The San Antonio Spurs returned home fresh off a blowout loss to Golden State, but the comfy confines of the AT&T Center offered them no more help than it has all season, as they dropped to 2-5 at home. The Dallas Mavericks came out red hot to build a 19-point lead in the second quarter, and although the Spurs came back and nearly stole it at the end, it was too much for them to overcome. Perhaps most significantly, they lost Dejounte Murray early to a sprained ankle. If he misses much time, it will be a challenge with both him and Derrick White out.
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Alridge had nice bounce back games with a combined 55 points, and Keldon Johnson posted a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double. Luka Doncic had 36 points to lead four Mavs starters in double figures.
- Welcome back, Becky Hammon! The Spurs head assistant coach returned to the bench after two weeks in quarantine under COVID-19 protocols. Drew Eubanks is also back but isn’t ready to play (indicating he may have had COVID).
- Murray limped to the locker room following the Spurs second defensive possession of the game after landing on the foot of Kristaps Porzingis (who had already scored 5 points at that point). It was announced he would not return due to a sprained ankle. As a result, second round pick Tre Jones got his first non-garbage time stint of his career when he entered to start the second quarter for two minutes.
- The Spurs got off to yet another slow start in this game, but suddenly out of nowhere Aldridge had 14 points, hitting four straight threes in the first quarter, sandwiched around a couple from Rudy Gay and Patty Mills. For anyone keeping score, the Spurs hit a three on six straight possessions (even one where the refs inexplicably called a foul on the floor on what clearly should have been three FTs for Mills, but he responded with a three anyway). Unfortunately, the Spurs still couldn’t stop the Mavs on the other end, especially Doncic (19 points in the first), and they were still down 37-34 heading into the second quarter.
- Jakob Poeltl continues to have trouble not getting called for fouls (legit or otherwise). To that end, it seemed like the Mavs knew the odds were pretty decent that the refs would call just about anything on Poeltl, so they flailed and flopped a few times to try and draw more calls. Fortunately, the refs weren’t falling for it.
- The Mavs red-hot shooting continued throughout the second quarter, opening a double-digit lead after hitting five threes and an and-one on their first seven possessions. Meanwhile the Spurs shooting cooled off, allowing the Mavs lead to get up to 19, but they finally figured out that Dallas is lacking in interior defense and started attacking the rim (with Keldon Johnson naturally being the main aggressor) to get to 68-58, at the half. If nothing else, it was nice to see them respond this time instead of being out of the game by halftime for the second game in a row.
- The Mavs shooting finally cooled off for a bit in third quarter, but the Spurs didn’t heat up, and they couldn’t keep Dallas off the line as they maintained a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. But to the Spurs’ credit, they kept competing — something last season’s squad rarely did.
- Keldon Johnson had to sit early in the fourth quarter with five fouls, and at least three of those were softball calls. Devin Vassell also got the rookie treatment at times, but they didn’t let that deter them from playing their hardest. The benefit of the doubt will come with time and experience.
- Every time the Spurs threatened to go on a run, if felt like the basketball gods just wouldn’t let them get any closer. An untimely foul, shots rolling out, the Mavs had a response, etc, and the Spurs could never quite take advantage and capitalize when Doncic rested. But they still wouldn’t go away. The defense tightened, they took advantage of getting in the bonus with several minutes remaining, and kept attacking the rim as Doncic was faced with five fouls himself. They went on a 14-2 run to get within a point with a minute left, but they couldn’t quite close the deal.
- The best description I have of Aldridge on defense at this point is he looks like he donated his ACLs to DeJuan Blair. He just doesn’t have the speed, agility or hops to close out or stay with driving players anymore. His skills still allow him to be an effective player on offense, but his mobility is gone.
- Obligatory “I miss Boban Marjanovic” entry.
For the Mavericks fans perspective, visit Mavs Moneyball.
The Spurs return to the AT&T Center on Sunday to begin an SEGABABA, beginning with the Washington Wizards. Tip-off will be at 7:00 PM CT on FSSW.