Game 2 was supposed to answer a few questions still looming from Game 1. Namely, whether Dallas would continue their strategy of switching on defense that stymied San Antonio's offense in their first match up, and if so, whether the Spurs would work the ball around a little more instead of settling for one-on-one plays.
Instead, the Mavericks' 113-92 Game 2 blowout of the Spurs brought infinitely more questions than answers for San Antonio.
Everybody was watching the Spurs first offensive play in order to see what the Mavs were going to do on defense. The answer: not switch. Now, they ended up going back to it a little later in the quarter (and even threw in some zone in the 2nd quarter), but played the majority of the game in their traditional man-to-man scheme. I was excited to see that because I believed it would allow the Spurs to go back to what they normally do best: pick defenses apart with ball and player movement. Instead, the result was a flurry of San Antonio turnovers.
The Spurs finished the first quarter with nine turnovers, yet were only down one point to the Mavs, 24-23. San Antonio shot 67% from the field, compared to Dallas' 43% in the period, and yet offense did not look right. Their spacing was off, they were telegraphing passes and they couldn't muster a single trip to the line. The one-point deficit was definitely a victory for San Antonio as they headed into the 2nd quarter. It looked much worse on the court than in the box score.
The first half was particularly troublesome for Kawhi Leonard, who did not look like himself all game long. He got two early fouls in the first quarter, and notched his 3rd foul only a few minutes into the second quarter. Leonard sat the rest of the half, playing under nine minutes and recording zero points on zero shots. This was one of the worst games I have ever seen him play. He was slow on both offense and defense and his fouls were quite obvious. While the turnovers hurt, it was Kawhi's unrecognizable play that told me this game was not going to go the Spurs' way.
Even with a heroic effort from new papa Manu Ginobili in the final three minutes of the half, in which he scored ten of the Spurs final 12 points, the team's 15 turnovers were the story going into the locker room. San Antonio shot 58% in the first two quarters and kept Dirk at nine points, but Monta Ellis and Shawn Marion had 13 points each, giving the Mavs the 56-51 lead going into halftime. It was hard to believe the Spurs were only down five at the half after playing so poorly.
What the Spurs needed in the second half were some quick stops and for one player to take over offensively, to swing the scoreboard back in San Antonio's direction. What they got instead were - you guessed it - more turnovers, which continued to result in easy buckets for the Mavs.
In the final two quarters of the game the Spurs coughed the ball up nine more times, giving them a grand total of 24. While it's obvious that the Spurs did a terrible job of taking care of the ball, the Mavericks' defense surely deserves some of the credit for San Antonio's turnover-plagued night. They packed the paint on many of the drives and read all the pocket passes on P&Rs. They had the edge in the boards as well, which combined with the Spurs' TOs, allowed them to finish the game with 28 more field goal attempts.
Pop waived the white flag with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter, by sending out Matt Bonner, Austin Daye, Marco Belinelli, Danny Green and Cory Joseph. The turnovers were ugly and the way the Spurs came out lifeless at the start of each quarter was depressing. The final score, as lopsided as it was, didn't accurately reflect the difference between the level of play of each squad.
The Spurs head into Dallas on Saturday after playing two poor games at home. This series could easily have been 0-2 going into Game 3. That being said, this Spurs team is an amazing group of players led by the NBA's Coach of the Year. They aren't going to usher themselves out of the playoffs by playing poorly; they are going to make the Mavs beat them. Turnovers won't be the end of this team's season.
- Kawhi was seriously off in this game. Foul trouble kept him out of most of the first half but his second half wasn't much better. We saw a timid Kawhi in the third quarter who was slow on both ends of the court. In the fourth quarter it appeared as if Pop let him know that he needed to make an impact, because he came out firing. He took his first shot and recorded his first steal in that period, finishing the game with 6 points.
- This was yet another poor performance for Marco Belinelli. He finished the game with 7 points, but was a huge liability on defense. The Dallas offense blew right past him on a number of occasions. With Marco's scoring becoming spotty, it's getting harder and harder to justify his presence on the court against the Mavericks.
- Much has been said about Dirk needing to take over for Dallas to have a shot at winning a few games, yet he played a supporting role to Shawn Marion, Devin Harris and Monta Ellis in Game 2 and they still got the W. It's scary to even think there may be other avenues the Mavs can take to beat the Spurs that don't necessarily go through Dirk Nowitzki. But if their team offense remains this good, that might just be the case.
- Outside of the Big 3, no other Spur scored in double figures. That's not going to cut it. The Spurs need more from their role players if they want to outscore the 3rd best offensive team in the league.
- Did y'all see that t-shirt machine gun the Coyote was firing at the crowd?!
As mentioned, Game 3 will be played on Saturday in Dallas.
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