DALLAS - It's not often the Dallas Mavericks play a game where Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith finish as the leading scorers. However, the Los Angeles Lakers used a defensive strategy of 'let anyone else beat us besides Luka Doncic' and that was the end result.
A lot was not going the Mavericks' way during the first half of this game. Between the team as a whole going a combined 4-of-15 (26.7%) from beyond the arc and committing 10 turnovers, there wasn't a lot to hang their hat on.
The Lakers used a more neutral defensive approach during the first quarter of this game as they trapped in pick-and-roll situations only once. Los Angeles was using more of a traditional coverage style but that changed in the second quarter.
During the second period, the Lakers made a clear focus to force Doncic to give the ball up or risk being put in a very compromising position. Los Angeles was able to force a turnover on three consecutive traps.
It was clear the Mavericks needed to adjust their strategy in the second half in order to combat the Lakers' aggressive traps against Doncic. Dallas did more than just that. In fact, they turned it practically into an advantage and rallied back from a 17-point deficit to ultimately win 108-93.
Involving Dorian Finney-Smith Off-the-Catch
When the opposing team is applying significant ball pressure, it's important to have a versatile weak-side threat like Dorian Finney-Smith. The catch-and-shoot jumper is important to take, but there will be situations when putting the ball on the floor is necessary.
Between converting on a mid-range step back, driving to the line for a floater, and drilling some three-point jumpers, Finney-Smith did a little bit of everything off-the-catch for the Mavericks when the ball came his way.
Finney-Smith even showed a flash of being able to create for teammates when driving off-the-catch. On a play when Luka Doncic made a cross-court pass, Finney-Smith drove off-the-catch and forced Anthony Davis to commit - creating the bounce pass to Powell for a finish in the paint.
The ball came to Finney-Smith on ball reversals plenty of times throughout this game with the focus of the defense being to slow down Doncic. He stepped up when the Mavericks needed within the natural flow of the half-court offense.
Trusting Dwight Powell's Finishing
The pick-and-roll partner of the ball handler plays a vital role in combatting traps that a defense deploys. Dwight Powell stepped up in a major way throughout this matchup - not just during the second half of the game.
There were numerous plays that required Powell to use genuine skill to create clean finishes. Whether he had to use a shot fake, pivot, or simply finish in traffic, he was able to deliver essentially every time he got in the paint.
The Mavericks took advantage of the speed advantage Powell had over Andre Drummond at times, too. Between Drummond falling down after taking a bad shot and not getting back on defense to him simply stepping up too much in pick-and-roll coverage, Powell benefitted.
One play that stood out, in particular, occurred when Powell took advantage of Drummond's lack of speed from the perimeter. Powell was in a position to engage in a handoff with Doncic but identified Drummond inching up towards the three-point line. This created an opportunity to turn and explode to the rim.
The craftiness as a finisher and speed that Powell brings as a small ball five has real value and this game was an ideal showcase. While he may not be a star, he does a lot of little things well that would become sorely missed in the event they were not present.
Double Drag Screens
Using a single ball screener often allowed the Lakers quickly to trap throughout the first half. At halftime, the Mavericks made some adjustments and among them was the implementation of more stagger screens to make things more challenging on the Lakers' defense.
By involving Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell both as double drag screeners, the Mavericks provided Doncic some needed balance. Anthony Davis was responsible for Kleber and having him space from the perimeter after setting the stagger screen opened up the paint. This helped to get the ball to Powell on rim rolls for finishes.
There was a variation from the early possession double drag screen that Dallas utilized in the fourth quarter. Maxi Kleber screened for Redick after the initial ball screen, which forced the Lakers' defense to pick their poison. With Powell thriving as a rim roller and Redick's reputation as a shooter, Kleber was the one left open.
After Doncic decided to make the cross-court pass to Kleber, Anthony Davis was forced to close out. This created a clear window for Kleber to make an entry pass to Powell near the block and he took care of the rest on the finish.
By using double drag screens, the Mavericks forced the Lakers to have to make more decisions as a unit. There are more opportunities for Dallas to gain advantages when doing so since Doncic's court vision can capitalize on windows when they open.
A method the Mavericks sprinkled into their half-court offense during the fourth quarter was the use of Spain pick-and-roll sequences. Dallas utilized the off-the-ball shooting gravity that JJ Redick brings and it helped to open up the paint.
The Lakers continuing to send both pick-and-roll defenders to trap created a variety of options for the Mavericks. With Redick relocating to the top of the key and both corners spacing the floor, it's up to the execution of Doncic on the pass and Powell on the finish to take advantage.
This is why having a sharpshooter like Redick is so important during the game's later stages. Teams have to respect his shooting or else they will more often than not be forced to pay for not staying attached to him. That's precisely what helped the Mavericks to go up by 8 points with 3 minutes remaining.
The message was clear to the Lakers' defense after Redick's made three. Doncic is not afraid to dish the ball to his teammates to make a crucial play down the stretch. With that trust made clear, Los Angeles had to respect the Mavericks' complementary talents.
Special Players Make Special Plays
The Lakers sought to double team Luka Doncic again before he converted on the deep stepback that proved to be the 'dagger.' He knew it was time to make a big play to put the game and away and used retreat dribbles to evade a potential double team.
Doncic was savvy in his approach by dribbling towards the top of the key. By doing so, Andre Drummond was forced to retreat closer to the nail as opposed to showing on the wing. At this point, Doncic no longer had to worry about a second defender before he created space with the stepback.
All of the momentum was in the Mavericks' favor as a result of Luka Doncic's big shot, which is precisely what you'd expect from one of the NBA's best players. Dallas held a 101-91 lead with 2:17 remaining in regulation. The Lakers failed to ever recover from this point on.