Making sense of Mavs’ decision not to start Harris

The start of the postseason is like Christmas Day.  You wait all year long for the day to come.  For all the fans across the world that cheer on the San Antonio Spurs, this was that day.  From the way their season ended a year ago, it was time for redemption.

What an opponent to start off with than a division rival, right?  The Dallas Mavericks rolled into town this past Sunday.  What transpired throughout the game was diabolical.  Though San Antonio was able to grab a 90 to 85 win, it was not pretty.

april_23_Harris_2What kept the Dallas Mavericks in the game was the play off of the bench by guard Devin Harris.  Harris logged 32 minutes on his way to a team-high 19 points.  Spurs guard Tony Parker stated that the team “did not plan” for Harris to come out and play as well as he did.

(H/T Star-Telegram)
“He played well, he was very aggressive, he made three 3s,” Spurs point guard Tony Parker said. “We didn’t plan on that, so we’re going to have to definitely pay some attention to him.”

In two games this season against San Antonio, Harris averaged 24 minutes per game and eight points per game.  He shot 23% from the field on just eight attempts per game while making just two.  By his splits this season, he was likely not deemed a thread nor was he in the Spurs’ gameplan for game one.

For any playoff team with an underperforming star, there’s a chance for another player to step up his game and compete.  That is what Harris did.  It has opened the eyes of the Spurs to key in on him for game two on Wednesday night.

With that kind of performance, many have penciled Harris into the starting lineup over Jose Calderon.  Former San Antonio Spur and Dallas Mavericks Head Coach Avery Johnson had a familiar situation back in 2006 when his Mavericks met against the Spurs in the playoffs.  After a game one loss, Johnson knew he needed to do something to try and contain Parker, and he quickly plugged in Harris.  As he did, Harris blossomed and made Johnson look like a genius.

Harris would go on to average just under 21 points in a series that the Mavericks would win after taking the Spurs to seven games.

So, would Carlisle do the same?  According to Tim McMahon of ESPN Dallas Carlisle is not interested in making any changes, if so, it could spell for disaster.  He tells McMahon that Harris is a key to their bench.

“It’s been one of our strengths, so there’s a lot of value in it,” Carlisle said of the Mavs’ bench. “[Harris has] been one of the keys to our team since he came back. NBA games are long. There is a lot going on out there.”

The Mavs’ best lineup consists of four bench players and Nowitzki.  The lineup of Harris, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Vince Carter and Nowitzki had a net rating of plus-26.6 points per 100 possessions in 109 minutes during the regular season. In 10 minutes during game one, those five outscored the Spurs by 16.

Making more sense of why Carlisle would not budge in starting Harris, McMahon stated Harris has played only 22 minutes all season with the other four starters.

Parker sees a difference between both Calderon and Harris.  To him, Calderon is a shooter. Though he finished with just seven points, all of which came in the second half, Parker still sees him as being a threat with his ability to hit big shots.  He sees Harris as being more of the penetrator, able to get people involved.  Parker feels he can put a lot of pressure on a defense.

Don’t be surprised if we see a different look on Harris when he checks into the game on Wednesday.

Michael Rehome

About Michael Rehome

Michael grew up in a Military family and has spent most of his life in San Antonio Texas. Married with two daughters of his own he grew up as many being a Chicago Bulls fan but grew to love the San Antonio Spurs and what their system and organization is all about. When he is not at home with this wife and kids or writing about the Spurs, he spends his time playing pick-up basketball with his friends. One time editor of Fansided Networks San Antonio Spurs blog Air Alamo, before joining the staff at Project Spurs.