San Antonio Spurs 97, Dallas Mavericks 91: Pops sets the tone 42 seconds in
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 inÂ 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 intoÂ occasionalÂ 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, Â but it was a convincing victory on the road against one of the best five teams in basketball. The kids are alright.