Maverick Hoops Summit: Previewing Mavs-Spurs

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 17, 2010 under Previews | 8 Comments to Read


You’ve already read my thoughts on the Mavs’ series against the Spurs, and if not I implore you to do so. However, the beauty of the internet lies in the multitude of perspectives that are readily available just a click or two away, and I’ve brought a few of those perspectives here to The Two Man Game for a media roundtable of sorts. Zac Crain (FrontBurner/D Magazine), Mark Followill (TXA 21/Fox Sports Southwest), Jeff ‘Skin’ Wade (103.3 FM ESPN Radio, TXA 21/Fox Sports Southwest, ESPN Dallas), Tim MacMahon and Jeff Caplan (ESPN Dallas), Art Garcia (NBA.com), Mike Fisher and David Lord (DallasBasketball.com), and Gina Miller (TXA 21) were kind enough to join me for a discussion of the upcoming series.

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Rob Mahoney: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are pretty good at the whole basketball thing, but the Spurs are notorious for consistently boasting a capable crop of role players. This year’s supporting cast may not be as daunting as in years’ past, but which of the non-’Big Three’ Spurs do you anticipate giving the Mavs the most trouble?

Zac Crain: Even though he hasn’t fully clicked this season, I’ll say Richard Jefferson. Roger Mason is a feast or famine shooter, and George Hill is, at times, worrisome. But with Manu back being, seemingly, a fully operational Death Star, I think the defensive attention the Mavs will have to pay him might open things up for Jefferson a bit. Remember: his best game as a Spur came against the Mavs. If nothing else, it will likely mean Caron Butler expends more energy on that side of the court.

Mark Followill: I gotta go with George Hill, assuming (of course) he is healthy.  Hill was great while Tony Parker recently missed 16 games, averaging 15.5 points and shooting 50% as the Spurs went 11-5. Hill can drive, shoot 3′s and defend, and even if he returns to a role coming off the bench he will probably be on the floor at the end of games. If crusty old Gregg Popovich says you’re his favorite player, then that’s good enough for me in terms of judging whether or not this kid has the heart and toughness to be a player under the intense playoff spotlight.

Jeff ‘Skin’ Wade
: I was pretty worried about George Hill and without knowing the extent of his ankle injury, I’d have to say I’m still worried about him. As best as I could tell, he didn’t look to be in too bad of shape when he left the floor Wednesday night, but that doesn’t really tell you anything. I’ll assume he’ll be ready and my worries begin there. That guy does everything well. And I know people like to goof on Matt Bonner ’cause he doesn’t look like a baller and he has quite possibly the worst nickname in the history of pro sports (can’t even bring myself to type it here), but he burns you on pick and pops and in the minimum possession game that we anticipate the Spurs will want, those threes are painful. If the refs let San Antonio get really physical, then I’ve seen him frustrate Dirk before (the 93-76 Mavs loss in San Antonio last season comes to mind). But hey, he’s no Ryan Bowen, and I’m sure Dirk’s happy about that.

Tim MacMahon: Can I get an injury report on George Hill before giving my answer? He might actually have pushed past Tony Parker to become the Spurs’ third-best player. Richard Jefferson has been a bust, but he’ s still a scoring threat. But if not Hill, DeJuan Blair is the Spur that worries me most. Not sure if Pop will trust the rookie enough to give him significant playoff burn, but he’s a wide-body beast who showed in the regular-season finale that he can give Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood fits.

David Lord: In my crystal ball, no one. Any or all of the SA role players will make some plays (if I have to predict, probably someone will hit a big 3 here or there), but from what I’ve seen, with Parker still feeling his way, the Spurs chances will rest almost entirely on the ability of Duncan and/or Ginobili to have one of those sustained all-world caliber series they have had before and carry the Spurs on their back.

Art Garcia: It starts with George Hill. At this time last year, Popovich didn’t trust rookie. Hill didn’t get off the bench in the Dallas series until it was too late. Now he’s vital. He’s long, athletic, gets to the rim and defends. And don’t sleep on DeJuan Blair, though I’m not sure how much time Pop finds for this year’s rookie.

Mike Fisher: I’m sure the Spurs would like to unleash George Hill and/or DeJuan Blair, but there are some problems there: The more minutes those guys get, the more it means Parker and Duncan, respectively, must be sitting due to rest (or ineffectiveness). It’s one of the issues with teams’ ballyhooed “depth’’ (and an issue the Mavs have, too): Once we get to this point, that ninth guy in the rotation is a minute factor compared to the front-of-the-rotation heavy-lifters.

Hill is twice the player, statistically, that he was a year ago as a rookie. And next year, DeJuan might be twice the player he is now.

But they are still supplementary at best.

And that’s not even counting the facts that if you play Hill, you might be asking him to do it on one ankle … and if you play DeJuan, he’s more likely to collect fouls as he is to go 20/20 again.

Gina Miller: McDyess for what he can do against Dirk defensively. Popovich because he’s such a smart coach and so good at making adjustments.  Richard Jefferson was good against Dallas this year (put up 16 a game) but I have heard from some San Antonio sources that he just doesn’t fit in well.

