The Spurs are entering the season as the defending Champions of the NBA Western Conference, and that is what tonight’s matchup was all about. The revamped and revitalized Mavericks will be in the mix at season’s-end for the Southwest Division title if not for one of the top three seeds in the Western Conference. To get back to the NBA Championship round, the Spurs will have to knock off the Mavericks.
Out tonight for San Antonio was reigning NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard (eye infection), center Tiago Splitter (calf), and Patty Mills (shoulder surgery).
Long-time Spur Matt Bonner got the start in Gregg Popovich’s lineup at the center position.
The history was on the side of San Antonio as they are a perfect 4-0 in season openers following a Finals win. Additionally, the Spurs have won their last seven games at home versus Dallas.
Both teams started the game slowly, with the first points coming nearly two minutes into the first quarter with Danny Green hitting from the top of the key.
After an early lull, and limited scoring in early minutes, both teams would settle into a groove as they executed the plans the mulled over all summer long. The first quarter would expire after a series of lob attempts to Tyson Chandler and missed threes on great ball movement from both squads.
Early into the game, Popovich would recognize the need for physical play against an always aggressive Tyson Chandler, and Aron Baynes would enter the line up at center, replacing Bonner.
In the division this will surely continue to be the theme for Bonner, where he will get spot duty at power forward and center, but never truly break into large quantities of minutes.
The Spurs escaped this game, and the Mavericks proved that they will be right there in the race for the Southwest Conference.
Matt Bonner is going to play great against teams with a traditional backcourt, such as Memphis, but as a team goes small, as Dallas did tonight, his skill at stretching the defense won’t come into play. We should expect to see a rotational approach with Splitter and Baynes filling the void at center.
A great sign for the Spurs was Cory Joseph who hit a three pointer on his first attempt of the season.
Very disappointedly for Dallas fans, newly acquired Chandler Parsons shot 20% from the field in his first half as a Maverick.
Both teams shot the ball well, Dallas earning the lead, and San Antonio shooting 47%, but defensively the Mavericks were superior. Hustle plays went the way way of Dallas also: 11 second-chance points and I counted at least three 50/50 balls gathered by the Mavs.
At halftime, the Mavericks led by eight-points on pace for a 106 point night. The Spurs, with a very non-eventful initial showing, regrouped behind a halftime scolding by their newly bearded leader, Popovich.
A great sign of defensive anticipation happened at 9:03 in the third quarter as Nelson started the lob to Chandler when Tim Duncan two-handed slammed the ball back to the floor and initiated the fast break. On the other end Danny Green dropped a three-pointer through the net. That is vintage Spurs’ defensive transition, and part of a 12-2 run for San Antonio.
Chandler sat with four fouls during the third period which allowed San Antonio to retake the lead as the Mavericks showed little defensive gusto. This will surely be a recurring problem for Mark Cuban’s team as the season progresses.
Monta Ellis and Tony Parker would own the third period for their respective teams, each scoring seemingly at will.
Entering the fourth quarter the tide had turned. The Mavericks were on the defensive as the Spurs, and particularly Manu Ginobili, got very aggressive with penetration into the paint. In a stretch that bridging the quarters, Ginobili put in ten straight points.
With 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks were proving that they were not going give this game to the champs. Dirk would continue a solid night. The 36-year old sank the patented one-footed fade away for his 14th point of the evening.
With five minutes remaining, and a five point Spurs lead, Duncan took Chandler down in the block and put the baseline jumper in just past Chandler’s outstretched arms. On the other end, Harris would hit a well-timed three pointer to pull the Mavericks within four points.
The Mavs would not go away. With 1:51 remaining Dallas tied the game, and had the lead until 1:07 when Tony Parker nailed a three pointer to give the Spurs a one-point edge.
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The Spurs carried a one-point lead for over thirty seconds to close the game. The Mavericks had the ball, passed it to Dirk, who oddly passed on the shot and kicked the ball out. The ball swung to Parsons who threw up a three pointer from three feet behind the arc, and to no avail.
The key word for the game is ‘escape’. The Spurs escaped this game, and the Mavericks proved that they will be right there in the race for the Southwest Conference.
The Spurs will now have two days to rest, regroup and figure out how to stop turning the ball over — especially in the fourth quarter — before the heading to Phoenix to take on the Suns and Eric Bledsoe.
And so it begins.