The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 104, Dallas Mavericks 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 24, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

Screen Shot 2012-03-24 at 1.04.48 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-Play Shot Chart Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • This game was a demonstration of how incredibly simple basketball can be at times; although intense basketball observers attempt to break the game down into dozens of very complicated, interrelated factors, Dallas was ultimately bested by effort, the extra pass, and the open three-pointer. And now, I will proceed to give you 16 more bullet points that are by no means arbitrary, but nonetheless seem rather silly in a game like this one.
  • Manu Ginobili — as a defender — was two or three steps ahead of Rodrigue Beaubois for this entire game. It’s not uncommon to see a young playmaker be stifled by an older, craftier defender, but Ginobili’s ability to peg and deflect Beaubois’ moves was downright uncanny. It’s to Beaubois’ credit that he still managed to notch 10 points and five assists, but even that passable stat line doesn’t convey just how thoroughly marked Beaubois was throughout this particular game.
  • It was certainly noteworthy that even with Shawn Marion’s return to the lineup — and after expressing some concern about Rodrigue Beaubois’ minutes inflating as a product of being in the starting lineup — Rick Carlisle elected to keep Beaubois in the opening set. Lineup variants involving Marion, Beaubois, Jason Kidd, and Dirk Nowitzki haven’t really played enough minutes together this season to be judged for their merits, but matchups depending, this could be a very sensible starting five (save Ian Mahinmi’s substitution for an injured Brendan Haywood) going forward.
  • Dirk Nowitzki had an absolutely horrific game, in which he provided little impact aside from his willingness to seek out contact and put up shots. It was weary legs, it was San Antonio’s active, dynamic defense, and it was a stark contrast just to highlight Nowitzki’s usual efficiency, but most importantly from a game-specific context: it was an outright disaster. There’s simply no other way to look at his 5-of-21 shooting mark, his inability to make an impact on the defensive end, and his noncommittal work on the boards. I’m not saying Nowitzki wasn’t trying, but next to the exemplary effort that the Spurs put forth, it sure seemed like it at times.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 106, San Antonio Spurs 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 18, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0115.253.631.623.112.0
San Antonio107.656.322.811.412.0

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • What began as a great offensive performance by Dirk Nowitzki (who finished the first half with 19 points) turned into a wonderful overall performance by the Mavs’ offense. Nowitzki (27 points, 9-19 FG, six rebounds, four assists, four turnovers) was absolutely brilliant in both a one-on-one capacity and as a spot-up shooter, but when San Antonio began to throw hard doubles at Dirk on the catch, he wasted no time in finding open shooters on the weak side. Throwing a pass to a shooter in the opposite corner off of a double team is a bit of a risk, but Nowitzki’s height and experience with this kind of swarming coverage make him uniquely suited for that kind of play. Nowitzki was only able to notch three points in the fourth quarter (when the Spurs made their defensive shift), but Dallas shot 5-of-9 from three-point range to the frame, with many of those makes coming off of double-team exploitation.
  • Another thing that’s abundantly clear: Nowitzki takes his matchup with Stephen Jackson — he of that infamous 2007 playoff letdown — incredibly seriously. Gregg Popovich wasted no time in getting Jackson acclimated, and pitted him against Nowitzki almost immediately, despite the fact that more conventional Nowitzki foes (Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter) were also on the floor. From that moment, Nowitzki’s entire approach shifted; he sought to back down Jackson relentlessly, and noticeably increased the physicality of his pre-shot maneuverings. Jackson did what he could to deny Nowitzki early position and fight him for every inch, but, well, it’s not 2007 anymore.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 8-16 FG, eight rebounds, three turnovers) will naturally receive praise for the quality of his performance, but in truth this was a nice outing for the entirety of the Mavs’ guard core. Jason Kidd lived up to everything that could possibly be expected of him and more, as he connected on four threes out of five attempts, racked up double-digit assists, and played great help defense to indirectly force a few turnovers. Jason Terry put up 17 points on just 10 shot as a continuation of one of his strongest stretches of the season. Vince Carter, too, put up 10 points on 50 percent shooting, just to complete the picture. The fact that all four of these players were able to positively influence the game is a wonderful sign for the resurrection of the Mavs’ depth, particularly considering how heavily the Mavs were leaning on this group in the absence of both Delonte West and Shawn Marion.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 101, San Antonio Spurs 100

