Game 6: San Antonio Spurs 97, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 29, 2010 under Recaps | 20 Comments to Read

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

These struggling tides of life that seem
In wayward, aimless course to tend,
Are eddies of the mighty stream
That rolls to its appointed end
.”
-William Cullen Bryant, The Crowded Street

Rough loss. The recap that I don’t want to write and you don’t want to read is on its way, but for the moment I think it’s best if we all pour one out for the season that was. There should have been no delusions over this being “the Mavs’ year,” and given that, I think Dallas’ first round out to San Antonio wasn’t entirely unexpected. This Maverick team was going to lose to a quality opponent, and they did just that. That quality opponent just happened to be a seventh seed, a first round opponent, and the Mavs’ one and only true rival.

Obviously there’s more to come on the game and the season, but for the moment: sulk, reflect, ponder, sigh, and shrug. Another season is in the books: another year without a title and another campaign of enjoying Dirk Nowitzki while we still can.

———-

What a curse it is, to be blessed. I’d never envy the followers of a lesser NBA team, and I wouldn’t dare compare the failings of the Mavs to the failings of other franchises (the Clippers, the Knicks, etc.). That said, Dallas has made a habit out of tragedy, and while this loss doesn’t even remotely measure up to the playoff losses in 2006 or 2007, the sting remains.

Dirk deserves better. He played an incredible game (33 points on 21 shots), and hit so many big shots. He just didn’t quite get the help that he needed. That tale should sound familiar, and at this rate, it could be the epitaph on Dirk’s NBA headstone: Here lies Dirk Nowitzki, the unsung, underrated star of his generation who remained title-less because of teammates and circumstance. It’s not that Dirk’s career has been without fault, but just that it so rarely should lie with him. He’s a truly unique offensive weapon, and his ability to lead this team to another 50-win season and another playoff berth is impressive in itself, even if the offense wasn’t quite good enough to elevate the Mavs past a tough first round opponent.

It really wasn’t good enough. Neither was the defense. But only barely, as Dallas again had a game in its clutches, despite what could certainly qualify as the worst playoff start in franchise history.

Dallas could barely manage to walk out on the court in the first quarter before San Antonio had racked up a double-digit lead, and by the time that lead had blossomed to 22 points in the second, all hope seemed lost. The Mavs finished with just eight points in the first quarter, and their valiant effort in Game 5 seemed suddenly worthless. Dallas missed shots they normally make, their defense was fell well short of the playoff standard, and the lack of scoring aside from Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki would have been comical if it weren’t so depressing.

Then, Rick Carlisle turned to the one card he had been reluctant to play all series long. With the Mavs already desperate for a spark in the second quarter, Carlisle inserted Rodrigue Beaubois, and shockingly, it worked. Beaubois did what he’s done so many times this season: score quickly and efficiently by using his speed to get around defenders. The only difference is that the offense was basically run through Beaubois from the moment he was inserted into the game…as long as “the offense” can be reduced to Beaubois driving around his defender (with the help of a few handy pick-setters) and getting to the rim. It’s not exactly complex, but it was was startlingly efficient, as Rodrigue was able to finish at the basket, help defense be damned. From that point on, the Mavs scoring duo was elevated to a trio, and Nowitzki, Butler, and Beaubois finished with 74 of the Mavs’ 87 points.

That is, until Rick Carlisle opted to keep Beaubois on the bench for the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter in favor of Jason Terry. JET had a pretty horrible night, and scored just two points on seven shot attempts. He was in the game for his prior exploits and his reputation, and for a night, Carlisle betrayed his own code and sat a player who was playing incredibly well. More on that later.

It’s almost silly to dwell too much on what the Mavs did wrong, if only because they were so close to winning…again. Dallas actually managed to take the lead on a Dirk three-pointer in the third quarter, but one botched defensive assignment later, and it was San Antonio’s game again. If JET or Kidd makes one more shot, maybe this is a different game. If one more of Nowitzki’s improbable looks found the bottom of the basket, maybe we’d be talking about a Game 7. Maybe if one more Maverick showed themselves to be a reliable scoring option in this series, the day wouldn’t be quite so gloomy. And yes, maybe if Rick Carlisle had played Rodrigue Beaubois more in the fourth quarter, this series wouldn’t be over.

