- Mark Cuban hates the spurs.
- Gregg Popovich thinks Dirk is faking it (via Jeff Caplan): “I thought sometimes we fouled him, sometimes we didn’t. But you know what’s going to happen in a game. You get calls one way or the other. He’s great at selling it… He did make some tough shots there, no doubt about it, but he’s also a Hall-of-Fame player so he’s going to make those shots. It’s not like it’s the first time he’s made a tough shot, that’s for sure.”
- Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell presents a very good, very detailed analysis of how the Spurs defended Dirk in Game 1 and how they should defend him in the games to come.
- Former Mavs stat man Wayne Winston (via 48 Minutes of Hell) talks Mavs-Spurs Game 2 adjustments.
- We all know Popovich is a great coach but Rick Carlisle ain’t no slouch either. Mark Cuban on Coach Carlisle (via the Dallas Morning News): “Rick is a very cerebral coach and that comes through in its shining glory in the playoffs. You don’t get a chance in the regular season to play the chess match because you don’t have enough time. He’s not looking to create Brand Carlisle, not that Pop is. He’s not about coming up with sayings that make people know who he is. He’s an amazing, brilliant X’s and O’s coach.”
- Mike Fisher of Dallas Basketball explains why Erick Dampier is starting.
- As Dwight Howard repeats as Defensive Player of the Year, Shawn Marion comes in 13th place in the voting. Really? I have to disagree with the voters here. Now I’m not saying Marion should have won but he certainly should have placed higher than 13th, as he was arguably the NBA’s best defender against the league’s premier small forwards.
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.
On the Spurs’ different defensive approaches between last season’s playoffs and Game 1:
“Well, I think on my first couple of catches in the first half I wanted to see what they were doing and what kind of schemes they’ve got going. They played me pretty much straight up for the whole first half, [and I] had some good looks there. [I] took my time and was able to knock some shots down. Then in the second half, they were coming [at me] a little bit again from the low side [and] made me pass the ball some, but I thought we had some great cutting going on. When I caught the ball at the elbow there in the fourth quarter, [there were] two cuts: JET had a big floater and Marion had a big cut for a layup. That’s what you’ve gotta do, you can’t just sit there and watch, you’ve gotta get everybody involved and we did a great job of getting open.”
On the performances of Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood:
“They were great. [They were] really battling Timmy. I think Timmy still had 27 just because he’s a Hall-of-Famer, but the guys make him work for everything — made him work for his points, really battled him in there. Damp actually blocked one or two of his jump hooks, so I think they did a fantastic job — battling for us, keeping some balls alive on the offensive end. They were definitely big for us tonight.”
On the importance of winning Game 1, and his evaluation of the Mavs’ play:
“We turned the ball over a couple of times too many for our liking, but we ran back [on defense and] didnt give them too much in transition. That’s big. [We] forced them into a half-court game. That was definitely a big win, but really, that win means nothing if we lose on Wednesday, so we’ve gotta come out with the same focus. When you play San Antonio you’ve gotta guard two things, and that’s Duncan on the block and a lot of screen and rolls. With Ginobili and Parker. we did some decent stuff on the pick and rolls. We still made some mistakes, but we were scrambling for each other and we made stuff happen. Even though we made mistakes, we tried to run their three-point shooters off and to give them only four threes is a heck of a job.”
On whether or not he was surprised at being defended straight-up:
“I’m going to take whatever they give me. When they came at me in the second half, I was able to pass out [of the double teams] pretty good and we made some shots when they mattered. JET hit a big three there in the corner for us out of the double team. We’ve just gotta make plays. Caron made some timely, big shots. I’m just going to be patient, and when they do come, I’ll hopefully make the right play out and not try to force anything or make a bad play out of the double team. I’ve gotta take the double team sometimes and move the ball and let other guys make the play, and when I have single coverage, I’ve still gotta be aggressive and try to make things happen.”
On his confidence in his shot right now:
“Well, you know I thought early I made a couple of lucky shots: the one where I thought I got fouled and I threw it up and it went in off the glass and there was another shot where McDyess was all over me and I was able to make a tough turnaround. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both — you feel good about yourself, but you need a little bit of luck. Sometimes the ball goes in, so sometimes you have one of those nights where the basket looks big and some other nights you can’t make a layup…Tonight was definitely a good night.”
