Here's how you know the Mavs aren't good: The Spurs just beat them.
I know, I'm hilarious.
Seriously though, in a game in which Dirk Nowitzki rarely even nicked the rim on his patented one-legged fadeaway, shooting it so pure that neither Boris Diaw nor Tiago Splitter could do much of anything against it, in a game in which Vince Carter bullied his way to the basket for 11 free throws on the way to a rare 20-point outing, and in a game in which Monta Ellis didn't have it all but had more than a little of it, the Spurs still won on the road, despite their starting lineups continued struggles from the field. Back in the day the Spurs had no chance to beat these guys when Nowitzki had it going.
They won, in part because the Spurs are, despite my bouts of panic and worry, still pretty good, but more so because the Mavs are really pretty lousy, with a really haphazard, poorly constructed roster.
I mean anytime your franchise is relying on the concept of a DeJuan Blair Revenge Game, your owner and GM have failed you, and they have failed you badly. This is a rotten defensive ball club, with a fun-sized starting ole backcourt of Ellis and Jose Calderon, an undersized or underskilled center, depending on whether Blair or Samuel Dalembert is in there, a fossil at the small forward in Shawn Marion who still continues to vomit up jumpers and is on the wrong end of the athleticism match-up on most nights by now and Nowitzki, who continues to be legendary on one end but doesn't even pretend to play defense anymore, a la Kobe.
Blair came out and played well, as you knew he would. He made his first six shots, grabbed seven offensive boards (to only four defensive ones) and played with a ton of energy. He also made easily a dozen defensive mistakes, gambling and reaching and blissfully ignoring the roll man time and again, as Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan combined for 19 free throw attempts, more than the Spurs average as a team.
Sure, the Spurs needed some long-range heroics from Danny Green -- a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, 5-of-5 from long range and 3-of-3 from the stripe) and they got great all-around contributions from Duncan and Diaw, with the Spurs bench once again proving to be the difference, but the bottom line is that the Mavs just couldn't guard anybody and had to resort to fouling, fouling and fouling some more. Their fans didn't even have the heart to boo the calls too vociferously and even their announcers weren't belly aching much. It's a franchise going through the motions. They know they don't have a chance.
It boggles the mind that this franchise toppled the Heat in the Finals just three seasons ago.
Standard Pop Quote:
"We're very happy to win the game. Any win in the NBA is a good win. When you do it on the road on a back-to-back against a good team it feels even better. We're thrilled to get out of here with a win."
By the Numbers:
20,305: The attendance at the American Airlines Center
42: Free throw attempts for the good guys. On the road. Against Dallas. If you told the 2006 me this would happen in a 2013 game, my head would've exploded.
35: Free throw makes. Wait, I mean if you told the 2006 me that a Spurs team would make 35-of-42, that would've made my head explode.
-9: DeJuan Blair, in 23:12 of playing time.
+13: Jeff Ayres, in 8:04, awful hands and all.
0:00: How much Blair played during that 12-0 run late in the fourth that got the Mavs back into the game.
7:30: About how much small-ball the Spurs played last night.
0:00: How much time a Duncan-Leonard-Green-Ginobili-Parker lineup played, as Pop continues to troll me. We saw Leonard-Belinelli-Green and Leonard-Belinelli-Ginobili but no Leonard-Green-Ginobili.
5-of-5: Greens from three.
2-of-11: Non-Greens from three.
Sequence of the Game:
It wasn't a game-turning play or anything, but midway through the first quarter Leonard got a board and went coast-to-coast, accelerating as he dribbled and finishing with an emphatic dunk while the entire Mavs team just watched him, including one DeJuan Blair. Now, keep in mind that this was supposedly Blair's "revenge game," the one that he had circled on his calender ever since he signed with the Mavs. He had started well, with six quick points, but this play, right here, told me the Spurs were completely right to bid him adieu, even with Ayres air-balling dunks. Blair didn't try to block the dunk, didn't try to draw a charge or take a foul and make Leonard earn the points at the line. He did nothing but watch him slam the ball through the hoop. Have a nice life, DeJuan. You had some good times here, but I'm happy you're no longer a Spur.
