It’d be a small lineup in the NCAA. It’s itty-bitty by NBA standards.
But it worked, at least the first time the Mavericks tried it. The 6-foot-7-and-under lineup – featuring Shawn Marion at center, Vince Carter and the guard trio of Derek Fisher, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo – rallied in the final minutes of regulation to force overtime in Wednesday’s double-OT loss to the Boston Celtics.
That quintet outscored the Celtics by eight points in eight minutes.
“Smallball is going to have segments of effectiveness,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “There’s no doubt about that. It’s been proven ever since Nellie was the coach in Milwaukee. But whether you can ultimately win with it all the time, nobody’s ever done it.
“It helped us (against the Celtics), helped us get back in the game. It helped us extend the game. But it’s a panacea. It’s not a long-term solution.”
Carlisle took it to the extreme Wednesday night, but he’s been tinkering with smallball looks since the Mavs signed Fisher. It’s something the Mavs had great success with during their title season, when they’d frequently play J.J. Barea, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd together.
According to NBA.com’s advanced stats, Fisher and Collison have been on the floor together for 41 minutes. The Mavs are plus-29 in that time.
They’ve been joined by Mayo for 27 of those minutes. The Mavs are plus-17 with that trio.
With Carter accompanying the three-guard trio, the Mavs are plus-20 in 19 minutes.
“It creates space,” said Collison, who had 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting against the Celtics. “Fisher is such a good shooter, and (so are) Vince and O.J. It creates space for me to get into the lane and create for myself or our teammates.”
The biggest downside to playing small might be the problems it presents with rebounding.
Then again, the Mavs have the NBA’s second-worst rebounding differential anyway. The lone team that ranks beneath Dallas in that stat: the Celtics, which might explain why smallball worked so well for the Mavs in Boston.