The Mavericks reek of desperation. In the first half Dallas tried a variety of defenses in an effort to contain Chris Paul, sending traps and double-teams at the Hornets MVP candidate and using Jason Kidd, Josh Howard and Jason Terry to defend him (Devean George matched up with him as well in the second half). None of them were very effective. "Early on everything we tried on Paul didn't work," said Mavericks coach Avery Johnson. "We tried to get the ball out of his hands, we tried that and he split us a couple of times. We have to have a better effort than we had tonight."
But just as important, at least in this observer's opinion, as Dallas's inability to defend Paul has been the way in which Tyson Chandler has dominated the paint area. New Orleans doesn't do anything special: they run simple pick-and-rolls with Chandler, who doesn't so much roll to the rim as he does attack it. Dallas, however, has been woeful at defending New Orleans's bread and butter play. Erick Dampier has been slow to get back after the screen, leaving Chandler free for an alley-oop (Paul and Chandler's favorite play) or to roam free in the paint to collect the missed shot. Moreover, Dampier, at 265 pounds, has been bullied on the inside by the 235-pound Chandler, who just seems to want it more. Paul on the effectiveness of New Orleans's pick and roll: "When Tyson sets that screen, you have to pick your poison. I'm coming off aggressive, D-West [David West] is spotting up, Peja [Stojakovic], Mo [Peterson]...Tyson at the rim. When we're clicking on all cylinders like tonight, it's tough to defend us." The most embarrassing part of the Mavericks' loss? Dallas had two days to come up with a better defensive strategy and they surrender 127 points on 60.8 percent shooting. Now, that shooting percentage would suggest (correctly) that New Orleans made a lot of shots. But they made a lot of open shots. Many times there wasn't a Maverick defender within five feet of the shooter. Awful. West is becoming something of a marked man. After Dirk Nowitzki split West's lip with an errant elbow in Game 1, West and Dampier got tangled up and were jawing at each other in the second half of Game 2. The skirmish was interrupted when Chandler intervened, grabbing Dampier's arm and repeatedly telling him to "back off" (Chandler and Dampier both were assessed technical fouls). Not that West needed any help -- an avid boxer, West went over to Chandler afterwards and said "I got him" to his teammate.
As for being targeted by the Mavericks, West's eyes grew wide when he was asked about the incident in the postgame press conference. "It doesn't matter either way. It doesn't matter what they try to do. Things happen. As long as we continue to come out on top, I'm cool."
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