Jeff Caplan: The first guy I’m sure is on the tip of everyone’s tongue is George Hill, and we’ll just have to wait and see if he’s available and if he is, how well he can move on that bum right ankle. It’s too bad really. Hill’s had a heckuva year and it’s a shame to see the young guy not at full strength. However, my key role guy is none other than Richard Jefferson. He’s had a tough, tough year. Every time I flipped on a Spurs game, Jefferson was getting the mother lode from Popovich. But Jefferson has played better the last month of the season. He’s really excelled playing with Manu Ginobili, who’s probably the closest thing to a Jason Kidd who helped Jefferson thrive in Jersey. Jefferson is rebounding better, he has good size, and can shoot the 3-ball. If he gets hot, and he can, he can be trouble.


RM: In a perfect world, Rodrigue Beaubous’ cup would overfloweth with minutes and shot attempts, and he’d have all the opportunities in the world. Life’s not only a bit less perfect, but far more complicated; despite all of Beaubois’ strengths, he’s still a rookie with zero playoff experience. J.J. Barea, on the other hand, made a killing last year against the Spurs in the playoffs, and his ability to irritate Tony Parker defensively and penetrate against the Spurs’ D was a big reason why Dallas won decisively. How should Rick Carlisle make sense of the dilemma between a proven pest to the Spurs and the seemingly bottomless scoring potential of the rook?

Zac Crain: As much as I love Roddy, I think Carlisle would be smart to stick with the proven formula. In other words: JJ gets the backup minutes and Beaubois gets spot duty. That said, I think Carlisle needs to have the guts to pull the trigger with Roddy if 1) the Mavs need an energy boost and/or 2) Barea isn’t getting it done. He’ll make mistakes, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives. Plus, he’s one of the few Mavs Pop hasn’t (completely) gameplanned for.

Mark Followill
: Great question and more than anything should give us all a taste of the challenges of the job of NBA head coach. When Roddy had a chance to play backup point recently after his 40 point explosion he didnt play like the dynamic scorer we have seen some nights this year. In terms of being able to run the team for the minutes that Kidd is out I’d have to initially give the nod to Barea and turn to Roddy if JJ struggles. I still maintain Roddy’s greatest success this year has been as a scoring 2 next to Kidd. If coaching is all about putting players in the best spot to be successful then Roddy’s likely role is the x-factor guy who can play next to Kidd and ignite the team and crowd with his ability to score.

Jeff ‘Skin’ Wade: Is this where I’m supposed to employ the “x-factor” cliché? I think Rick Carlisle took the most unnecessary beating from the fan base in his handling of Beaubois. I thought he put him in situations where he thought he’d be successful and he was. I thought he was more careful in situations that were a little more “perilous” because so much was on the line for a veteran team. Looking back, not a lot of wriggle room, was there? Barea isn’t even sniffing Roddy’s talents, but he’s a veteran who has performed well in several clutch situations last season when he earned Rick’s confidence, and then as you noted Rob, against San Antone in the playoffs. In a playoff series, execution is so critical and every possession is at a premium. I think that was one of the reasons Pop tightened the reins on Hill at the end of last season – he was learning the point after playing off the ball in college and he was rookie on top of that. There are plenty of Spurs fans who’ll argue that it was a bad decision. Maybe it was, or maybe it was just residue from his naked pics – who knows? I think that If Rick throws Roddy out there it’ll be with J-Kidd and I think Roddy will have an impact. If it was my team, I’d be willing to go down that particular road if JET or Caron are struggling. I fear that if Roddy gets playoff point minutes, it’ll resemble more of his performance in the home game against the Lakers than the road game at Golden State. I think their sets with Roddy at the one would be too limited to be effective in a playoff series and it’d put enormous pressure on your offense to come from transition opportunities created by stops. And keep in mind that a long first round means Kidd will log heavy minutes, so the minutes may be so limited here that it won’t really matter.

Tim MacMahon: I’d like to see Roddy B. get a stint in the second quarter of each game. If he’s feeling it, let him roll. If not, let him ride the bench. But, since Rick Carlisle refuses to ask for my advice, I expect him to ride pine for the playoffs.

David Lord: Ride the hot hand. Both should (and will) get their chances.

Art Garcia: You roll with what you know, at least at first. Barea has been on this stage and performed well, so if I’m Rick, I’m going with J.J. to in the three-guard look and to back up Kidd. But if Barea struggles, I think we’ve all seen enough from Roddy B to throw him out there. The rookie appears fearless and, if given the chance, could make a big play … for either team.

Mike Fisher: Many Mavs-watchers have given up trying to predict Rick’s handling of Roddy B. Many Mavs-watchers have also gone nuts trying to understand it. The end result is obviously positive; Beaubois came from nowhere (oh, OK, Pointe-à-Pitre) to a place where he is statistically the greatest rookie perimeter shooter in NBA history. (Yes, really: at 51.8 FG percent, 40.9 3-pointers percent and 80.8 FT percent, he’s the only rookie guard ever to enter “The 50/40/80 Club.’’

My argument is that represents evidence that this isn’t the normal rookie. My argument continues: Roddy B is literally the only person in that locker room who hasn’t been through these sort of basketball wars – and therefore can be “hammocked’’ by so many teammates, coaches and staffers who have.

If JJB pestered Parker last year (and he did) … think what Roddy B might do?

And then there is this, and it goes beyond record-breaking stats or historical precedents: Other teams cannot guard Roddy B. If I’m Rick, I damn sure give Beaubois a taste of the postseason … and if he holds up in his first minute of play, I’d given him a second minute … and then a third.

Gina Miller
: I think we’ll see Beaubois get very little time.  The mistakes he could make are much more costly now.