On Caron Butler’s contributions, and how vital Butler was to the Mavs’ victory:
“Especially with the way they played Jason Terry, [the Spurs] really took the ball out of his hands on screen-and-rolls and they’re trying to take him out of the game. He did have a couple of good looks, but he never really got into a rhythm. So we definitely needed some scoring somewhere else and Caron was big. He’s a great guy playing the mid-range [game]: facing up, step-backs, posting up. He had the full repertoire going from 14-15 feet. I think Kidd made some big threes, some timely threes. Like I said, with JET not having a great shooting night, we needed scoring somewhere else.”
On the sloppiness of the game relative to the Mavs-Spurs standard:
“I don’t think it was a great game on both ends of the floor. Definitely gotta look at some film. There were a lot of turnovers for a Mavs-Spurs game, but I think sometimes you’ve gotta grind it out. Even if it wasn’t a pretty game, you’ve gotta find a way to win. You know with the way they play and the way they’ve grinded [sic] things out over the years, they’re going to keep coming even if they’re down ten. They’re going to get some stops and they’re going to make some big plays, [and] that’s what they did tonight. We made some runs at them and they still kept on coming. It’s going to be a tough, long, grind-out series and we’ve gotta be ready for it.”
On playing the Spurs in the playoffs again:
“It seems like every year we see them sooner or later. [It's] definitely a tough matchup…With them being healthy, it’s definitely one of the best seven seeds there is, but it is what it is, and we’ve gotta find a way to grind this out. [It was] definitely a good win for us, but they’re going to keep coming and they’re very very good at home so we need to make sure we get this one on Wednesday as well.”
On the Spurs shooting 50% from the field:
“They’re tough, like I said. They’ve got Duncan on the block and all of the other guys — Ginobili and Parker — in their pick-and-rolls. They make stuff happen: they get into the paint, get to the basket, [and] if you cut them off they’ve got a lot of shooters out there spreading the floor with Bogans and Bonner and all of those guys shooting the ball well. You’re going to give up something in there, but I thought we did a decent job [of] scrambling and sometimes we did make mistakes in our coverages, but you’ve gotta fight for everything in the playoffs and you don’t assume anything. You don’t assume that anyone is going to make a shot, you’ve gotta run out and contest the shots and that’s what the playoffs are all about: you’re going to make mistakes, but you’ve gotta make them aggressive[ly].”
On Pop’s Clamp-a-Damp strategy:
“I was surprised, but I think Pop — he’s just like Nelly. I played for Nelly for a long time and you’ve gotta be ready for everything with him. He’s liable to do anything at any time and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks or says. He’s going to do whatever he thinks is right at that moment. I actually thought Damp stepped up and made some big free throws. Some of them didn’t go in but he made those two timely ones in a row in the fourth quarter, so like I said I feel Damp really stepped up and played a good game for us.”
On Erick Dampier’s defense against Tim Duncan, which likely won’t get the credit it deserves:
“Damp was a real presence for us on the inside. Duncan had a big game offensively, he scored a lot of points, but Damp made his job harder. He [Dampier] got his hands on a lot of balls, got us a lot of rebounds, and when they went to the fouling tactic he made 4 out of 6, which was great for us.”
On Jason Kidd’s excellence and influence:
“Kidd played great. He was sensational in really all areas. In the second half he gave us a spark defensively—on Ginobili and when he was guarding their point guards. He’s been great all year and it’s no surprise that he carried it into tonight.”
On Gregg Popovich’s surprising decision to cover Dirk with a single defender for most of the game:
“There were some double teams and we’re going to see everything before it’s over. Butler got double teamed, but he got going. Marion got double teamed a couple times. They’re going to give you different looks and we’re going to give them different looks, too. We’ll have to adjust when those things happen, and we’ll have to be ready to make plays.”
On the Mavs’ pick-and-roll defense, and how it improved throughout the game:
“We struggled a little at the beginning of the game, and then when we finally got our bearings we did a better job. It’s very tough because such a high percentage of their plays are pick and roll plays, and they’ve got really great facilitators and good screeners and rollers and a bunch of three point shooters out there. It’s going to be challenging. The important thing is five guys are engaged in it defensively, even though it’s a two man game. Everybody’s got to be involved because so many different things happen on their screen and roll.”
