Does Rick Carlisle Have the Answer for the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Dec 9, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle watches his team take on the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle watches his team take on the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Cavaliers still don’t seem to have an answer for Stephen Curry‘s Golden State Warriors, does Dallas Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle have the answer?

After the Warriors notably beat the Cavaliers in the Finals of last year, it was clear that the league had a new best team in the league.

The Warriors took the league by storm with their infamous small ball lineups, constant switching, and a certain sharp shooter who is the new face of the NBA…and nothing has changed this year.

The Warriors are once again the team to beat as they have set their sights on challenging the all-time win record in a season that was set by Michael Jordan‘s Chicago Bulls. Lurking in the background, is the Cavaliers as they try to figure out a way to tame a streaking Warriors team come finals time.

Looking forward to a rematch with the champs where they had a fully healthy team, the Cavs faced off on Christmas day where they took another defeat in Golden State. But to be fair, it was only a couple of games into the season for all-star point guard Kyrie Irving.

The matchup they were waiting for? The home matchup in Cleveland on January 18th.

Kyrie was back fully healthy, Kevin Love was in full swing, and the Cavs had been rolling. But then the Warriors reminded them who the champs were as they trampled the Cavs in Cleveland by 34 points.

Arguably the biggest problem that the Warriors present, especially to the Cavaliers, is the small ball pick-and-roll between Draymond Green and Steph Curry. With Green at center, it presents a matchup nightmare for players like Kevin Love as they try to defend Curry off the screen or try to keep up with Green.

A nightmare that the Cavs must figure out if they face off against the Warriors in the finals and plan on winning a title anytime soon

Does Rick Carlisle have an answer for defending the pick-and-roll?

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This past week, long-time coach David Thorpe was a guest on ESPN’s Zach Lowe’s podcast called The Lowe Post. During the podcast (listen to full podcast here), the two of them talked about the matchup problem the Cavs have with the Warriors and how they can try to solve it.

Thorpe goes on a tangent talking about a classic lecture he heard from the great Hubie Brown on the eight ways to defend the pick-and-roll. But it was a certain coach in Dallas that used a ninth way to defend it in a playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs a few years ago.

“In the year the Spurs won the championship, the team who gave the Spurs the most trouble was not the Heat, it was the Mavericks. What Carlisle did in that series was tell his team enough of us defending the pick-and-roll the way we always have and race and scramble against the best ball movement team of all time.

Here is what we are going to do. We are going to stay home on everybody. Normally the rule in basketball is that it takes five guys to defend the pick-and-roll. There is eight ways to defend it, Rick Carlisle came up with the ninth way.

No one do anything except those two defensive players involved in the ball screen action. They could do whatever they wanted to do. They switched, went over, went under, the only thing they weren’t going to do is bring the third help defender, because then they make the swing. Then they keep swinging the ball and the Spurs could read a novel before they shoot the ball because they are so open.

And it got in the Spurs heads.” -David Thorpe

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If you remember, the Mavericks took the Spurs to 7 games in a series where most people thought it would be a sweep in the first round. The genius that Rick Carlisle is figured out a way to get into the Spurs heads and create a matchup for their pick-and-rolls that proved to be the toughest thing for the Spurs to overcome in their eventual route to a championship.

Could the Cavs take a page out of Rick Carlisle’s book to figure out the mystery on how to overcome the Warriors and defend their deadly pick-and-roll?