Jeff Caplan: You’re right, J.J. was very good last year against the Spurs, averaging 10.0 points and 4.6 points. Kidd averaged 10.0 and 5.6 (of course Kidd outrebounded Barea 30-10 and out-stealed - is that a word? – him 12-2). Barea told me today (Saturday) actually that he doesn’t think the Spurs guard the pick and roll well, especially up top with Dirk setting the pick. He said he picked apart the Spurs that way and got to the rim, which he did. Look, Barea is going to play. He’s a fourth-year guy and has earned the right. As exciting as Beaubois is — and he is exciting — I don’t look for him to have much run. Of course, you say something like that and the unpredictable Rick Carlisle will have him in during crunch time. You never know. I also think back to last season’s series and I wonder if Popovich regrets not letting George Hill off the leash sooner than he did.


RM: Which is more important to the Mavs’ success in this series: Shawn Marion’s (and perhaps DeShawn Stevenson’s) defense against Manu Ginobili, or Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier’s defense against Tim Duncan?

Zac Crain: Whomever defends Manu. His points (and overall court game) is way more important to the Spurs’ confidence. They feed off him. The fans feed off of him. And the reverse is true: he can get right inside the heads of the Mavs and their fans.

Mark Followill: Again, great question. Winning basketball is best played from the inside out leading me to want to answer Dampier/Haywood vs. Duncan. However I’ve heard Rick Carlisle say the worst thing that can to happen to your defense is to be beaten by dribble penetration. So since Ginobili can do that among his myriad of other skills and the intangibles he brings to the floor as a wily veteran I’ll say it’s Marion et al against Ginobili.

Jeff ‘Skin’ Wade: Slowing down Manu ten times out of ten. He’s been unbelievable.  He’s also far and away the single biggest reason why I seem to fear the Spurs more than anyone else I’ve talked to about it. If Matrix can keep Ginobili from going nuts then I think he’ll be the MVP of the series. But as Marion will tell you, a dude will get his if he gets enough shot attempts. If Ginobil needs a bunch of shot attempts to get his, that’ll be counter-productive to what SA wants to do and I’m sure Marion will have been a big part of that.

Tim MacMahon: Matrix vs. Manu. Duncan had three 25-point games in last season’s series, all of which came in losing efforts. The Spurs took off down the stretch this season when Ginobili got in a groove.

David Lord
: I think Ginobili can turn the series, so give the biggest pep pills to Marion and Stevenson, don’t overlook Butler, and don’t be surprised if Kidd gets the assignment on some key possessions. I don’t think the Spurs have the ability to grind out victories in this series but instead will have to win with flashes of greatness, and these days I think Ginobili has more potential to do the unexpected.

Art Garcia
: Matrix hands down. Manu is balling, so the Mavs need Marion’s length and savvy. Remember, Manu didn’t play in the series last year, so the Mavs didn’t have this issue. I expect El Contusion to be the focus of Dallas’ D.

Mike Fisher
: The Mavs are in many ways built to contend with the Spurs – which means, “build to contend with Duncan.’’ They’ve done it with Damp/Diop and they ought to be able to do it with Damp/Big Wood. (“Contend with’’ being different than “being superior to,’’ of course.)

Duncan really labors up and down the floor these days, that requisite knee brace a tell-tale sign.

But Manu? He’s the guy who can go off with consistency, he’s the only guy on the Spurs right now who can effectively create his own show, and he’s Job One for Marion … in a sense, Marion’s acquisition was “built to contend with the Spurs,’’ too – or, at least, one Spur.

Gina Miller
: The defense on Ginobili.  Duncan is still Duncan, despite what I feel, is in a bit of a decline.  He can drop 20 & 10 but that’s almost a given.  Ginobili has been so strong from San Antonio recently and such a part of their late-season surge this year that he’s the one the Mavs need to focus on containing.

Jeff Caplan: Manu, Manu, Manu. Duncan is going to get his. We know that. But, Manu is dynamic. He can get to the rim and the free throw line, he’s draining the 3 and making everyone around him better. There are few guys that can twist and turn and contort and do the things he does with his body and convert at the bucket. The guy is totally confident and ridiculously dangerous. Shawn Marion has his work cut out for him on the defensive end, but Marion also makes a good point: you’ve got to make Ginobili sweat on the defensive end. That responsibility likely falls with Caron Butler.


RM: San Antonio has never really been able to match up with Dirk, and this season has, more or less, been the same (28.8 PPG and 8.5 RPG in four games vs. SA this season). Which Spur defender has the best chance of making Nowitzki’s life difficult?

Zac Crain: No one. It’s true. He can only stop himself. Bruce Bowen had a decent run, but even he fell off. Maybe, maybe, Antonio McDyess, but I only see that working for short stretches, if at all. Best bet? Making Dirk work on D.

Mark Followill: The best defenders historically against Dirk has been the tall, mobile defenders like Lamar Odom or back in the day Sheed. The other style of defense that has had some success against him is to use a SG/SF type who is quick and can crowd Dirk and get up under his arms. Since the Spurs definitely don’t have the former, the closest player the Spurs have to the latter and who has a rep as a defender would be someone like Keith Bogans so perhaps Pop could try to use him in a Bowen like capacity. While you noted the number of points per game that Dirk scored against the Spurs this year he only shot 40.4% against them. The more likely way to replicate that is not by the play of a single defender but by running multiple defenders at him as the Spurs have often done recently.

