Will Jason Kidd Change the Dallas Mavericks' Late Game Rotations?

Head coach Jason Kidd has caught some flack for going small late in Game 4 against the Clippers, how will that impact the series moving forward?
Apr 26, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd looks on during the fourth
Apr 26, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd looks on during the fourth / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There's been a lot of questions surrounding Jason Kidd's decision to play small down the stretch of Game 4 against the Clippers, a game in which the Mavericks lost 116-111. James Harden had his floater looking like it was 2017 again, hitting 6 such shots in the 4th quarter, taking advantage of no real shot-blocking threat patrolling the paint as Maxi Kleber was playing center.

Even Bill Simmons wondered on his podcast Sunday night "Both teams have matchups against the other team that they really like... if you're Dallas you could go 'you know what, maybe we shouldn't have had Kleber down the stretch, maybe we should play our bigs.'"

This brings up the question, will Jason Kidd change his late-game rotations?

From February 1st to the end of the regular season, a stretch of 34 games, the Mavericks' most-played lineup in the fourth quarter was Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, PJ Washington, and Maxi Kleber. That lineup played just 23 minutes in that time frame, a small sample size. Coach Kidd has continued to play with different lineups, trying to find 5-man units that work in different situations.

The lineup rolled out at the end of Game 4 was Doncic, Irving, Washington, Derrick Jones Jr., and Kleber; a lineup that played just 14 minutes in the 4th quarters of the regular season. In the 4th quarter of Game 4 alone, that second lineup played 10 minutes (all rotation data courtesy of the NBA).

In those 10 minutes, the Mavericks were +5, but a lot of that was that stretch from the 8-minute mark to when Kyrie Irving hit that impossible layup to put the Mavericks ahead with 2:15 remaining; a stretch where the Mavs outscored LA 19-5. The lineup was clearly working then, getting stops on one end and hitting shots on the other.

Over the last two minutes of Game 4, the Clippers outscored the Mavericks 12-6, with Harden hitting two of his floaters in that timeframe. The last one put Kleber in a tough situation if he stepped up to defend the shot, as Harden likely would've hit the lob pass over Kleber to Ivica Zubac, who was waiting in the dunker spot.

With two minutes left in the game, it can be hard to make that decision to change a lineup that had just outscored the Clippers by 14, even if playing Dereck Lively II or Daniel Gafford makes sense in hindsight. And yet, the Mavericks haven't adjusted well all series to certain things, as former Maverick and current ESPN commentator JJ Redick talks about below.

Here is what Coach Kidd said after the game to reporters regarding the decision to stay small: “Understanding offensively, we needed to space the floor. Maxi (Kleber) did a really good job
there. Understanding the options we have of being able to play Maxi, being able to stretch the
floor was the option we went with. Living with 2s in this league doesn’t hurt you but 3s kill you
– and 3s killed us this afternoon. We’ve got to be better. When (James) Harden is taking 2s, it’s
better than him shooting the 3. Understanding what they were shooting from 3 in the first half,
you’ve got to give up something. They’re talented. We gave up the 2s – but contested 2s – and
they made them. They gave us a chance to get back in the game and actually take the lead.”

The quote reads that they were so scarred defensively from the 3-point barrage the Clippers displayed in the first half that Coach Kidd wanted to be more versatile on the perimeter and rolled with Kleber, willing to let Harden shoot 2s. It makes sense, as the Clippers shot 18/29 from 3 for the game, many of those heavily contested. Coach Tyronn Lue and the Clippers made a great adjustment by allowing Harden to create offense for himself in the paint and that changed the game down the stretch and the Mavericks couldn't respond in time. They'll have to be better.

So will Coach Kidd change his clutch-time lineups moving forward? The rotation data from the season certainly suggests he will, but this series will come down to more than just changing lineups.

Game 5 will be Wednesday at 9 p.m. CST from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California, as the series is tied 2-2.

READ MORE: Kyrie Irving Remains Highly Confident in Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic Against Clippers

Stick with MavericksGameday for more coverage of the Dallas Mavericks throughout the NBA Playoffs 

Follow Austin Veazey on Twitter

Austin Veazey


Austin Veazey joined NoleGameday as the Lead Basketball Writer in 2019, while contributing as a football writer, and started as editor for MavericksGameday in 2024. Veazey was a Florida State Men’s Basketball Manager from 2016-2019. Follow Austin on Twitter at @EasyVeazeyNG