You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- If one was to look at the final score without knowing anything about the game, it appears to be a real improvement from earlier Mavs-Spurs match ups. It was not. That the Mavericks whittled a 26 point Spurs lead to four is nice, but that they were down 26 at all is cause for alarm. With Tim Duncan out, Gregg Popovich not coaching, and Manu Ginobli only playing eight minutes, Dallas should have been able to stay with the Spurs. Instead, team defense was atrocious and the offense stagnant for most of the game.
- I’m starting to get concerned about Dirk Nowitzki’s role. While he had 14 shot attempts against the Spurs, he often goes very long stretches of time without an attempt. Dirk took one shot to start the second quarter, then didn’t shoot again until just over a minute left in the period. While he was on the bench for some of that 10 minute stretch, I believe Dirk should be the focal point for consistent stretches as opposed to short outbursts. He is making a concerted effort to get his teammates involved, as evidenced by his four assists in the first quarter. But outside of the other starters and Chris Kaman, I don’t like Dirk passing up a shot to feed Mike James on the baseline as he did with 6:45 left in the fourth.
- Dallas could not find an effective pick and roll coverage against Tony Parker (23 points, 10 assists) or Gary Neal (18 points, six assists). Carlisle attempted to trap the ball handler with Kaman in first half, which resulted in DeJuan Blair (22 points on 10 of 13 shooting) going off as the roll man. Both ball handlers were easily able to pass around any trap attempt. In the second half, Carlisle elected to have Darren Collison (who still seems shocked every time he runs into a screen) trail Parker over the top of screens and Parker responded by hitting a variety of really tough shots.
- Well would you look at that, a Roddy Beaubois (19 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and five free throws) sighting! He scored more points against the Spurs than he did the entire month of December (15). It’d be a boost for Dallas if they could somehow get some burn from Roddy. He’s incredibly athletic and instinctual, and his play can change the pace for a Dallas team that can be athletically challenged, particularly in the half court.
- Someone needs to have an intervention for Jae Crowder and his shot selection. Every single shot he attempted was 17 feet or farther from the rim. In the first quarter he pulled up to take an uncontested jumper on a fast break when he had a clear attempt at the rim. He tried to make up for this in the second period by attacking the rim on a fast break, only to commit a turnover by running over Manu Ginobli. Later in the quarter he stole the ball from Tiago Splitter after a rebound and decided to shoot a three while at least two of his teammates were not yet past half court. In the fourth, when Dallas was making a fast and furious run, Crowder shot a contested 17 footer from the baseline that caused Jeff Van Gundy to question whether Crowder understands his role on the team. He missed every single shot until a prayer three fell when the game was out of reach. Jae needs to spend a little more time modeling his game after Shawn Marion and a little less emulating Josh Howard.
- If Dallas hopes to make the playoffs, losing games against short handed teams is no longer an option. Currently, eleventh in the West, Dallas still has an outside chance to make the playoffs. Portland and Minnesota are stumbling and the Lakers manage to keep lowering the bar. If the Mavericks take care of business and either Utah or Houston stumble down the stretch, the eight seed is still in reach. Some luck will be involved, but in order for that to be a factor, Dallas has to close out these winnable games.
Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.