against LA, scoring 13 points (second on the team) and adding five boards in just 20 minutes.
TOO MUCH MONTA
Ellis was simply spectacular against the Lakers, particularly in the second half. At one point in the third quarter, he drained three consecutive three-pointers to shave a seven-point deficit to just two heading into the fourth quarter. Ellis scored 26 points in the second half alone, including 18 of the Mavs’ 31 in the third quarter. He was outstanding. This performance was reminiscent of some of the masterpieces he put together earlier in the season, particularly one stretch in which he hit two straight game-winners against the Bulls and Bucks and led a comeback against the Pelicans. After shooting below 50 percent in 10 of his last 12 appearances, the obvious hope is that Ellis busted out of his mini-slump.
Dallas was without backup guard Devin Harris against the Lakers, but this was the first time all season that the starting five and Amar’e Stoudemire all played in the same game. It’s important to keep in mind that most of these guys are still new to the team (Stoudemire and Rondo especially) so the only way for them to get comfortable with one another is to actually play together.
Familiarity, reliability, and confidence can only be built through spending time together in actual games, so hopefully Harris can return to action by Tuesday against Cleveland. It’s very challenging to win in the playoffs no matter how long you’ve played together, but the best teams have formulas in place to win meaningful games. In many ways, this game could very well serve as a sort of blueprint for the club moving forward.
The Mavs made their big fourth-quarter push with a combination of defense and rebounding, plus drawing charges and forcing turnovers. Then, they turned those opportunities into points the other way. Dallas is most dangerous when the opposing defense isn’t set, as that opens up all sorts of driving lanes for Parsons, Ellis, Rajon Rondo, and so on. Plus, it allows Dirk to get his trailing three looks, and we know how good he is on those shots.
In the first half, Dallas played through Parsons and Nowitzki more than anyone else. Both players took eight shots. But in the second half, Ellis took over the offense, facilitating the team for the bulk of the third quarter, which is how he scored all of those points. On nights when Parsons or Dirk have it going, they might be the ones to get all of those looks. The good thing about having so many different players who can control a game like that is you can just play through whichever one is the hottest at that moment. Some nights it will be Dirk, others Ellis, others Parsons, and it could even be Rondo, as was the case when he scored 19 points in a win last week against the Pelicans.
Most importantly, the Mavs found a defensive unit that really clicked. That Rondo/Ellis/Parsons/Aminu/Chandler five-man group is versatile, quick, and athletic on the defensive end, all while remaining dangerous offensively, especially in the open floor. That’s a unit we might see more of if Dallas plays against teams which like to go small, although Nowitzki is obviously going to continue getting his minutes. Dallas has been one of the best defensive teams in the league since the beginning of February, but this group took it to another level on Sunday night.
The win might have been a bit ugly, but several things came out of it that we might see over and over again moving forward from here on out. This is the healthiest the team has been all season (Harris’ injury notwithstanding) and hopefully the club can remain healthy the rest of the way so we can really see what this team is capable of.
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