Let’s be honest. The Spurs had no business winning today.
Against an eight-seeded Dallas Mavericks team, the Spurs somehow mustered up enough energy to knock off their in-state rivals.
How in the world, though, did the Spurs win the Sunday matinee between two of the West’s perennial powers?
Well, Popovich’s diabolical plan to limit the Big Three’s regular season minutes paid off in a big way.
The game started with a jumper from Kawhi Leonard that barely grazed the bottom of the net. It was not an ideal start for a team predicted to take out the brooms in their opening round series.
However, just like past years, Tony Parker kept the Spurs well and alive. He masterfully wove his way around the helpless Mavs defenders and keyed in on the paint.
His ability to attack the rim and lay the ball in has yet to fail him as an aging superstar.
The same goes for Timothy Duncan.
The beginning to his day at the AT&T Center was less than spectacular, and the almost 38-year-old power forward took a painful blow to the knee.
Much like his career, though, Duncan will not die.
He came back in to the game and finished with a game-high 27 points. Not too shabby for the first game of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
Somehow, some way the Spurs closed out the final seconds with a five point advantage and the Mavericks were left with a missed opportunity.
Entering halftime, Dallas held a one point lead and kept the Spurs at arm’s distance for much of the remaining 24 minutes.
Something clicked, though.
Dallas went up 81-71 with 7:45 left in the contest. The Spurs would go on a 14-0 run over the next five minutes.
Sparked by an outburst by Tim Duncan, San Antonio managed to claw their way back in to the driver’s seat and take a 1-0 advantage in the series.
Even with a dismal 3-17 shooting performance from beyond the arc, San Antonio found a way to win in front of a "black out" crowd.
Give credit to the Mavericks for a valiant effort. At times it seemed like a defensive stop would be nearly impossible. Although, a huge killer for Dallas was timing.
They got hot in the middle and rapidly cooled down in the last half of the fourth quarter.
Also, Dirk Nowitzki picked the wrong game to have a bad shooting night.
As the centerpiece for the Mavericks for years, Dirk was 4-14 from the field and finished the day with 11 points.
While he could come alive in the next few contests, it would be shocking to see the rest of the Spurs, minus the Big Three, to have another performance like they did.
They seemed out of sync and still driving in cruise control. The older guys, Timmy, Tony, and Manu, know it is playoff time. And in late April, every game matters.
The Spurs and Mavericks will meet again Wednesday. With one game in the books, I look forward to seeing who comes ready to play and who’s still unsure of what time it is.