Rick Carlisle likes keeping either Luka Dončić or Kristaps Porzingis on the floor at all times.
Most coaches would do it that way. It’s always a good idea to keep one or both of your best players on the court at all times.
But that strategy is not etched in stone. And it could be changing during the last quarter of the season, Carlisle said Friday.
It certainly was altered on Wednesday. Before Dončić hit his falling, sprawling buzzer beater, Carlisle went a long stretch in the fourth quarter – the first five minutes – without Porzingis or Dončić on the floor.
During that time, the Mavericks cut Memphis’ lead in half, to 97-94. They had taken a one-point lead during that time when their stars were sitting.
Two things are making options like this possible for Carlisle.
One is the arrival of J.J. Redick, who will change a few things as he gets more comfortable and starts to find a regular niche in the rotation.
The other is Jalen Brunson, who continues to run the team seamlessly when he’s at the point in place of Luka.
“That game (at Memphis) kind of morphed into a different situation,” Carlisle said before Friday’s Mavericks-Knicks game. “Talking to the staff about it, talking to the players, Redick being here is going to change some things. I don’t know that there’s going to be a situation where it’s going to be like that every night. But I think you’re going to see more situations where there are significant adjustments. And then we’ll just have to play it by feel.”
The flow of the game always has a lot to do with Carlisle’s rotation and substitution pattern. In the Memphis game, the Mavericks were playing well in the third quarter with Porzingis and Dončić on the floor, so he milked that group a bit longer than usual.
Then, the second unit clicked at the start of the fourth quarter.
“Luka and KP were going good,” Carlisle said. “Sometimes, you just want to ride that and try to figure the rest of it out later. The group that went in there behind them did a good job.
“It looked like a group on paper that could play well together. We had a good result and of course a miracle shot doesn’t hurt.”
And the moral of the story is that having the option of resting his big guns a few more possessions is a valuable asset for Carlisle and the Mavericks.
And, it’s worth noting that it happened again Friday against the Knicks. Although the matchups weren’t quite as advantageous, Redick and Brunson were on the floor to start the fourth quarter with both Luka and Porzingis on the bench. The pair had played the entire third quarter.
However, like any situation, Carlisle said changes will have to be made judiciously.
“I don’t think things are going to be as exact as maybe they’ve been at times,” he said. “But I don’t like doing a lot of crazy changes because I like there being consistency for the players.”
Anatomy of a resurgence: The New York Knicks were not expected to be a playoff team this season.
They had missed the playoffs seven seasons in a row and the smart money was on that streak being extended.
Instead the Knicks are over .500 and have a realistic shot at a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. At the least, they are a certain playoff participant.
The difference has been new coach Tom Thibodeau’s blue-collar style and the fact that Plano product Julius Randle has taken the difficult step from good player to superstar.
The biggest thing is the way Thibodeau has the Knicks playing.
“Going into a season, you set out with the idea of, OK, what do we want our identity to be, what are the things that are most important,” Thibodeau said. “We felt like the defense, the rebounding and keeping our turnovers down would put us in position to win.
“And then we wanted to grow each day, build winning habits. And I think we’re working toward that.”
There was more to it than that, of course. Adapting to a fast-changing world this season has been a necessity for all NBA teams.
And, of course, Randle has been a monster, averaging better than 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. If it weren’t for do-everything players like Nikola Jokic, Dončić and Joel Embiid, Randle would be one of the most talked-about players in the league.
Instead, he’ll have to settle for simply being in the running for most improved player.