Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks


San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks 7:30 CST November 26, 2010

According to reports, Dirk Nowitzki, listed as day-to-day, is very likely to sit out of tonight’s marquee match-up. Nowitzki had significant MVP momentum prior to his injury and his absence will dramatically help the Spurs chances. The last time these two teams met, my preview focused on Nowitzki offensively. Although Dirk is probably a little underrated defensively (he usually rates pretty well in defensive adjusted plus-minus), he isn’t really a defensive game-changer, so I’ll just explore how his absence impacts this game offensively.

What changes without Dirk?

Dirk Nowitki has been responsible for over two-thirds of the Mavericks offense from the post. He is also their top scorer on isolation plays. When Dirk is out of the lineup, Dallas figures to be a pick and roll team that has the ability to push the ball. Thus far in the season, the Mavericks rank 15th in scores derived from pick and roll possessions and 17th in points off transition opportunities despite placing only 22nd in the NBA in pace. For all the defensive contributions that Chandler and Haywood provide, they have only combined for 13 offensive points in the post this year. Nowitzki has scored 219 points in the post, himself. Jason Kidd is responsible for more scores off the transition than any other Mavs player, typically by way of assists. Kidd has created over 6 points per game by passes leading to fast break scores. Shawn Marion and Caron Butler also look to run and Jason Terry frequently shoots quick jumpers on the break. Kidd also ranks among the leaders in efficiency when running the pick and roll.

The Mavericks have scored 164 points from plays beginning with Kidd heading the pick and roll, but Kidd has only scored 40 of those points himself. As mentioned in my preview of the last Spurs-Mavs matchup , be ready for the pass when Kidd runs the pick and roll. Jason Terry typically becomes the Mavs top scoring option when Dirk is unable to go, as expected. Much of Terry’s half court offense derives from the pick and roll. He likes to use the screener to set up a jump shot. Juan Barea is more prone to try to get to the basket on pick and rolls (and in general). Expect the Mavericks to always play two players who frequently operate out of the pick and roll. At times they could play three. The Spurs will want to utlize their best pick and roll defenders, especially if Nowitzki is unable to go. The following list summarizes the success of Spurs perimeter players when matched up defensively with the pick and roll ballhandler:

George Hill4400.79
Gary Neal490.80
Tony Parker4360.88
Manu Ginobili1600.91
Chris Quinn540.96
Richard Jefferson1331.00
George Hill typically defends Jason Terry, but I think his toughness can make him a good matchup for Jason Kidd. Tony Parker’s ability to get over screens makes him a good fit to defend Terry, but his size and quickness make him a solid match for Barea. There are a lot of options here, but the Spurs might need to utilize more perimeter defenders such as Gary Neal for this one. Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion are the Mavs two best big men scoring from the pick and roll. Matt Bonner has the best average when defending the roll man on the pick and roll, but it seems to me that Blair might be a better option to defend Marion on the pick and roll and Splitter might be the Spurs best combination of length and athleticism to deal with Chandler.

Key Statistics

SRS ranks: Dallas: 6.30 (4th) San Antonio: 7.97 (3rd) Player Statistics (courtesy of (effective December 27, 2010) and (effective December 27, 2010):

PlayerFraction of teams minutesPER minus Counterpart PEROn court +/-per 48 minutesOff court +/-per 48 minutes2 Year Adjusted +/-
Most valuable/utilized lineups: Kidd, Stevenson, Butler, Nowitzki, Chandler +111 in 257 minutes (+20.7 per 48 minutes) Kidd, Stevenson, Butler, Nowitzki, Haywood +21 in 210 minutes (+4.8 per 48) Kidd, Terry, Butler, Marion, Chandler +6 in 17 minutes (+4.1 per 48) The Mavericks have really struggled without Dirk to this point in the season. In 366 such minutes, they have been outscored by 106 points.


With Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup, the Mavericks should be favored in this game. However, it looks like the Spurs will catch another break tonight. Without Dirk, the Mavs are closer to mediocre than exceptional, but should be helped by home court advantage. With Nowitzki, this game figures to be an uphill battle for the Spurs; without him it is still no walkover, but the Spurs should like their chances.

