San Antonio Spurs 97, Dallas Mavericks 91: Pops sets the tone 42 seconds in

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The Spurs wrapped up the Southwest Division title last night, but that is hardly a thing for the team which is most likely to have home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

The bigger question surrounding San Antonio in recent days doesn’t concern the quantity of their wins, but the quality of their play. The Spurs flew into Dallas against the backdrop of their recent losses to Los Angeles and Miami. Embarrassing losses. This was an important game.

Gregg Popovich set the tone early, calling a timeout 42 seconds into the game to correct a defensive lapse on Dallas’ first score, an 18 foot Dirk Nowitzki jumpshot. It wasn’t his only quick timeout of the night. But that kind of deliberate coaching carried over onto the court and the Spurs executed a game plan that was nothing if not cold, calculated Spurs basketball.

The Spurs’ Big Three combined for 80 points in regulation, their highest-ever total. Tim Duncan played a few minutes more than typical, and his teammates fed him the ball early and often. He had a big first quarter offensively and defensively, and his steady work allowed the Spurs build a big lead, which they more or less rode to the win, although, at one point, Dallas did come all the way back from an 18 point deficit.

Tony Parker played the way the Spurs need Tony Parker to play: fast and at the rim. No one on Dallas’ roster had slides enough to stay in front of him on defense. If Tony Parker could dunk, he’d have career reel to rival Dominique Wilkins’. He’s a joy to watch around the rim.

Manu Ginobili was his typical freakinventive self. Timely three, timely steal, hipster-ironic bald spot.

Defensively, the Spurs had moments of tight defensive execution, but not without lapsing into occasional streaks of lousy team defense. Matt Moore would have gone Lion Face/Lemon Face on the Spurs’ defense a full 30 times during this game, if Matt Moore still had the time for such things.

And, it should be noted, the Spurs’ first make of the 4th quarter came on a Gary Neal three pointer with 6:58 remaining.

So, as one wise man once said, “strikes and gutters, strikes and gutters.”

But what counts this morning is that the strike to gutter ratio tilts decidedly toward collapsing pins, even considering the Spurs’ recent poor play.

My big takeaway from this game was the focus and concentration with which the Spurs played. They needed to play well to chase off the ghosts and ghouls of recent losses. They did that. It wasn’t the prettiest victory of the season,  but it was a convincing victory on the road against one of the best five teams in basketball. The kids are alright.

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  • bong p.

    In an earlier post, we took note of the Big 3 and the Big D that proved pivotal in the win. Also, the Spurs took care of the “little things” to pave the way for the huge victory over the interstate rivals.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Wanted the crew to step it up a notch last night. And they did thanks to Tony, Manu, and Timmy. A combined 80 points of their 97. Nice. The crew of old.
    Also like the fact most of the game Bonner and Blair were split up and played with either Timmy or Dyess. Nice adjustment.
    Although Bonner’s shot is still suffering as well as his defense and Blair didn’t impress I was still happy it didn’t regress the team as before playing as a combo. Good move coach I guess you heard us. I thought Chandler was better than that or was it our core3 that nullified any great performance he was thinking of putting down. One thing I did notice the Spurs did a great job of limiting Kidd and Chandler hook ups. It would have been tougher if they would have had their way all night but that wasnt the case. Good job guys and as Sean said “I think you can say we are the best team in Texas”…Kind of throwing that at Chuck.

  • Junierizzle

    Great win. The best thing was the defense. They could have held the Mavs under 90 but they got a little sloppy at the end. Im glad they won this way instead of a shoot out win and letting the Mavs put up 105+ points.
    All they needed was effort to play better D and they did that. 14 steals I believe.
    When TP plays like that the Spurs are near unbeatable.
    I dont think they can ever be as good on D as other Spurs teams only because there is no Bowen or Bowen like player. But if they play like this and have TD,Mcdeezy,RJ,TP and Manu on the floor at the end of the game, I love their chances.
    Love how TP said “what size?” Im taking it in.”

  • Tim
  • ChillFAN

    Funny, Tim as far as March Menace for the Spurs, in terms of enemies/annoyances I think I would go with

    1. Phil Jackson
    2. Kobe Bryant
    3. Mark Cuban
    4. Shaquille ONeil
    5. Jason Terry
    6. Hakeem Olajuwon
    7. Karl Malone
    8. Joey Crawford, referee
    9. Laker fans at the ATT Center
    10. Luis Scola

  • Kevin

    @ChillFAN Replace #10 with somebody who has made the playoffs/has potential to make a difference. Maybe Derek Fisher? Or Steve Nash? Or Chris Paul? or Dirk?