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 29, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-01-29 at 10.17.43 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas98.0103.146.012.029.67.1
San Antonio102.054.820.226.48.9

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

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The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 97, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 19, 2011 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Screen shot 2011-03-19 at 1.36.08 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The Mavericks used to be a low-turnover team, but this season has featured a startling number of giveaways (Dallas ranks 17th in turnover rate, far from the elite status they’ve held in that category over the last few years) and last night stood as a comical representation of the team’s inability to control the ball. There were passes to no one in particular. By my count, Maverick players dribbled the ball off their own feet at least three times. So it was for the entire evening, as Dallas committed unforced error after unforced error. San Antonio obviously deserves credit for capitalizing on the Mavericks’ mistakes, but the home team dug their own grave in many respects.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, 4-11 FG, three rebounds, three turnovers) may have been an effective defender against Andre Miller and Monta Ellis, but Tony Parker (33 points, 14-22, four rebounds, three assists) had a field day against him. It didn’t help that Tyson Chandler was in foul trouble throughout the game and that Brendan Haywood only decided to play effective D in the second half, but Beaubois just couldn’t stick Parker in half-court settings nor did he — and this is one of the weaker elements of Beaubois’ defensive game at this point — get back in order to adequately defend in transition. Parker is dangerous in any context, but particularly so when given a full head of steam. He had that on the break, obviously, but Parker was also able to drive effectively after shedding Beaubois around screens. Guarding either Parker or Manu Ginobili seems like a miserable task, but Beaubois — and his help — will need to be better in that area if Dallas has any chance of topping San Antonio at some point in the playoffs.
  • This game seemed a bit familiar. Dirk Nowitzki was incredible, but lacked the high-volume scoring help necessary to put Dallas over the top. The Mavs had their moments on offense and defense, but always seemed a step behind. Tim Duncan (22 points, 8-13 FG, eight rebounds, two steals, three blocks) still scored efficiently, even though Dallas had capable defenders in front of him at all times. San Antonio put a lot of pressure on the Mavs’ ball-handlers, and they buckled. The margin between these two teams really isn’t that large, but over the last two seasons the Spurs have held a definite edge. I’m not sure how likely that would be to change if these two clubs were to meet in the postseason, as this game seemed like a natural extension of last year’s first round playoff series.
  • Shawn Marion suffered a right wrist injury that kept him from playing in the second half. X-rays on the wrist were negative — which is great news, because Dallas can’t afford to lose anyone at this point — but the Mavs certainly missed Marion over the final 24 minutes. Frequent double-teams deterred the Mavs from working through Nowitzki as much as they should have in the first half, but Marion carried the offense in the meantime. San Antonio doesn’t really have a good defensive counter for Marion, so he went to work in the post against Ginobili and a cast of smaller guards, and drove into the paint from the weak side after some nice ball reversals. His runners and hooks won’t fall every night, they did on this one, and the Mavs sure could have benefited from his offensive production in the second half. That said: Marion wasn’t exactly at his defensive finest, as he completely blew his coverage of Ginobili on multiple occasions. It’s nights like these that make one wonder how Dallas was ever an elite defensive team at all.
  • To those who still cling to the fourth quarter as all-important, take a look back at the tape of the first quarter from this game. Sure, the Mavs could have played better in the fourth, but this game was lost in the first frame.
  • Good to know that using Dirk in high screen-and-roll action at the top of the key still works as an antidote to double-teaming. Nowitzki created a mismatch almost every time he set a high pick for Kidd, Terry, Barea, or Beaubois, either by causing the guard to switch onto him or baiting another defender to slide over in order to help. From that point, Nowitzki would simply begin backing down his defender, and turn to fire over them (while spinning away from incoming help on some occasions) from the free throw line. Dallas lost, but this approach (in addition to Marion’s post-ups, the shots created from Beaubois’ penetration, and other stratagems) does offer some hope of how the Mavs might counter a team like the Spurs in the future. There were blunders aplenty, but it’s not as if this game didn’t give Dallas something to work with.