Jeff ‘Skin’ Wade: They don’t have the type of rangy athlete most known for giving Dirk fits, though some of that has been debunked over the years by the way Dallas moves him around depending on the match-up.  The best example I can give you within the course of one game is how differently they utilize Dirk when he’s checked by Mehmet Okur versus when he’s covered by Andrei Kirilenko.  For all the credit Stephen Jackson has received for “stopping” Dirk, nobody seems to recall that in every time he’s defended Dirk since that dreadful series, #41 has just murdered him in the post.  Problem is Dirk doesn’t pass that well out of the post on double teams.  I’d say it depends on how the game is officiated. If it’s “no autopsy, no foul” vibe, then I think it’s Bonner. If they’re going to call actual fouls they way they’re supposed to, then I’d say McDyess is best-equipped and Bonner will foul out in short order. But I’d say Dirk is far and away San Antonio’s biggest worry as they don’t have the right guys to slow him.

Tim MacMahon: Can I go with Gregg Popovich? The Spurs will need some X’s and O’s wizardry to keep Dirk down. If I have to pick a player, it’s Tim Duncan, but that’s asking a lot of an aging star who has had knee problems

David Lord: Frankly, none whatsoever. The Spurs simply have no defender that can do much to match up with Dirk. If I’m Pop, I’m resigned to the fact that Dirk will get his no matter what I do, and instead try to focus on keeping players like Butler, Marion, Terry and Kidd held completely in check.

Art Garcia: Not sure if that guys exists with Bruce Bowen gone. McDyess may be the early call since he’s clearly more comfortable away from the basket than Duncan. The Spurs’ plan may be to double Dirk and force someone else to beat them.

Mike Fisher: Pop has tried to double-team The UberMan at times in the past, and as a reward, the other weapons – and they are substantial – has jumped up to beat him … while Dirk still gets his 30 points. Last year that meant J-Ho and Barea; this year it can mean Caron, Jet, Kidd, Marion … weapons!

San Antonio will change it up, but I think there is logic to assigning one guy to Dirk (it’s often been that Bonner Character) and conceding him his points … and then hoping that Dallas’ other weaponry is contained.

Gina Miller: Dirk will see a combination of defenders but McDyess and Bonner will give him the most hell, in my opinion.

Jeff Caplan: None. It will take a gang effort and Popovich will probably bring it. Dirk is preparing for it (he calls Popovich a defensive genius). The one stat not listed next to his 28.8 ppg is his 40.4 percent shooting against the Spurs this season, Dirk’s worst perecentage against Western Conference teams. Antonio McDyess and Matt Bonner get the official tag as Dirk defenders, but the Spurs will bring double teams. The big key for the Mavs is how well Jason Kidd shoots the 3-ball now (and I still have to wipe my eyes every time he hits one, which is like every time). If Dirk can pass out of the double team effectively and Kidd continues his 40 percent thing from the arc, the Mavs are in good shape.


RM: Describe this series in one word.

Zac Crain: Inevitable.

Mark Followill: Bitterness.

Jeff ‘Skin’ Wade: Draining.

Tim MacMahon
: Again.

David Lord: Desperation.

Art Garcia
: Familiar.

Mike Fisher: “Two-seed.’’ This is why they played 82. To establish an advantage. Dallas has done that by achieving the No. 2 seed – which I argue is the third-greatest team accomplishment in the NBA this year.

Gina Mille
r: Rugged.

Jeff Caplan: Unpredictable.


RM: Prediction time: who ya got?

Zac Crain: Mavs in six. Duncan can’t turn it on like he used to for a full series, Parker is still out of sync, and Manu can win a game or two by himself, but not a series.

Mark Followill
: Mavs in 7.

Jeff ‘Skin’ Wade: I think Dallas in six and I think all the games will be close.

Tim MacMahon
: Mavs in six.

David Lord: Dallas in 6.

Art Garcia: As I wrote in my NBA.com series preview, I’m expecting a return to the rivalry’s bitter roots … and the Mavs in six.

Mike Fisher: Mavs in six. Last year, the Mavs were a No. 6 seed and the Spurs were a No. 3 … and the Mavs cruised. This year, San Antonio is calling itself “improved’’ yet drops to a No. 7 seed, while the 10X50 Mavs move up to No. 2.

Dallas has moved up … and in six games, will move on.

Gina Miller: Mavs in 6.  They clinch in San Antonio for the 2nd straight postseason.

Jeff Caplan: Mavs in 7.

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A huge thank you to everyone for being kind enough to participate, and be sure to visit their respective sites and Twitter feeds for more of their thoughts on the Mavs.

The Official Two Man Game Official Dallas Mavericks Versus San Antonio Spurs Official Playoff Preview for the Official 2009-2010 Official Post-Season

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 16, 2010 under Commentary, Previews | 11 Comments to Read

It’s a date: the Mavs savor the thought of playing the Spurs, and the Spurs apparently aren’t too intimidated by the Mavs. That much was certain based on how each coach chose to play the regular season’s final game, and now everyone gets what they want.

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.

This series is going to be excellent. I’m talking 2006 Western Conference semifinals excellent. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not this series is going to go the distance, but based on how Dallas and San Antonio match up, I’d honestly be shocked if there was a single blowout. We’re looking at at least six games of stellar, well-executed, well-coached, and entertaining basketball.