On Caron Butler’s (22 points, 8-19 FG, six rebounds, three steals, five turnovers) impact:
“He got it going in the first half and a lot of his early points were not necessarily out of plays we were running for him, but out of just playing basketball. Then we started to run some stuff for him and he delivered. There was a period in the third quarter where he really carried us for a three or four minute stretch. They adjusted and double teamed him and we got other guys the ball. But he’s a guy that’s not afraid; he wants the ball in those situations. He’s been in the playoffs multiple times and he played well for us.”
On Popovich’s “Clamp-a-Damp” strategy:
“That’s something we’ve seen before in the past with Pops. He’s a great coach and has a great basketball mind that does a lot of things on the fly. Damp was ready, stepped up and made most of his free throws during that stretch and that was a key factor.”
On Dirk Nowitzki going absolutely bonkers from the field:
“That’s just what he does. When you got so many guys around him to keep the double-teams coming for the most part and making it difficult for the defense he’s going to have his way. He did a great job of making decisions, creating for others and at the same time hitting shots.”
On the constitution of the win:
“Our defense really played a part tonight even though we missed a lot of wide open shots. We never got discouraged on the defense end and we deflected a bunch of passes and we were active and we tried to limit them to one tough shot and if they made we had to come down on the other end and make those guys work. We were able to get out a little and run and really eliminate them from double-teaming Dirk or Caron. Everybody pitched in and it was a good win.”
On the performance of San Antonio’s Big Three, and how the Mavs responded:
“Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili put a lot of pressure on us on the defensive end and when you’ve got a guy like Tim Duncan setting screens our bigs our going to have their work cut out defensively and you just try to make it tough on those guys because they are all all-stars and no how to play at a high level especially this time of year. But I thought our bigs did a good job.”
On the Mavs’ shot selection:
“We want to be aggressive on the offensive end. I think the scouting report on us probably says that we rely on the jump shot, but I thought tonight was a great example of us not doing that and coming out and being aggressive, driving the ball to the basket and getting to the free throw line. That got us off to a good start and from there we just started driving the ball and guys started to get some wide open looks and we made some big shots in the third and fourth quarter.”
On the difference between the 2008-2009 Mavs and the 2009-2010 model:
“I’m not going to compare their teams. I only care about the team they have now. So it’s not much interest to me to compare how they are now to Josh. I know what they are now and that’s who we have to play. They played better than we did, they played very well. I felt the first half was just a killer, half their points, 27 points off boards, putbacks and turnovers. That’s just a sloppy game. There’s no reason for that, so I was very disappointed in us not being very sharp. I think we’ve got to have a few more people step up and play worth a damn. I thought we had a lot of guys that played like dogs.”
On the Clamp-a-Damp strat, and why he employed it:
“We wanted to put him at the line because and hoped he would miss free throws rather than Dirk killing us the way he was.”
On Dirk’s “special” performance:
“There are many nights when Dirk is not special. He was special tonight, but he had a lot of help. A lot of other guys played really well. Butler killed us and both big guys were really good on the boards defensively. Jason [Kidd] was a gnat. He was a focused, driven individual, as usual. They had a lot of people play well. They played sharper than we did.”
On why his coverage of Dirk shifted from his pressure-heavy approach last season to single coverage this season:
“They had scorers last season too. You pick your poison and whatever you pick you try to do it well. Dirk got the best of whatever we tried to do with him tonight. We tried a lot of different things, but he beat them all.”
On whether the Spurs sloppy play was preventable:
“Sure. Some turnovers were caused for good reason. But there a good number that were unnecessary, and I felt we did a poor job on the boards as far as team defense is concerned.”
On the on-going process of defending Dirk Nowitzki:
“He’s a former MVP, at the peak of his game right now, with a lot talented teammates around him. We’ll figure it out, that’s why fortunately it’s a best-of-seven, not a best-of-one. You’ve got to stay even-keel through your wins and your losses.”