The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 99, Dallas Mavericks 93

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 31, 2010 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas92.0101.148.815.98.510.9
San Antonio107.653.323.718.415.2

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • It would be unfair to lump the weight of a loss on one player in any game, but Jason Terry (eight points, 3-16 FG, four assists) makes the idea awfully tempting. Last I checked, JET was supposedly the Mavs’ most efficient non-Dirk scorer, and yet his shooting stroke was lost but never found. There were no late-game heroics (aside from a pair of three-pointers swished after the game had been decided) from Terry, only well-intended attempts each flawed in their own special way. He drove to draw fouls rather than score. He took a three from a good foot-and-a-half behind the three-point line, just for kicks. He pulled up and pulled up and pulled up in the hope that something would go down. Whatever pixie dust JET has benefited from in the past seems to have disappeared over the last two games, so if anyone knows a good supplier of magically enchanted performance-enhancing goods or potions, Terry might be interested.
  • The Mavs’ defense wasn’t sterling, but it was surely competent. In man and zone alike, Dallas put forth a strong defensive effort, and though the execution was hardly pitch-perfect at every turn, the Mavs did about as well as one could ask — while throwing two deep bench players into the regular rotation — against San Antonio’s impressive offensive front. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined to shoot 10-of-27 from the field, and though Ginobili’s three-pointers were pretty crucial, I think the Mavs can live with that shooting mark.
  • If one Maverick lived up to expectation and then some, it was Caron Butler (30 points, 10-21 FG, ). The oft-maligned wing was an efficient scoring machine, and the one stable aspect of the Mavs’ offense all game long. Jason Kidd started off hot but faded fast, Jason Terry sputtered throughout, and Caron worked his way into good attempts. The Mavs’ offense isn’t sustainable without Dirk, but Caron did his part to keep the team afloat. Toss in plus performances by Tyson Chandler, Brian Cardinal, and Alexis Ajinca (who leapfrogged Brendan Haywood in the rotation, if only for this game), and the Mavs almost stole a win. They competed, but their offensive limitations combined with Terry’s struggles were too much to overcome. (Also: the Spurs switched every 1-4 pick-and-roll, pitting George Hill and Tony Parker up against Shawn Marion in the post. The Mavs found some success going to that match-up, but they never attacked it. Why?)
  • All hail the vaunted zone. It broke down at times (as any D is ought to do), but the match-up zone again keyed substantial runs for the Mavs that helped them overcome the Spurs 14-point first-half lead. It continues to amaze me how seamlessly Dallas can transition from zone to man and back again, as if each didn’t require a distinct mentality and its own approach.
  • Three-point shooting seems a popular theme, but it’s not as if the Spurs were the only team hitting their looks from beyond the arc. Gary Neal hit a dizzying 5-of-8 threes en route to 21, but Cardinal hit all three of his attempts, and Jason Kidd nailed 2-of-5 from deep. It’s a point of separation in a close game, but even the Spurs’ blistering shooting was countered. Plus, if we’re looking to long-range shooting as a distinction between the Mavs and the Spurs, then offensive rebounding should surely be taken into account; San Antonio bested Dallas by nearly 10% in offensive rebounding rate.
  • Jason Kidd (12 points, 5-15 FG, 10 rebounds, 13 assists) notched a triple-double, which deserves note. Like much of the Mavs’ efforts though, it was a bit empty. Dallas never felt like they were ready to actually win the game, instead seemingly content to have fought hard and ceded in the final act. It’s a commendable loss if such a thing exists, but I’ll be damned if there didn’t seem to be a bit of destiny involved. Caron Butler may not have gotten the memo, but Dallas wasn’t scripted to be the plucky underdog.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 1, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • If you’re interested, you can enter a contest to win a date with Shawn Marion via Facebook and Twitter. You’re interested. (via Jeff Weiss, Trey Kerby)
  • Shawn Bradley is on Twitter. (via ShamSports)
  • Dirk Nowitzki might have some bad news about Rodrigue Beaubois’ timetable for return. It’s a guess, but it’s a guess from a guy who’s pretty plugged in, no?
  • Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “A strategic switch was flipped very early in the Mavs’ 99-83 win Sunday afternoon at the Clippers. It’s not the sort of thing the coaching staff will be able to take much credit for, because who is going to ballyhoo a strategic admission to failure? The original plan: Dirk was going to guard “second-year’’ rookie Blake Griffin, the double-double machine. If Nowitzki could survive that, the logic went, the domino effect would allow Dallas to win matchups at the other positions, including Tyson Chandler guarding the dangerous Chris Kaman. Dirk guarding Griffin? It lasted two possessions. The UberMan can do a lot of things, and because Griffin is an untested commodity, there was no way to know for certain whether he can do this. Now we know. After a blow-by and after a rag-dolling, now we know. He can’t. So Rick Carlisle flipped the switch. Quickly and smartly.”
  • Nick Fazekas will be the No. 1 pick in tonight’s D-League draft. Don’t laugh too hard, we may see him back in the NBA pretty soon. Matt Hubert of D-League Digest has the Texas Legends slated to select Tennessee’s Chris Lofton with the No. 4 pick in his mock draft.
  • Kurt Helin credited the Clippers’ poor shooting numbers to user error rather than the Dallas defense at ProBasketballTalk: “The Clippers just missed everything — they started the game 3-17, but they were outworking the Mavericks on the boards and stayed close. In the second half they just kept missing, with the team’s starters shooting 30 percent for the game. Give the Mavericks a little credit for their defense, but the Clips were just cold.”
  • Whut.
  • Tony Parker will be a Spur for the foreseeable future, until trade do they part.
  • Dirk Nowitzki takes a shot at a teammate (via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News): “We talked about making it a priority that our defensive field-goal percentage has to get better. We all know that’s what wins in this league. If you play defense consistent, you give yourself a chance every night. We’ve been working hard at it. Even Jet [Jason Terry] is trying to chase guys, which I haven’t seen in seven years.”
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas prodded Rick Carlisle about the Mavs’ shot distribution: “Caron Butler has led the Mavs in shots attempted in the first two games. That isn’t by design. ‘If he’s open, he should shoot,’ coach Rick Carlisle said. ‘But I don’t expect him to be our leading shot-taker. He’s going to be one of our top three or four obviously and be in the top three most likely. But, look, this is two games out of 82. Come back in two weeks and see where we are.’”