  • sasleepless

    “With Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup, the Mavericks should be favored in this game. However, it looks like the Spurs will catch another break tonight”

    I beg to differ. Why are they favored to win with Dirk? even SRS ranks give us about 2 points above them.

    I really hope he plays 100%. So we can silence all the doubters, even those on our side.

  • BlaseE

    “…but should be helped by home court advantage.”

    Probably true, but their record currently has them as a 13-5 (.722) home team and an 11-1 (.917) road team.

    6 Mavs Losses:

    @ New Orleans
    Toronto (only back to back of the 6, and played without Dirk)

  • BlaseE

    Last season shows the same trend with the Mavs having the best road record in the league and only 1 more win at home than on the road. (28-13 at home vs 27-14 on the road)

  • DBAGuy

    I disagree that with Dirk in the lineup, they should be favored. Why? Can you provide any proof to that statement? I for one wanted Dirk to play, so we could beat them for what they are, tomorrow we will hear all excuses of how they lost because he wasn’t playing, etc. Mavs are overrated, same as last year.

  • mrliksternow

    not to change the subject but i just read the wizards are considering trading javal mcgee, i would love for the spurs to work out deal that sends them blair in return. he’s a great shot blocker and decent rebounder for cheap. i love blair but he will always be too short. otherwise a trade for carl landry would be nice, i like his offensive inside game as TD becomes more of a defensive center (offensively he already is what we hope blair will become)

  • Timothy Varner

    Link? I see Blatche available, not McGee. Not sure either is a good locker room guy. That’s not to say either possesses bad character. I really don’t know one way or the other. But the Wizards have been such a mess the last couple seasons, the question has to be raised.

  • Tyler

    @ mrliksternow

    I’m sure Washington would trade Blatche if they can get back salary relief and/or young players.

    But McGee is the closest to untouchable (outside of Wall of course) that they have. He’s young, has shown flashes of being a really, really good, and he’s by far and away the most athletic 7″+ guy in the league. It would take a “Pau Gasol” type, no brainer for them to move McGee, and that’s not happening.

  • bduran

    The reason that he is saying the Mavs would be favored is because it’s a home game. In general the home team wins 60% of the time. So while we would be favored on a neutral court, we’re slight dogs at the Mavs. It looks like based on point differential and standard homecourt advantage the Mavs should win about 54% of the time. See, that means we’re better even though the Mavs are favored because their advantage is less than 60%.

    Now, this is for most teams. Home court advantage can very from team to team (Utah and Denver have altitude advantages), so it’s possible that the Mavs homecourt doesn’t provide the standard advantage.

    The bottom line is I hope Dirk doesn’t play because at this point I’m more worried about seeding than whether or not we beat Dallas with Dirk. Playing at Dallas with Dirk is a 50-50 shot at best and I don’t want to go down 0-2 to our biggest western competitor.

  • luislandry

    @mrliksternow: I root somewhat for the Rockets, and Landry was a favorite…in fact he’s in my name, but I’ll say this – he’s a terrible defender and poor defensive rebounder. I’m not sure that’s the type of player the Spurs need.

    Then again, depending on who they play him with, he’s an extremely talented low post and face-up scorer. He just doesn’t fit in with the Kings because they’re asking him to be mostly a spot up big man. Last year before getting traded he was taking 5.5 attempts at the rim (at 67.7%). This year only 2.8 attempts (at 71.1%). He’s a so-so outside shooter, but if not used for his post scoring then he doesn’t belong out there due to his bad D. Maybe the Spurs could change that, though.

  • Big Whit


    “…he’s by far and away the most athletic 7″+ guy in the league.”

