By Will Martin
I proudly stand before this keyboard to say I was wrong. Dead wrong. Happily proven wrong. In forgetting the number one rule about the playoffs I dared to poke a stick at a team I deemed too soft, incapable to play a full 48, ready to devise a way to give away a series in four straight, and thoroughly doubt the character and abilities of a coach and a team who successfully pulled away a convincing Game 2 victory in San Antonio April 23rd by the margin of a Monta Ellis performance.
“We had a lot of doubters at the beginning of the season, but me and my teammates, the coaching staff and everybody, we hung together and we put ourselves in a great position to be in this position right now. Today, we took on a challenge that was very tough, but it showed that as long as we play Mavs basketball, get out and run and play together as a team, we can beat anybody in the NBA,” Monta Ellis said at game’s end.
In evening this series up at 1-game apiece and assuring North Texas of a busy weekend for playoff action (in two sports no less) it indeed was Monta Ellis who would get the Dallas Mavericks out of an early funk when trailing 11-4 before Shawn Marion would proceed to play Robin to Monta’s Batman. The rhythm these two displayed after the seven point deficit took Dallas to a lead they would not relinquish after the first period 24-23.
13 points apiece from Monta Ellis and the Matrix provided Dallas a 56-51 halftime lead despite allowing San Antonio a 10-0 run right before the half and Dirk getting popped with a technical with 1:38 to go in the first 24 minutes of play.
Equally surprising was to see the young phenom Kawhi Leonard fall into early foul trouble while the Mavericks converted 15 Spurs turnovers into 19 points. This would be fall into Dallas’ favor in light of what Manu Ginobli was providing in the first two periods. Namely 17 points.
“The run at the end of the first half could have derailed us, but at halftime we regrouped, got it back together and had a real strong start to the second half. It was key,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle stated.
It also helped that in the third period we saw Jose Calderon awaken from a two game slumber to find his shooting juju as we went perfect with shot-making to the tune of 12 points as Dallas increased the lead to 88-75 after three while the lead was as much as 16 points.
You’ll recall that it was in Game One on Easter Sunday that Dallas wilted in the final seven minutes where a ten point lead was lost and a 19-4 run was allowed. This time around Gregg Popovich even knew that a white flag of surrender wouldn’t be enough as the starting three would be sat with about eight minutes to go and Dirk Nowitzki happily carrying the torch to get the lead as high as 24 points (it hit 97-76 going into the fourth period).
In the end San Antonio did shoot 10 for 20 from behind the arc and Manu Ginobli led three Spurs in double figures with 27 points. What hurt San Antonio was 24 turnovers that allowed for 33 points. Dallas on the other hand had five players in double figures. Monta Ellis led the way with 21 points followed by Shawn Marion’s 20 and Devin Harris with 18 off the bench. Dirk contributed 16 and Calderon was all third period with 12 points.
Devin Harris has been money off the bench as we now take you back to a locker room visit we had two weeks ago.
Dallas to their credit only had eight turnovers and won the rebound battle 35-32. In so doing they stole a win on the road, some say they should be up 2-0. Afterwards the big question centered on a relieved Monta Ellis and what changed from Game 1 to Game 2?
“I had to attack more,” Ellis confidently said. “In the first game I think we settled for a lot of jumpshots, so Coach Carlisle emphasized attacking more and taking jumpshots when you needed. But we attacked the basket and it opened everything else up for us.”
Dirk Nowitzki was already looking ahead to Game 3 but offered the following:
“It was a great team effort,” Nowitzki said. “I thought Monta was great attacking, Devin was awesome off the bench, Jose got hot and ‘Trix Marion had it going all night. … And like I said after Game 1, if we compete like we did then I like our chances again. We pulled through today.
“I think what helps is not turning the ball over,” he added. “I think we only had seven or eight turnovers tonight. That’s phenomenal for us. That means we’re probably getting a good look up, and then we can get back and set our defense. Hopefully, we can do the same thing in Game 3 at home.”
You can expect a level of playoff excitement that should equal or surpass the other guys who pay their rent on the ice come Game 3. Of course the following never gets old for the fans of the Mavericks.
Rick Carlisle, you’re already on record to say that Gregg Popovich may very well be the greatest coach of all time. You stole a win Wednesday night in San Antonio. What will you be looking to adjust in Games 3 and 4 in Dallas?
“We did a lot of good things and I think there’s still a lot of things we need to do better,” Carlisle deferred. “You know, we gave up 10 threes tonight and that’s usually going to be a winning number for them. So, there’s that, but we rebounded better and we scrambled and played through some tough stretches.
“We just need to keep concentrating on the details defensively. We’ve got to keep our energy up and we’ve got to understand that they’ve got a lot of great players that are capable of making one or two plays at any time to turn the momentum of a game. And when that happens we’ve got to play through some difficult stretches. We did a great job of it tonight, and it was a great bounce back from the first game.”
Playoff basketball in April. You gotta love it. Especially when proven wrong. That makes me very happy. San Antonio should still be favored as a #1 seed but now this guy will just sit back and watch the damn game as my pal Randy Galloway likes to say…
Series to Date:
Game 1: Spurs 90 Mavericks 85 – Spurs Lead 1-0
Game 2: Mavericks 113 Spurs 92 – Series Tied 1-1
4/26 Spurs vs Mavericks 3:30pm
4/28 Spurs vs Mavericks 8:30pm
4/30 Mavericks vs Spurs TBD
5/2 Spurs vs Mavericks TBD *If Necessary
5/4 Mavericks vs Spurs TBD *If Necessary