Kudos for Rick Carlisle

Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle reacts during his team’s play against the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, Texas June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Jason Whitlock heaps praise on on Rick Carlisle for his coaching in Game 4:

He did crazy (stuff). He inserted J.J. Barea into the starting lineup. Barea has been a nightmare in the Finals. He can’t finish at the rim. He can’t knock down open perimeter shots. He left his game in the Western Conference playoffs.

Carlisle went with Barea to change his rotation and rest Shawn Marion. With Barea in the lineup, DeShawn Stevenson would come off the bench and defend Wade or LeBron James.

Carlisle also tied Peja Stojakovic to the bench. Peja left his shot in Los Angeles. The few minutes Carlisle would have wasted on Peja, he gave to Brian Cardinal. Well, at least “The Custodian” didn’t turn the ball over and escort a Heat offensive player to the rim.

The Barea and Cardinal moves didn’t really pan out. That’s fine. Down 2-1 and with Dirk sick, a coach has to try something.

And Carlisle did find minutes for Stevenson. In Dallas’ two victories, Stevenson has played a combined 48 minutes. In Dallas’ two losses, Stevenson has played 29 minutes. Stevenson played 26 minutes Tuesday. He knocked down three 3-pointers. He played solid defense on James and Wade.

Where Carlisle really made his mark Tuesday was in the fourth quarter, when he mixed in some zone defense. The Heat scored only 14 points in the final 12 minutes. The zone slowed Wade’s penetration, and it masked Nowitzki’s exhaustion.

Carlisle coached a masterpiece.

Carlisle definitely deserves some credit as Dallas came up big last night. But this is a crafty, veteran team that never gives up, and that, along with LeBron’s Houdini act, had just as much to do with the outcome.

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Point guards star in Monday night action

Having dropped Game 1 at home, both the Celtics and the Spurs were in “must-win” mode on Monday night.

The Celtics/Bulls series is shaping up to be a great one. After a 29-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist effort in Game 1, Rajon Rondo turned in a stellar 19-point, 16-assist, 12-rebound triple-double in Game 2, which the C’s won, 118-115. He also had five steals and turned the ball over just twice. If this kid can get a consistent jump shot, he’s going to be a nightmare. Hell, he’s already a nightmare.

Derrick Rose was the best player on the floor in Game 1, but he came back to Earth in Game 2. Ten points, seven assists and six rebounds is a solid line, but Ben Gordon (42 points) was the star for Chicago in Game 2. What’s amazing about Gordon is how thin his line is. He had one rebound and one steal, but failed to register an assist, a block or even a single turnover. Gordon is a scorer and that’s it, but the name of the game is basketball and he can really light it up.

Ray Allen came up huge in the second half with 28 points over the final two periods, including the game-winner with just 0:02 to play. He scored just six points over the previous four quarters. Wow.

Moving on to the San Antonio/Dallas series, without Manu Ginobili, the Spurs are lacking a third scorer, but Tony Parker was able to carry his team on his shoulders with a 38-point, eight-assist effort en route to a 105-84 win. Jason Kidd can’t keep Parker in front of him, which is why I thought the Spurs would win this series, but J.J. Barea came off the bench in Game 1 and did a decent job containing Parker. Game 2? Not so much.

The Mavericks have home court advantage now and they’ve been great (32-9) at the American Airlines Center this season. The Spurs have the 5th-most road wins in the league, so they’re more than capable of stealing a game in Dallas.

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