Despite a resilient Mavericks team, the Spurs rode the hot hands of Lamarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills to put their old rivals away on the road. Winning these types of emotional, hard fought defensive battles is what separates championship teams from the rest of the pack. The more contests like this that the Spurs find themselves in early in the season, the better off they’ll be come playoff time. Here are some takeaways from Tuesday night’s divisional rivalry.
- As I mentioned in my the Final Score, LaMarcus Aldridge was magnificent on the low block tonight. It didn’t matter what the Mavs did LA was going to find a way to score or pass to a cutting teammate. What impressed me the most though was the Dallas native’s toughness. One of the biggest knocks on his performance last year was how he avoided contact. This season (and tonight in particular) he has dominated opponents by backing them down and going right at them. I think it is safe to say that nobody on the Mavericks will take it lightly when these two match up again later this month.
- When Mills is hitting consistently from deep, this team is pretty hard to beat. His scoring takes so much pressure off of Aldridge, and completely opens up the offense for his fellow mates (see what I did there) on the perimeter.
- I thought Murray had an efficient night at the office as well. Tonight looked like yet another learning experience for the young play-maker, as he seemed to play within the system and run the offense, rather than pushing the pace and forcing the issue offensively. There’s been a lot of debate around Dejounte early this season, as his ceiling and expectations from Spurs fans skyrocketed after his strong showing in the playoffs last spring. Here’s my two cents: We all need to relax. The kid is barely 21 years old. It took Kawhi 3 years to be considered among the NBA elite while he was perfecting his craft. Murray’s game still has some holes that need to be filled (his decision making, and jump shot are just a few that immediately come to mind), and that only happens with time. For the Spurs to reach their ceiling as a team this year, they don’t need the second year guard to be an all-pro; they just need him to fill his role.
- Bertans finally logged some meaningful minutes for the first time this season. Despite coming off of a scorching hot performance against the Bulls, his time on the court was short-lived. The second year sharp shooter just looked lost on defense tonight. In about 3 minutes of court time, Bertans was directly responsible for 7 straight Maverick points. If the sharpshooter wants to crack the rotation before the all-star break, he’s going to have quite a bit of ground to make up after a performance like this.
- I firmly believe there will never be a Spur I enjoy watching more than that bat killing bald guy who comes off the bench every night. After not logging a single second in the first half, the sure-fire hall of famer Manu Ginobil took over this game in his brief 16 minutes on the floor. Without the 40 year old’s contribution, I honestly don’t if the Spurs would have been able to withstand that late Maverick run in the third quarter. His late three and quick hands defensively sealed the game late. I hope this dude never retires.
- Kyle Anderson’s basketball IQ has been on display this season. I’ll be honest with you, I was very late to jump on that bandwagon, but SlowMo has proved time and again this season that he can consistently contribute at a high level. He has shown us brief flashes of his vision offensively and his awareness on defense during his 3-year tenure in San Antonio, but it appears he has finally put it all together this season. It is still early, but it’s hard to not be intrigued by the fourth year point forward’s play this season.