After a torturing loss to Dallas way back in December, when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter were inactive, the Spurs looked to not only redeem themselves against their I-35 rivals on Tuesday night but to also continue to frighten the rest of the league with their their late-season surge.
San Antonio started the game off strong with Splitter, coming off of a 23 point game against the Hawks on Sunday, working Tyson Chandler down low and getting three quick buckets that led to an early Dallas time-out. The Spurs moved the ball, ran well in transition, and executed the pick-and-roll to perfection.
The Spurs got out to a comfortable lead after one, 29-17, as San Antonio forced six turnovers and didn't give the ball away a single time in the quarter. Kawhi scored eight points, grabbed three rebounds, added two steals and a block for good measure in his first 10 minutes of play. That's pretty much a regular occurrence at this point, I mean, this isn't really fair:
That was about as good as it got for Kawhi against Monta Ellis, whose quickness has proven to give Kawhi problems, and I didn't expect Dallas to go away. Dallas, desperate for a positive sign after a stretch of play that left their fans ready to give up on the idea that their team could make a run in the postseason, made their push in the second quarter. The Spurs became lazy on offense and resorted to consecutive ill-advised shots and also turned the ball over three times in nine possessions, which led to a 12-3 Mavericks run that helped Dallas cut the lead to three at the break. .
A once 14-point Spurs lead quickly dwindled to just three, helped by a second quarter that saw the Spurs turn the ball over six times while a visibly focused Dallas crew coughed it up just once. The Mavs got into the lane at will in the second and were led by Chandler Parsons and Monta Ellis, who combined for 26 at the break.
The Spurs' woes continued into the second half and they racked up two turnovers and missed five straight shots to start the third quarter. Dallas took the lead, and every drop of momentum in the game, less than three minutes in. Monta Ellis broke out of his recent funk and not even the league's best perimeter defender could slow him down. All of a sudden, the Mavs jumped out to a 14-point lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.
After committing no turnovers in the first quarter, the Spurs equaled their per-game average of 14 giveaways in just the next two quarters. SA went into the fourth quarter down by double digits, the result of a 24-point swing in only 20 minutes.
The Spurs still had a chance to make this a game but things went from bad to worse. I momentarily stopped watching to feed my dog and when I came back the Spurs were down to Dallas an intimidating 17 points. I forced myself to finish the game, which was a mildly painful act, instead of succumbing to the temptation of calling it a night and starting a Netflix marathon. A little life was shown as the Spurs cut the lead to eight with about two to go, but the Mavericks were pretty easily able to hold on.
Credit to the Mavericks, who played with passion and the desperation that you would expect from that roster after a troubling couple of weeks. Here's hoping they can find some consistency of their own -- after all, it'd be nice if Dallas pushes their first round opponent instead of limping in and rolling over.
Your Spurs end their three-game winning streak, lose to the Mavericks, and fall to 44-26 for the season.
- There was a 21 minute span of that game where the Spurs committed 12 turnovers, and made only 11 shots.
- The Spurs shot a weak 28.6% from deep (8-for-28). It's hard to win games when a team shoots that many threes and makes under 30% of them.
- SA committed 16 turnovers in the game. That doesn't sound terrible, but once you realize they did that in only three quarters, after having zero in the first, it's a pretty disheartening stat.
- Patty Mills' struggles shooting the ball continued and he finished 2-for-8 from the floor in his 20 minutes tonight. I'm not sure what to make of it, because he's never struck me as a guy who lacks confidence, but the ball sure isn't finding the bottom of the net the way that they did last season.
- Manu returned after missing five games with an ankle injury and he shot 3-for-6 in just 16 minutes and missed a couple of good deep looks that could have put the Spurs right in the thick of it late. Pop said he would limit his minutes as he settles back into the groove, so let's hope he's back to 100% soon.
- Dirk Nowitzki, who just welcomed a newborn boy into the world, finished with 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, which pushed him over 10,000 career boards. A big congratulations to Dirk, but please don't have any more kids before San Antonio plays Dallas again on Friday.