On what positive things the Spurs should take away from this game:
“Nothing. You give them all the credit, but there wasn’t too much positive. We’re not going to go blow smoke up our butts and say that we did this well, we did that well. We’ve got to play better.”
On whether or not injuries and resting the starters down the stretch had an effect on the number of turnovers:
“There wasn’t anybody that was rested down the stretch. The only game that we sat out was the last game. Outside of that, Manu [Ginobili] and Tim [Duncan] and myself were pretty much in the entire time. You give them all the credit. We made some mistakes but also they capitalized on them.”
On whether Jason Kidd seems to be playing “younger” than their days together in New Jersey:
“Jason is a very talented player. He’s a future Hall of Famer. And he’s going to continue playing at a high level. He’s one of those guys that can make people around him better. And he has a lot of talent around him right now. And the way he’s shooting the ball right now is impressive and it’s something that you really have to try and key in on.”
On why the Spurs couldn’t get stops in the fourth quarter:
“They hit shots. At the end of the day, they hit some tough shots. Dirk hit some good shots, he put up some rotations and some other guys hit shots. Sometimes it’s not too much of a science, and tonight was one of those nights.”
On why the Spurs could only seem to get scoring out of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker:
“I don’t know. It’s something we’re going to have to go look at on film, and see how other people can get involved and help this team win a basketball game.”
On whether or not this is some of the best basketball he’s seen Dirk play in his career:
“I’ve only been in the league for two years, so I’ve only seen two years. He’s Dirk, he’s 7-foot and can shoot it. It’s a tough match-up for anybody. Other than, Dirk is Dirk.”
“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”
[ED. NOTE: This post has been updated with additional analysis.]
Every time I watch Dallas and San Antonio play, I feel that they were made to do this. The Spurs’ mission statement may be to win championships and the Mavs’ destiny may lead them toward continued yet flawed excellence, but how can you witness another incredible game between these two and not feel that their purpose on this planet and in this league is simply to out-do one another for our own amusement? Basketball fans are treated to a gladiatorial game in which both competitors occasionally lay defeated, but neither ever die. Two elite teams — both alike in dignity — forced by fate, and chance, and playoff seedings to play each other over and over for their playoff lives, and the fruit that competition bears is brilliant, even if the basketball is not.
Neither the Mavs nor Spurs were particularly proficient in their execution. The pair combined for 32 turnovers, and even some of the successful possessions were busted plays, second-chance points, or lucky bounces. That didn’t stop San Antonio from matching Dallas almost step-for-step until the fourth quarter, where Dirk Nowitzki (35 points on an insane 12-of-14 FG, seven rebounds, one turnover) capitalized on a Spurs defense that was finally paying him the attention that he deserved.
There aren’t many nights where Nowitzki’s performances are the concerns of Mavs fans. Those problems seem to arise periodically, and they’re typically variations on the same themes: perimeter defense, contributions from the centers, reliable supplementary scoring. Little of that involves Dirk, as he’s not only the most productive Mav, but the most consistent as well.
Last night wasn’t merely a night where Dirk’s play wasn’t a concern, though; Nowitzki performed at a phenomenal level. The kind of night where a Spurs fan can’t help but shake their head, because what else is one to do when Dirk is nailing turnaround after turnaround, banking in jumpers while fouled, and brutalizing every defender placed in front of him? You can pick apart Gregg Popovich’s gameplan all you’d like, as Pop chose to do a complete 180 from his strategy in last year’s series, and played Dirk almost exclusively with a single defender. There were double teams on occasion, but for the majority of the contest Nowitzki faced up and shot over Antonio McDyess (who looked absolutely silly biting on pump fakes), Matt Bonner (who loved to send Dirk to the free throw line for extra points) and Keith Bogans (who for all of his defensive strengths, is still 6’5”).
That was clearly a mistake, as Dirk missed two shots in total out of 14 field goal attempts and 12 free throw attempts. By the time Pop finally started throwing additional pressure on Dirk when he set up at the elbow, Nowitzki displayed an incredible willingness — who gives up the ball when they’re 12-of-14? — and skill to find open teammates cutting down the lane or setting up at the three-point line. You’ll find just one assist on the stat sheet for Dirk, but the offense ran through him during winning time, and win he did.
