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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks

The Spurs are back on the road to try to stop their skid against an old rival.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a rough November so far in San Antonio, and not just because of the surprisingly early Arctic blast last week. After starting the season 3-0, the Spurs have gone cold with their hometown, posting just a 2-8 record since Halloween while struggling to put together long enough stretches of good play to maintain leads and close out games.

It doesn’t get any easier tonight as they head back out for a four-game road trip, beginning with a face off against an old rival, the Dallas Mavericks, who are experiencing a resurgence behind second-year guard Luka Doncic and a healthy Kristaps Porzingis.

San Antonio Spurs (5-8) at Dallas Mavericks (7-5)

November 18, 2019 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: KENS 5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: (none)

Mavs injuries: (none)

The Spurs need to be solid for 48 minutes

The Spurs have been wildly inconsistent so far the season, and not just game-to-game. Quarter-to-quarter and even lineup-to-lineup has seen massive sways in momentum throughout games. A lot of the time, the Spurs have started slow and spent too much energy digging themselves out of a hole to close games strong, but the opposite has also happened, with the Spurs building a sizable lead in the first half against the Magic, only to cave under pressure (and a 34-10 free throw disadvantage).

The Spurs have yet to put together a complete game. In fact, it’s hard to remember if they’ve even had a game with three good quarters. They don’t have to be spectacular for all 48 minutes to win on most nights; they merely need to be solid without getting off to slow starts or relaxing when they build anything resembling a semi-comfortable lead. It also wouldn’t hurt if both the starters and bench were good on the same night, without one constantly cleaning up after the other.

None of this seems like too much to ask, but it was a bit of a problem with roughly the same squad last year, who got out to similarly slow start with a rough November but eventually found themselves enough to start stringing together wins. There’s no reason to think this year’s squad can’t do the same, but they can’t afford to wait much longer to figure things out, especially with teams like Mavs improving after not being much of a threat to usurp the Spurs and threaten their chance at making the playoffs last season.

European basketball continues to thrive in Dallas

Probably no team can match the Spurs’ success with foreign players, but the Mavs are certainly up there among the closest. After the retirement of Dirk Nowitzki last season, they are in good hands with young stars in Doncic (Slovenia) and Porzingis (Latvia). They snatched the former with the third pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, which even then is already looking like a steal, and acquired the latter in a trade with the New York Knicks that to this day makes zero sense. (Then again, what does when it comes to James Dolan’s club?)

While Porzingis is shaking off some rust after not playing last season due to an ACL injury (he’s averaging 18.6 points but on just under 40% overall shooting), Doncic is on a tear, averaging 28.5 points and likely well on his way to his first All Star appearance in just his second season. Spurs guards Dejounte Murray and Derrick White will have their hands full guarding him, so the rest of the Spurs defense will have to remain disciplined around them.

Of course, while we’re on the theme of European wonders, guess who else is on the Mavs’ roster? It’s everyone’s favorite one-time Spur: Boban Marjanovic. While he has only appeared in five games for them so far, he remains a fan favorite everywhere he goes. Even in a rival’s uniform, one can’t help but smile whenever he pops up, and Spurs fans could use a something to smile about . . . although a win would be much nicer.

But really, who doesn’t smile when they rewatch this?

Vegas odds: Mavs by 4.5

Prediction: Mavs by 5 (because whenever I pick the Spurs to win, they lose)

For the Mavs fans’ perspective, visit Mavs Money Ball.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.