Let me get this out of the way early: if you’re a Mavs fan and you think this series is going to be a cakewalk, you’re sadly mistaken. Many a MFFL fancied this match-up over a series with the Thunder, (healthy) Blazers, or Suns, but a lot of that is familiarity. The Spurs are so familiar to Mavs fans because of their status in the Southwest division, their location, and their frequent playoff battles with Dallas. So in this case, I think the fans (and possibly the Mavs) prefer the devil they know…even if they don’t know him all that well.

The Spurs that we’ve saw in last season’s playoffs barely resembles this model, largely because a healthy Manu Ginobili is capable of making an MVP-level impact. He’s certainly one of the top shooting guards in the game, and not only has he been out of his element a bit over the last few seasons, but he skipped last year’s playoff series with Dallas entirely due to injury. As a result, the Mavs won in 5 and the games honestly weren’t as competitive as precedent would have predicted. Dallas’ 2006 win over San Antonio was a huge step in the evolution of the rivalry, but the 2009 series between the two teams had a completely different dynamic. Even though both series fell well short of the Spurs usual title aspirations, the 2009 playoffs brought something new to San Antonio: shame. They can excuse away the loss with Manu’s absence, but never before had the Spurs been so thoroughly embarrassed by the Mavs.

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images.

The storylines from San Antonio are primarily concerning those two elements: Manu’s renaissance and the Spurs’ revenge. Understandably so, as Ginobili should be both feared and respected, and the same should go for this entire San Antonio team. They’re quite formidable. If the Mavs’ offensive and defensive ratings for the season are a bit misleading due to the trade and — Dallas hopes — a legitimate mini-surge to close the regular season, the the Spurs’ are even more so. Tony Parker missed 26 games this season due to injury, and while he isn’t quite up to his 2008-2009 scoring level, he looked more than capable against the Mavs in the regular season finale.

That’s significant. If Parker is as ready as he seems, he could end up causing a lot of match-up problems for the Mavs alongside Ginobili. If it’s just Manu doing considerable damage, then the Mavs are well-equipped to contain him. Shawn Marion’s perimeter defense has been superb this year, particularly against elite opponents. Ginobili certainly qualifies. Caron Butler also has shown himself to be an aggressive defensive alternative for highly productive wings as well, with perhaps his keynote performance coming just five games ago against Brandon Roy. Like Ginobili, Roy is an atypical cover; he’s not a 2 that’s reliant on incredible athleticism, and his strength lies in his ability to change speeds and confuse defenders. I wouldn’t say that Ginobili is an extremely similar player, but he and Roy are similar in their deviance from the 2-guard norm. That doesn’t prove that Butler is a great option for defending Manu, but it does at least show that Caron can defend unconventional off guards. Beyond that, Jason Kidd is terrific defender at the two, and DeShawn Stevenson has done fine defensive work over the last two weeks.

Unfortunately, it’s never quite as simple as locking in one defender on one opposing player and calling it a day. The Mavs’ general defensive strategy against teams such as the Spurs is to overload on the initiator of the offense, which in this case would be Manu. Even if Ginobili has technically been listed at the two, the team is in his hands when he shares the floor with George Hill. It’s not an issue of who plays what position but who takes on what roles, and Ginobili’s spot in the Parker-less Spurs’ offense is to initiate. He’s the one triggering plays and he’s the one making entry passes. As a response, not only does Dallas typically cover such a threat with a long-armed, athletic wing defender, but they throw all kinds of pressure at them. You’ll see the Mavs completely blitz the ball-handler on the pick-and-roll. You’ll see them trap the initiator as soon as he crosses half-court with the ball. You’ll see double teams coming from all over the place at various times, just to throw a stud like Manu off his game. The price of that is leaving Brendan Haywood or Erick Dampier to their own devices against Tim Duncan, but Rick Carlisle and the Mavs’ coaching staff have deemed that an acceptable risk.

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images.

That strategy works pretty well, but if Tony Parker is as healthy and dominant as he’s capable of being? Trouble. Big trouble. Parker is the one player on the Spurs that the Mavs don’t have a good match-up for. Should Tony start feeling like his former self, it’s likely that Dallas would be forced to go with speed without considerable defensive skill (J.J. Barea, Rodrigue Beaubois) or size without considerable speed (Butler, Marion, Stevenson). Both could work, as J.J. showed in spots in last season’s playoffs, but if you’re Rick Carlisle, do you feel particularly great about those players trying to handcuff a fully-effective Tony Parker?

Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier are thus far more useful than simply acting as the large bodies between Tim Duncan and the basket. Don’t get me wrong, their post defense is still important. Really important. But should Parker start revving up, Haywood and Damp’s ability to protect the rim will be fairly essential. Neither has to be Dwight Howard, but having some kind of deterrent in the middle will be Dallas’ best shot at curtailing Tony’s production.

Then again, Tony Parker hasn’t been himself this season. He isn’t playing like the player that torched the Mavs a year ago, and even if he is, Dallas is a better team than they were then. The Mavs aren’t a great team, don’t get me wrong. I still stand firmly committed to the fact that this team has, on the whole, played mediocre basketball, regardless of whether you want to look at their season-long or simply post-deadline performance. But Dallas knows and matches-up with San Antonio so well, that the only thing putting the Spurs way over the top is a suddenly resurgent Parker.

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.

