San Antonio Spurs 92, Dallas Mavericks 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 25, 2010 under Recaps | 15 Comments to Read

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

Any event, once it has occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent historian.”
-Lee Simonson

Admittedly, I’m a bit tired of the Mavs being both incredibly predictable and uncomfortably surprising.

On the offenseive end, the Mavs’ limitations are the same old, same old: there aren’t enough players around Dirk who can create shots. Jason Terry’s pull-up game is nice but only when he’s hitting, Caron Butler’s ability to drive is comforting but he’s both resistant of it and can’t finish, and the rest of the Mavs are largely situational scorers that can only complete plays if put in very specific situations. For all of the moves, the money, and the hype, these Mavericks are more or less the same team that they’ve always been.

You can’t walk into every Maverick game knowing precisely what to expect, though. For one, it’s unclear exactly which opposing role player Dallas will allow to thoroughly demean them. Maybe it’s George Hill, like it was tonight, or Richard Jefferson, like it was in Game 2, or DeJuan Blair, like it was in the regular season finale. That’s one regard in which the Mavs will always keep their fans guessing, as you never know when they might give up 52 points to Andre Miller.

That’s the Dallas Mavericks in a nutshell: too predictable on offense, too unpredictable on defense. They have yet to find the magical balance where they can still bewilder their opponents without also startling themselves, and it’s that quality that separates the Mavs from the Spurs, much less teams like the Cavs or the Magic. It’s that quality that has Dallas on the brink of elimination, facing a seemingly impossible three-game gauntlet just to move on to the second round.

That fate is, of course, made even more depressing by a few factors. The Mavs led by 15 points in the first half, and looked to be responding well to the pressure of a “must-win” Game 4. Tim Duncan scored just four points on 1-of-9 shooting and Manu Ginobili shot 25% from the field despite tying the team high in shot attempts. Dallas was right there at the end yet again, despite playing one of the worst third quarters in the post-Greg Ostertag era. You’d think in a game where the Mavs held a substantial lead, the opposing Big Three totaled just 37 points, and their own shortcomings were remedied by a shot at greatness, that something would end up going Dallas’ way. It didn’t. The lead was an empty memory, the Spurs’ stars’ struggles were erased by an incredible game from George Hill, and the Mavs’ second-half struggles should haunt them long into the off-season.

This was a game Dallas could have won and should have won. They just didn’t, and while there is some consolation in knowing that all of the Mavericks’ losses have been close, that very fact also makes them incredibly heartbreaking.

I think it would be difficult to fully comprehend everything that happened in the third quarter. It was a bizarre intersection of turnovers, poor defense, and iffy shot selection, and the magnitude of that 12 minutes (or even the first six minutes, in which Dallas went completely scoreless) likely warrants a post of its own. Maybe the Mavs will miraculously climb out of the 1-3 hole they now find themselves in, and we can all laugh and reminisce about how dire it all seemed. But should the rest of the series play out as expected, Dallas won’t have died rolling over in Game 5, toughing it out in Game 6, or clawing to the last in Game 7. They’ll have fallen whiffing, caving, and settling in the third quarter of Game 4.

It’s a shame.

As I mentioned before, George Hill (29 points, 11-of-16 shooting) was beyond impressive. He was deadly from the corners, but just as efficient from mid-range. That’s what surprised me most about Hill’s performance: most of his damage came strictly from jumpers, as a loose ball found its way into his hands or he was left open off a pick-and-roll rotation. With Dirk (17 points on a measly 10 shot attempts, 11 rebounds, four assists, three turnovers) held down by Antonio McDyess and shackled by the Spurs’ double-teams, no Maverick could even attempt to match Hill’s scoring production. Terry (17 points, 5-of-11 FG, six rebounds) tried, and Butler (17 points on 18 shot attempts, three turnovers) really tried, but it wasn’t enough. Haywood and Kidd managed to chip in 10 apiece, but where is the scoring option that can take advantage of the double teams on Dirk? Where is the scorer that will elevate the Mavs above their .416 mark from the field?

The Spurs, by contrast, won in spite of subpar performances by their stars. Duncan couldn’t hit a thing (1-for-9), but it didn’t matter. Hill provided the scoring, DeJuan Blair was so good that his mortal offerings on the stat sheet (seven points, seven rebounds) seem like a joke, and Richard Jefferson was both more productive and more efficient than Tony Parker. It turns out that this is what depth looks like, and though the Mavs would seem to have it in spades, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson seemed to have done nothing more than make the world’s most ferocious paper tiger.