  • spurholic in Mumbai

    A relief, after a tumultous week. Is it me or did others notice, TD played practically the full first quarter – shot very well. Were his minutes monitored? Where is Tiago? Playoffs are still 15 matches away, will we see him in active action in he coming matches? While the Big 3 scored 80 points out of 97, what happened to the bench production. Is Coach worried about RJ’s production, am sure he can contribute more than the occasional 3 dished out to him? Is the season of change for RJ just an illusion or? Lastly, size. How does this team go deep into the playoffs, esp with Thunders acquiring KP (Perkins) as they could be the second round match up for the Spurs.

    Well too many q and too less celebration the victory over the Mavs. So let me raise a toast (actually a pint) for 3-1.

  • zainn

    Tony parker can dunk, its just that he said in an interview a while ago that he says it takes up too much energy in games to do so. Maybe one day his teammates will dare him to. The day he dunks will be the highlight of the year for spurs fans.

  • zainn

    And Corey Brewer didn’t even get to play. damn mark cuban got him so the spurs wouldnt have him! Corey Brewer got screwed this season he would get legit bruce bowen minutes if he signed with the spurs and actually might have gotten a contract extension.

  • Hobson13

    Great win for the Spurs. The Spurs proved they were the better team last night with a throw back game in which the Big 3 lead the way and the defense stepped up. That win pretty much sealed the division by putting the Spurs up 9 games (including the season series) against the Mavs. Several notes of interest:

    1. Lakers won 96-91 against the Mavs a week ago in a game that looked similar to the Spurs 97-91 win. This is what the Spurs can do when they play serious defense.
    2. I can’t remember the last time this season in which the Big 3 carried the team with virtually no bench help from Hill, Neal, Blair, or Bonner. Bad shooting night from those guys, but it proves the Big 3 can still carry the team.
    3. The Spurs win combined with losses by the Bulls and Celtics really hands the Spurs a big advantage in HCA throughout the playoffs.

    One of the top 5 wins of the season by the Spurs (IMO). I think we roll Charlotte tonight if we play with the same level of focus.

  • Hobson13

    zainn
    March 19th, 2011 at 8:18 am

    I agree. I didn’t think Brewer was very smart when he signed that deal with the Mavs. Along with Butler being gone for the season, Marion was even injured for the second half and yet there was no sign of Brewer. If he had established himself in SA throughout the remainder of the season, he would have gotten more playing time and at least as much money (roughly $2.5mil per year for 3 years)….dumb move by him.

  • TDzilla!

    @ zainn

    TP has hops for sure:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0LXeO_bk6Q

  • Nick (Italy)

    Man, I miss Matt Moore’s old HP so much…
    Great win and let’s hope the mavs and los lakers have a huge second round series, with an instant classic triple ot game 7!

  • Bankshot21

    I love the TP Dunk!….The caption underneath the picture in the link posted by Tim is hilarious. “Doesn’t he know we hate his doe eyes”….lmao. TD looked great last night. TP was awesome. Manu was as we like to say…..Manu. I feel so much more @ ease when the 3 of them are on the floor together.

  • Pop-a-vich

    @zainn
    Agree. Even with Marion out for the 2nd half, Brewer still didn’t get a chance to play last night! I feel sorry for this kid, he should have chosen the Spurs. He might even replace RJ in the starting lineup!

  • Kintaro

    lmao, orthodox basketball and hair are too mainstream for hipster manu!

    Games against Dallas are always a lose-lose situation for me. While I love the look in their eyes when they realized they can not beat the Spurs, it’s a look we’ve seen again and again and again. If we win, it’s what everyone expected. If we lose, then the Spurs are “done for”. We need to deliver our best psychological crushing against the Lakers, Celts, Chicago, etc. Yea yea I’ve heard the narratives all year about Dallas, how they are a “different” team this year, but I’m not buying it. Ofcourse they have different players and even a better interior defensive presence, but I still think we are dealing with a mentally weak squad. The only time they haven’t been weak was when the Little General was at the helm, and Dirk freaking Nowitzki was posting up aggressively and driving hard in the paint. Since then they’ve been fake tough and we exposed it tonight.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Duncan gives Tony $100 every time he dunks in a game, but he doesn’t mind because TP hardly ever dunks.

    Good game. You really see how much Timmy means to this team. He was +17 in the game, but you could just see how much he affected both ends of the court. Dirk didn’t go inside and Chandler got in early foul trouble. Duncan may not be our best player, but he’s still our most valuable player.

  • DorieStreet

    @ Tim

    Thanks! What March Madness/Bracketology has wrought on our society. You’ve got to say now it rivals Super Bowl ‘prop’ bets in spawning creativity.
    The Cowboys’ entries will ensure me following it until the “championship game”.

    @Kevin

    That is the right #10; if Scola had donned the Silver & Black, this year’s title chase might be for #7 instead of #5.

    @ Hobson13

    For all the reasons you listed– it is the best win.

