The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 104, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 24, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-Play Shot Chart Game 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.

  • This game was a demonstration of how incredibly simple basketball can be at times; although intense basketball observers attempt to break the game down into dozens of very complicated, interrelated factors, Dallas was ultimately bested by effort, the extra pass, and the open three-pointer. And now, I will proceed to give you 16 more bullet points that are by no means arbitrary, but nonetheless seem rather silly in a game like this one.
  • Manu Ginobili — as a defender — was two or three steps ahead of Rodrigue Beaubois for this entire game. It’s not uncommon to see a young playmaker be stifled by an older, craftier defender, but Ginobili’s ability to peg and deflect Beaubois’ moves was downright uncanny. It’s to Beaubois’ credit that he still managed to notch 10 points and five assists, but even that passable stat line doesn’t convey just how thoroughly marked Beaubois was throughout this particular game.
  • It was certainly noteworthy that even with Shawn Marion’s return to the lineup — and after expressing some concern about Rodrigue Beaubois’ minutes inflating as a product of being in the starting lineup — Rick Carlisle elected to keep Beaubois in the opening set. Lineup variants involving Marion, Beaubois, Jason Kidd, and Dirk Nowitzki haven’t really played enough minutes together this season to be judged for their merits, but matchups depending, this could be a very sensible starting five (save Ian Mahinmi’s substitution for an injured Brendan Haywood) going forward.
  • Dirk Nowitzki had an absolutely horrific game, in which he provided little impact aside from his willingness to seek out contact and put up shots. It was weary legs, it was San Antonio’s active, dynamic defense, and it was a stark contrast just to highlight Nowitzki’s usual efficiency, but most importantly from a game-specific context: it was an outright disaster. There’s simply no other way to look at his 5-of-21 shooting mark, his inability to make an impact on the defensive end, and his noncommittal work on the boards. I’m not saying Nowitzki wasn’t trying, but next to the exemplary effort that the Spurs put forth, it sure seemed like it at times.

  • Not that it was all entirely his fault. By the second half, Nowitzki was playing for the whistle. His forays into traffic were admirable in a sense, but without the reward of a foul call, those trips are merely wild flings at the basket. Nowitzki was right to do what he did, but something between intent and product — his initiation of contact, the officials’ perception of the play, etc. — derailed any hope the Mavs had for efficient offense.
  • San Antonio obviously didn’t need Tony Parker to win this game, but they certainly missed him at times; much of the Spurs’ drive-and-kick action was effective due to the Mavs’ poor recovery, but some of it was quite aimless. Green and Gary Neal — effective players though they certainly are — just don’t bring the same threat with their drives into the paint, giving Dallas far more room for rotational error.
  • From Dwaine Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “When asked was he surprised about having a Did Not Play-Coaches Decision tonight vs. the Spurs, #Mavs F Lamar Odom said: “I buried a child.”
  • Jason Kidd didn’t at all have a bad game (in fact, his four three-point makes were sorely needed to keep this from devolving into something much darker), but his efforts to get the Mavs out in transition during the bulk of this game didn’t quite pan out. Kidd often had running mates, but San Antonio did a terrific job of curbing Dallas’ opportunities in transition.
  • That’s no small task, either — not when the Mavs are so skilled in the art of the transition trigger, and certainly not when the Spurs are so active on the offensive glass. The balance between rebounding effort and transition focus is one that every team encounters in every single game, and San Antonio navigated that dynamic in a particularly masterful way on Friday night.
  • The idea that Danny Green has already been waived twice in his career is baffling in retrospect, but as a basketball fan I’m glad the Spurs finally saw the value in keeping him around (they, along with the Cavaliers, were among the teams that waived him). Green lives and plays in a zone of role player that could be of use on any competent basketball team, and he seems to have found a role of particular comfort with these Spurs.
  • Boris Diaw expended more energy in running up to set a single pick than he did in his last two months in Charlotte. Power to him and the Spurs if he pans out in San Antonio, but allow Diaw’s disinterest to serve as an example of just one of the many, many difficulties facing basement-level teams. When you’re lottery bound, even securing talent isn’t enough.
  • Jason Terry got off to a terrific start, but went on to shoot just 3-of-10 from the field in the second half. For all of JET’s first-half strength, he offered such little relief when everything fell apart. I don’t think this game offered anything terribly unique with regard to the lingering concerns over the Mavs’ offense or its structuring, but for whatever reason — and fatigue seems to be a very legitimate explanation in this case, if also a convenient one — Terry and the rest of the Mavs’ supplementary scorers couldn’t offer much in consolation.
  • On that note: Nowitzki aside, no Mav really played all that badly. Vince Carter was a bit of a non-factor, Kidd’s influence was a bit more muted than it could have been, and Beaubois did struggle to outwit Ginobili, but Terry, Marion, Ian  Mahinmi had relatively decent games. Decent just isn’t anywhere near good enough against a Spurs offense this potent, particularly with Nowitzki struggling as he did.
  • This game’s final margin turned out rather ridiculously, but the Mavs have to be particularly frustrated with the fact that this was a very winnable game. Even with everything that San Antonio did right and Dallas did wrong (or at least poorly), this game was within reach as late as the mid-way point of the fourth quarter. The Mavs never did really close the gap, but all it took to tilt a competitive game was a pair of brutal 12-0 and 8-0 Spur runs to transition from the third to the fourth.
  • DeJuan Blair is generally not very good at defending Nowitzki, but he did a perfectly decent job in spot defensive duty on Friday. Just about every Spur defender under the sun got their shot at Dirk, but in light of some of Blair’s greater failures in his efforts to defend Nowitzki in the past, I was certainly surprised at his effectiveness on that end — however coincidental the results may have been. That’s the thing with Blair in this particular matchup; I don’t feel like he plays Nowitzki particularly poorly, but merely is outmatched in the fact that he can’t at all alter Nowitzki’s release. That could make his defensive performance in games like this one — where Nowitkzi’s shot just wasn’t falling — a bit deceptive, but Blair’s efforts were respectable nonetheless.
  • That said, Stephen Jackson seemed to give Nowitzki the most trouble — a notion that’s particularly intriguing given the way Nowitzki treated their matchup in these two teams’ last meeting. Put as much stock in that as you’d like, in light of Nowitzki’s overall struggles, the game’s officiating, etc.
  • When did the P.A. announce at the AT&T center add the Heat/American Airlines Arena-esque “DOS MINUTOS!” to his repertoire? Why was I not informed — or, more reasonably, how did I ignore it for all of this time?
  • Jose Santos

     No analysis of the OT Rockets game on Saturday?