    …That does cover most of the league, unless Boykins and Bogues still playing :-)

  • Tyler

    @ Big Whit

    You’re correct, 7″ does cover the majority of the league….make that 7′

  • ITGuy

    December 28th, 2010 at 12:19 pm Predicting a Spurs loss tonite. Not really confident on Spurs defense. I saw the Heat play some really good D on Pau on Kobe but don’t think we can replicate that effort tonite. Pau will probably shoot 10-12 or something just as ridiculous and Kobe will net 30.”

    Crow tacos for breakfast today?

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • DieHardSpur


    The last thing we need is another undersized big man. The only reason we have a place for Blair is becuase of his ability to rebound the basketball. Trading Blair for Landry would be a terrible decision in my opinion.

    On a different note, I would be interested to see what kind of numbers Blair could put up, playing 40 minutes a game on a bad team… I bet he would be a 20/15 guy for Sac or Golden State.

  • DieHardSpur

    ITGuy – +10
    Mason- -10

  • TD = Best EVER

    I for 1 want Dirk to play and be healthy – We need to know where we stand in the west as far as talent and rotations and you want to find out as quickly as possible……….

    We have been very LUCKY so far as to have not had a serious injury or a key player miss significant time(10 or more games)…….Or have our 1 of our BIG 3go down like LA had with Bynum out. So we really need to see where we stand before the last 10 games so that we can begin resting players the last 3 weeks or so for the playoffs…….

  • mrliksternow

    i overread into the washington post acrticle, ( went back and reread it) but as far as the landry- blair comparison, they both stink as defenders. i see both getting benched because of it at times. but at least landry can score.

    – crap!!! i just double checked the rebounding rate, blair is much better, nevermind i changed my mind

  • Big Whit

    I know Blair’s height is a disadvantage but, I like his game. He gets his share of rebounds. He is improving offensively with spin moves, using the rim to prevent blocks, and floaters. Even his midrange jumper and free throw shooing are improving. He has quick hands that force turnovers and good passing instincts. Very fast for his size and has hustle. He is not the perfect center, but has skills.

  • mrliksternow

    nevertheless, i am very concerned that when our shots are not falling TD wont be enough of a dominating inside presence to win in the playoffs. His recent scoring, lack thereof, is scaring the mess out of me. I dont want to be the Orlando Magic of last years playoffs

  • mrliksternow

    heck, i dont want to be the spurs of last year’s playoffs!!!! we go swept because we couldn’t gain a clear advantage on the suns inside. THE SUNS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!

  • Hobson13

    This is crazy. Spurs keep getting the lucky breaks.
    We played Atlanta sans Johnson then Memphis sans Rudy Gay, Denver without Billups, Martin, or Anderson, then Denver again without Melo. We then played Phoenix without half their team. Now we play the Mavs without Dirk.

    With Dirk out, the Spurs focus should be to shut down Jason Terry. If he ever gets going, he could be a real difficult player to stop. Marion has rarely played well against the Spurs and Butler has proven to be a volume shooter. If the Spurs play great perimeter defense like they did against the Lakers, then the Mavs will struggle to score 80 points since they have no real inside scorer. I hate beating the Mavs sans Dirk, but the only way the Mavs win this is if someone gets hot from the perimeter. Go Spurs!!

  • DieHardSpur


    I totally agree.

    The only way we lose this game is if we give it to them. With Dirk they would be hard pressed to beat us two times in a row, as well as we have been playing. If they do win, without Dirk, it is because we didnt show up… which we have done several times this year already, but played 4 minutes of consisten defense and won. Thats not the game I want to watch tonight. I would like to see us keep the Wavericks scoring in the 80’s on 40% +/- shooting. If we do that, win or lose, it will be a good game for the Spurs.

  • DorieStreet

    Since Dirk is going to be out I see the Mavs going at the Spurs strong in the paint, dividing up touches between centers (P&R) and forwards (drives and isos). I hope we can find our shooting touch on the road so we can avoid scoring droughts. Stevenson and Terry will get the green light to shoot 3’s at home. Mavs will be motivated to erase that home loss to a depleted Toronto team that had twice as many losses to wins and was in 2nd game of a road BTB (as opposed to Dallas A/H BTB). Spurs better be ready.