Otherwise, we’ve pretty much got a coin flip on our hands. No one on the Spurs’ roster can really cover Dirk, and he’s not going to be flummoxed by Popovich’s defensive pressure. Tim Duncan will likely be prevented from completely dominating, though he’ll still be very productive. Jason Kidd will hit big spot-up threes and run the offense expertly, but the Spurs defense will be ready and waiting. Jason Terry and Caron Butler can combine to eclipse Manu Ginobili’s scoring, Shawn Marion can cancel out Richard Jefferson’s production, and the Mavs’ bench offers more versatility than the Spurs’. Rick Carlisle is an excellent coach, but Gregg Popovich is an all-time great coach. It’s point-counterpoint all the way up and down the rosters, and while that’s not likely to let MFFLs sleep easy over the next few weeks, it’s absolutely brilliant for this series’ entertainment value.

The only conclusive fact that anyone should have to say about this series is that it’s going to be close. If you’re resolved that either team should win outright, you’re probably wrong. Every game will be a battle, but I’ll take Dallas in seven. I’m picking the Mavs because I think Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are in a great offensive rhythm right now, and I trust in the Mavs’ ability to contain Manu Ginobili. I think home court advantage matters, and a playoff atmosphere should remedy Dallas’ woes at home. I don’t trust Tony Parker’s ability to dominate the series like he did a year ago, but I do trust the balance of the Mavs’ offense. As good as George Hill and DeJuan Blair are, I don’t think they’re going to step out of themselves to become x-factors. This Dallas team is in a good place right now, is brimming with confidence, and knows they can beat the Spurs.

All that’s left is for them to go out and do it.

Heard It Through The Grapevine

Posted by admin on April 15, 2010 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

  • The Spurs hope George Hill will be ready for the first round series vs. the Mavericks, and Jesse Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell breaks down why he’s the key to the series for the Spurs, and Gregg Popovich’s favorite player.
  • While watching the game last night, I, like many of you, started wondering why Marion shoots so many floaters around the basket, even though it seems like he never makes them. I looked up his At-Rim FG% at HoopData, and surprisingly, he’s at 62%, 1% higher than the league average. I’m still of the opinion that he needs to lay off that floater.
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas writes about the respect the Mavs have for this Spurs team: “The Mavs simply have too much respect for Gregg Popovich’s team to get their britches in a bunch about Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili taking off Game 82. Plus, the Mavs are much more concerned about preparing for Game 1. “
  • Angry Trey shared this video with us Mavs fans, from the 16th President of the United States
  • And in case you were wondering, my first round predictions (in the West) are Lakers in 6, Jazz in 5, Suns in 6 and Mavs in 6…..which isn’t very brave of me at all.

Grapevine cont’d, by Mahoney:

  • Rick Carlisle has been named the Western Conference Coach of the Month according to a release from the team. It’s the first time a Mavs coach has won the award since Avery Johnson nabbed it in February of 2007.
  • From Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) on Twitter: “Ed Stefanski interviewed Dwane Casey twice last year and source close to Sixers GM says ‘He loved him.’ Philly may have to move fast should it want to hire Casey this time, because sources say he’s moved to top of Clippers search. OKC almost hired Casey over PJ Carlesimo.”
  • Shawn Marion manages to crack out the “that’s what’s up” “it’s on” and “it is what it is” trinity. Not in one scrum, but one after another in a single sentence.
  • Yahoo’s John Ludden has an excellent piece in Manu Ginobili: “Looking back, maybe it was foolish to question him. Through his eight years in San Antonio, Ginobili had lifted the Spurs through all those end-of-game, pressure-cooker moments. Resurrecting himself might have been his greatest comeback yet. It took five months, but he has again made believers of them all, and that explains more than anything why the Spurs decided to give him a contract extension that will pay nearly $40 million over the next three years. When Ginobili’s healthy, when he’s playing as he has over the past couple months, isn’t anything possible?”

Dallas Mavericks 105, Spurs 97

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 19, 2009 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by AP Photo/Darren Abate.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.
-Boris Pasternak

The fires of the fourth quarter may forge championship mettle, but the finale was hardly the most important frame in Saturday’s Spurs-Mavs showdown.  What Dallas was able to do in the fourth is remarkable and noteworthy in its own right, but we’d be looking at a very different outcome if not for a fantastic display of Maverick resiliency to finish the first half.

With almost nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, Dirk Nowitzki picked up his third foul, and immediately subbed out.  The Mavs trailed by nine, and things were going from bad to worse.  But a decidedly Dirk-less lineup didn’t seem to mind; Brandon Bass, Josh Howard, Erick Dampier, and Jason Terry managed to not only jack up Dallas’ defensive intensity, but actually trim the lead against the likes of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.  The Mavericks forcibly removed the Spurs’ boot from their throats, rose to their feet, and started swinging.  Every punch didn’t connect, but the fact that the Mavs sans Dirk were able to stand their ground and then some against a clicking San Antonio squad is very indicative of how this Maverick team has evolved.  A few months ago, maybe the Mavs folded in that second quarter.  Maybe the sight of their own shots clanging off the rim would discourage them from bringing the appropriate defensive focus, and the Spurs would go hog wild on a team crippled by the loss of its star due to foul trouble.  That nine minute stretch would be the kiss of death.

Yet here we are, and here the Mavs are, standing tall on their 1-0 series lead.  That second quarter (and, in turn, what it represents) doesn’t mean everything, but it certainly means something.

