San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
January 8, 2014, 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
If this year's Mavs had been pitched on an episode of Shark Tank at the beginning of the NBA season, it wouldn't have been all too surprising to see owner Mark Cuban painfully balk at the business proposal.
After all, the team's signings of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon appeared like mere consolation prizes after they whiffed on Dwight Howard, and many of their key returning players (Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter, among others) would be another year removed from their primes.
It's pretty incredible what head coach Rick Carlisle has done, all things considered, maximizing Dirk's ageing game, de-Monta-ing Monta Ellis, and making do with a center position occupied by Samuel Dalembert, Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair. The Mavs are currently 20-15 which, almost criminally, is good enough for a pinch grip on the 8th seed in the West.
Much of Dallas' success is due to new arrivals Calderon and Ellis, a starting backcourt most people wrote off going into the season. Though they certainly don't do much for the team defensively, the pair have complemented each other nicely on the other end. The Spaniard point guard has remained the consistent distributor and outside shooter he's been throughout his career, while Ellis has become more efficient and a better decision-maker. It must be a welcome surprise for fans who saw the O.J. Mayo-Darren Collison experiment fare much worse just last year.
There's little to say about Dirk at this stage in his career that most Spurs fans don't know already. The future HOFer, who'll be 36 this year, has certainly lost a step or two, but is still an elite jumpshooter. Thanks to his height, most of his shots - including his one-footed Daniel Larusso fadeaway - remain nigh-unblockable. Tiago Splitter's absence means that guarding Nowitzki will be largely a by-committee effort. Ayres, Diaw (back from illness) and possibly Bonner should all see their names called throughout the night.
Shawn Marion is another veteran who still manages to leave an imprint on games. At almost 8 boards a night, he's Dallas' leading rebounder and, on the offensive end, is always capable of an opportunistic floater or open three. (Note: Marion was reportedly injured in last night's game and may not play against SA) Another X-factor is the youngster Brandan Wright, who doesn't possess any outstanding skill but is still a very efficient player. Oh, and Vince Carter has funky breath.
Mavs-Spurs matchups may not have the same bitter flavor that they used to, what with the departure of perennial villains Jason Terry and Josh Howard, but that doesn't take away from the importance of Wednesday night's game, one between two division rivals jostling for playoff position. The two Texas teams have played just once so far this season, a Boxing Day matchup in Dallas which San Antonio won 116-107. In that game Tony, Tim and Danny Green combined for 66 points, with Green going a perfect 7-7 from the field and 5-5 from three.
Tonight's game will also mark the return of DeJuan Blair to the Alamo City after leaving via free agency last summer. The Spurs drafted Blair in 2009 and got good production out of the second-round steal, but he ultimately ended up out of the rotation as the years went on. I wouldn't be surprised to see him play with an added fire tonight in attempt to show the city what they're missing. In his last game against his former team, Blair put up 14 points and 11 boards in just 23 minutes of play.
Dallas and San Antonio players may look a little tired, as the game will be a SEGABABA for both sides. The Mavs played the Lakers in Big D, while the Spurs arrived from Memphis late Tuesday night. Depending on how the Grizzlies game goes, one of the Big Three may see the night off.
Despite Tiago's injury (or any Popovichian orchestration), this is another winnable game for San Antonio. With their defensive shortcomings on the perimeter, Dallas will give up plenty of scoring opportunities. They're in the bottom third in both points allowed per game and opponent's field-goal percentage. Spurs wings should be able to feast all game, which should open things up for Timmy to go to work down low.
Key matchup: Due to differing styles of play, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan won't see too much of each other tonight, but when they do it'll be something that all fans will want to savor. These are two of the best to ever play their position, and they've defined the eras of their respective teams.
Mavericks perspective available at Mavs Moneyball.
Game prediction: Spurs by five
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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