“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.“
It’s over. The ending wasn’t pretty nor did it provide much in the way of closure, but the Mavs have played out the regular season to its less than thrilling conclusion. Dallas won in the least glamorous way imaginable: they beat a Manu and Duncan-less Spurs team to avoid any significant questions about a final-game meltdown, but failed to rest their starters or build upon the last week’s success.
Not much to take away from this 48 minutes either way. Neither the Spurs nor the Mavs are as bad as they looked, and neither pulled out all the stops. For Dallas, it was about winning with the least amount of effort possible, which was something of a success (only 28 minutes for Jason Kidd) but also a bit of a failure (fairly competitive late into the fourth quarter). Ultimately, the contest itself mattered for little other than its result. Both sides got what they wanted, as evidenced by Gregg Popovich folding before the first round of betting and Rich Carlisle seeing the game out until the very end.
Still, due to the specific circumstances facing both teams, it’s safe to say that last night’s events were rather unique. Among the things you shouldn’t count on seeing on a regular basis during the Mavs’ series against the Spurs:
- The obvious: Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan did not play. I’d suspect Pop might alter that strategy for the playoffs.
- Dirk Nowitzki (19 points, 8-20 FG, five rebounds, five assists) will not be so wide open. Dirk’s poor shooting percentage certainly wasn’t because the Spurs player particularly good defense, and Nowitzki had clean look after clean look from mid-range. He just couldn’t convert, which is another thing I wouldn’t count on.
- DeJuan Blair finished with 27 and 23 in 37 minutes.
- The Spurs shot 9.1% from three-point range. San Antonio is the eighth best three-point shooting team in the league, and they averaged 36.2% for the season.
- Between them, the Mavs and Spurs averaged 95.4 offensive efficiency. That’s nearly 12 full points below their combined season average, and marked an especially dismal night that I’m sure both teams would like to forget.
- George Hill played just five minutes. After hitting a layup in the first quarter, Hill stepped on a cameraman sitting baseline and tweaked his ankle. Hill left the game, and did not return. Count on him to be healthy by the time Game 1 rolls around on Sunday night, or at least healthy enough to play more than five minutes. As such, Garrett Temple (14 points, three assists), who filled in for Hill after he headed to the locker room, won’t be as significant of a player once the games start to carry serious weight.
- Jason Kidd (18 points, 5-12 FG, three assists, seven rebounds ) had to carry the Mavs with his scoring at times. With a more typical rotation in place and hopefully more interested teammates, that shouldn’t be the case come this weekend.
- Neither team looked particularly motivated to really come out and play. For the Spurs, it was as simple as pulling a few starters and mailing in the night. The Mavs were definitely thrown by the move, and were thrown into a funk as a result. This is hardly the first time Dallas has come out flat against a team missing its star players, but what we’ve learned in the past is that games like these are rarely representative of either team’s level of effort or execution under slightly more normal circumstances.