No "Kidd"-ing: Spurs Edge MavsIt is easy to forget that just two years ago the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs contested an epic playoff series that was not decided until overtime in game seven. For those of you who have forgotten--or who think that Dirk Nowitzki always comes up short in the big games--Dallas beat San Antonio 119-111 in that seventh game and Nowitzki led the way with 37 points and 15 rebounds, shooting 11-20 from the field and 15-16 from the free throw line. We may get to see this matchup again in this year's playoffs and if Thursday's game was a preview of coming attractions then this showdown will once again be a treat to watch.
The Spurs beat the Mavs 97-94 at San Antonio in a back and forth game that provided a handy reminder of just how valuable Tim Duncan really is. His numbers were excellent (31 points, 15 rebounds, 12-20 field goal shooting) but, as Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich explained after the game, Duncan's impact at both ends of the court goes even deeper than what the statistics portray: "Offense, the ball goes through him. On defense, he's our defender, our rebounder. Everybody rotates off him. He's just really special. We don't get anything done without him."
Manu Ginobili has been playing really well for the past month or so and whenever that happens it is inevitable that certain people will pipe up to suggest that Ginobili is nearly as valuable as Kobe Bryant. There are a number of problems with that theory, not the least of which is that the season lasts for 82 games, not one month; those who wonder why Ginobili was "snubbed" in this year's All-Star voting may want to look at what his numbers were when those votes were cast and when the coaches selected the reserves. In any case, as Popovich said, Duncan is the hub of the Spurs; Tony Parker does not win the 2007 Finals MVP without Duncan attracting a lot of defensive attention (and shutting down the Cavs' offense in the paint, sparking numerous fast break opportunities for Parker and the other Spurs). Ginobili had 17 points, five assists and five rebounds against Dallas, shooting 6-20 from the field; he does not have to be great every night for the Spurs to win because he plays alongside Tim Duncan--and it is easier for him to be great precisely because of Duncan's presence. Real MVP candidates--like Bryant and LeBron James--play at a very high level consistently, not just for brief stretches of the season.
Nowitzki led Dallas with 28 points but he shot just 5-15 from the field, scoring most of his points from the free throw line (17-21). He also had six rebounds. New Mav Jason Kidd had seven points, 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals but Dallas Coach Avery Johnson made a very curious decision, sitting Kidd out for the last :34 of the fourth quarter. The Mavs had the ball and only trailed 96-94 at that point. After the game, Johnson said that he wanted to spread the court with shooters but the Mavs did not get off a good shot the rest of the way. Kidd responded diplomatically, saying, "They've been together down the stretch. I understand what play they're looking for, so I'm over here cheering for my guys to knock down a 2 or a 3," but TNT's Charles Barkley cut to the heart of the matter: "There's no sense in making the Jason Kidd trade if you aren't going to play him in crunch time." He also termed Johnson's move "stupid." Barkley is absolutely right; the Mavs brought Kidd in to be a difference maker in crucial situations because he makes such good decisions and passes the ball so well. If he does not know the Mavs' plays, now is a better time to learn them then during the playoffs and, as TNT's Kenny Smith mentioned, there is no point guard in the NBA better at creating something out of a broken play than Kidd.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:05 AM