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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Spurs Run Past Mavericks, 100-79

The Dallas-San Antonio game on Friday night was a rematch and a preview wrapped in one. Dallas eliminated San Antonio in an epic seven game playoff series last season and the teams will open their 2006-07 seasons by playing each other on Thursday night. Not surprisingly, both teams played it pretty close to the vest on Friday, limiting the minutes of their key players and not revealing any new plays that they may have added to their repertoires. The Spurs emerged with a 100-79 victory, sparked by remarkable 28-37 shooting from the field by guards Tony Parker (9-11), Manu Ginobili (6-8), Brent Barry (4-7), Beno Udrih (5-6) and Jacque Vaughn (4-5). ESPN commentator Hubie Brown said that he had never seen a shooting display like that by an entire backcourt. Parker finished with 20 points, Ginobili scored 16 and newly acquired center Francisco Elson contributed 14 points and nine rebounds off of the bench. Tim Duncan had nine points, six rebounds and two blocked shots while playing only 24 minutes--in fact, no one on either team played more than 25 minutes. Josh Howard led the Mavericks with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Dirk Nowitzki added 13 points and four rebounds.

The early moments of the game provided no indication of the blowout that would ensue. The score was tied 11-11 halfway through the first quarter and Hubie Brown remarked that both teams looked sharp. Brown likes the Mavericks' addition of former Pacers point guard Anthony Johnson: "He knows how to play. That's the best compliment that you can give a pro player." Johnson started but played sparingly, scoring two points. Duncan scored two baskets, one of them as part of a three point play, to give the Spurs a 16-11 lead and San Antonio pushed that advantage to 30-22 by the end of the quarter. Parker got off to a fast start and Brown marvelled at the fact that he ranked third in the league in field goal percentage in 2005-06, a remarkable accomplishment for a small guard who did not have a reliable shot from beyond 10 feet when he entered the league. It is offseason work on one's weaknesses, Brown explained, that separates All-Star and All-NBA players from everyone else in the NBA.

Near the end of the first quarter, Jerry Stackhouse received a technical foul for elbowing Ginobili. Brown said that in the old days when only two officials worked games that such contact might have gone unobserved; he added that the current system of using three referees provides much better court coverage.

Dallas experienced serious problems in transition defense in the second quarter and San Antonio soon built a double digit lead. Brown noted that teams are experimenting with using zone defenses more to compensate for the NBA rules changes that limit defensive contact against perimeter players; using a zone enables a team to funnel driving players into areas where there are multiple defenders. The Mavericks briefly cut the margin below 10 before the Spurs raced to a 59-41 lead. Parker had 18 points on 8-10 field goal shooting in the first half and the Spurs enjoyed a 21-13 rebounding advantage. ESPN showed an interesting graphic during the second quarter: last year Nowitzki became only the third player to shoot at least 90% from the free throw line while averaging at least 26 ppg; the other players are Rick Barry and Larry Bird, who did it twice.

The Mavericks chipped away until they pulled within 62-50 in the third quarter but then Parker hit a floater, Ginobili made a runner and Duncan stole an inbounds pass and scored; Dallas only managed to make one free throw during that flurry and trailed 68-51. Mavericks' Coach Avery Johnson called timeout, one of several that he used at various points in the game to chew out his players, and Dallas responded with four straight points. After that, though, the Spurs went back to simply running the Mavericks out of the gym. Dallas' last highlight was a spectacular D.J. Mbenga block of Elson's two hand dunk attempt with 4.8 seconds left in the quarter. The Spurs retained possession, though, and Matt Bonner banked in a shot off of the inbounds pass, just beating the shot clock buzzer. "It's been that kind of night," Brown said.

Both teams rested their starters in the fourth quarter and various bench players fought for regular season roster spots and playing time.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:52 AM

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