San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas MavericksAmerican Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
December 26, 2013, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: KENS HD - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs lost another game to a championship contender on Christmas when they fell at home to the Rockets in what has to be considered the worst loss of the season. Without any excuses, the Spurs straight up lost a game to a budding in-state rival at home to continue an early but alarming trend of falling to the top teams in the league. San Antonio has lost to the Pacers, Portland, OKC, the Clippers and the Rockets (twice) so far this year and when you look at the overall schedule to date the question becomes what is the Spurs' best win?
Outside of knocking off Golden State at home without some major pieces, the Spurs have yet to really prove that they can beat the top teams in the league. We all know they can, but eventually it becomes something that has to be addressed, and we're starting to see that start to happen. The Spurs are doing what good teams do and that is beat the teams it should. However, the Spurs are doing what great teams do and that is beat the other top teams in the league. It is early, but it is a valid discussion so far this season even if history tells us there is no fire behind the smoke.
The Spurs have a chance to quiet that talk with a road-contest with the Dallas Mavericks tonight. The Mavs are 16-12 and sit in seventh place in the Western Conference. Dallas is 6-4 in its last three games with a victory over the Rockets on Monday, which stopped a two-game losing streak. Dallas has some solid wins this season (two wins over the Rockets and a victory over Portland), but Dallas knows a win over San Antonio can build momentum for a team that has lacked consistency this season.
As usual, Dallas goes as Dirk Nowitzki goes. In the last win against Houston, the veteran scored 31 points and filled up the rest of the stat sheet. Nowitzki may not be as multi-tooled as he once was, but he never relied on athleticism early in his career and the tricks he picked up along the way are helping him remain a legitimate scoring threat in every game. In 27 games he is averaging 21.5 points per game and has a 24.0 PER win just few than 33 minutes.
Nowitzki still stirs the drink, but the addition of Monta Ellis has taken some of the scoring pressure off of Dirk. Ellis has cooled a bit after a blazing start, but he is still averaging over 20 points per game and he leads the Mavs in steals.
Outside of those two, however, Dallas has a hard time creating consistency on the offensive end despite being eighth in the league in scoring, averaging 103.8 points per game. Dallas also ranks sixth in the league in assists a game, but like a lot of teams with two very good isolation players, the offense can get stale down the stretches of games as Nowitzki and Ellis jockey for final shot opportunities. When Dallas shares the ball, it is a very good offensive team. Veterans like Jose Calderon and Shawn Marion have provided double-digit scoring from the starting lineup and Vince Carter and Jae Crowder are capable of putting up 10+ points off of the bench on any given night.
Dallas will have to improve on the defensive end to have a chance in the playoffs, but like we saw on Christmas against the Rockets, the Spurs are a team that isn't going to win many shootouts right now, especially if the effort from yesterday carries over to today. Personally, I think this has "Spurs statement game" written all over it, but another slow start against Dallas could create one more big hole that the Spurs are forced to climb out of, and in what has proven to be a grueling December, it will be hard to ask that out of this team.
Key Matchup: The Spurs need a dominating performance from its bench to win this game. On the second game of another back-to-back, it will be up to the Spurs bench to provide a spark and a scoring advantage when Dirk and Monta are off of the court. San Antonio should have the depth advantage and a quick-start could be ballooned to a big halftime lead if the Spurs bench can carry early momentum or stop any momentum Dallas builds early in the game.