It’s way too early to judge what will work and what won’t work over the course of this series, but there is one thing I feel very comfortably saying: J.J. Barea defends Tony Parker (24 points, 9-22 FG, 8 assists) more competently than I ever could have imagined.  We know that Barea has the quicks.  The man runs around like his shorts are on fire.  On offense, that typically translates into creative drives and open looks, and on defense, that typically translates into…well, not all that much.  Barea has been a bit of an irritant as a defender, but I don’t know that we’ve seen him truly inhibit a legitimate scoring threat in a meaningful way.  After last night, I can say that no more; Barea didn’t lock down Tony Parker as much as he got under his skin, staying with him step for step, getting all up in his business, and putting those amateur acting lessons with Carl Weathers to work by putting on a one-man show for the zebras.  Does Barea flop?  Oh, most definitely.  He exaggerates the contact, and he does what he has to to sell the call and compensate for his height.  But to angrily classify J.J. as a ‘flopper’ is to ignore the effectiveness of his defense.  He’s not creating contact where there is none, he’s simply putting a flashing neon sign on his back that says “OFF ARM PUSH-OFF!” or “LOOK, A LOWERED SHOULDER!”.

On top of it all, Barea (13 points, 3 assists) came up big on the offensive end.  He was so effective in fact, that he stole fourth quarter minutes away from Jason Kidd and Josh Howard.  As far as I’m concerned, every second was well deserved.  J.J.’s shortcomings were practically invisible, and he confidently drove to the basket at will.  He finished his drives well, but those plays dwarfed in comparison to Barea’s decision making and creation for his teammates.  By the time Barea was more than a blip on the Spurs’ radar, he was taking advantage of all the extra attention by setting up Antoine Wright in the corner or Brandon Bass at the free throw line.  Just beautiful, beautiful basketball.

I don’t expect Barea to hinder Parker consistently, and I don’t expect his bag of tricks to always come up roses.  Parker will bounce back, and with help from the tape and his coaches, he probably won’t fall into the same traps.  But J.J. was able to make Tony overdribble and indecisive, and that tickles me a bit.  Maybe it won’t work every night, but on a night where Dirk and JET aren’t scorching, it was exactly what the Mavs needed.

Brandon Bass (14 points, 7-9 FG, 4 rebounds) was nearly as brilliant, but succeeded without drawing too much attention.  His defense and rebounding were exactly what we’ve come to expect from Bass, and his offense anchored an important stretch for the Mavs in the second quarter.  He played foil to the Spurs’ Drew Gooden, and I’d say that he succeeded greatly in that regard, despite Gooden’s contributions.

Dirk (19 points, 8 rebounds) was good, but was unexpectedly limited.  Some of that credit goes to the Spurs’ defensive pressure, some of it goes to Dirk’s random off half, and the remainder can be chalked up to shot selection.  All kinds of Spurs lined up against #41, and Bruce Bowen and Drew Gooden each had some success.  Like Parker, I wouldn’t necessarily count on Dirk being limited to these numbers again.  But it’s good to know that the Mavs are no longer damsels in distress, waiting for Dirk to put on his cape and save them from the cold, cruel world.

Erick Dampier (10 points, 11 rebounds) showed exactly how valuable he can be in a series against a player of Tim Duncan’s skill set.  Duncan’s line was far from shabby (27 points, 13-24 FG, 9 rebounds), but Damp bothered Duncan just enough to cause a few of those misses, and his aggressive board-work earned him more than a few buckets and earned his team a few possessions.  On some nights it’s hard to appreciate Dampier, and on others he is completely infuriating.  But he usually shows up to play against the biggest of the big, and though the box score may not agree, Dampier was very effective against Duncan and co. last night.

I’ll end it with one more player note: Josh Howard (25 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) has officially found himself.  Some of his shots were hunted and a few jumpers were clearly forced.  Still, Josh took over the third quarter (in case you didn’t get the memo, the third quarter is the new first quarter) offensively and displayed his wonderfully high activity level on defense.  The “X-Factor” was exquisite, and Josh’s ankle troubles seemed a distant memory.  Just to make sure, Josh took an early seat on the bench, sitting for the entire fourth quarter.

More to come later today on the surprising (Barea’s defense) and disturbing (Spurs’ three pointers) trends from Game 1.

Closing thoughts:

  • Michael Finley was unbelievable.  He finished with 19 points on 5-5 shooting from three, and several of those attempts were from well beyond the line.  Fortunately for the Mavs, Fin seems destined to fall back down to Earth.  It’s just the way he is.  But, it’s more symptomatic of the real problem: the Mavs simply were not sticking to the Spurs’ shooters.  That could be a problem.
  • Jason Terry turned in a subpar night with just 12 points.  I think it’s safe to say that he has Gregg Popovich’s attention, because all kinds of Spurs were playing denial D on Terry all night long.
  • One game down, and still no sign of George Hill, the Spur who has the best chance of limiting Barea.  If Pop continues his hard stance on not playing Hill and the Spurs lose the series, he could be facing a summer of annoying, repetitive questions.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to…come on, man, it’s J.J.  He was a stud in the fourth quarter, and was actually the most effective point guard on the offensive end.  That’s right, better than Kidd.  Barea’s willingness to set up his teammates made the game easy, and his ability to finish in the lane with fakes and floaters kept the defense on their toes.  Keeping my fingers crossed that this is only the beginning.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 17, 2009 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