  • Greyberger

    The thing to worry about is that, with Dirk out, Butler Terry or Kidd has a Renaissance game and it’s enough offense for the Mavs to get it close and win it.

    Hopefully Blair is just as inspired against Dallas and the threes are falling, that’ll make it hard for them to keep up if Diggler is indeed watching from the bench.

  • DorieStreet

    @Hobson 13-

    Wow. I wonder which basketball show’s production staff will come up with your astute observation and send it to one of their analysts to further diss the Spurs’ record start? I haven’t even seen it on any website or sports blogger report. And oh- KG is injured again – we play the Celtics in 6 days. Are the basketball gods sporting silver and black this season?

  • tyler

    the mavs are the best team in the nba after the celtics recent struggles. the spurs lack the defensive intensity to be a serious contender. Look at the top defensive teams in the nba and you see celtics,mavericks,heat, and the struggling lakers but in may we will see these 4 teams in the conference finals for sure.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Even with Dirk out, the Silver and Black need to be wary of Dallas’ improved defense, largely thanks to Tyson’s play. He’s been a beast for the Mavs.
    Also, Mahinmi is a bit of a folk hero around here in Dallas with his play almost pushing last year’s Center-Savior Brendad Haywood to third on the depth chart. Did you realize they have THREE Frenchmen on their team (at least the Parker-Lite is on the DL).
    Another to watch out for, particularly defensively is Dominique Jones – he’s their Bruce Bowen/tone-setter.
    There are SOME perks to living in an enemy city! :)

  • SAJKinBigD

    Um, I meant DeShawn Stevenson, not Dominique Jones. Dunno where that came from… Sorry.

  • NYC


    “… I hope Dirk doesn’t play because at this point I’m more worried about seeding than whether or not we beat Dallas with Dirk.”

    No, Godamnit! Me want Dirk. Me want him healthy. Me want smash. Spurs smash! Spurs smash!

  • Scott Sereday

    @SAJKinBigD Good point about Chandler and Dallas’ improved D

    Sorry for the late response…

    For those who don’t understand why I think Dallas would be favored with Dirk; without any complex analysis…
    Spurs: 7.95
    Mavs: 6.29
    Typical Home court advantage:2-3 points
    Advantage Dallas

    Hollinger power rankings:
    Spurs: 106.532
    Home Court:2-3 points for Dallas
    Advantage Dallas

    It is close enough that something else could sway expectations in favor of San Antonio (I’m not sure what to expect if Dirk plays at less than 100%).

    I know that Dallas’ home road splits are unexpected, @BlaseE seems to agree with my assumption that this is largely simply the effect of a small sample size and the ebbs and flows that come with the season.

    If anything changes Dallas’ home court advantage, it might be the fact that they are playing their interstate rivals. I don’t know if this increases Dallas’ chances because the fans will be more hyped up and influential or if it decreases the chances because the travel is less, the Spurs are more accustomed to playing in Dallas and there should be more Spurs fans than other home games.

  • Scott Sereday

    Wow! Off subject, but has anyone else noticed how the top West centers in the all star voting largely haven’t played this season?

    Yao: 5 GP/92 MP, done for the season (hopefully not his career)
    Bynum: 8 GP/1 GS/ 153 MP, played his first game a little over 2 weeks ago and has started with limited minutes
    Haywood: Started 1 game, I guess Chandler isn’t on the ballot?

  • DorieStreet

    @ SAKinBigD-

    Re: Mahinmi –What are you talking about? The stats say: appeared in 17 games- only 4 on the road; 5 min per/ his big minutes (outside of the 14 vs SA) are 9 vs NJ; 10 vs Toronto; 21 vs Golden State. The other numbers aren’t even worth mentioning. I am so tired of this guy’s name still coming up. Injuries, bad timing–bottom line, he did nothing here, and he’s doing nothing there. I going to closely watch his play tonight–see if he is the difference maker.

  • Hobson13

    December 30th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    “I haven’t even seen it on any website or sports blogger report. And oh- KG is injured again – we play the Celtics in 6 days.”

