Scouts Inc. Update: Mavs vs. Hornets, Game 5

Originally Published: April 29, 2008
By Mike Moreau | Scouts Inc.

Mavericks-Hornets series scouting report | Series page

Four games into a series, statistics can begin to tell some of the unfolding story. For all of the Xs and Os adjustments coach Avery Johnson has made to try to get the Mavericks back in this series, nothing could prepare him for Josh Howard's abysmal performance so far in the playoffs.

Howard's lack of production has been stunning, and as their second leading scorer at 19.9 points a game during the regular season, his 12.8 points per game on a wretched 26 percent shooting has devastated the Mavericks' once versatile offensive attack.

Game 4 started for him with a blown layup, an awkward drive and wild miss, and a stepback air ball. He finished the game 3-for-16 from the floor, making him 15-for-58 for the series.

Add to that the lingering effects of Jerry Stackhouse's late-season hamstring problem, which has him down from 10.7 points during the season to 5.0 in four games on equally wretched 27 percent shooting, and the Mavericks are missing almost 14 points from their offense. If Dallas has to put Stackhouse on the shelf for Game 5, look for veteran Devean George to see extended minutes.

Coach Johnson has made about every strategic and personnel adjustment he can make, and nothing he can draw on his whiteboard can make up for two of his top four scorers being MIA.

The bottom line is that the Mavericks probably can't win Game 5 if Howard doesn't have a big game, and they must find another producer off the bench. Right now, they are playing offense with two players -- Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.

Look for an extended role for Brandon Bass, who can give the Mavericks scoring in the low post -- of which they have had none in this series. Also, it may be time to try to establish Erick Dampier inside -- he's capable of double figures from the center spot. If either of those players can score inside with some regularity, it can take some of the wind out of the Hornets and keep them from flying down the floor on the quick miss.

The Mavs might even be desperate enough to try to play both together, move Nowitzki to the three, and play some zone with them all in the game together. This would match up either Peja Stojakovic or Morris Peterson with Dirk -- as David West would have to guard one of the bigger forwards. Going bigger just might be a desperate, short-term answer for the Mavericks for certain stretches of the game. The Mavericks don't have many answers left right now.

The Mavericks also are deeply troubled by Jason Kidd's inability to take advantage of any defensive matchup. He can't post and score over Chris Paul, and he can't go by Peterson. Without Howard and Stackhouse to help him pile up assists, his offensive value has been limited. Without shot-makers, Kidd's value is diminished.

Meanwhile, the Hornets are getting better-than-regular-season production from Paul, West, Stojakovic and Jannero Pargo. They are preparing to run the Mavericks out of town in Game 5 and out of this series.

The Hornets blew through the Mavericks' transition defense in Game 4, and they expect to rebound and run at every opportunity in Game 5 -- fueled by a frenzied crowd sensing the kill. They may just have too much speed for Dallas, no matter what the Mavericks do.

New Orleans adjusted to the Mavericks' unorthodox matchups of Game 3, and with two days to prepare for Game 4, West got his aggressiveness back -- going back to his midrange game and even attacking right at Dampier. Paul took what was available, didn't over-penetrate, and spread the ball around enough to get six Hornets in double figures.

The Hornets were able to erase a nine-point Maverick lead in the first half with Paul on the bench -- getting energy from Hilton Armstrong, Julian Wright, and Pargo -- who was deadly with his transition jump shot. Look for that group to come off the bench and try to keep the pace fast and furious in Game 5.

If the Hornets are hitting on all cylinders, then the Mavericks will be done for the year. But if the Mavericks can get their best performances from their best players in this game, and get a big-time performance from Josh Howard, anything could happen down the stretch. The Hornets blinked in their first road game. Maybe they will blink again with their first chance to close the series out.

PREDICTION: Hornets win Game 5

Mike Moreau is the Director of Basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves an NBA Analyst for Hoopsworld.

Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.