The San Antonio Spurs lost their second road game of the season, this time against Texas rivals, the Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs came into this game having lost three straight close games against playoff caliber teams. The trend continued tonight with another close loss to a quality playoff outfit. Eventually the Spurs are going to have to turn these good performances into wins, but it’s still early, so for now it is encouraging to see that they can compete with these type of opponents.
The Spurs first lineup change of the season was a forced change, as Doug McDermott was out with a knee injury and is expected to miss the next two games as well. Lonnie Walker IV who has started the season strong, came into the starting group. For the Mavs, they were missing injury prone forward Kristaps Porzingis, who left hurt in their previous game.
Spurs - Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson & Jakob Poeltl
Mavs - Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith & Dwight Powell
The road team started the game strong, with a 7-0 run. All buckets coming out of the Dejounte Murray-Jakob Poeltl pick and roll. DJ even found Keldon for his first three ball of the season out of the PnR motion. The Spurs were hounding Luka Doncic early, forcing him into turnovers and tough jumpers. This helped the Spurs extend their early lead to double figures. Luka was the first Maverick to score a field goal, as he used the post to score on an aggressive Murray. Besides that, Dallas couldn’t hit shots, and after a Bryn Forbes three ball, the Spurs were up 20. The first non-Luka Mav to score was Jalen Brunson, who did so with 2:30 to go in the 4th. Unfortunately for the Spurs, this is when the Mavericks started to find their rhythm, while the Spurs offense started to tighten up. San Antonio still led at the first quarter break; 25-15.
Like I said, the Spurs offense started to falter at the end of the first, and this continued into the second. The Spurs went on a 9 minute in-game drought where they didn’t score a single point. To pile on the misery, the Mavericks also hit back to back to back three pointers to give themselves their first lead of the game. Unlike the first quarter, the Spurs defenders weren’t getting into the shooters face anymore, and this was allowing for more open looks. The Spurs found offense hard to come by this quarter, as Dallas would just pack the paint and force the Spurs to become shooters. Fortunately for the Spurs, Bryn Forbes had it going tonight, and he hit 2 of his 4 first half threes just before the break. Spurs had a narrow 2-point lead.
The second half started sloppy, both teams turned the ball over and were content to take long contested jump shots. No team had any real control of the game. Lonnie Walker who started this game, had only 2 first half points, but he made it his intention to be more aggressive this half, and got some buckets to go along with it. Mavs superstar Luka Doncic had been kept in check for the majority of the game, but when he started to go inside to find his shots, he was having some success. On top of that the Spurs were failing to get defensive rebounds, therefore giving Dallas multiple opportunities on each possession.
The two teams went into the 4th tied at 79 apiece and both sets of players traded buckets in the opening 4 minutes. The difference in the game came down to one team having a Luka Doncic and the other team not. The Spurs couldn’t do much in the half-court, while Luka was in complete control when Dallas were in possession. He even made a couple of high looping three pointers over Jakob Poeltl. The Spurs in one last desperation move, started trapping the Mavs, they had a bit of success but not enough to keep the game from ending up the same way as the last 3, a loss. Mavs win, 104-99.
- Some times in Basketball the eye test doesn’t always match the stats. But the +/- in today’s game for the Spurs definitely did. Only three Spurs players were +, they were DJ, Jak and Vassell. The eye test also told you that these three were the Spurs most important players. The season as a whole so far have shown that those three need to be on the court for the Spurs to have a good deal of success. Pop needs to find more ways to sustain good play when these three aren’t on the court, they obviously can’t play 48 minutes a game.
- Half-Court Offense. The Spurs continue to be poor in the half-court. Whether Pop has a play call or it’s just in the flow, the Spurs find it so tough to get good looks. The other teams pack the paint and make the Spurs not so good shooters, shoot threes. And until the Spurs can execute in the half-court, they are going to lose nearly every close game they play.
- Defense on Luka. While the offense is inconsistent, the defense has held up pretty nice in the first 5 games of the season. Tonight, they had Luka Doncic to deal with, and they did a pretty good job. Luka did end up with 25 points, but some of that came late when he hit some ridiculous threes. Luka only had 5 assists and 3 rebounds, not near his normal triple double numbers. The Spurs also forced him into 7 turnovers, and Luka was also a -19 on the night. Big credit has to go to Dejounte for guarding him most of the game, but the Spurs as a whole did a nice job helping out on the 22-year-old All-NBA player.
Play of the Game
For a guard to make this play on a center is truly scary. Derrick White, ladies and gentleman.
Synergy Stat of the Night
Thanks to our wonderful Noah Magaro-George, we here at PtR have access to Synergy advanced stats. So for every recap, I’ll look into one advanced stat that impacted the game.
10 transition possessions.
The Spurs were only able to get out in transition a total of ten times in this game. Compare that to the Lakers game where the Spurs had 23 transition opportunities. The formula to beat the Spurs is quite clear, stop them from getting out in transition and make them play in the half-court. The Spurs ended up with 99 total points, only being out in transition 10 times is a big reason why.
Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)
3rd place (1 point): Devin Vassell - 27 minutes, 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, +13
Devin didn’t exactly fill out the box score, but the overall impact he had over 4 quarters was a huge plus for San Antonio. He’s ability to play one-on-one on defense while also being an excellent help defender, means when he is on the court the Spurs have a star disruptor on that end of the floor. Lonnie missed out on 3rd place because Devin had a better overall 4 quarter performance.
2nd place (2 points): Jakob Poeltl - 36 minutes, 14 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks, +8
Once again Jakob is in the top 3, something I’m sure will be a consistent theme throughout the season. He is becoming a great finisher at the rim and that pick-and-roll with DJ is flourishing and causing teams problems. His rim protection was fabulous like always, plus 6 offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive is so valuable for a team who struggles in the half-court.
1st place (3 points): Dejounte Murray - 36 minutes, 23 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, +16
Dejounte followed up his monster triple double game against the Lakers with a near triple double. But it isn’t his offense that gets him the 1st place, but his defense on Luka Doncic was tremendous, it will be hard for Luka to face a better defensive performance for the rest of the season. Top, top effort from DJ, sucks these big stat games aren’t turning into wins for him.
1st - Jakob Poeltl - 8pts
2nd - Dejounte Murray - 6pts
3rd - Keldon Johnson - 5pts
4th - Devin Vassell - 4pts
5th - Derrick White & Doug McDermott - 3pts each
7th - Lonnie Walker IV - 1pt
Next Game: @ Milwaukee on Saturday
The Spurs face the Milwaukee Bucks for the second time this season. They did play the Bucks close last time out, but with this one being on the road it might make it a bit harder for the Spurs. But with this group, never say never.