Tonight at the AT&T Center, we witnessed two teams reclaim their identities as both played their best games of the postseason. The Spurs moved the ball on offense and played solid defense. Tony Parker, despite playing on a gimpy ankle and with virtually no sleep due to the birth of his son this morning, played his best game of the 2014 playoffs scoring 10 points in the first quarter. He only scored 13 more for the rest of the game, but his drives opened the floor for the other Spurs players.
Tiago Splitter, who has been defending well all postseason, had an offensive explosion tonight, almost matching Dirk Nowitzki shot for shot in the 4th quarter. Any time the Spurs can get as much from Tiago as the Mavs are getting from Dirk, it's a huge win for the Silver and Black. Manu Ginobili is another Spur who has been playing well in the postseason, but tonight he kicked it up a notch by taking seven three point shots and hitting three of them. He was crafty in drawing fouls on Dallas, which seemed to upset Dirk to no end. Even Danny Green got into the act. He's been playing good defense throughout the series, but tonight he got a few open threes in transition and drained them. As Coach Boylen said, "We get a lot from a lot of guys."
Dallas was able to stay close, because they got incredible individual performances from their superstars. Dirk Nowitzki found his rhythm, Vince Carter hit insanely difficult shots and even Monta Ellis was relatively efficient, scoring 21 points on 18 shots. Vinsanity is a thing now, and I don't like it. He single-handedly made this game competitive for the Mavs as he kept draining three pointers despite decent but not great defense from the Spurs. The Mavs just moved the ball enough to get Vince a little bit of space, and that was all he needed. Gregg Popovich told reporters that he handed out pictures of Carter to the players on the bench so they would know who to stick with, and he didn't sound like he was joking.
This game proved one thing: that when the Spurs are playing their version of team ball, don't turn the ball over and don't let their offense become stagnant, they can overcome great individual performances by the other team. This game was the first one in the postseason where the Spurs really looked like the Spurs, and played Spursy ball for 48 minutes.
Key sequence of the game:
With 9:20 left, Pop stopped the action with a timeout and called a play where Tiago beat Dirk to the basket and dunked the ball with authority while being fouled by Calderon. Although Splitter missed the foul shot, he was ahead of the defense on the next trip down the court and made an easy layup while being fouled again, this time by Brandan Wright. He hit that foul shot to push the Spurs lead to ten points. This felt like a safe lead at the time, but Vince Carter once again cut the lead to just four by hitting a pair or ridiculous three point shots with just under three minutes remaining.
Tony Parker hit a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to seven with 1:52 left. Splitter assisted, of course. The rest of the game involved the Spurs hitting free throws and then giving up easy twos, because they finally figured out that they had to stick with Dirk and Vince outside the three point line.
- The Spurs never trailed in the game. This season, they have won every game when they never trailed.
- The Spurs outscored the Mavs 50-31 in the paint. They have been dominating the paint for the entire series, but the imbalance was especially overwhelming in tonight's game.
- Dirk complains vehemently about every call that goes against him. People talk about how much Duncan complains about calls, but Dirk is far worse, and combines the talking with lots of gesturing and dancing. If he weren't one of the league's biggest superstars, he would probably get technical fouls for some of the over the top complaining he does.
- DeJuan Blair didn't kick anyone in the head tonight, as far as I know.
- This morning Spurs fans were wondering if Tony Parker looked like himself, but he erased all doubt tonight.
- The Spurs only turned over the ball five times, which is a team record for the playoffs.