  • Ron

    I know it’s whining, but I’ve really just had it with the mainstream basketball media. Let’s see if I’ve got the ESPN perspective right. The team with the best record has no player mentioned (not even at fifth or sixth) for any season type award. The only guy they have listed anywhere is Bonner because you just can’t change statistics. And yet, Pop is not the coach of the year??? By ESPN’s listing, there are no players having a great season, but the only team that will have 65 wins or more will not have the best coach. What in the world are they thinking??? If it’s not the players and it’s not the coach, somebody please explain how the Spurs have the best record. Don’t tell me it’s the system, because that’s back on the coach. Actually, I don’t think the mainstream media can explain it. It’s all about who they like (big market teams, apparently) and who they think is exiciting. Apparently crisp passing around the perimeter and great team work is just not what they want basketball to be about. REALLY????!!

  • NYC

    I’m gonna refrain from posting until we beat Charlotte tonight. If we fail, it will be one step forward, one step back.

    Let’s finish the deal. Go Spurs Go!

  • SpurredOn

    Tony Parker is our best offensive player. We need everyone to contribute to win a title, and specifically for TD to be as he was last night and for Manu to do a bit of everything, including the clutch back-breaking play. That said, Parker is the threat that few teams have a legit counter to respond. If teams focus on taking away his scoring, he opens it up for everyone else the way TD used to. He’s the key scoring and assist threat and the player most likely to dominate a series. Last night was an example of how the playoffs can and hopefully will play out.

  • DorieStreet

    @Ron
    It’s not so much about big market vs. small market than it is about the players i.e., the “superstars” of the NBA.

    The elite players -those with exceptional talents & skills- are the driving force of the league.

    When Kevin Garnett entered the league in 1996, he got face time; interivews; endorsements; and placement in all of the NBA’s televised national game lead-ins, stills, promotions; nicknames – “the big ticket”, “KG”, along with the other stars at that time -MJ, AI, Shaq–all while being in Minneapolis–“middle (of nowhere) America”. Meanwhile, the ledgendary, storied franchise of the league-the Boston Celtics- was mired in mediocracy (if not lower) that started in the early 90’s and continued for over 20 years–until Garnett (and Ray Allen) went to Boston in the summer of 2007. Ditto Orlando Magic–on TV every week /jerseys everywhere because of Penny & Shaq. When O’Neal left & Hardaway got hurt and dropped out of the top 10 best players–the world forgot about the team.
    But since Dwight Howard landed there and hince became a very good team again with him–he’s everywhere- and you can’t go one week during the season without the Magic being on TV or their games in the sports highlights.
    Getting back to KG’s former team- Minnesota- you saw highlights of them way more this season (because of Kevin Love’s dbl-dbl streak) than the Spurs-even though the Twolves have only 4 more wins – 17 -than the Spurs have losses – 13.
    Minnesota & Orlando are not “big markets” – just like San Antonio. But the Spurs’ team success is not the result of recording breaking individual performances (Love) or “jump-out-of-your-seat, WOW, oh my goodness!!- highlights (Howard).
    I know it’s a long post, but many fans overlook this factor in why ESPN overlooks the Spurs.

  • Melbourne Spur

    @ ThatBigGuy

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Timmy had a +3 against Miami too. Now +/- is not everything in basketball, but to record a +3 for a starter in a game when you lose by 30 is miraculous.

    Tim is still our most important player if we are to win the title. We need all of the big three to win it, but Tim is the one that we need most to be able to combat the other good sides.

    The minutes given to the guys tonight show what we are more likley to see in the playoffs. Tim over 30, Tony 39, Manu increased as well. They didn’t play this many because the bench played bad, it was because in an important regualr season game that Pop wanted to win, he was prepared to give the playoff type minutes to the main men. Don’t be suprised if they all play below average minutes against the Bobs – Tim may even be rested for the whole game.

    Great win. Keep it up lads.

  • zainn

    He can dunk, its just that our organization is so professional that no one jokes around about it. Our entire team respects him therefore they cannot joke around about him not dunking. Timmy needs to step up, if he dunked the ENTIRE AT&T Center would be ROCKING to their feet. It could be our secret weapon against the lakers in the western conference finals. better to keep it a secret :)

  • rj

    biggest difference between dallas and san antonio -patience.

    san antonio has kept the same core while building for the future with a solid group of young players. dallas is riddled with past-prime all-stars with mahnimi and beabois as thier future prospects.

    cheers san antonio, dallas shall always blow….

  • dave

    i just think its kinda funny that these are the same mav’s that said the spurs’ weren’t the team to beat. i think to make such a list, you gotta have a reputation of not sucking when it counts. screw the mavs and little hitler

  • Colin

    What? No one cares that Splitter didn’t play when we win?

  • betsyduncan

    Colin: LOL!