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 18, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Kurt Helin, my fellow ProBasketballTalk-er, had a chance to interview Caron Butler. Here are Butler’s thoughts regarding what the Mavs’ areas for improvement in the coming year: “Controlling the glass, focusing on defense. Because we can score with the best of them. We have a great player, we have a Hall of Fame point guard and whole bunch of other guys that want to get it done and are willing to sacrifice whatever to win. We’ve just got to put it all together and we will.” Butler also noted that he’s been working with the needs-no-introduction Tim Grover.
  • Kevin Arnovitz has a great interview with Texas Legends’ coach Nancy Lieberman, who is getting serious mileage out of her catchphrase (which you may remember from my interview with Lieberman earlier this summer): “Making the irregular regular.” Here’s Lieberman on her voice as a coach, and what the voice will mean to men who haven’t had all that many female basketball mentors: “I think the end message will be similar, but the methods and how they get the information could be different. I’m excited about it because I’m not going to be in practice f-bombing people. That won’t be me. I’ll be firm and I’ll be fair. We won’t tell people what to do. We’ll explain what we’d like them to do. We’ll show them what we want to do. Then, they’ll do it. I will work their tails off. Trust me. I’m not as nice as I’m faking it on this conversation. I will work them really hard, but I’ll love them on the other side. And they need to know they’re loved and cared for. But that doesn’t mean you can walk over me, through me. That won’t happen. But look, I’m going to kill my guys so I might as well be nice to them. I have high expectations. I haven’t made it in a man’s world for 35 years by being soft, scared or insecure.”
  • Mike Krzyzewski on Tyson Chandler’s play for Team USA, via Chris Tomasson of FanHouse: “Tyson has been outstanding. We have a relationship from the 2007 qualifying team (and in 2008 when Chandler came close to making the Olympic team) … He doesn’t need the ball. He’s stronger. I bet he’s at least probably 15 pounds heavier and stronger than he was in 2007. He feels healthy.”
  • Have $25 burning a hole in your wallet? Then do I have the deal for you. (H/T: Scott Schroeder)
  • Josh Howard, infused with Devean George’s trade veto power.
  • Caron Butler thinks the Heat could make it to 73 wins. The Bulls’ sacred 72-win mark is seemingly unbeatable, but next year’s Miami Heat have definite advantages those Bulls were never afforded. The ’95-’96 Bulls are certainly one of the best teams to ever lace them up, but is Caron wrong? Isn’t the combination of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — with Chris Bosh and a hell of a supporting cast — enough to at least bring the Heat into the discussion?
  • Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups are two big, strong point guards that have made the most of their size by posting up smaller opposing guards. The Mavs have dabbled with using Jason Kidd in a similar capacity, but he just doesn’t have the scoring chops for it. Regardless, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook breaks down what it is that makes Miller and Billups so effective in the post.
  • Kelly Dwyer is ranking the top 30 players in each of the five conventional positions, beginning with point guards. You can see the first installment (30-21) here, and the second (20-11) here. Jason Kidd comes in at #12, which may seem a bit harsh, but consider the 11 PGs likely to top Kidd in Dwyer’s rankings (in no particular order): Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Jameer Nelson (already confirmed as #11), Rajon Rondo, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Devin Harris, Tony Parker, and Tyreke Evans. Of those 11, which would you pick Kidd to best in the coming season?
  • Jeff Fox of Hoops Manifesto takes a stab at listing the top 10 Mavericks of all-time.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois’ surgery was successful.
  • From Caron Butler’s blog on HoopsHype: “Aside from the Tyson Chandler trade, my team has had a pretty quiet offseason. I’m not surprised. We had a great roster already. The management looked at the team and thought change wasn’t needed.” Well…that’s certainly one interpretation of the summer’s events.

