The Spurs vs. Mavericks interstate “rivalry” hasn’t been much a competition since the Mavs joined the NBA in 1980. The Spurs lead the all-time regular season series 112 to 69, a 62% winning percentage. The Spurs also lead the playoff head-to-head, 4 series wins to 2. Sure, the 2006 series loss still stings, but it’s not that bad compared with the pain the Spurs suffered at the hands of the Jazz in the 90’s, the Lakers in the 80’s and 00’s or even the Thunder in the KD-Westbrook era.
If the last outing against the Mavs is any indication, the Spurs-Mavs matchup could be entering into a painful new era for Spurs fans. The reason: Luka Doncic. The last time we saw him, he dropped a 42 point, 12 assist, 11 rebound triple-double; a stat-line only equaled by James Harden and LeBron James over the past decade. He’s a legitimate superstar still settling into the league and growing with his teammates, especially “unicorn” Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavs’ success so far this year is arguably the biggest surprise of the year in the NBA. If the MVP candidate plays Thursday, the Spurs will have their hands full.
Even if he doesn’t play, the Spurs will have their hands full. The Mavs had a brutal 5 game stretch against the top 5 teams in the East without Doncic (including the game against Miami when he went out early). They went 2-3, with wins on the road against Milwaukee and Philadelphia, and close losses to the Heat, Celtics, and Raptors. Rick Carlisle proves himself to be one of the best coaches in the league year after year. The Mavs will be ready to play regardless of Doncic’s availability.
San Antonio Spurs (12-17) vs. Dallas Mavericks (19-10)
December 26, 2019: 7:00 PM CT
Watch: TNT | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Mavericks Injuries: Luka Doncic (ankle - questionable)
What to watch for:
- The Spurs are even with the Blazers in the loss column (17). A Spurs win and a Blazers loss tonight would have the Spurs essentially tied for the 8th seed.
- It’s a make or miss league. Last time against the Mavs, the Spurs won the rebounding battle, fouled less, and had fewer turnovers. Unfortunately, the Mavs shot better in every area - making more threes, free throws, and field goals, and all at higher percentages. The Mavs made 17/41 threes (41%) while the Spurs made 8/24 (33%) - a 27 point edge from beyond the arc. If the Spurs can continue to be fundamentally sound while just moving the needle a bit in the right direction on both ends - making a few more shots, forcing a few more misses - they should be in good shape tonight.
- The Mavs have struggled at home. They’re 8-7 there vs. 11-3 on the road. Here’s hoping that continues. The bad news: the Spurs are only 4-9 on the road. *gulp*
- More time and improved play for Dejounte and Derrick. Recently Pop talked about playing these two together more. Last time against the Mavs, DJ was still on a minutes restriction, played only 25 minutes and had a tough time stopping Doncic. Derrick played only 13 minutes and was a bit banged up. With no restrictions or injuries this time around, I bet these two come out with something to prove against Dallas’ star guard.
For the Mavs fan’s perspective, you can visit Mavs Moneyball.
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 if you don’t have a radio around.