  • Mavs-Spurs: “one of the best current rivalries in sports.”  (Relive a bit of the rivalry here.)I’m sure fans of college sports would have a few things to say about that, but this is about competing cores, not competing colors.  Who cares what shade of blue you wear?  The Mavs and the Spurs are a great rivalry because they play each other well, they play each other evenly, and they’ve met in the playoffs a handful of times.  This is players vs. players, not school vs. school; that makes all the difference.
  • Hint – if you want to really catch my attention and then have your basketball opinions flippantly disregarded until the end of time, all you have to do is say one sentence: Dirk Nowitzki is not good in the playoffs.
  • Breaking down the Mavs’ offense with X’s and O’s of Basketball, including this pretty bold statement: “With the added benefit of not having to travel a far distance, and knowing the Spurs intimately (this goes both ways though), I think one could make the argument that it would be an upset if the Spurs won this series.”  I don’t know that there’s any true upset in this series either way, but that’s definitely an interesting thought.
  • Art Garcia’s preview.
  • Check out my predictions, and the predictions of all kinds of bloggers on the Blogger Smackdown.  For the record: Lakers in 5, Nuggets in 6, Mavs in 6, Blazers in 7.  Cavs in 4, Celtics in 6, Hawks in 6, Magic in 6.
  • Missed this one after the Rockets game.  Ron Artest, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: “When I was with him, I had a lot of problems…He really showed a lot of genuine care for me… He always came over and made sure I was OK, talked to me, made sure my family was OK. … He knew I was an emotional kid. He always took time out to make sure I was all right. It was just unfortunate I wasn’t really listening…He taught me a lot. He taught me how to play intelligent basketball, taught me a lot about defense.”
  • Everything seems to indicate that George Hill will not see much, if any, playoff action for the Spurs.  I tend to side with Skeets’ comments on The Basketball Jones: Hill could be a valuable defensive piece against Jason Terry.  He’s quick enough to keep pace, and as a rookie he’s still very malleable to Pop’s “don’t ever leave your man, ever” commands.  I feel bad for you, George, but I’m kinda glad you’ve got a comfy seat on the pine.
  • Tom Ziller talks Mavs-Spurs at FanHouse: “To me, it’s a tug-of-war between Duncan’s constant power and Dirk’s fireworks. Each have won old battles — these are hardened soldiers who have done this before and just might do it again. But in the end, I can’t ignore the clip-on-loop of Parker dribbling by Kidd. If any opponent made Kidd a liability on defense … well, that’d be New Orleans. (See: last year.) But if there’s a No. 2, it’s San Antonio. Parker is too fast, too smart, too good for Kidd, and I think the next couple weeks will bear that out.”  It’s a bit tough to argue against that kind of logic.
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com, on what he likes about the Mavs’ chances: “What’s even better than the history that tells us the Mavericks are one of just two teams this decade to win a playoff series against the Spurs when Duncan is playing? The strong finish. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen one from the Mavs. ‘I think the last two years,’ Mavs sixth man Jason Terry says, ‘we kind of lost steam going into the playoffs.’”
  • Mario Elie thinks the Mavs are like the ’95 champion Rockets.  Umm…right.
  • David Moore of the Dallas Morning News: “No one will say it out loud. Even if you lured a player into an inflammatory quote, he would quickly deny it. But don’t be fooled. This matchup with San Antonio is what the Mavericks wanted.”  Glad to hear we’re all on the same page.

No Game Is an Island: The Long and Winding Road

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 24, 2009 under Previews | 7 Comments to Read

The Dallas Mavericks visit the San Antonio Spurs
7:30 CST

I’m not sure what to make of Mavs-Spurs anymore.

The 2006 playoff series remains my favorite that I have ever witnessed.  The history between these two teams over the last decade is undeniable, even if the Spurs have always acted like they have an older brother complex with the Mavs.  The games this year between the two have been incredibly entertaining.  But where are the sparks?

This could be an incredible case of imposing my own view of the “rivalry” onto the teams, but I just don’t pick up the same vibe.  The energy is there, but it’s on a completely different wavelength.  As the Spurs have aged slowly and now find themselves trying to sneak into the backdoor of championship contention, and as the Mavs have dropped off greatly from the 2006 days, has the matchup lost its mystique?

Tim Duncan used to be the enemy.  Now, while I still hate the palms-up “Who, ME?!” foul reactions, I respect him as the greatest power forward to ever play the game.  Tony Parker is still there, but for some reason I find him much less irritating.  Manu Ginobili is still there (although he’s injured for tonight’s game), is sometimes sickeningly good, and…yeah, I still hate him.

It could be any number of factors, really.  I’ve liked Roger Mason since last season and the dude has ice water in his veins.  His work ethic is amazing, and in classic “root for the underdog” fashion, I can appreciate how far he’s come to get to SanAn.  I would have preferred if Michael Finley hadn’t gone to our division rivals after the Mavs cut him loose, but I’ll never forget his work as a pillar of this franchise’s legitimacy.  George Hill is a likable rookie from a small-time school that’s actually two schools sharing one campus.  I would never say that I like the Spurs, but I’m just not sure that I hate them anymore.

With most of the headliners static and a few new faces, there is one name that is conspicuously absent from the Spurs’ success this season: Bruce Bowen.  The vicegrip that Bowen once had on the wings of the league has loosened considerably, as a function of his reduced role and reduced abilities.  He can still hit the corner three that makes your head sink into your hands and your shoulders slump, but his relative fall into irrelevance is both cause for the Spurs’ defensive fall-off and my growing indifference towards the franchise.

What was it that characterized the Spurs as the NBA’s evil and necessarily juxtaposed them opposite of the white knight Mavericks?  And, more importantly, why has the dynamic changed?  Is it the fall of a dynastic titan or the gradual disappearance of villanous basketball’s poster boy?