No recap of this game would be complete without a thorough and explicit praising of Jason Kidd (13 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, four steals, four turnovers). Kidd actually had a rough go of it at times, and stepped outside himself to make some uncharacteristically sloppy plays in the half-court offense. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around however, Kidd’s power was in full effect, and not only was he finding his teammates with greater accuracy and consistency as the game progressed, but he established a flow to the offense that ended up being the deciding factor down the stretch. You could point to a number of things that won this game for the Mavs: Dirk’s incredible play, Erick Dampier’s defense on Tim Duncan, the Mavs’ ability to chase the Spurs’ three-point shooters off of their spots, etc. None of those things had as much of a literal and obvious impact as Kidd’s fourth-quarter orchestration. Nowitzki undoubtedly deserves player of the game honors, but Kidd is a worthy asterisk and footnote.
The Mavs also fall way short without Caron Butler, who finished with 22 points. Butler wasn’t efficient (19 shots to get to 22, five turnovers) so much as he was productive, and he was the go-to offensive option for the Mavs with Dirk on the bench. He drove to the basket and milked his mid-range game, but I was most impressed with Caron’s work on the block. He posted up Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson for some beautiful turnaround jumpers. Pop opted not to double-team Nowitzki for most of the game, but he wasn’t shy about throwing doubles Caron’s way. That’s…odd. Maybe his thinking is that Butler is more easily flustered than Nowitzki and that unlike Dirk, Butler doesn’t have the height to see over the double teams. That’s reasonable, but it doesn’t make doubling a far more inefficient scorer the right move on a night where Dirk is going crazy from the field.
Butler’s contributions were made even more valuable by Jason Terry’s extended silence (five points, 2-9 FG, three assists), as the Spurs keyed in defensively on JET. Terry (as the ball-handler) was blitzed on many a screen-and-roll, and to his credit, he made the right play. Only a few of those shots were forced, and though he made little impact on the game as a whole, he didn’t turn the ball over once and was an essential part of the late-game offense as per usual. Terry ran two beautiful sequences late in the fourth with Dirk as the screener, in which he once found Jason Kidd for a wide open three when Tony Parker had cheated off of him and also hit Damp right under the basket to draw a foul. Then with 1:54 left in the game, the Spurs pressured Dirk to give up the ball, and he responded with a pass out to the open Jason Kidd on the perimeter. Kidd pump faked to draw the rotating Parker and then kicked it to Terry in the corner, who connect on just his second field goal make of the game. That three put the Mavs up 100-88, and they coasted to a victory.
Only talking about the offense wouldn’t be giving the Mavs the proper credit, though. Erick Dampier did a terrific job of defending Tim Duncan. TD still had 27 and eight on 60% shooting, but that’s just about the most difficult 27 points on 60% shooting that I’ve ever seen. For whatever that’s worth. Damp forced Duncan to work for every inch of positioning down low, but his night was perhaps best captured by two spectacular plays. With 7:03 left in the first quarter, Dampier flat-out stripped Duncan as Tim faced up. He just swiped the ball away from Duncan at the hip and even chased down (lumbered toward?) the loose ball to complete the play. Equally impressive was Damp’s play at the 6:18 mark of the third quarter, when he blocked Tim Duncan’s jump hook at its apex. Duncan still got his throughout the night, but Dampier did plenty.
Just as impressive was the Mavs’ ability to cover three-point shooters. San Antonio averaged 18.9 three-pointers per game, including 4.7 per game from Manu Ginobili. That means that on average, the Spurs’ designated shooters (Bonner, Bogans, Hill, Mason, Jefferson) shot 14.2 three-pointers per game. Last night that group combined for just four three-point attempt and converted just one. Dallas was scrambling like crazy in their rotations, and the Mavs’ ability to cover every shooter on the floor was a big reason why the pick-and-roll defense was so successful. Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair each broke free on the pick-and-roll for impressive dunks, but for the most part Dallas was able to keep San Antone’s screen game in check by showing hard on the pick, recovering quickly, and relying on lots of rotating help from Mavs on the weak side.
There are a few ways you can look at this game. On one hand, the Mavs played better than the Spurs throughout, even though the margin of victory was close. They won without much scoring help from Jason Terry, and they survived 71 combined points from San Antonio’s big three. The Mavs shot 34 free throws and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, which helped to counter the Spurs’ 50% shooting night.