Game 5: Dallas Mavericks 103, San Antonio Spurs 81

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 28, 2010 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

The key to change…is to let go of fear.”
-Roseanne Cash

I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of hard-fought, Mavs-Spurs nail biters, but there’s nothing quite like a refreshing change of pace. For a moment, we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief, and find some comfort in knowing that when the Mavs’ options were limited to winning or facing a long, long summer, they fought to secure the former. There really is hope for this team yet, and though winning the next two games poses a significantly greater challenge than Game 5 did, winning the series remains a distinct possibility. It’s hardly probable, mind you, and would require more than a bit of luck, but after putting together the most dominant game by either team in this series, the Mavs’ chances seem decidedly better than they were just a few hours ago.

Rick Carlisle tweaked his rotation from opening tip, opting to start Brendan Haywood (eight points, eight rebounds, four blocks) over Erick Dampier (who received a DNP-CD). Haywood responded wonderfully, and though he failed to reach double-digits in points, his impact was profound. Brendan emerged from series invisibility to grab six offensive boards in 30 minutes, and went to the free throw line 12 times as a result. The Mavs fed Haywood down low early, and his focus and intensity never lagged. He was a force defensively, and held Tim Duncan to 3-of-9 shooting and just 11 points. He also made a tremendous difference as a weak side defender, and Haywood looks to be an entirely different pick-and-roll defender than he was when the series began. In Game 5, Haywood defended like a player who not only knew the team’s defensive game plan, but was completely comfortable in executing every aspect of it. Interior shots were challenged, screens were hedged, and four poor, unfortunate attempts were never the same again.

Caron Butler (35 points on 24 shots, 11 rebounds, three steals, zero turnovers) who famously rode the pine in the second half of Game 3, was the hero on offense. I wrote earlier in the day that “expecting Caron Butler to radically change his shot selection…is a bit ridiculous at this point,” but that’s precisely what he did.  Caron shifted from his late Josh Howardian isolation step-back jumper-heavy style to an aggressive all-out assault. He still took plenty of jumpers, but many of those looks were on open spot-up attempts rather than attempts to run a one-man offense. Plus, Butler’s nine free throw attempts were no fluke; Caron attacked the rim both in the half-court and in transition, and that approach was rewarded with several trips to the free throw line. Butler’s career playoff high couldn’t have come at a better time, and should his suddenly renewed interest in getting to the rim last through the end of the weekend, it could go a long way in pushing the Mavs to an improbable series win.

