NBA Playoffs: Keys for San Antonio Spurs to Win Game 3


Apr 23, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard

Monta Ellis

(front) moves the ball against the defense of San Antonio Spurs guard

Manu Ginobili

(20) in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. The Mavericks won 113-92. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs: After an embarrassing loss on their home floor Wednesday, the Spurs are looking to get back on track in Dallas with a victory in Game 3.

In looking back at my three keys to a Spurs victory for Game 2, only one of them came to fruition: being able to primarily rely on Tiago Splitter to effectively defend Dallas Maverick’s aging superstar Dirk Nowitzki.

Kawhi Leonard was never able to get into a rhythm due to foul trouble. and the Mavs role players once again out-shined the Foreign Legion and even the Big Three (with the exception of Manu Ginobili).

Looking ahead to Game 3, here are the three keys that will have the Spurs tasting victory once again.

Will San Antonio Win Game 3?

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Apr 23, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks player Dirk Nowitzki (41) celebrates a basket and a foul with guard

Vince Carter

(25) against the San Antonio Spurs in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. The Mavericks won 113-92. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

1)      Don’t Beat Yourself

This key is pretty self-explanatory if you watched the disaster that was Game 2.

The Spurs somehow managed to turn the ball over an astounding 22 times, the most turnovers they have had all season long. has an excellent article looking in-depth at each individual turnover and concludes that the Spurs had only three forced turnovers to 19 unforced and sloppy turnovers.  This is not an attempt to take away credit from the Mavs so-far solid defense, but this just goes to show that the Spurs beat themselves in Game 2.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Mavs have completely played at their desired pace in both games and have flustered the Spurs through both games.

But 22 turnovers.  Just let that sink in for a second.

That’s a minimum of 44 possible points that the Spurs never gave themselves a chance at scoring.  If the saying is true that you should treat the basketball like a piece of gold, then what Game 2 showed was something completely different.

The Spurs essentially treated the ball like a hot potato, reminiscent of the scene in the BenchWarmers where Bill Snyder and David Spade are throwing one around.

While the Spurs are not necessarily the greatest team at preventing their own turnovers (they averaged 14.1 turnovers a game in the regular season), they did not give themselves a chance to win in Game 2.  You aren’t going to beat many teams turning the ball over that many times.  There was simply no way that they were going to beat the Mavs or even the Flint Tropics for that matter when their turnovers led to the Mavs attempting 28, yes, 28 more field attempted than the Spurs.

Also, the Spurs shot a paltry 18-29 at the free throw line, an atrocious percentage compared to their regular season percentage of 78.5%. Again, they’re called free throws because they’re free, but the Spurs simply did not capitalize on their opportunities at the line even though they shot 13 more free throws than the Mavs.

If the Spurs can manage to simply take care of the ball in Game 3 and make their free throws, they’ll at least give themselves a shot at beating the Mavs on their home court.

Apr 23, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) gets fouled while shooting against Dallas Mavericks guard

Devin Harris

(20) in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. The Mavericks won 192. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

2)      Let the Big Three Do Their Thing

If Games 1 and 2 are both indicators of how the rest of this series will be played, then the Spurs are going to have to rely on the foundation of this team throughout the years: the Big Three.

So far, the Spurs bench has been extremely ineffective on offense and defense, Danny Green has done absolutely nothing so far in this series on either end, and Kawhi is coming off possibly the worst game of his young career.

If the Mavs are going to continue to switch on pick rolls and stay home on the Spurs shooters, then the Spurs are going to have to rely on the mismatches that the Mavs switches present.  Today, Parker relayed that Coach Pop is giving him the green-light to be greedy and take advantage of all the Mavs switches.

“Today, Pop told me if I have to shoot 25 times, I have to shoot 25 times.”

“If that’s what they’re going to give me and go under the pick-and-rolls, that’s what I have to do.”

As far as Ginobili goes, he was the lone bright spot in Game 2, going off for 27 points in just under 23 minutes.  He also contributed to the plethora of turnovers by committing six of his own, but he was the only consistent offensive option all game.  Hopefully his play translates over to Game 3.

Duncan also had a decent game when you look at the numbers, but the team has to make it a point of emphasis to get him the ball, because there is no way that he should only have five field goals attempted.

Until the Spurs role players step up their game and shake off their current funk, the Spurs must rely on the Big Three like they have done time and time again to take back home-court.

Apr 20, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris (20) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) during the first quarter in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

3)      Play Some Defense

In regards to Game 2, it was extremely difficult for the Spurs to play defense considering that they were continually having to get back on defense after their numerous turnovers.

Also, as I previously noted, the Mavs shot 28 more field goal attempts than the Spurs, which was a huge contribution to the final score.

However, in both Games 1 and 2 the Spurs have not looked like the Spurs defense that we’ve seen for most of the season.  Yes, they only allowed the Mavs 85 points in Game 1, but it was the way that the Mavs were scoring that is troublesome.

En route to a victory in Game 2, the Mavs torched the Spurs for 113 points.  Remember, the Mavs are an elite offensive team, so they have no trouble scoring.

However, the Spurs just are not showing the consistent effort on the defensive end so far in this series.  The Mavs are seemingly getting their points with relative ease while the Spurs are badly struggling to get the looks they want, which is a recipe for disaster.

The only times so far in this series where the Mavs have looked uncomfortable offensively were the first quarter of Game 1 and the last 8 minutes of Game 1.  Besides that, the Mavs have gotten to their spots and exploited a slow-reacting Spurs defense.  Granted, Shawn Marion unexpectedly poured in 20 points in Game 2 while Devin Harris proved me wrong by scoring 18 points himself, but that just simply should not happen.

Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have to get back to doing their thing on defense while Patty Mills has to show something when he’s guarding Harris.  Not to take anything away from Harris, but he simply should not be putting up the numbers that he has so far.  If Mills can’t provide his offensive spark off the bench or stay in front of Harris, then look to see Cory Joseph earn some more minutes off the bench for Pop.

The Spurs have to make some sort of adjustments to slow down a Mavs offense that is clicking on all cylinders, so look for a more concerted effort on the defensive end in Game 3.

Don’t forget that this is a Spurs team that finished with 62 wins during the regular season with an astounding 30 victories on the road.

Sure, the Spurs have struggled mightily so far in this series, but that does not mean that the ship can’t be righted in Dallas.  History is not on the Spurs side if they lose Game 3, so hopefully they’ll respond accordingly and get their act together en route to a Game 3 victory.