Jason Kidd's questionable closing lineup cripples Mavericks in Game 4 loss

Dallas Mavericks, Jason Kidd
Dallas Mavericks, Jason Kidd / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Sunday afternoon's matchup against the LA Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks held a 2-1 series lead after a gutsy win in Game 3.

The rivalry between the Mavs and Clippers was intensified through the antics of Russell Westbrook in that game, and the American Airlines Center happily welcomed playoff basketball back after Dallas missed the playoffs in 2022.

Dallas started Game 4 off slow as they trailed by as much as 31 points in that first half, but they began to climb the mountain at the end of the second quarter.

The Mavs only trailed the Clippers by 17 points at halftime due to Kyrie Irving stepping his game up after a slow start, and he finished with 40 points on the night while shooting 14-25 from the field and 6-12 from downtown.

Jason Kidd's decision to play small ball cripples Mavs in fourth quarter

He was making unbelievable plays down the stretch, but one decision by Mavs head coach Jason Kidd could have changed everything in this game.

Kidd decided to play small ball with Maxi Kleber as the center for nearly the entire fourth quarter, and the Mavs showed little to no resistance on James Harden's drives to the rim. Harden finished the game with 33 points while shooting 12-17 from the field and 4-5 from downtown. 15 of Harden's 33 points were in the fourth quarter, and his floater was unstoppable.

Harden's nearly perfect fourth quarter helped propel the Clippers to a 116-11 victory over Dallas, and he willed that LA squad to a win.

One way Kidd and the Mavs could have adjusted to Harden's dominance could have been by playing Dereck Lively II or Daniel Gafford in that fourth quarter more as they could have been a help-side rim protector to step up during Harden drives.

The on-ball defense by P.J. Washington and the rest of the Mavs on Harden wasn't great in that fourth quarter, but having some help from Gafford or Lively II would have helped. Any time that Lively II or Gafford is in the game, teams have to play differently because of their ability to fly in and block any shot.

This duo would have at least contested some of Harden's floaters in the paint, and Kleber wasn't playing much help defense at all.

Kidd's decision to go small didn't lose Dallas this game, but using Lively II or Gafford could have at least helped. The Mavs' ability to come back after being down by 31 points showed tons of resiliency and fight, and this series is far from over.

The Mavs' next game is on Wednesday night in LA.

For all the latest on Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks throughout the 2024 NBA Playoffs, stay tuned.