But it is. And blaming things solely on a coaching decision to go with one of the best fourth quarter scorers in franchise history over a rookie — a sensational one, but a rookie nonetheless — is a bit ridiculous. Beaubois was not the only thing that could have saved the Mavs. The decision to sit him was certainly not the factor that doomed them, even it its so terribly easy to paint it that way.

The pick-and-roll defense just wasn’t good enough, the Mavs had no way of stopping George Hill (21 points, six assists) who was every bit the x-factor he was proclaimed to be, and the Spurs were far, far more aggressive offensively. Dallas’ shortcomings should be completely unsurprising, as their inability to play consistent defense and reluctance to push for quality shot attempts again brought about their end. I honestly wish it was more complex, but that’s all it took. This match-up was so even that the Mavs didn’t need to give the Spurs much to run with, and once they offered San Antonio those few, small carrots, it was enough for the Spurs to close the series in six games.

There’s obviously more: Caron Butler had a fantastic offensive night, all things considered, Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier were effective in bursts but each had drawbacks to their play, and Jason Kidd was invisible yet again. All of that matters, but at this point does it really? Dallas’ run is over, and though they fought until the very end in their season finale, so many Mavericks came up with nothing when the team desperately needed something. It didn’t have to be 20 points or 10 rebounds or 12 free throw attempts, but it had to be something. On this night against this particular opponent, that was apparently too much to ask.

  • Andrew

    Dirk, Butler and Beaubois combined for 85% of Mavs points tonight. I don’t know what it is about the Mavs’ depth that it vanishes completely in the playoffs, but if I were Dirk I’d be a lot less polite about it.

  • Kirk Henderson

    I don’t envy you having to write that. That game will be talked about for a while.

    Other than winning or a game 7, I’m not sure I could’ve asked for a more riveting series.

  • Edge11123

    What I saw this whole series was Jason Kidd being outplayed by two other Maverick guards that clearly deserve the starting position over him. J.J. Barea had a outstanding series, i’m not saying the series would have been different if Barea started but Barea seemed to shoot pass and control the game tempo better than Kidd. The Mavericks rookie Beaubois from his limited time he played proved to me that he has the speed agility and shooting accuracy to deserve more playing time next season. With all this said the Mavericks coaching staff should reconsider Kidd’s position as starting point guard and change place him off the bench or even third string behind Barea and Beaubois.

  • Jeff

    I also can’t figure out what happens to these guys every year around this time. There’s always Dirk and that’s about it. I just about lost it when Carlisle left Roddy on the bench for nearly ten minutes. The guy seemed absolutely unguardable.

  • harry

    Rabble Rabble, sad face.
    I guess we have to settle for being the worst best team of the last decade. Still beats the decade before this though. Feel like I could share a beer with an Atlanta Braves fan and have something to talk about.
    I hope our front office takes a clue from SA, though. You have to admire the way they retool with the draft (Hill, Blair) and with good role playing free agents (Dice).
    I hope we hold on to Roddy, and if we trade Damp its a smart trade that includes getting draft picks and solid young talent of the hard working hustle varity. Enough with the bad contracts, enough with the former all stars, enough with the counter culture way that’s become the status quo here.
    Maybe I’m just a little bitter.

  • James

    At first I wanted to talk smack,being a spurs fan and all,but after reading Harry,Jeff, and Andrew’s post, I feel empathy. My only comment is “behavior modification”. The mavs have always been a run and gun team with no defense,for about a decade or more.The team needs a whole new system and behavior now, this is not cutting it. I hate to say it, but the mavs are too soft. Always have been, yall need to bring in some players or a coach with some grit.