Tweets of the Night:
The Spurs have given the "start Belinelli" tryout a 5-game sample size, and it's been awful.— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 27, 2013
Parker, Belinelli, Leonard, Duncan, Splitter lineup is shooting 34 percent, scoring 77.2 pts/100 poss, giving up 98.5 pts/100 poss (cont.)— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 27, 2013
I don't imagine that improved a whole lot after this game.
Pop and Shawn Marion joking pre game… Is he an All-Time "Wish Pop Had Him on a Spurs Team" Player? Who else?— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) December 27, 2013
Andrei Kirilenko comes to mind. Remember how we all freaked out the whole off-season when the Spurs didn't get him? LOL, us. Also, I'd put Andres Nocioni on there. And Dirk Nowitzki. And Paul George. And LeBron. I think Pop would like LeBron.
DeJuan Blair is exactly the type of player Sean Elliott would tear down if he weren't a former Spurs player.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) December 27, 2013
AND HE'D BE RIGHT TO.
Tim Duncan is transforming into Hot Sauce before our very eyes.— 210pros (@210pros) December 27, 2013
Yikes. Danny Green's shot was really off there. And not bc foul.— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) December 27, 2013
Kinda like foreshadowing, but the opposite.
Slowly starting to come around to the "harden plays a gimmick brand of basketball" camp. Appreciate the value, but horrible to watch.— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) December 27, 2013
I hate him. I hate him so much.
That looked like Timcidental Contact.— Alex D. (@DewNO) December 27, 2013
Dwain, it was quite incidental. RT @DwainPrice: Duncan just elbowed Ellis in the chin/nose. Ejection?— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) December 27, 2013
Good thing this wasn't a Joey game.
Basically, whoever plays with Manu and Bobo this season is going to look fantastic. Except Jeff Ayres.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) December 27, 2013
Random Observation: My random observation is who I didn't observe, namely one Mark Cuban. They never showed one camera shot of him the whole game that I saw, and I had the Mavs announcers on my League Pass (admittedly I skipped past the free throws, so maybe I missed it). Either Cuban wasn't in attendance or he has ordered his guys to not show him during games anymore because he doesn't want to be the story. Regardless, what this tells me is he knows they're crap, he knows he's not the power player in the league he used to be, unable to land prime free agents like Deron Williams and Dwight Howard in back-to-back off-seasons, and he knows the roster he and his GM have put together have no chance to contend. How could Cuban not be front-and-center during a Spurs-Mavs contest? Man, this rivalry is dead.
Your Three Stars:
3. Boris Diaw (20 pts): Maybe it was the opportunity to feast on the undersized grizzly Blair, but this was the best game Diaw has played in a while. Not only was he on point on all of his inside flips but he had a number of smart passes from the low post and came up with a couple of huge offensive boards. His three-point shot seems to have gone the way of the dodo, though.
2. Danny Green (27 pts): A fantastic shooting performance obviously and surprisingly un-spazzy going to the basket. In fact, I think I'm more confident with his touch around the rim these days than Splitter and Jeff Ayres is downright jealous of Green's hands and layup skills.
1. Tim Duncan (61 pts): The jumper is still mostly a straight line toward the front of the rim, but full credit to The Golden God for not giving up on the rest of his game, for continuing to stay aggressive going to the basket, fighting for offensive boards, getting to the line and being a monster on the other end. The Spurs defense as a whole is struggling, but Duncan hasn't been the problem.
Next Up: Vs. Sacramento Kings (8-19), Sunday, Dec. 29: Finally, a two-day breather for the exhausted Spurs, the perfect amount of time to recharge the batteries but not grow too rusty. I wish they had like 40 of these during the season. The Kings record is so poor that they wouldn't even be in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference. They've got two frightening offensive players in DeMarcus Cousins, who's been destroying the league this year, and Isaiah Thomas, whose name I've always thought maintained a superfluous "a" in it, but I'm seeing it spelled that way more and more, so maybe Isiah Thomas' mom spelled it wrong in the first place? Help me out here. Either way, as predicted by the entire internet, Rudy Gay didn't make this bunch one micron better, even though he's been shooting it pretty well, for him (44-of-96 by my count, about 47 percent). Their bench is terrible, their backcourt can't guard anybody, their transition defense is a joke and their center struggles mightily with the pick-and-roll. Basically they're Dallas, but their 7-footer scores inside rather than those one-legged Dirk fadeaways. I predict the Spurs will score many points and the Kings less many.