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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks

After suffering another puzzling loss at home, the Spurs head to Dallas to face the 3-13 Mavs on a SEGABABA.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks

American Airlines Arena, Dallas, TX
Date: 11/30/16, Time: 7:30 PM Spurs Time

Dirk Nowitzki is the last of his kind. He is a basketball monolith that has propelled his franchise to NBA relevance each season just by existing.

Nowitzki was a generational force at the power forward position in a NBA when ground-bound centers still thrived and unicorns like Karl Anthony-Towns and Joel Embiid didn't exist.

But monoliths don't last forever, not even those named Tim Duncan. Before this season, Nowitzki played 232 of 246 possible regular season games. He remained the offensive focal point - with an average usage rate of 25.8 percent - and led several subpar Mavericks teams to the playoffs.

When Mark Cuban misfired on Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and DeAndre Jordan in free agency, he doubled down, avoided long-term commitments and prepared for the ensuing offseason with max-level cap room. Cuban did so because he wanted another star player to take the pressure off Nowitzki. And, even if he whiffed, Nowitzki was good enough on his own to drag his teammates to a seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs. The Mavericks had the luxury of leaning on Nowitzki, who took paycuts to enable Cuban's aggressiveness in free agency, because he was capable of shouldering a massive burden on offense. Surround Dirk with a few competent NBA-players, and even some not-so competent players, and Dallas had a top-10 level offense.

Cuban no longer has that luxury. Nowitzki has missed 10 games this season, almost equaling the amount of games he's missed (14) in the previous three years combined.

This development shouldn't be a surprise to anyone familiar with the longevity of NBA careers. Dirk is 38. He's played 18 seasons and amassed 53,275 minutes in his career (including playoffs). Even for an iron man like Dirk, he was due for a decline.

Unlike San Antonio, which stocked its core with a budding superstar in Kawhi Leonard and added LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol in free agency to ease Tim Duncan's eventual departure, Dallas wasn't prepared to win without Nowitzki.

Dallas never had the requisite luck -- and some intuition, too -- to extend the Nowitzki Era past its inevitable conclusion.

The offense has bottomed out this season, with the Mavericks mustering up a feeble 96.6 points per 100 possessions. Only the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic are worse offensively. Dallas, a respectable 17th in points allowed per possessions, allows opposing teams to shoot 62.3 percent from the restricted area. Dorian Finney-Smith, an undrafted rookie, has started eight games.

In all, Dallas has the worst record in the league (3-13) through 16 games, putting the franchise on pace for 15 wins and 67 losses.

That trend figures to continue as long as Nowitzki misses time. He's already been ruled out for tonight's game with an Achilles injury.

In Nowitzki's place, we'll have the memories of a different NBA when Dallas' monolith clashed with San Antonio's each season.


San Antonio Spurs

(Record: 14-4)

Dallas Mavericks

(Record: 3-13)

November 30, 2016

American Airlines Arena, Dallas, TX

7:30 PM CDT



Tony Parker


Deron WIlliams

Danny Green


Wesley Matthews

Kawhi Leonard


Harrison Barnes

LaMarcus Aldridge


Dorian FInney-Smith

Pau Gasol


Andrew Bogut

Vegas line: Spurs by 9.

Game prediction: Spurs by 11.

For the Mavericks fans' perspective, visit Mavs Moneyball.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.

As always, PtR's Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. But if you're not able to log in here, you can try the Fanvana app which helps connect sports fans and was created by a fellow Spurs fan. Check out the free app on iOS or Android to discover other Spurs fans and join the live chatter for tonight's game. You can follow PtR's tweet stream directly on Fanvana as the game unfolds.