Playing the Matching Game
Whenever teams in the Texas Triangle tussle (alliteration is fun), it’s not hard to get excited. There’s no motivation needed as most fans of the Spurs, Mavericks and Rockets intermingle. Fans of the Texas teams work with, are friends with and, hell, even date fans of their enemy teams. Everyone wants that one win to hold over their rival’s head until the next time the two teams meet.
With the Spurs and Mavericks tipping off tonight in what has been a fantastic rivalry in the ten years since Mark Cuban bought the Mavs, I thought it would be fun to have a look at a couple of the game’s match ups that make these rivalry games special.
The obvious place to start is between the two players fighting, through fan voting, for the second starting forward spot on the Western Conference All-Star team. In the latest voting numbers released on Thursday, Tim Duncan is about 50,000 votes behind Dirk, and closing. Perhaps a win in their match up tonight will persuade more voters?
Dirk comes into tonight’s game having one of his strongest seasons to date, as his numbers are only slightly off his averages during the 2005-06 season, when he won his only MVP award. His 23.58 rating in John Hollinger’s PER is good for 11th in the league.
Over the last week, we’ve covered pretty well the type of season Tim Duncan brings into the game tonight, so I won’t beat you over the head with it. So instead, I’ll tell you to take note of the instances when Duncan and Dirk are matched up one-on-one. It doesn’t happen often, simply because the two are different types of forwards. But when they do, it’s a beauty to watch a pair of players who simply know how to play basketball attempt to solve the problem that the other has laid out before them.
On the heels of Jesse’s great post on Tony Parker from earlier today, the match up of Tony and Jason Kidd is another battle to look out for. Kidd has lost a step (or two) defensively as he gotten up in years and how often the Mavs use Kidd to defend the point guard spot, either Parker or George Hill, will go a long way in influencing the outcome of this game.
If the Spurs can get consistent penetration by going at Kidd and kick out to open shooters and easy baskets in transition, San Antonio could build a big lead on Dallas quickly. Expect to J.J. Barea to guard Parker and Kidd guard Keith Bogans to start the game. The question is what Dallas will do when Coach Popovich plays a two point guard lineup featuring Parker and Hill.
(Also something to keep an eye on, how often Jason Kidd draws charges in transition. He is one of the best at taking charges on driving guards, especially near mid-court.)
The final match up to keep an eye on, only because I brought it up in the recap of San Antonio’s game against Detroit on Wednesday night, is how often Tim Duncan is double- and triple-teamed and how efficient the Spurs are scoring when Duncan gets touches in the low block. It’s become a pet project of mine to track these things, and I do believe that Duncan drawing extra defenders and creating confusion for opposing defenses is important for the Spurs success, especially come playoff time.
Enjoy the rivalry game.