This post honestly isn’t supposed to be an outright hit; there are still plenty of positive things to take out of Game 4 and the effort was there even if the execution wasn’t. But suffering another close loss by the Spurs’ hand doesn’t make this 1-3 deficit any less glaring or any more manageable. Dallas will need something truly remarkable to advance to the second round, and based on how the Spurs have answered the Mavs at almost every turn, deeming a comeback ‘improbable’ may be too kind.

  • Andrew

    Oh Mavs, how you break my heart every year.

    Jason Kidd (my favorite player ever) has been strikingly absent in this series. The Mavericks’ hopes depend on his ability to remedy this failing offense.

    Oh, and Caron Butler. Your jumper hasn’t been falling all season. The next time you take a step back three pointer I’m going to scream. DRIVE TO THE BASKET.

  • Tom

    Every year the playoffs come around and everyone but dirk falls apart. The mavs have not figured out that the playoffs are a half court game and we only have one player than can create opportunities for himself or anyone else in the half court.

    Our half court offense made me want to claw my eyes out. If they denied dirk the ball we just pass around the perimeter untill the shot clock gets low and then some one jacks up a contested outside shot. Usually butler after a few fancy between the legs dribbles.

    Kidd cant create in the half court. He can’t finish at the rim the few tmes he does manage to penetrate so they crowd him off the three point line and he is completely ineefective in the half court. He was brought here to win playoff games but he has been invisible in every playoff series in a mavs uniform. good in the regular season though, as if the mavs needed some more regular season sucsess.

    Terry can get his shot but he has become so hot and cold he can no longer be a second scorer for a playoff team.

    Butler is an offense killer. Anytime the mavs are moving the ball it stops when it gets to him. Every time he touches the ball the are a few required dribbles before jacking up an outside shot. I can’t count the number of times he has let the defense reset by holding the ball for no reason.

    It is so frusterating that when the game is on the line in the playoffs our three big aquisitions (bulter, marion, haywood) ride the pine. Marion was supposed to be the second scorer to take the pressure off dirk. I remember donnie telling us dirks numbers would be down this year becasue marion would be taking a load off… now he is just a good role player who can play some d and finish fast breaks, far from a playoff teams second scorer.

    Haywood cant get damp off the floor…

    I am ready to blow it up. This won’t win a title. dirk has a lmited time left. hopefully his style of play will leave him with some longevity. throw roddy in their and go get someone else here who can create! I wanted andre i. because he can createfor himself and others, instead we got butler. cuban needs to go for it and get someone like iggy and someone tough inside to pair up with dirk. even someone tough who could come off the bench and be physical inside. make a run at boozer. play him and dirk together, i dont care if we dont have a traditional center.

    It makes me so mad that im gonna here more b.s. about a team with dirk as their best player not being able to win a title. i almost hope he opts out next year and goes and wins one somewhere else.

    ive run out of steam going to bed… rant over

  • BK4MAVS

    Don’t forget the atrocious officiating in the 3rd quarter. The way the Spurs were allowed to assault the Mavs while the Mavs were called for some touch fouls allowed the Spurs to climb back in and take the momentum.

  • Phil

    Just so disappointed….Unbelievable!

  • harry

    Almost embarassed to admit it, but I find myself suddenly insecure about dirk’s impending free agency . . .

  • Kirk Henderson

    It needs to be said: George Hill is incredible. He played with a swagger that was impressive.

    Caron Butler is 22 for 56 from the field this series (39%) with more turnovers than assists. He’s gotten to the line 12 times all series. After last game, I witnessed at least 5 people on this very site complaining about him not playing for the 2nd half of game three and I can’t help but wonder why? Caron has only taken 15 less shots than our star in Dirk. What does he bring to the table? Yes he plays tough defense, but he has a knack for getting called for fouls that the other team seems to avoid. He also can’t stay with most guards in the west.

    Of course, Butler didn’t lose this one by himself, but he doubled up Dirks shot attempts. The Mavs dont need a second banana scoring option who needs to work himself into the flow of the game through volume shooting. We don’t have the possessions to do that. If we ignore offensive rebounding, Butler has helped the Mavs come up short in 44 possessions this series on his shooting alone; that doesn’t even consider his untimely turnovers.