    I’m not making excuses about the Spurs start. If we get some “lucky” breaks then so be it. Hell, do we have to recap our injury problems over the past few years? You can bet other teams took advantage of us when our big guns were out. It’s someone else’s turn to suffer from the injury bug besides the Spurs (even though we’ve suffered slightly with Tiago and Andersons injuries). We’ve certainly had our share of bad breaks over the years so if we get a good roll here and there then there’s no reason to be ashamed. However, our good luck comes in the form of Pop and RC who are smart enough to stock this team with very good role players and, unlike Boston and Dallas, have learned their lesson about slotting older, past-their-prime veterans into a roster in place of youth.

    “Are the basketball gods sporting silver and black this season?”

    If these kind of breaks continue to occur we may be asking if the 2010-2011 Spurs squad is a team of destiny.

  • DorieStreet

    Hobson13 –

    The Spurs’ injuries to Tiago and Anderson could be blessings in disguise. Pop might have gone down this path all the same, but certainly Splitter’s problem had the coach err on the side of caution. Anderson will be so anxious to get in on the action and contribute, his period of rust and readjusting may just take a few games. So, the roster is going to stand pat at 13 players for the balance of the Season?

  • Hobson13

    December 30th, 2010 at 5:48 pm
    So, the roster is going to stand pat at 13 players for the balance of the Season?

    Yes, I can’t see the Spurs adding any other player even though I would like to see us trade some picks for Anthony Randolph. This move wouldn’t immediately help us this year, but could be nice for next year. The only thing that could happen is that we cut Ime Udoka after Anderson comes back.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ mrliksternow

    We had a clear advantage last year VS the Suns…… – we lost because we couldn’t make shots – TD was getting doubled teamed and we didn’t hit enough jumpers from the outside to make up for it

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Hobson13

    “Yes, I can’t see the Spurs adding any other player even though I would like to see us trade some picks for Anthony Randolph.”


    We have to continue to look to improve this year as well as for the future and Randolph has MORE upside than our young Bigs at the moment. At least I want to hear our name in the running to get someone – even if the asking price is too high and we have to back out….. At least then we can say we tried.

    But as it is If we can find away to

    1 – Stay healthy
    2 – Win the West
    3 – Add our HOF Bigman back into the rotation(ie, get him going again)

    We should be right there with a game 7 2 our place and this time we will NOT let it slip away……

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  • SAJKinBigD

    @ Scott: Thanks. Also, from my own experience, Dallas’ fans are pretty tame unless they’re facing the Spurs or Lakers (or they have some reason to be drinking a lot of wine BEFORE the game), though I’ll bet when the Heat visit them, it’ll approach the same levels.

    @ Dorie: You’re looking at averages, but he has had a couple of good appearances, putting up double-doubles. I’m not holding him up as a goof on our part, just passing along how he’s seen by Mavs fans here in Dallas.

    re: the game tonight: Sweet game. Hate that Kidd got a triple-double, but oh well, the Silver and Black got SCOREBOARD!

  • DorieStreet

    @ SAJKinBigD-

    Agree with you about Dallas fans-it’s in the DNA. Going back to the Cotton Bowl days of the Cowboys–a long time ago and TV technology different (read: primative-maybe oldtimers who were there can comment. Texas Stadium got loud during Doomsday Defense years, but after that only when the Eagles came to town and the epic 49ers battles in the early 90’s. On tonight’s game–give credit to Donnie Nelson–he will bring a big in and give him minutes to show what he can do. Ajinca has a little promise/ Cardinal is Bonner’s younger, slower brother/Spurs basketball IQ was <50 in 2nd half–Tony and Manu made decisions like it was 2002 again.

  • SAJKinBigD

    They sure do have a lot of length, don’t they? I’d take Ajinca over Mahinmi anyways.
    Time for bed. Me tired.

  • SAJKinBigD

    And very accurate on your assessment of the fans up here. Ugh. Sometimes it’s rough being a Cowboys fan.