San Antonio Spurs 94, Dallas Mavericks 90

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 24, 2010 under Recaps, Roster Moves | 14 Comments to Read

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

He who chooses the beginning of the road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determines the end.
-Harry Emerson Fosdick

The conclusions of the past two games have been shockingly similar given their vastly different contexts. The features of Game 3 were greatly exaggerated in Game 2, with the highs even more impressive and the lows even more debilitating, but remarkably enough, both exhilarating contests wrapped up in more or less the same capacity: the Mavs overcame a slow start to put themselves in position to win, but the formula that brought Dallas their crucial, game-changing run had become stale by late in the fourth. A bounce of the ball here, a turnover there, and Tony Parker from everywhere, and the Mavs’ hopes of taking a 2-1 series lead completely dissipated.

Dallas stayed competitive thanks to an incredibly successful stint by the three-guard lineup, with J.J. Barea (14 points, four assists, four rebounds), Jason Terry (17 points, 6-of-15 FG, two assists), and Jason Kidd (seven points, 1-of-6 FG, five assists, seven rebounds) completely erasing Shawn Marion (seven points and two turnovers in 17 minutes) and Caron Butler (two points and three turnovers in 15 minutes) from the rotation. Aside from a three and a half minute stint from Marion in the beginning of the third quarter, neither Shawn nor Caron played in the second half. Barea certainly earned his playing time, as he put together his most impressive game of the playoffs and complemented his much-needed offense with solid defense. Kidd and Terry, however, were present for the Mavs’ crucial third quarter run, but uncomfortably silent for large stretches of the game.

The Spurs defense was just too strong, and they worked the Mavs into 24-second violations and late-clock shots with alarming frequency. Dallas seemed rattled in getting into their offensive success, which is as much a credit to the Spurs’ excellent defensive coverage as it was their physicality. Blowing the whistle on whistle-blowing is pretty useless, but if nothing else I should at least point out the differential in foul calls (25 called on the Mavs to 16 on the Spurs) and free throw attempts (26 for the Spurs to 15 for the Mavs). Those differentials are obviously distorted by the shot attempts taken by the two teams, and particularly so by the Mavs’ reluctance to drive to the basket in the fourth quarter, but it should still be noted. And it is so noted.

Dirk Nowitzki was fantastic again (35 points on 23 shots, seven rebounds), but he was but one man against an army. Manu Ginobili rebounded from a scoreless first half and a nasal fracture to finish with 15 points, Tim Duncan (25 points, five rebounds, four assists, five turnovers) was as terrific inside as you’d expect him to be, and Tony Parker (26 points on 13 shots) came off the bench to three tough shots in a row to finish off the Mavs. All three were long, two-point jumpers, and at least somewhat contested if not heavily so. Parker knocked them down without hesitation, and each ensuing fist pump was a punch in the gut to the Mavericks’ cause.

Also, get this: the Spurs didn’t make a single three-pointer. Not one. Dallas had eight makes out of 20 attempts (40%), but even that wasn’t quite enough to make up for the Spurs’ superior defense and Parker’s resolve. There were stretches of this game where the Mavs looked rather terrific defensively, largely thanks to the effectiveness of the zone. Kidd roamed within the zone D to add even more pressure on San Antonio’s ball-handlers, and the Spurs were forced into turnovers and difficult shots. It was that defense that had Dallas up by nine points in the third quarter, but Manu’s penetration, the threat of Duncan around the rim, and Parker’s shooting were ultimately the Mavs’ undoing.

Maybe having Caron Butler or Shawn Marion in at the end of the game helps, and maybe it doesn’t. Either way, Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea played essentially the entire second half, with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry not far behind. There was a lot riding on what had to be tired legs, and despite what was, at times, a rather resilient effort, the Mavs fumbled this one away. They had a win in their grasp, but couldn’t seal it, and should the series end up going to the Spurs, Games 2 and 3 will be the ones that got away.

More analysis to come, along with closing thoughts.

  • Brian

    First, that was one hellofa game on both sides, intense and insanely fun to watch. And kudos on the pic of Tony Parker (I’m already sick of seeing that broken nose of Ginobili).
    I thought your article was dead on, and I appreciate your honesty, as a Spurs fan, for crediting the tenacious San Antonio defense with being their key to victory. However, I must point out a flaw in your mentioning of the foul discrepency. I know you aren’t complaining, bad-mouthing the officiating, or trying to discredit a San Antonio victory, but I just think it’s important to point out the 3 fouls the Mavs “had” to commit toward the end of the game, much as Mav fans struck back with the same logic concerning Game 1′s foul discrepency. If these fouls are omitted, the PFs are 22-16 and free throws 20-15. Certainly nothing out of the ordinary.
    Game 4 should be another classic.

  • Steve

    Maybe it’s hindsight after a loss but how could Butler not play in the second half? It’s hypocritical of Carlisle actually. Beaubois doesn’t play even though he’s almost always played well when given the chance because he lacks the requisite experience. But then Garlisle throws away Butler’s experience and track record and benches him on the basis of one lousy half, choosing to ride it out with a spark plug player who is a liability in crunch time because he doesn’t give Nowitzki the ball. (Nowitzki serves as a battering ram to free him, Barea, the Napoleanic star, to attack the rim). Plenty of good players have had lousy first halfs and been able to pick it up in the second. Why not afford Butler at least the chance. If it doesn’t work, then by all means, bench him but not before, not before.