However, the most promising development wasn’t simply Butler seeing the light, but the improved flow of the offense on the whole. For the first time since Game 1, Jason Kidd (10 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals) looked like a game-changing player, and it’s hardly a coincidence that Dallas’ ball and player movement improved accordingly. There was no settling and no stopping the ball, as the once smothering Spurs defense looked quite mortal when faced with the challenge of containing a multifaceted Maverick offense. Dallas moved to strike quickly and efficiently, and San Antonio had absolutely no answer.

Dirk’s offensive rhythm is almost a given at this point, but even his shot attempts were markedly more open than they were in the first four games of the series. Once the game opens up for Butler, Haywood, Jason Terry (12 points on eight shots, four rebounds, two steals), J.J. Barea (eight points, four rebounds, four assists, five turnovers), and Shawn Marion (10 points, four rebounds), a Dirk-centered defense seems to miss the point.

The Mavs defended as well as they had all series, and with Tony Parker (18 points, 6-of-15 shooting, six assists) as the lone scorer on a Spurs team that was giving up plenty, the Spurs had little chance to mount a serious comeback. Manu Ginobili struggled from the field for the third game in a row (.333 in Game 3, .250 in Game 4, .286 in Game 5) thanks primarily to the defense of Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd, though defending a player of Manu’s caliber is always a team effort. George Hill, who was very nearly cast as a statue outside the AT&T Center following his performance in Game 4, finished with a mortal 12 points. Half of those game late in the third quarter after the game had already been decided, which officially qualifies him as a non-factor. The open shots that Hill feasted on were gone due to the Mavs’ quicker rotations, and without the benefit of wide open shots, George shifted to a rather limited form.

There’s no way of knowing whether anything from Game 5 will carryover into Thursday’s game, but there’s no reason to think that it can’t. Everything that the Mavericks did to dominate the Spurs is very sustainable, Caron Butler won’t necessarily be dropping 35 again, but the ball movement, the pick-and-roll defense, the balance — all reasonable goals for Game 6. It’s just a matter of execution, and with all of the Mavs’ big hitters getting plenty of rest, there’s no reason to expect Dallas to fail.

A few closing thoughts:

  • Dallas looked to get into transition at every opportunity (23 fast break points to San Antonio’s eight), which ended up playing a huge part in the rebounding battle. San Antonio’s focus on transition defense is logical and effective, but in this case pulled the Spurs’ bigs back to protect their own basket rather than hitting the offensive glass. Dallas had five more offensive rebounds and 11 more total rebounds as a result.
  • DeShawn Stevenson shaved his beard for the first time in 18 months. The Mavs have gone undefeated since.
  • Game 6 will be at 7 PM (central time) on TNT.
  • Eduardo Najera was called for another flagrant foul for catching Tony Parker’s head on a downward swipe, though this time he was assessed a flagrant one rather than a flagrant two. If Eddie picks up another flagrant foul, he’ll face (at least) a one game suspension. That could end up being pretty influential, as Najera played all of the backup center minutes in Dampier’s stead.
  • On that note: no word on why exactly Damp received a DNP-CD. Rick Carlisle sat Haywood for an extended stretch in Game 3 and has generally limited Brendan’s minutes throughout the series, but went back to him in Game 5 and it paid off.

San Antonio Spurs 92, Dallas Mavericks 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 25, 2010 under Recaps | 15 Comments to Read

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

Any event, once it has occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent historian.”
-Lee Simonson

Admittedly, I’m a bit tired of the Mavs being both incredibly predictable and uncomfortably surprising.

On the offenseive end, the Mavs’ limitations are the same old, same old: there aren’t enough players around Dirk who can create shots. Jason Terry’s pull-up game is nice but only when he’s hitting, Caron Butler’s ability to drive is comforting but he’s both resistant of it and can’t finish, and the rest of the Mavs are largely situational scorers that can only complete plays if put in very specific situations. For all of the moves, the money, and the hype, these Mavericks are more or less the same team that they’ve always been.

You can’t walk into every Maverick game knowing precisely what to expect, though. For one, it’s unclear exactly which opposing role player Dallas will allow to thoroughly demean them. Maybe it’s George Hill, like it was tonight, or Richard Jefferson, like it was in Game 2, or DeJuan Blair, like it was in the regular season finale. That’s one regard in which the Mavs will always keep their fans guessing, as you never know when they might give up 52 points to Andre Miller.