  • http://www.nba.com/germany/blog/mike_liem.html mike

    Hi Rob,

    this from Germany. Sad day. Already read the first inevitable “Nowitzki’s not a winner” stories. Somehow hard 2 argue, though he played a very good series. What really hit me (besides Roddy sitting in the 4th) is that before the series the possibility of Dirk leaving the Mavs seemed so far fetched, but now it needs to be reckoned.
    Personally, I’m torn. I know he is loyal as it gets, but he wants to win that ring, too. Not that it could happen in Dallas (maybe with a 2nd star via sign&trade), but after another loss it just FEELS unlikely.

    Thanks for your great blog! My mandatory read in the morning. By the way, how can I “apply” to write for you?

  • Crainge

    It’s really really sad to bow out this early but it’s just another case of facing a team that’s clicking at just the right moment. Many may remember that SA was rated at No. 2 in the West when the season started. They are just realizing their potential right now. I’ve been a big Maverick fan for years and seen how these 2 teams battle it out year in and year out. It was again a great series this year. It’s just sad that we lost this time. But again, I’m standing by the Mavericks. I’m proud of them for giving us a good fight. GO MAVS!!! crainge_PHILIPPINES

  • Cynthia

    People can say we lost the game in the 1st qtr by only scoring 8 pts. And yeah, that didn’t help. But when Carlisle put Beaubois in the game (FINALLY) he provided a spark. FINALLY someone was scoring besides Dirk and Caron. 8 pts in 6 minutes. Then 10 pts in the 3rd…enough (with Dirk and Caron) to actually take the lead after being down by as much as 24! And then what does Carlisle do? Sit Beaubois (and Caron) until the 4th qtr is nearly over…all the while Jason “can’t put it in the ocean much less play D” Terry is getting the minutes. And FINALLY (again!) Ivory Johnson puts Beaubois back in the game with what? 2 minutes left? And just WHAT does Slick Rick expect Roddy to do in the last 2 minutes that he couldn’t have done the whole qtr..hell the WHOLE DAMN SERIES for that matter??!! A LOT of players on this team did not play well in this series….J-Kidd (imop) being the biggest (and most (or least depending on how you look at it) culprit) but Mr Ivory Johnson is the BIGGEST reason we lost this game AND the series. Your team takes a LEAD with Beaubois and Caron IN the game and INEXPICTIBLY the coach goes with the “seasoned veteran” who had 2 ‘FN points the whole damn game. There IS NO EXCUSE for those kind of sloppy/sorry ass coaching (or lack thereof) coaching decisions. If Carlisle isn’t ashamed he damn sure needs to be.

  • Jon

    :(

    Oh, and Rob, commas go inside quotation marks.

  • http://www.goodtimescomic.net Jordan

    I would be lying if I said I was excited to play you guys again next year. Dwyer said it best when he said that if a few balls spin in that normally do, this series goes to Dallas. I always hate playing the Mavs because they are so very good. I have immense respect for Dirk and Roddy B is moving on up. Also, you guys have a hell of a coach in Carlisle. I wouldn’t get rid of him.

    Excellent series and best of luck in the off-season to the Mavs.

  • Tom

    the difference between the failing mavs in the last few years of the playoffs anf the mavs in 2006 or any other sucsessful team is depth and role player. Everyone on the spurs team found some way to contribute when the got a chance. Mcdyess hits every open jumper that comes his way, every minute b;air is on the floor he is a wrecking ball, Hill stepped up his game to another level etc.

    You can look back to the mavs in 2006 and see the same team. Stack coming off the bench and hitting huge shots. Harris raising his game to a new level and taking over vs san antonio, Diop making the most of his minutes getting big blocks and bringing energy, Daniels would score off the bench, teryy and howard would get twenty a night. Everyone who got in the game found a way to bring something.

    With these past teams and this year not enough people step up. In fact half the team steps down. Kidd has played below regular season level every playoff series with the mavs, terry is extreamly inconsistant and has become a horrid defender, marion is a joke on offense (I would understand if he lost his legs as he has gotten up theri in age but since when does aging mean you forget how to shoot and loss all your touch, he looks like he has never played basketball before when he shoots his ridiculous line driver floaters driving to the basket).

