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2024 NBA Finals: The elephant in the room — Luka Don?i?’s defense isn’t good enough for the Mavs to win a title

DALLAS, June 13 — For such a copycat league, NBA teams use different terminologies for the same concepts. When a player is traded, understanding a new playbook is more like learning a new language, another dialect, for the same actions and ideas his previous employer described differently. The playoffs, for example, are littered with All-Stars calling for ball screens, forcing a switch of defenders, allowing that playmaker to isolate against his preferred matchup. The Mavericks call this “elephant hunting” as these Western Conference champions routinely found optimal opponents for Luka Don?i? or Kyrie Irving to ambush on islands across the first three rounds of this postseason.

Rudy Gobert was one such victim, the “elephant” Don?i? hunted at the end of Game 2 in Minnesota. And as these NBA Finals shifted back to Dallas, with the Mavericks facing the same 2-0 deficit to which Don?i?’s dagger sunk the Timberwolves, Dallas was sure to prioritize picking on certain Celtics defenders in all of Don?i?’s and Irving’s perimeter pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs.

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