Then again, look at everything that went wrong for San Antonio, and they were still within striking distance for the entirety of the game. George Hill and DeJuan Blair, the purported x-factors of the series, combined for four points and five rebounds. They turned the ball over an uncharacteristic amount, lost the battle on the boards, and still shot 50% to nearly win this thing. Game one is in the books but this series is far from over. Just stay tuned for the next gripping installment.
- In the second half, Gregg Popovich employed the “Clamp-a-Damp” strategy (trademarked by Russ Bengtson), in which Roger Mason intentionally fouled Damp three times in a row as a way to get the ball out of Dirk’s hands. That’s certainly one way to deny Nowitzki the ball. Damp converted four of his six attempts during the stretch, and with the way Dirk was shooting (and getting to the free throw line), that was probably two points less than the Mavs would have gotten otherwise. Win?
- Rick Carlisle actually swapped out Dampier for Shawn Marion with a little more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter just to avoid Pop from employing the strategy again. Carlisle indicated that he thought Pop was calling for another intentional foul on Dampier, and quickly pulled Damp for a short period before the final two-minute “safe zone.”
- J.J. Barea did not play well, but this is hardly the time to throw Rodrigue Beaubois into the fire at point guard. Beaubois could be a bit of a wild card (in the good sense), but he’s not reliable enough running the point to warrant going away from Barea right now.
- George Hill played just eighteen minutes, because Pop “didn’t like what he saw.” Not sure whether that was regarding Hill’s ankle (which George insisted was fine) or his play (which was poor and ineffective), but either way I’d expect him to play more minutes and more effectively on Wednesday.
- Hands down the best in-arena atmosphere all season. The intensity of Mavs fans at the AAC comes and goes, but that place was rockin’ last night.
- The down side to Erick Dampier’s big defensive night: Brendan Haywood played just 18 minutes. He played very well in those 18 and put up 10 and six (including three offensive boards), but his limited minutes (and situational matchups) didn’t give us a good opportunity to gauge his defensive abilities against Duncan.
- Not a great night for Shawn Marion (nine points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks), but he helped. Shawn’s effectiveness will ultimately be determined by how efficiently Ginobili is scoring, as that’s Marion’s primary focus. On the bright side is that Manu only took 17 shot attempts when he could have done much more damage, and though Marion (and Jason Kidd, who played excellent defense on Manu in the fourth) couldn’t stop Ginobili from shooting a good percentage from the field, he was influential in causing some of Manu’s five turnovers.
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.
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 Miller: 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.
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.
“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.
- Theoretically, NBA defenders would become slower and less effective with age. According to Jon Nichols’ statistical work earlier this season, that may not be the case. Jason Kidd’s defense this season is a perfect anecdotal complement for Nichols’ research, and while Kidd may not be as quick as he used to be, his defensive savvy is at an all-time high. Here’s Kidd explaining his defensive approach (via Brandon George): “In age, you have to use that to your advantage. Knowledge sometimes is a little bit better than being quicker than your opponent…Just knowing tendencies and habits is something that I’m living off of right now.”
- A study of age, possession usage, and 3-point shooting percentage, with Dirk as a case study.
- Rick Carlisle is wary of the Mavs’ turnover problems against New Orleans (via Brandon George): “We were third-best in the league heading into that game not turning the ball over. The question you ask yourself is it a complete aberration or are we getting into some habits we have to avoid…So we looked at it and we have to be better because Oklahoma City is another active defensive team like New Orleans. Our execution needed to be better in a lot of places.”
- Rick Adelman thinks the Rockets have had it rough, but the Mavs have had it worse. This isn’t a shot at Adelman or the Rockets at all, but just a reminder that even when your team seems to have a legitimate complaint, the grass isn’t always greener for the league’s other 29.
- After a decade of success, the Mavs are now nearing the .500 mark for franchise wins and losses. Hooray for the 90s!
- For the record, Gregg Popovich does not like Twitter. But he was in the military, and used his top-secret military position to steal Russian basketball secrets.
- Devin Harris isn’t a dirty player, but did he make a dirty play? I vote no.