Thursday’s game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks came down to the wire, with a Vince Carter three falling short at the buzzer to give the Spurs the win, 92-91. This counted as San Antonio’s 50th win of the year.
Carter had 10 points on the night, but helped piece together a late run at the Spurs lead with Dirk Nowitzki. Carter hit a three in the corner, then Nowitzki hit a midrange jumper to bring the Mavericks within one. Manu Ginobili missed a pull up jumper for the Spurs on the next possession, leading to one final Dallas possession. On that possession, Carter got a decent look at a three, but couldn’t hit it.
For the Spurs, Tim Duncan was the story of the game, as he scored 28 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, carrying the Spurs in the second half after starting off slowly. Gary Neal was the second highest scorer for San Antonio, getting 16 points on 6-13 shooting, including 2-3 from beyond the arc.
The Mavericks had a very balanced attack, with 6 players in double figures. Nowitzki was the highest scorer though, with 21 points on the night, and also getting 11 rebounds. (Sidenote: San Antonio left Dirk open from three on multiple occasions throughout the night. Off dribble penetration, both Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter got sucked in, leading to a Dirk three. It was a great job by Dallas to recognize this and keep Dirk out on the arc to make San Antonio pay, but it was slightly irritating to watch the Spurs be undisciplined on that aspect. OK, tangent over.)
Both teams were off from the field, as Neither shot above 45% from the field. It was a very physical, defensive matchup for the most part, with most of the scoring happening inside.
The next game for the Spurs is against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, March 16th, at 8:30 PM.
- We should really take another moment to sit an appreciate Tim Duncan. This type of dominant performance from him is going the way of the dodo bird with his age, but every once in a while he’ll have a throwback game and do something absolutely incredible. Tonight, after going only 3-9 from the field in the first half (missing some shots right at the rim), Duncan had one of those performances. In the second half he went 8-9 from the field (including a hilarious tip-in off of a pass that had him giggling down the floor), and carried the Spurs to a win, He dominated in the post against a Mavericks team that played some pretty good defense all the way through the game. He was visibly fired up through the second half, refusing to go down. It was as if it were 2003 all over again. There was no Parker tonight, Manu was off (again), so Timmy stepped up in a big way.
- For as much grief as Spurs fans put him through (myself included), Gary Neal had a pretty great game against Dallas. They were chasing all of the Spurs shooters off of the three point line, so Neal went to work off the dribble, getting into the painted area fairly often. He still had a few plays that made you groan, but on a night when everyone else was having a bad night, he came up big. And in the fourth quarter, he had two huge threes that briefly made you forget the bad times, and made you love him again. Hopefully this kind of Gary can stick around; when he’s on, he’s fun to watch.
- I want to take a quick second to commend Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks on their defensive performance. Inside, they were very physical and didn’t let San Antonio into the paint easily. Outside, they blanketed every shooter the Spurs put out, holding San Antonio to only ATTEMPTING 13 threes on the night. Of those 13, San Antonio only made 5. Cutting out three point shooting is a hard thing to do against San Antonio, and doing so puts you in a very good chance to beat them. And, had Tim Duncan not gone supernova in the second half, that probably would have happened.
- A little wrinkle that was fun to watch from San Antonio was the use of the high-low in the post. The big men that get a lot of minutes for the Spurs: Duncan, Diaw, and Splitter are all very good passers, and those attributes were put to use more tonight than usual. It was fun to see some lobs over the defense for a couple shots close to the rim, and it was pretty effective as well.
- Manu Ginobili was again not himself, only scoring 7 points on 2-9 shooting. He did manage to still be a playmaker, racking up 9 assists, and being the go-to-guy late in the shot clock. Late in the game however, he was the person the Spurs went to late, but he left the door open for Dallas as he couldn’t hit a jumper in the paint. I can’t be too mad at the result because it was a good shot that just didn’t fall, but I would have rather had the game be in the hands of a Tim Duncan, or a Gary Neal though. I still maintain that Manu can be helpful, but it’s clear that his days as a main scorer are over. On some nights he will flash back to the old Manu, but for the most part he will not be providing the same shot-making ability he has in the past, and that’s something to look for in the future.
- The last shot by Dallas was something that played into the Spurs favor a bit. Vince Carter shot that from a range on the floor where he is averaging .459 from, so he definitely got to a spot he’s comfortable at, which is what you want on your last shot. But, he was being guarded by Tiago Splitter after he switched because of a pick-and-roll with Dirk. Personally, if I were the Mavericks, I would have preferred trying to go by Splitter, who was a little off-balance on the play (Actually, when isn’t Tiago Splitter off-balance? He’s so awkward athletically.). But, the shot they got wasn’t a bad one, and Spurs fans are fortunate it didn’t fall.