The Spurs snapped a five-game losing streak on Sunday in Dallas. Thanks to a fantastic offensive performance by DeMar DeRozan that included a game-winner, they prevailed against the Mavericks 119-117 in a fun, hard-fought matchup.
After a close loss to the Nuggets on Friday, the Spurs came out with a clear sense of urgency. The two-man game of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis was a huge issue early on, but the guards, with Dejounte Murray leading the way, were using their length to try to disrupt the Mavericks’ flow, so that only the stars could hurt them. On the other end, they hunted Doncic, a strategy they’d use for most of the game. Either by having Murray attack him straight up or using Doncic’s man as a screener for DeRozan, so he could get the matchup on a switch, San Antonio kept forcing Dallas’ superstar to spend energy on defense. If not for some untimely turnovers, the Spurs would have probably ended the quarter ahead instead of tied.
The second unit, which didn’t close the first period strong, did better at the start of the second, and with the Mavericks turning the ball over and missing open threes, San Antonio carved out a small lead. Unfortunately the trend wouldn’t continue, as Dallas’ offense eventually found its groove and the jumpers started to fall. Kristaps Porzingis in particular became a big problem for the defense while on the other end DeRozan struggled a bit to respond. Neither team played their best, but slowly but surely Dallas chipped away at the deficit until eventually taking control and matching San Antonio’s max lead of five points to end the half.
The intensity and level of play increased again to start the final two periods. The Spurs made an early push that leveled things up and the rest of the frame was an entertaining offensive battle that mostly featured the two teams’ start perimeter players. DeRozan was eviscerating Dorian Finney-Smith and whichever other defender the Mavs tried on him by aggressively attacking the rim and either finishing or finding open teammates. Doncic, meanwhile, went to work on the post against the smaller San Antonio defenders and was similarly dominant. The role players had their moments, none more emphatic than a thunderous dunk by Lonnie Walker IV, but the big names delivered on a high octane quarter that the Spurs narrowly won.
Arguably the biggest stretch of the game was the start of the final period. With both Doncic and DeRozan resting, the second units battled it out in hopes of giving their star a lead to work with. The Spurs’ bench delivered, with some help from Murray. Some huge threes fell at the right time to create some separation going into the final six minutes, when the big guns checked back in. Luckily for San Antonio, DeRozan was sharper than Doncic and feasted on a Dallas team that refused to double him. Yet the Mavs kept fighting until the end and after a good defensive possession and a Doncic bucket following a couple of offensive rebounds, they tied the game to 117 with 20 seconds to go.
Everyone knew what was coming, but somehow the Mavericks didn’t execute well enough to counter it. Despite planning on doubling DeRozan, they once again let him work on an island against Finney-Smith, which turned out to be a mistake.
A desperation heave from Doncic missed and the Spurs’ five-game losing streak was snapped.
- While DerRozan is rightfully going to get all the attention for his insane second half, Dejounte Murray deserves credit for being consistent and scoring 13 of his 25 points in the first half and 12 in the second half. Murray has been streaky in the past when it comes to scoring and his aggressiveness wanes, but this time he was just solid. The four steals and two three-pointers made deserve a mention, too.
- Derrick White and Keldon Johnson didn’t have to score in a game in which two other starters combined for almost 60 points, so they get a pass for not reaching double digits. White played good defense and Johnson did his job on the boards, so it’s not like they didn’t contribute. They both shot the three poorly, but it didn’t matter.
- Jakob Poeltl played good help defense but struggled against Porzingis, since the Dallas big man can both shoot from outside and attack closeouts. He also got intentionally sent to the line by the Mavericks late in the game. He hit one of two by hilariously banking it in, but was benched in the next stoppage and Dallas took advantage of his absence to get closer in the scoreboard. Hack-a-Jak could become a serious problem.
- The Spurs got some help from the bench, and that made a world of difference in this one. Lonnie Walker IV had 13 points, including some big buckets to start the fourth quarter and one of the best dunks the Spurs had in a while. Patty Mills made a couple of threes, dished out four assists and had a couple of steals. Those two were huge.
- You’ll notice Rudy Gay was not listed among the members of the second unit who helped. It might not be completely fair to single him out as a problem, but he had four turnovers, made no threes, didn’t do much work on the glass and was practically invisible in the second half. Maybe having to man the center spot for a couple of minutes instead of Drew Eubanks (again productive individually but not helpful at the team level) drains Gay, or maybe the schedule is finally getting to him, but he seemed tired against the Mavs. Whatever the problem was on Sunday, hopefully it won’t affect him as much going forward.
- Kudos to Nicollo Melli for hitting a three right after getting posterized by Lonnie. For some reason I always feel bad for guys who get dunked on, so it was good to see him bounce back.
Next game: @Magic on Monday
The Silver and Black will travel to Orlando for a very winnable SEGABABA. Make it two in a row, Spurs!