  • chris

    Given the level of Dirk’s, JKidd’s, JJBarea’s, and JET’s defense, are we surprised by the outcome?

    Please, someone remind me why we signed Matrix and traded for Caron.

    This sounds weird, but Carlisle was a bit too much like Josh McDaniels last night and outsmarted himself to a loss. Totally over-thinking the process. Caron offers better overall offense and defense, and during a physical game like last night’s, we have a guy named TOUGH JUICE on the bench? Are you seriously kidding me?

  • Cynthia

    THANKFULLY I wasn’t at home to watch the game last night. I did tivo it, but what’s the point? I do agree with Steve though. Tired legs DID play a huge role in this loss. Not playing Caron makes absolutley ZERO sense. And letting Roddy ride the pine in these games imop is a MAJOR coaching blunder. The players on the floor are ultimately responsible in either winning or losing the game, but the coach has to put said players in the position to do so and Carlisle did NO SUCH THING. Coach….this loss is STICKLY ON YOU.

  • Cynthia

    And who among us thinks the MAVS will win the next 3 out of 4 games? It’d take miracle imop. Let’s see…..first a #1 seed goes down to a #8 seed and now a #2 seed is most likely (since I DON’T believe in miracles) to go down to a #7 seed. I wonder if that is yet another NBA record about to be broken. What a complete disappointment this has been so far. And who gives a @#!$ about the trade if the players don’t play to their capabilities or are not even utilized at all? And our coach has been utterly dominated by Pop these last 2 games. This totally blows my mind. UNBELIEVEABLE.

  • Kirk

    Caron is shooting 40% for the series, Manu is shooting in the mid-50′s. Caron can’t stay with any Spurs guard at all.

    Look I like Butler, since he plays so hard, but he isn’t bringing anything to this series. He, like Howard before him, thinks he’s just a bit better than he is.

    The loss is on everyone but Dirk and Barea who had excellent games last night. Dirk’s teammates are wasting phenominal performances.

  • Kirk

    Cynthia, you didnt even watch the game. It was a great game with some serious back and forth. If anyone other than Dirk could hit a bucket or if we got our hands on some of the many Spurs offensive rebounds in the first half, we wouldnt even be having this discussion. I tend to agree with your point about 3 of the next 4, but this isn’t on the Coach. The coach doesn’t shoot the shots or make terrible turnovers.

    Haywood and Butler have simply not played well. Same goes for Kidd, game one aside.

  • Andrew

    I understand Carlisle being frustrated with Butler and Marion, but it’s not like it’s a coincidence that Parker had 10, Manu 9, and Hill 6 in the 4th being guarded by Barea, Terry, and Kidd.

  • Andrew

    It was a great move by Carlisle to bench Marion and Butler. I know it’s easy to think that Butler and Marion necessarily provide good defense, but Marion and Butler are both too slow for the Spurs’ guards and were providing nothing on offense. I like Charley Rosen’s idea to permanently bench Marion. This has been three no-show games in a row for him.

  • finzent

    Some serious underestimating of Butler and especially his defense going on in these comments…especially when the dude who played his minutes in the fourth is JJ Barea. JJ had a good game, but he was destroyed in the fourth!

    Other than that, I call for some calm, guys! Losing a close game on the road against the Spurs is not the end of the world. This thing is not over yet.

  • First Andrew

    I know we’re all frustrated with how Marion and Butler are playing offensively, but how it possible to say that they’re too slow for the Spurs’ guards when, again, Manu scored 11 of his 15 in the second half, Parker 12 of his 23, and Hill 12 of his 17?

  • Andrew

    Andrew,
    If you have been watching this series, you will notice that Parker and Ginobli have owned anyone who has tried to guard them. I’m not saying Barea, Kidd, and Terry did a good job guarding Parker, Ginobli, and Hill, but Butler and Marion weren’t doing a good job the entire series either. The reason is that Parker and Ginoblie are simply, empirically, much much faster than Marion and Butler (and Kidd and Terry). Carlisle realized this, and decided to put people on the floor who might be able to score. Butler’s defense (especially on quick guards) is overrated and Marion is way slower than he used to be.

  • harry

    I really can see the Mavs winning three of the next four. Am I crazy? Maybe. However, as a long time fan, I remember this team winning Vs. the Jazz and the Rockets in first round series people thought were already lost.

    On the benching of Marion and Butler I actually agree with Carsile. There is a difference between great individual defense and great team defense. The first half had way, way too many offensive rebounds and those two wern’t giving you much on the offensive end either. A combined 5 rebounds and 9 points just doesn’t cut it. A combined +/- of -25 doesn’t either.The five turnovers kind of suck as well. 0 steals and 0 blocks. Watching the game I was rather relieved to go into the half only down three. It felt like we should have been down 13.

    The JJ and Jet combo was +11 with, yes, 5 rebounds and only 3 turnovers. I mean, really, which one would you go with?

    Dirk was absolutely amazing.Inspired. Soft? Finesse game? Whatever, that dude will kick your face in.

  • rick

    Carisle! please play stevenson and beaubois!