Without Rodrigue Beaubois, last night’s game would have been a disaster. The rookie jump-started the Mavs’ offense at a particularly vulnerable time in a way that no other Maverick could, or at least seemed willing to do: by getting to the basket. Driving to the hoop is not a specialty of either Jason Kidd or Jason Terry at this point in their careers, which leaves Beaubois and J.J. Barea as the lone penetrators among the Dallas guards. Barea had a pretty horrible night despite playing well in the series to that point, which made Beaubois’ ability to get to the basket all the more important.
So he drove. Over, and over, and over again. He drove past Tony Parker and George Hill, weaved through Antonio McDyess and Manu Ginobili, and finished around Tim Duncan. He was far and away the most dynamic Maverick on the floor in his 21 minutes of playing time, and it’s a damn shame that he didn’t play more. As I mentioned in the recap, not having Beaubois not playing in the fourth isn’t the reason the Mavs lost Game 6, though it could qualify as a reason. It’s hard to say, honestly, because as good as Beaubois was, it’s not like he was going to single-handedly shut down the Spurs’ pick-and-roll. Rodrigue wasn’t going to prevent George Hill from nailing open looks in the corner and he wasn’t going to protect the rim. He definitely would have given the Mavs another scoring option on the floor when they desperately needed one, and that counts for something, but his presence is not a cure-all.
However, Rick Carlisle’s decision to sit Beaubois in this series (and in the fourth quarter of Game 6, in particular) was a monumental error. Carlisle made a huge, huge mistake, and though it’s impossible to say whether or not it cost the Mavs this or that, there’s no question that having Beaubois on the floor would have put Dallas in a better position to win this series. Maybe the Spurs still would have made big plays and done the right things, because that’s kind of what the Spurs do, but I fail to see how having a scorer as productive and efficient as Beaubois on the floor would have hurt the Mavs in any significant way. He makes rookie mistakes from time to time and his defense isn’t perfect, but when the team is relying so heavily on Jason Terry to produce and he’s not producing, there doesn’t seem to be any harm in giving Beaubois some burn with the first unit.
That said, I understand Carlisle’s dilemma. Terry has proven in the past that even in terrible games, he’s able to bounce back to help in the fourth. Beaubois had yet to really prove himself in a playoff situation prior to Game 6, though through no fault of his own. JET was the easy pick, the comfortable pick, and in a bout of temporary insanity, Carlisle separated himself from the strategy he’s gone with for most of the season, and sat the player who was able to produce.
Then again, maybe that approach has never really applied to Beaubois. We saw Carlisle switch up lineups and alter the rotation as players succeeded or struggled, but the one player who seemed immune to all of it was Beaubois. No matter how well Rodrigue played, he could never carve out the consistent minutes he deserved, and only in similarly desperate times — when the Mavs faced injury or a serious match-up problem — was Beaubois considered a possible solution. It’s not easy for coaches to trust rookies, and I get that. The angle that Carlisle is coming from is fairly easy to understand. It’s just wrong, in this particular case.
Really, the problem wasn’t that Carlisle refused to play Beaubois during the fourth quarter of Game 6, but that he refused to play him for the bulk of the regular season. The reason why he didn’t trust Rodrigue during high-pressure moments in a crucial series was because he didn’t throw Beaubois into the fire enough during the initial 82. It’s not as if Beaubois would have been a complete liability; Rodrigue was third on the team in effective field goal percentage during the regular season and second in scoring per 36 minutes. Carlisle failed not because Beaubois wasn’t ready for the playoffs, but because he didn’t know just how ready Rodrigue was. The more playing time he received in the regular season, the better prepared he would have been for the added pressure (both in terms of expectation and the Spurs’ defense) of the postseason.
If Rick didn’t think Beaubois was a good pick-and-roll defender (which he’s not), he should have let him work through it in games and in practice. If he didn’t think Rodrigue could run the point effectively (which he still can’t, honestly; his best performances have been off the ball, and every second that Beaubois played in Game 6 was alongside Jason Kidd), he should have handed him the reins during a mid-season game against the Clippers.
Rick Carlisle did mishandle the appropriation of minutes in Beaubois’ case, the only problem is that it’s been going on for months. He should have been playing more the whole season, and only now has the error manifested itself in a way that secures national attention. Still, assigning blame for the Game 6 loss solely on that one substitution is ridiculous. It doesn’t fall in line with Carlisle’s claims to go with the lineups that work and perhaps Beaubois’ insertion back into the game with 2:44 remaining was too little, too late, but Dallas almost won the game regardless. The players on the floor couldn’t match the Spurs’ execution and lost the game on their own. That’s a team of proven veterans, leaders, and All-Stars just coming up a bit short. Again, it’s not that Beaubois couldn’t have helped, but that his exclusion offers a convenient excuse that disguises the team’s real problems.