Before Dallas Mavericks fans raise pitch forks and march on Rick Carlisle's office convinced that Goran Dragic's huge Game 3 could have been Roddy Beaubois if only he'd been allowed to play all along, consider a few facts.
Dragic, the 6-foot-3 reserve guard whose stunning 26 points Friday night helped give the Phoenix Suns a 3-0 series lead over Mavs ouster San Antonio, is a second-year player whose rookie season closely resembled that of Beaubois'.
As a rookie, Dragic played in 55 games and averaged 13.2 minutes and 4.5 points. Beaubois played in 56 games and averaged 12.5 minutes and 7.1 points. Dragic, a native of Slovenia, turned 24 on Thursday. Beaubois, from the French territory of Guadeloupe, turned 22 in February. Dragic was a second-round pick, taken 45th overall. Beaubois was the 25th pick last summer.
Had the Suns made the playoffs last season, how many minutes would young Dragic have played? Probably not many.
Dragic grabbed a bigger role this season, playing in 80 games and averaging 18.0 minutes and 7.9 points off the bench. Beaubois is on a similar trajectory in Dallas and it wouldn't be surprising if his second-season stats blow by Dragic's numbers.
Prior to Dragic's huge Game 3 in which he ripped the Spurs defense with an array of drives, spin and pivot moves in the paint and fatal 3-pointers -- everything Dallas was missing until Beaubois surfaced in Game 6 -- he was not having a good postseason, averaging 5.6 points and shooting 34.9 percent from the floor in 14.3 minutes.
Beaubois, playing behind veterans Caron Butler and Jason Terry got his first postseason chance in Game 3 at San Antonio. After five tough minutes, he was yanked and that was really that until Carlisle turned to him in a desperation move in Game 6. Beaubois shined with 16 points in 21 minutes -- not too unlike Dragic's Game 3 effort.
However, there is one glaring difference and this is where fans can and have torched Carlisle for not sticking with the red-hot Beaubois in the fourth quarter after starting him in the third quarter. Carlisle, who typically has stayed true to what's working -- think J.J. Barea in Game 3 -- went the other way on this occassion and put his trust in the cold-shooting Terry, who has a track record of clutch fourth-quarter performances, but was scoreless through three quarters.
Carlisle kept Beaubois on the bench for the first nine-plus minutes of the fourth quarter as the game slowly slipped away. When Carlisle finally came back to Beaubois, it was 89-81, and too late.
Gentry, to his credit, didn't dare remove the smoking Dragic throughout the fourth quarter, which the Suns trailed, 72-71, to start it, as Phoenix's starters watched from the bench. Steve Nash didn't get back on the floor until the 3:16 mark of the fourth quarter, simply as insurance as the second-teamers built a 100-89 lead. Gentry honored Dragic's effort by leaving him in. Nash replaced Leandro Barbosa, while Jason Richardson, who was having an outstanding game in his own right with 21 points, did not play the entire fourth quarter.
In hindsight, of course, a case could be made for Beaubois to have played more in the Spurs series. Likewise, Dragic's Game 3 performance could suggest that Gentry should have been playing Dragic more than the 14.3 minutes he was averaging and maybe Dragic's 34.9 field-goal percentage would be higher with more opportunity.
The fact is, Dragic just had one of those dream nights on a night the Suns needed it. Patience Mavs fans, Beaubois' time, like Dragic's, is coming in his second season.