    Watch other sucsesful playoff teams this year and see the difference. Orlando’s role players cant miss a big shot…

  • Andrew

    Management needs to seriously consider FIRING Carlisle. Not giving Beaubois enough minutes is only the tip of the iceberg. Carlisle has made several questionable or just flat out stupid rotation decisions (example, benching Haywood, at which point his production almost vanished). I also think that much of the Maverick’s offensive woes are Carlisle’s fault. For instance, in game 4, when Dirk was getting doubled everytime he touched the ball, the Mavericks would just swing the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock wound down, at which point someone would throw up a shot (usually Butler). Why was nobody on the weakside cutting to the basket? Why were there no back-screens to try to free up players for easy shots?

    Carlisle seems obsessed with running isos, which is OK if the offense stays fluid and stays in motion, but that doesn’t happen. Marion is the ONLY Dallas player who shows a willingness to move without the ball and SLASH to the basket, but he misses so many gimmies that it almost isn’t worth it.

    I’m so suprised Beaubois didn’t get more time. He actually shows a willingness to drive to the basket and can actually create his own shot. This series is not an isolated event. Carlisle rarely ever played this kid in the regular season, and he should have, and we all know that he should have.

  • Andrew

    Tas and Skeets were right, Carlisle was just flat out coached in this series.

  • Frustrated Mavs Fan

    Rid ourselves of JET. He was worthless this playoff series, this season, and last playoff series.

    The only reason he is still here is because he was Dirk’s robin. And we have Caron for that role now.

  • mad mavs fan

    First off who is this JET that everyone keeps referring to….. and I’m so disappointed that my mavs lost. Something needs to be done

  • Brayden

    @Frustrated Mavs Fan:

    I’ve gotta say that I’ve been feeling that we need to get rid of Terry for a season and a half now. I love the guy, what he’s done for the city, how he always tries to get the crowd involved, and his overall character, but I just don’t think he will ever be a perfect playoff player for us. He may get steals, but he is about as bad of a defender as we have on the Mavs (I think when Dirk is focused, he’s respectable and doesn’t deserve all the criticism on D that he’s getting). On offense, he is streaky, and when playoff teams have the chance to adjust for him, he just isn’t able to string together enough strong performances to justify his defensive deficiencies, with smart teams attacking those deficiencies at every turn. I will never forget that three he let Nash drain on him in 2005 because he was defending the drive. I tried to give him years to improve under Avery and Carlisle, and always give him the benefit of the doubt. I tried to think that his offensive contributions were strong enough and consistent enough to make up for these deficiencies. Heck, I just loved the guy. But I think it needs to be said: He is all those things in the regular season, but not in the playoffs. I think we really missed out on a lot of production in 2007 against the baron davis half-court shots (ahem, I mean the Warriors) and again this year against the Spurs to name a few of the most egregious instances. Every time this feeling would well up inside of me, Rob would write a post praising Terry’s efficiency, and I would begin the internal, silent debate again. Am I wrong? Is Terry really pulling through and going to deliver for us in a big way when it counts consistently? Well, at this point I think I would have to say, no. Even with him playing 6th man, he is a starter in my mind, due to his consistent presence on the floor in 4th quarters of close games. In that role, I just don’t think he fits what this team needs. We shouldn’t have to choose between scoring and defense, and end up with all of these role player pieces that can only do one or the other, making any coach’s job of managing player rotations a nightmare. With Dirk already representing that type of offense over defense player, we just cannot afford our number 2 scorer in crunch time to also have that problem. It creates a domino effect that, when it matters most, seems to lead to our collapse. I’d be really sad to see him go, but i’m really afraid that its what needs to be done.

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  • http://sportschump.net Chris Humpherys

    Rob…

    Here’s hoping writing this piece was somewhat cleansing for you.

    Here’s an outsiders perspective on what went wrong. Would love your take.

    http://sportschump.net/2010/05/03/woe-are-the-dallas-mavericks/3623/

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