Mavericks Run Past Spurs in Showdown of Western Conference HeavyweightsThe Dallas Mavericks used a high octane running game to defeat the San Antonio Spurs, 105-92. Josh Howard led the Mavericks with 23 points. Devin Harris scored 18 points and had a game-high +27 plus/minus, largely because he completely ate Tony Parker's lunch (seven points on 1-11 shooting, a game-low -21 plus/minus). Dirk Nowitzki, who this year almost seems to be operating in a point-forward role, tied Harris with a team-high five assists in addition to scoring 18 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking four shots. Jason Terry continues to thrive in the sixth man role, scoring 18 points on 7-9 shooting. Manu Ginobili had 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Tim Duncan scored well (24 points) but did not have the impact elsewhere that he usually does (five rebounds, no blocked shots).
Dallas raced out to a 20-8 lead and was in control for most of the game. The Mavericks pushed the ball up the court at every opportunity and led 59-40 at halftime. Of course, a championship team like the Spurs is going to make a run but the Mavericks maintained at least a 10 point lead throughout the second half.
If Dallas had played this way in last year's playoffs versus Golden State then the Mavericks would have had an opportunity to do this to the Spurs with a berth to the NBA Finals on the line--and, regardless of what anyone thinks, the Mavericks are better equipped to beat the Spurs in a seven game series than any other team in the West, including the Phoenix Suns. That should be obvious, since the Mavericks actually did beat the Spurs in the playoffs just two years ago; the only other Western Conference team to beat the Spurs in the postseason since 2000 is the Shaq-Kobe Lakers.
Unlike Phoenix and Golden State, Dallas is able to play an uptempo game without completely sacrificing defense and without utilizing questionable shot selection; that is why the Mavericks should never be afraid to run with anyone. In fact, when Dallas beat San Antonio in the 2006 playoffs, the Mavericks scored more than 100 points in each of their wins and fewer than 100 in each of their losses. I understand that Coach Avery Johnson wants to construct the Mavericks in the mold of the Spurs, but his best player, Dirk Nowitzki, is neither a back to the basket offensive player nor a defensive stopper in the paint a la Tim Duncan; therefore, Dallas will never be most effective playing the grind it out style that San Antonio prefers.
It is interesting to speculate about why Dallas forces the tempo versus San Antonio but did not consistently do this against Golden State in last year's playoffs. My theory is that the Dallas coaching staff realizes that it cannot beat San Antonio in a slowdown game, so getting into a fast paced game is mandatory--but I think that the Dallas coaching staff had a hard time accepting that the Mavericks really could not simply slow the game down and bludgeon Golden State to death. Mavericks' fans should be ecstatic that their team largely abandoned that wrongheaded approach in the first matchup with Golden State this season.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:06 AM