The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 106, San Antonio Spurs 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 18, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • What began as a great offensive performance by Dirk Nowitzki (who finished the first half with 19 points) turned into a wonderful overall performance by the Mavs’ offense. Nowitzki (27 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers) was absolutely brilliant in both a one-on-one capacity and as a spot-up shooter, but when San Antonio began to throw hard doubles at Dirk on the catch, he wasted no time in finding open shooters on the weak side. Throwing a pass to a shooter in the opposite corner off of a double team is a bit of a risk, but Nowitzki’s height and experience with this kind of swarming coverage make him uniquely suited for that kind of play. Nowitzki was only able to notch three points in the fourth quarter (when the Spurs made their defensive shift), but Dallas shot 5-of-9 from three-point range to the frame, with many of those makes coming off of double-team exploitation.
  • Another thing that’s abundantly clear: Nowitzki takes his matchup with Stephen Jackson — he of that infamous 2007 playoff letdown — incredibly seriously. Gregg Popovich wasted no time in getting Jackson acclimated, and pitted him against Nowitzki almost immediately, despite the fact that more conventional Nowitzki foes (Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter) were also on the floor. From that moment, Nowitzki’s entire approach shifted; he sought to back down Jackson relentlessly, and noticeably increased the physicality of his pre-shot maneuverings. Jackson did what he could to deny Nowitzki early position and fight him for every inch, but, well, it’s not 2007 anymore.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 8-16 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) will naturally receive praise for the quality of his performance, but in truth this was a nice outing for the entirety of the Mavs’ guard core. Jason Kidd lived up to everything that could possibly be expected of him and more, as he connected on four threes out of five attempts, racked up double-digit assists, and played great help defense to indirectly force a few turnovers. Jason Terry put up 17 points on just 10 shot as a continuation of one of his strongest stretches of the season. Vince Carter, too, put up 10 points on 50 percent shooting, just to complete the picture. The fact that all four of these players were able to positively influence the game is a wonderful sign for the resurrection of the Mavs’ depth, particularly considering how heavily the Mavs were leaning on this group in the absence of both Delonte West and Shawn Marion.

  • The good news: Tony Parker was held to just 13 points, which in this day and age is akin to some minor miracle. The bad news: that total is sandbagged by a particular poor night from the line (3-of-7), as well as the fact that the Spurs’ bigs were often painfully open out of the pick and roll. Brandan Wright and Ian Mahinmi did many things well on this night, but their focus on containing Parker in pick-and-roll situations left Dallas exposed on the interior. That responsibility also falls on guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Lamar Odom, and Brian Cardinal — who would be schematically responsible for rotating to contest those rolls to the rim — but the Spurs’ most effective pick-and-roll lineups often include too many shooters for defending bigs to properly rotate on the back side. Such is the quandary that all of San Antonio’s opponents face, and though Dallas handled the situation relatively well, Parker’s (5-12 FG, 11 assists, one turnover) scoring was effectively traded off with Tiago Splitter’s (7-11 FG, 15 points).
  • What a bounce:

  • Two of the Mavericks’ top rebounders sat this one out, and in their stead the Dallas collective had one of its best rebounding performances of the season. The Spurs shot nearly 50 percent in a game of below average pace, and yet the Mavs racked up the rebounds, finishing with six different players registering five rebounds or more. Odom and Cardinal were not among them; Beaubois’ season-high eight boards was nearly a team-high as well, as the Maverick guards spread the rebounding wealth and made sure they were the first to the ball.
  • For the sake of not overlooking Beaubois performance, I’ll offer this: he’s recently demonstrated an impressive ability to work the baseline. Beaubois has long been an effective off-post baseline cutter, but only recently has he begun to productively utilize that area of the floor as a ball handler. In theory, the baseline is an area filled with the potential for peril — a single wrong step can force the play to end with a turnover, and any shots taken from that zone are victim to some optical trickery (Don’t underestimate the weirdness of seeing the rim flat against the crowd without the backboard’s framing). Yet Beaubois has grown increasingly comfortable in hitting a pull-up jumper off a bounce or two from the corner, or going reverse for a stretch of a layup attempt.
  • Jacob

    I noticed Dirk opting to stay on Bonner rather than try to rotate over to Stephen Jackson in the corner. He missed the open 3, and I don't think Odom's late closeout had that much to do with it. Obviously you never like to give any decent shooter a wide open shot, but I often see defenders rotate from guys like Ray Allen or Jason Terry to cover the open man just to get killed by the extra pass. 

    I think Carlisle's the master of choosing the lesser of multiple evils, whether it's allowing Jackson the shot rather than Bonner or giving Tony Parker makable jump shots or goading Westbrook into driving into a zone defense or tricking Felton into taking too many shots.