You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- The Mavericks used to be a low-turnover team, but this season has featured a startling number of giveaways (Dallas ranks 17th in turnover rate, far from the elite status they’ve held in that category over the last few years) and last night stood as a comical representation of the team’s inability to control the ball. There were passes to no one in particular. By my count, Maverick players dribbled the ball off their own feet at least three times. So it was for the entire evening, as Dallas committed unforced error after unforced error. San Antonio obviously deserves credit for capitalizing on the Mavericks’ mistakes, but the home team dug their own grave in many respects.
- Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, 4-11 FG, three rebounds, three turnovers) may have been an effective defender against Andre Miller and Monta Ellis, but Tony Parker (33 points, 14-22, four rebounds, three assists) had a field day against him. It didn’t help that Tyson Chandler was in foul trouble throughout the game and that Brendan Haywood only decided to play effective D in the second half, but Beaubois just couldn’t stick Parker in half-court settings nor did he — and this is one of the weaker elements of Beaubois’ defensive game at this point — get back in order to adequately defend in transition. Parker is dangerous in any context, but particularly so when given a full head of steam. He had that on the break, obviously, but Parker was also able to drive effectively after shedding Beaubois around screens. Guarding either Parker or Manu Ginobili seems like a miserable task, but Beaubois — and his help — will need to be better in that area if Dallas has any chance of topping San Antonio at some point in the playoffs.
- This game seemed a bit familiar. Dirk Nowitzki was incredible, but lacked the high-volume scoring help necessary to put Dallas over the top. The Mavs had their moments on offense and defense, but always seemed a step behind. Tim Duncan (22 points, 8-13 FG, eight rebounds, two steals, three blocks) still scored efficiently, even though Dallas had capable defenders in front of him at all times. San Antonio put a lot of pressure on the Mavs’ ball-handlers, and they buckled. The margin between these two teams really isn’t that large, but over the last two seasons the Spurs have held a definite edge. I’m not sure how likely that would be to change if these two clubs were to meet in the postseason, as this game seemed like a natural extension of last year’s first round playoff series.
- Shawn Marion suffered a right wrist injury that kept him from playing in the second half. X-rays on the wrist were negative — which is great news, because Dallas can’t afford to lose anyone at this point — but the Mavs certainly missed Marion over the final 24 minutes. Frequent double-teams deterred the Mavs from working through Nowitzki as much as they should have in the first half, but Marion carried the offense in the meantime. San Antonio doesn’t really have a good defensive counter for Marion, so he went to work in the post against Ginobili and a cast of smaller guards, and drove into the paint from the weak side after some nice ball reversals. His runners and hooks won’t fall every night, they did on this one, and the Mavs sure could have benefited from his offensive production in the second half. That said: Marion wasn’t exactly at his defensive finest, as he completely blew his coverage of Ginobili on multiple occasions. It’s nights like these that make one wonder how Dallas was ever an elite defensive team at all.
- To those who still cling to the fourth quarter as all-important, take a look back at the tape of the first quarter from this game. Sure, the Mavs could have played better in the fourth, but this game was lost in the first frame.
- Good to know that using Dirk in high screen-and-roll action at the top of the key still works as an antidote to double-teaming. Nowitzki created a mismatch almost every time he set a high pick for Kidd, Terry, Barea, or Beaubois, either by causing the guard to switch onto him or baiting another defender to slide over in order to help. From that point, Nowitzki would simply begin backing down his defender, and turn to fire over them (while spinning away from incoming help on some occasions) from the free throw line. Dallas lost, but this approach (in addition to Marion’s post-ups, the shots created from Beaubois’ penetration, and other stratagems) does offer some hope of how the Mavs might counter a team like the Spurs in the future. There were blunders aplenty, but it’s not as if this game didn’t give Dallas something to work with.