By Will Martin
Normally under a scenario that shows seven minutes left on the clock with your team on the road with a ten point lead you feel pretty good. In a playoff game (to begin a series) you’ll jump for joy to steal that one game in a two game set before heading home for more of the same. Especially when that opponent is one you haven’t beaten in nine tries.
En route to catch a baseball game I listened while envisioning San Antonio handling their business as they usually do with the elderly trio of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli. Playing in a disciplined manner with the usual diet of heavy passing until finding the open man. San Antonio jumped out to a 21-9 lead at home before the Silver and Black crazies inside the AT&T arena.
Imagine my shock when I got to my seat 25 minutes later and Dallas shot off to a 15-0 run and enjoyed a halftime lead 44-43 courtesy of some red hot perimeter play by Devin Harris and the Mavericks employing some second team pick and roll action themselves. Sadly, Devin was about the only thing en fuego along the Riverwalk in the first half as the Mavericks were a paltry 5 of 20 shooting before the second team hopped on board and made things interesting for San Antonio.
Remember this video visit when Dirk warned us on April 10th about what makes San Antonio so tough?
“I love a lot of the things about the way we played today,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said post game. “But it’s a 48-minute game, and the last seven, you know, we’ve got to finish better.”
In a nutshell the Mavericks had an opportunity to steal Game 1 on the road-only to fall short 90-85 behind a 27 point performance by Tim Duncan. For whatever reason Dallas started cold and finished colder as the Spurs would engineer a 19-4 run with about seven minutes left when the Mavericks were up 81-71. The Spurs had a 15-0 run of their own in that final period after reaching a 65-65 score through three periods.
I watched this on television awaiting a Ranger game to commence on Easter Sunday and still couldn’t believe it. Dallas went seven minutes without a basket until there was 1-second left on the clock and the outcome unquestioned???
It was a bitter pill to swallow.
Devin Harris offered up the following.
“They got a couple of transition buckets, they hit some tough shots, they got to the free-throw line and it was a little bit of everything. But, at that point, they just executed better than we did.”
“You know, this was an opportunity and we definitely missed out on it,” Harris blurted. “We did a great job of taking their threes away and forcing them to take tough twos. Offensively, we’ve just got to execute better. I mean, they’re a team that this is what they do. I mean, they execute late in games and they’ve been doing it for years. We’ve got to be better at that point in the game.”
One bright spot to keep an eye on: At one point the Mavericks had a 42-21 advantage in bench scoring. Otherwise for a game that was sloppy in spurts (Spurs only 3 of 17 from behind the arc) San Antonio had the upper hand in fast break points 13-3 and points in the paint 56-32.
Dirk Nowitzki was nowhere to be found in the second half as he was one of three Mavs with 11 points. Devin Harris your leader with 19 in defeat.
“I’m always frustrated after a loss, so maybe I’ll see the positive tomorrow. But, as of today, we had our chance,” Nowitzki said afterwards. “I think we were up 10 and they just did a better job closing. We just couldn’t get a basket. I think everybody tried and had some good looks …and defensively they got us a couple of times in some of the pick-and-rolls. So, yeah, maybe tomorrow I can see the positive spin on it.
“You know, Devin was really the only guy that was making something happen for us,” Dirk offered. “Everybody kind of had an off night, and still we were up 10 with a couple of minutes to go. So, we’ve got to be a little better down the stretch.”
“Look, I love the way we played up until that point and we fought the whole way. We just didn’t finish,” Rick Carlisle concluded. “I’ve got to help our guys finish better.”
It is highly unlikely we see a second straight off night for Dirk Nowitzki. You can also anticipate more threes to be made by both teams in Game 2. Expect Rick Carlisle to ponder using Devin Harris and Brandan Wright as starters. They were very successful in utilizing their version of the pick and roll. If the Mavericks can successfully keep Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli out of the paint and can shoot 48-50% for 48 minutes they’ll have the ever slightest chance to get a win in this series.
Ten wins in a row for San Antonio on the Mavericks. I just don’t see it. AT&T will be loud and unfriendly. My guess is that we’ll see Kawhi Leonard have himself a game to remember with Tiago Splitter as the problem underneath.
Series to Date:
Game 1: Spurs 90 Mavs 85 – Spurs Lead 1-0
4/23 Mavericks vs Spurs 7:00pm
4/26 Spurs vs Mavericks 3:30pm
4/28 Spurs vs Mavericks 8:30pm
4/30 Mavericks vs Spurs TBD *If Necessary
5/2 Spurs vs Mavericks TBD *If Necessary
5/4 Mavericks vs Spurs TBD *If Necessary