    Let’s move on to Haywood, shall we? I know everyone here is a Dampier hater, and I’ve felt that way many a time since he was signed. But he rarely gets whipped the way Haywood was last night like rookie Blair. It was sickening. I know sometimes you can’t control the way the ball bounces, but there were many, many times when the ball hit Haywood in the hands only for it to bounce off.

    Dirk can’t just take 10 shots; we’ll lose. Dirk also has to start taking these open 3′s.

    It’s another tough loss. I’m tired of having gone through the emotional gambit with these guys.

  • Jeff

    This is why I’ve always compared these Mavs to a cheating girlfriend. Every year around this time they rip your heart out and leave you wondering how you could have possibly fallen for their act for the umpteenth time. Then come October you get the call:
    “Hey, what are you doing? Can I come over”?
    “Uh, sure. I’ve missed you”.

    And then boom. Back to making you look stupid.

  • Crawford

    i wish i wasn’t a man and could weep…this sucks

  • KG

    Interesting comment about the Spurs depth. The Mavs have depth, but it just seems like Carlisle doesn’t know how to manage it. He doesn’t work any favorable matchups or sub based on who the Spurs are subbing (especially in the 2nd half!). He’s determined to stick with 5 guys for the fourth quarter. I think that has to be questioned.

  • Phil

    So much truth and heartbreak in these comments…

    Acutally, I think its time for a piece on dirks potential FA summer. If, and it looks like it, we wont be able to get over Round 1 again this year, he will seriously consider opting out and signing elsewhere. I think he will be extremely disappointed, but in the end of the day, he SO MUCH wants to win a title. I mean, after the finals appearance we probably wont have survived the 1st round in 3 out of 4 years…

    And just to add something: Literally EVERY person on this page thinks the same about Butler – when he gets the ball he is like “Hm..Okay,lets see… What should I do?… Lets dribble the ball at first…Take this jumper in your face… Oh, barely touched the rim…” DRIVE TO THE DAMN BASKET!!!!

    However, I still believe in this team, even (tap for the great image by Jeff) if I am just being sentimental and overly optimistic about a broken relationsship…

  • Andrew

    Butler took 18 shots. 15 of those were jumpers, and he only made five of them. Most of those jumpers came in the first and third quarters.

    There was one play in the first quarter that really just summed everything up about this guy. He was on a fast break, no Spurs defender had gotten back down the floor except for the guy defending Butler, and instead of driving to the basket where there was no help defense, butler pulled up for the 15-footer.

    It’s inexcusable. When you are on a fast break and there is only one defender, and you are a quick, strong shooting guard, you don’t settle for the jumper when it hasn’t been falling all game.

  • Kirk Henderson

    If Butler is considered quick, then I am the easter bunny. I think he settles for those jumpers because his first step went the way of the dodo years ago.

  • Cynthia

    I don’t even recogonize the team in the blue that’s been taking the court in this series. NO ONE (besides Dirk) is playing their game. It’s like they all went home or even worse actually forgot how to play the game. And while everyone in their comments seem to be putting a big part of the blame on Butler, believe me there is plenty of blame to go around. Butler is just the damn tip of the iceberg. While Dirk may be THE MAN on this MAVS team, this team DOES NOT RUN without Kidd. And if he’s not playing his best ball…..defending, getting steals, rebounds, assists and NOT turning the ball over the MAVS aren’t going to go anywhere. It ALL begins and ends with J-Kidd and for whatever reason with the exception of game 1, Kidd is NOT playing like the J-Kidd we all know he can be. And if Kidd is not bringing it EVERY NIGHT, then the MAVS have ZERO chance of winning this series. It does NOT matter what Dirk does or Caron doesn’t do….if J-Kidd does not run this ball club like he did during the regular season then it’s over before it even started.

  • southtexas

    Hey…

    it’s not like the Mavs are bad, they just don’t have that “back to the wall, ice water in the veins, willing to rotate again and again in a single possession” that the Spurs have absorbed from the Alamo.

    teamwork, trust, and defense; offense comes later.

  • Cynthia

    Another reason this series has gone so wrong has been the coaching. Carlisle has stunk it up, big time….being outcoached every single game except the first one. He’s not looked this bad since he’s been here. Kinda reminds me of Avery. OMG, that IS BAD.