With the Clippers up 94-92, Dallas has one last shot with :08.1 remaining:
- The inbound goes to Jason Terry, guarded by Brevin Knight, then into Dirk Nowitzki between the elbow and the arc on the right side; he's guarded by Tim Thomas. Jerry Stackhouse is set up on the weak side perimeter. Chris Kaman is taking care of Brandon Bass down on the left block, and Cat Mobley is blanketing Eddie Jones along the baseline.
So it goes into Nowitzki, who is being played straight up by Thomas - who has done a stellar job defensively one-on-one against him. Dirk rocks, dribbles right, but isn't finding any daylight. For some inexplicable reason, Thornton has drifted from the weak side way, way, way off Stackhouse; Knight has left Terry, as well, to bother Nowitzki with a double-team. So Nowitzki passes it back out to Terry on the perimeter at :02.0. Thornton closes on him, but now there isn't anyone within ten feet of Stackhouse. Terry dishes it over to Stackhouse, who hits the wide open 3PA.
When you're leading by two and the other team has the ball for one last possession, under no circumstances should you ever send a double-team from the wing. Ever. If you feel that it's imperative to double Dirk Nowitzki from 15 feet, then you send a defender from the post. That way, worst case scenario, Dirk finds Brandon Bass on the block, Bass converts, and it's tied. But here, both perimeter defenders - Thornton and Knight - decide to move off their perimeter assignments.
The Clippers, after playing far and away their best game of the season, stick the fork in the toaster repeatedly down the stretch. Most notably, there's the preceding series, when the Clippers have the ball with a two point lead and :27.5 left:
- The goal here is to milk the clock. Barring an open shot inside of three feet, there's absolutely no reason the Clips force a FGA before about :05.0. Dallas isn't fouling. Knight holds out beyond the arc until about :15.5, when he gets a very high screen from Kaman. Knight takes the space and dribbles to the top of the key, where he's met by Nowitzki, who lost Kaman on the switch. Knight puts up a ball-fake, but knows better. He dishes it off to Thomas on the left wing with about :12.5. Thomas, guarded by Bass, dribbles left, then elevates for a contested 13-footer.
Brick. Nowitzki collects the rebound and calls time out with :08.1.
Devin Harris doesn't do much tonight, but watching him in the first quarter, I can't help feeling a pang of jealousy. The Clips had to choose between Harris and Shaun Livingston in the 2004 NBA Draft. I think it's fair to say that they landed a bust, while Harris - picked one spot later - has proven himself to be a bona fide NBA player. Though four inches shorter than Shaun, Harris has great vision of the court and the length to cover bigger guards - which he often has to do in Dallas' backcourt. Harris might be the best on-ball defender at the point, and he rarely misses a rotation. And he's a smart penetrator: He knows exactly what his incursion into the paint is going to yield for his teammates. When the defense shifts to respond, Harris knows what's available on the court.