That’s the Dallas Mavericks in a nutshell: too predictable on offense, too unpredictable on defense. They have yet to find the magical balance where they can still bewilder their opponents without also startling themselves, and it’s that quality that separates the Mavs from the Spurs, much less teams like the Cavs or the Magic. It’s that quality that has Dallas on the brink of elimination, facing a seemingly impossible three-game gauntlet just to move on to the second round.

That fate is, of course, made even more depressing by a few factors. The Mavs led by 15 points in the first half, and looked to be responding well to the pressure of a “must-win” Game 4. Tim Duncan scored just four points on 1-of-9 shooting and Manu Ginobili shot 25% from the field despite tying the team high in shot attempts. Dallas was right there at the end yet again, despite playing one of the worst third quarters in the post-Greg Ostertag era. You’d think in a game where the Mavs held a substantial lead, the opposing Big Three totaled just 37 points, and their own shortcomings were remedied by a shot at greatness, that something would end up going Dallas’ way. It didn’t. The lead was an empty memory, the Spurs’ stars’ struggles were erased by an incredible game from George Hill, and the Mavs’ second-half struggles should haunt them long into the off-season.

This was a game Dallas could have won and should have won. They just didn’t, and while there is some consolation in knowing that all of the Mavericks’ losses have been close, that very fact also makes them incredibly heartbreaking.

I think it would be difficult to fully comprehend everything that happened in the third quarter. It was a bizarre intersection of turnovers, poor defense, and iffy shot selection, and the magnitude of that 12 minutes (or even the first six minutes, in which Dallas went completely scoreless) likely warrants a post of its own. Maybe the Mavs will miraculously climb out of the 1-3 hole they now find themselves in, and we can all laugh and reminisce about how dire it all seemed. But should the rest of the series play out as expected, Dallas won’t have died rolling over in Game 5, toughing it out in Game 6, or clawing to the last in Game 7. They’ll have fallen whiffing, caving, and settling in the third quarter of Game 4.

It’s a shame.

As I mentioned before, George Hill (29 points, 11-of-16 shooting) was beyond impressive. He was deadly from the corners, but just as efficient from mid-range. That’s what surprised me most about Hill’s performance: most of his damage came strictly from jumpers, as a loose ball found its way into his hands or he was left open off a pick-and-roll rotation. With Dirk (17 points on a measly 10 shot attempts, 11 rebounds, four assists, three turnovers) held down by Antonio McDyess and shackled by the Spurs’ double-teams, no Maverick could even attempt to match Hill’s scoring production. Terry (17 points, 5-of-11 FG, six rebounds) tried, and Butler (17 points on 18 shot attempts, three turnovers) really tried, but it wasn’t enough. Haywood and Kidd managed to chip in 10 apiece, but where is the scoring option that can take advantage of the double teams on Dirk? Where is the scorer that will elevate the Mavs above their .416 mark from the field?

The Spurs, by contrast, won in spite of subpar performances by their stars. Duncan couldn’t hit a thing (1-for-9), but it didn’t matter. Hill provided the scoring, DeJuan Blair was so good that his mortal offerings on the stat sheet (seven points, seven rebounds) seem like a joke, and Richard Jefferson was both more productive and more efficient than Tony Parker. It turns out that this is what depth looks like, and though the Mavs would seem to have it in spades, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson seemed to have done nothing more than make the world’s most ferocious paper tiger.

This post honestly isn’t supposed to be an outright hit; there are still plenty of positive things to take out of Game 4 and the effort was there even if the execution wasn’t. But suffering another close loss by the Spurs’ hand doesn’t make this 1-3 deficit any less glaring or any more manageable. Dallas will need something truly remarkable to advance to the second round, and based on how the Spurs have answered the Mavs at almost every turn, deeming a comeback ‘improbable’ may be too kind.

It’s Pressing: Post-Game Pressers from Mavs-Spurs Game 3

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 24, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by D.Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images.

Tons of quotes here from the locker room and post-game press conferences, so dig in. I’ve bolded items of interest for various reasons, but if nothing else, at least check out Damp’s comments about the officiating.

See the Mavs and Spurs BARE ALL after the jump.

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