Game 3 Preview: San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As we head into Game 3, it's time to pick how we feel about the Spurs' situation going into the rest of the series.

San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks

American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
April 26, 2014, 3:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

The Spurs haven't given us the normal viewing pleasure in the playoffs that we were lucky to have been given during the regular season. While we saw a few blips here or there in the 82 games before the playoffs, they occurred sporadically and came with reasons that we could easily point to as the root cause (injuries, SEGABABAs, etc.). These past two games, though, have been different. We're seeing a normally efficient and fluid offense stumble all over the court, while a usually disciplined defense fails to keep up with assignments.

I think we can all agree that we don't like what we have seen on the court this series. Where I'm seeing much of the Spurs nation split on, though, is the "worry level" many of us have right now as far as this series is concerned. As far as I can tell, Spurs fans fall into one of these two categories: 1) This team has got some serious issues going on right now and need to solve them fast, or 2) The Spurs are going to be just fine and there is nothing to worry about.

Because I'm a self-labeled "writer of the people", I want this Game 3 preview to appeal to as wide an audience as possible (also, I'm just as split on this as the San Antonio fan base), so I've written two different mini-previews tailored especially to your current outlook on the Spurs situation as they head into Dallas. Much like the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books many of us read in grade school, this will be a "Choose Your Own Preview" post where you can read beneath the headline that mirrors your feelings towards the Silver and Black the most.

But only pick one! You can't feel strongly in both directions. No cheating!

Read here if the Spurs are in serious trouble

Game 2 was telling. It's clear that the 8th seeded Dallas Mavericks have played like the better team after two games against the 1 seed Spurs, who's 7th ranked offense has made Dallas' 22nd ranked defense look straight up elite. The Mavs have made the AT&T Center a non-factor in this series, and now take it to the American Airlines Center, which will be filled with rabid fans who taste blood.

With all of that being said, what is most worrisome is how the Spurs have played in their first two games. They looked flat out stumped up until 8 minutes to go in the fourth quarter in Game 1. Something as simple as switching on defense brought San Antonio's offense to a halt, and if it weren't for the late-game run, they would have dropped that game. Game 2 showcased a San Antonio team that became a glutton for turnovers, which lead to 33 points for Dallas.

One factor that will convince anyone that all is not right with this team is Kawhi's performance in Game 2. Here's a guy who has been a model of consistency over the past couple seasons all of a sudden start making mental mistakes, rotate slow on defense, and notch three early fouls that sent him to the bench when we needed him. His absence is worrying, being that we will need him on the court as much as possible in every game this postseason.

And then there's Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, and Patty Mills who are averaging 3.5, 5.5, and 5.5 playoff points, respectively. We've harped all season long about how deep the Spurs are and how this team's talent goes beyond the Big 3, and yet these players that we can normally count are all shooting below 30% from the field. They have been liabilities for us on the court against the Mavs, and while it's possible the Spurs can win without them, we shouldn't have to.

Where there's smoke, there's fire. We haven't seen the Spurs comfortable yet, and this is coming against the 8th seed. If San Antonio moves past this round, the teams are only going to get better and the target on our backs is only going to get bigger. Dallas knows they could've had a 2-0 lead in this series right now, which only increases their confidence. In Game 3, Popovich needs to stop this trend immediately before the "Gentleman's Sweep" that everyone was predicting sends the wrong team to the next round.

Matchup to watch: Will anybody outside of the Big 3 step up and fill the mental void that's currently plaguing this team? Danny Green set an NBA Finals record for three's last year, for goodness sake. He needs to find a way to average more than 3.5 points per game in the playoffs. Kawhi needs to find away to stay on the court and put the brakes on Monta Ellis. Both guys are so important for this squad to be a complete unit, and we haven't seen any semblance of that yet.

Read here if the Spurs are going to be just fine

Game 2 was an anomaly. It's ridiculous to look at one of the worst games played in recent memory and assume that this is what the team has become. Popovich, the NBA's Coach of the Year, has taken this franchise to the playoffs 17 straight years and won us four titles. Excuse me while I hold off on freaking out about a 1-1 series going into Game 3.

As the series moves to Dallas, let's not forget that the Spurs were the best road team of the regular season. They went 30-11 away from San Antonio, beating teams who own their home court like the Clippers (34-7 at home), the Trailblazers (31-10 at home), and the Pacers (ok, fine I won't count them). We can expect this team to carry over their love of the road to Dallas.

If our impressive record away from home doesn't give us more confidence going into Game 3, then Dirk's reluctance to go back home should. After Wednesdays game, he was quoted saying:

I like our intensity right now, but it's a little dangerous going home. We've been a decent road team all year. At home, we haven't figured it out yet...

I'd rather play Game 3 at [San Antonio], I guess. We can't relax. We've got to figure it out at home. We can't relax. That's the main thing.

If you listen to the audio of this interview, you can actually hear the fear and sadness that he actually has to leave the AT&T Center. This is the leader of a team who is not confident in their ability to play at home, while we know what the Spurs can do on someone else's court. If there was ever a time to feel confident in this series, it's now.

Many have pointed to Kawhi Leonard's bad game as another sign of demise for this team, but let's remember that this guy has been a model of consistency over the past couple seasons. Based on what he has brought to this team and our eyeballs, he deserves our confidence that he will get back on track in Game 3. There are few things more ridiculous than thinking Kawhi has somehow forgotten to play lockdown defense without getting into foul trouble. This is his bread and butter. I'm excited for him to come out, get back on track, and deny Monta Ellis from having it all.

Many us picked the Spurs in 5 or 6 in this series, and as far I can tell, everybody is still technically correct. So there's no need to worry. As the series rolls on, the biggest show of unfaith in this team is to think the problems we saw won't go unfixed. We've never been proved otherwise.

Matchup to watch: This is the time Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard should step back into the spotlight and help out the Big 3. Green, who set and NBA Finals record for threes last year, is averaging 3.5 point per game in the playoffs so far, and the Spurs have still managed to keep the series 1-1. It's going to be beautiful when he finally blossoms this postseason. Also look to Kawhi to be on the court longer in order to put the brakes on Monta Ellis. Both guys are so important for this squad to be a complete unit, and while we haven't seen any semblance of that yet, we know Pop will get them there.

Game 3, Western Conference Quarterfinals, 2014 NBA Playoffs
vs
Regular Season: 49-33 (26-15 home)
Playoffs: 1-1 (0-0 home)

Regular Season: 62-20 (30-11 road)
Playoffs: 1-1 (0-0 road)
April 26, 2014
American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
3:30 pm CT
TV: TNT - Radio: 1200 WOAI
Starters
Jose Calderon PG Tony Parker
Monta Ellis SG Danny Green
Shawn Marion SF Kawhi Leonard
Dirk Nowitzki PF Tim Duncan
Samuel Dalembert C Tiago Splitter
Advanced Stats
93.5 (16th) Pace 95.0 (10th)
111.2 (3rd) ORtg 110.5 (7th)
108.7 (22nd) DRtg 102.4 (3rd)

The perspective of Mavs fans can be found here: Mavs Moneyball

Game Prediction: Spurs by 4.

Line in Vegas: Spurs by 3.5.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:

Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com

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