The Dallas Mavericks got off to a fast start in their season opener against the Phoenix Suns. They had 62 first-half points and held a 17-point advantage at halftime as fans on both sides had Game 7 vibes, but this time, the Suns fought their way back into the game. Phoenix had a 31-19 edge in the third to be within five to start the final quarter. The Suns had all the momentum and looked poised to steal the victory, despite trailing by as many as 22 points.
Then, Christian Wood got white hot for Dallas. He scored 16 straight points for the Mavericks to put them up 93-78 with 8:31 left in the game. The 6’10 forward had his 3-point shot locked in, and he was taking advantage of smaller players in the post. It looked like Wood had saved Dallas, but the Suns fought back one more time.
Then, head coach Jason Kidd made a coaching decision that set social media ablaze as he decided to take C-Wood out with 6:41 left in the fourth quarter to insert Maxi Kleber with Dallas up 11. Fans know the result, and it was not pretty.
Jason Kidd’s head-scratching decision to sit Christian Wood costs Mavericks in opener
Fans and pundits were both laying into coach Kidd on social media. Perhaps the best Tweet came from Molly Morrison.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor blasted Kidd’s decision, and it was curious at best in the moment. Wood was hot, and he only played 24 minutes on Wednesday night. Perhaps, Kidd realized his mistake as he brought C-Wood back into the game with 2:19 remaining, and the Suns up one only to go back to Spencer Dinwiddie for the final 46 seconds.
The Hall of Fame point guard had this to say in his postgame presser about the playing time for Wood and Kleber in the fourth quarter.
"Yeah, we were going a little bit of offense/defense, and just see how that was going to go. Understanding with Maxi out there defensively and also offensively being able to stretch, so we don’t lose anything there. Then, C-Wood offensively we wanted to see how he handled it, and defensively, we wanted to see a couple of minutes from him."
Kidd placed a massive emphasis on defense last season, and it was a key to their run to the conference finals. The Mavs were seventh in defensive rating last regular season, and they held both the Jazz and Suns down in the postseason to advance. J-Kidd opted to put Kleber in because he is a better defender than Wood.
C-Wood’s defense is the reason that he is not in the starting five. He has struggled mightily on that end of the floor throughout his NBA career. The 6’10 forward participated on the defensive end against the Suns on Wednesday night and had the second-highest plus-minus on the team, but he is not a standout defender.
Head coach Jason Kidd should have stayed with the hot hand in the season opener. Christian Wood got the Dallas Mavericks back out to a comfortable lead early in the fourth quarter, and they needed to ride him a bit more because the Suns were mixing up the looks and allowing some mismatches late. C-Wood was already rolling, and he would have been the perfect outlet for number 77 when Phoenix applied pressure and got their defense scrambling.
Coach Kidd’s decision is far from the only reason Dallas lost their season opener. They went 21 of 34 from the free throw line, including Wood missing seven. Dallas struggled to defend the Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton pick-and-rolls in the second half, and their offense sputtered over the final 24 minutes. There is plenty to work on and fix for the Mavericks before Saturday’s home opener against the Grizzlies.
Should head coach Jason Kidd have benched Christian Wood in the fourth quarter? Would you have done things differently? Do you think Kidd would repeat the decision if given a do-over? Let us know in the comments below.