Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.
Sunday night, the Mavericks attempted 34 free throws to the Spurs 14. If you’ve been a Mavs fan since before 2006, you know how it feels to be on the short end of this stick.
The game was called very close, which was surprising knowing the previous battles between these two teams. This is a long-standing, heated rivalry that is typically very physical. The referees haven’t been known to call ticky-tack fouls when these two teams meet. They’ve usually just let the players play. Last night that wasn’t the case, as almost every small touch foul was called…on the Spurs.
It’s hard to argue that the game was called fairly, because the Mavericks still hadn’t committed a foul yet in the 3rd quarter when the Spurs were in the bonus. And this was before the “Clamp-a-Damp” technique thrown out by Popovich.
By no means am I complaining about this. Sometimes teams just get the calls, and it can happen on any given night. I highly doubt Bennett Salvatore said to himself before the game, “You know, I feel bad for the way I’ve treated the Mavericks before, so I kind of owe them one.” Things like this just happen every once in a while, and it’s fairly normal for playoff games.
Looking at the season series, the Mavs attempted 96 Free Throw Attempts to the Spurs 84. In games one and four, the Mavericks had more FTA (27 to 19 in game one and 28 to 20 in game 4). In games two and three, the Spurs had more (24 to 21 in game two and 21 to 20 in game three). The only game the Spurs won was the first game, where the Mavericks shot 8 more free throws than the Spurs. On the season, though, the Spurs have been better at getting to the line. The Spurs finished the season tied for 18th in the league with 1,969 FTAs and the Mavericks were ranked 25th with 1,870 FTAs. Bascially, neither team has been spectacular at getting to the line, which is suprising considering Tony Parker’s driving game and Dirk’s knack of getting fouled on jumpers.
How does this affect the players? Well, the whole reason Popovich called for intentional fouls on Dampier was to get the ball out of Nowitzki’s hands, to take the Mavericks out of the flow of their offense. It didn’t quite work, but with the Mavs aiming to push the tempo, having to stop and inbound or shoot free throws would technically take them out of their game, and made Dallas run more half-court offense. The Spurs may have been cautious defensively due to the frequency of foul calls, but they maintained their focus and energy on the offensive end. San Antonio shot 50% from the field as a result, but they didn’t seem to adjust to how closely the game was being called. Matt Bonner drove a few more times than Spurs fans probably wanted him to, but Parker and Ginobili didn’t drive as much as they normally do. A more aggressive approach by the Spurs’ guards would have almost forced the referees to call more fouls on the Mavericks.
Basically, Game One was an anomaly to how these teams have played all season. Between the two teams, the free throw attempts are very similar, so don’t expect this to become a trend, particularly after the Spurs have had a chance to revise their approach. If anything, expect Game Two to be loosely called, with the referees allowing a lot of contact. After having a chance to review the film from Game One, it’s likely that the officiating crew will give both teams more leeway on defense.
That being said, here are some points to look at moving forward:
- Dampier played very good defense on Tim Duncan Sunday night. Haywood had 10 points on 4-5 shooting. In close games during this series, don’t be surprised if Carlisle does offense/defense substitutions between these two.
- Caron Butler (22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) had his best game as a Maverick. It is absolutely essential for him to keep playing that well if the Mavs are to make a deep playoff run.
- Jason Terry had another off night, though he did hit a jumper and a corner three late in the fourth that could boost his confidence going into the next game. For a streaky shooter, a little confidence is all he needs to go from a slump to a monster series.
- Gregg Popovich is one of the all-time best at making adjustments. Expect an entirely different game plan Wednesday night (especially against Dirk), because that’s just how Popovich works.
- As Rob said, I doubt we’ll see Beaubois this series, he’s just too inexperienced and Barea has had some great games against the Spurs in the past. I do think Najera will make a couple of appearances, especially if Popovich tries the Clamp-a-Damp again.