San Antonio Spurs 99, Dallas Mavericks 93: No Dirk for Dallas, but it counts just the same in the standings


AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER — Gary Neal is becoming a name that teams, fans and media members are having to remember. The face? Well, that takes some time.

In the visitor’s locker room after the San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night at the American Airlines Center, there was a small scrum gathered around Neal. This is becoming a frequent occurrence in the Spurs locker room, so I hung back, as there’s only so many times I can ask him about his exploits from the 3-point arc.

Another media member leans over to me and asks, “Who is that guy?”

Politely, I give him the name of the guy who just scored 21 points off the bench for the Spurs.

“Oh, that’s Gary Neal!” the man says. And he’s off, taking his rightful place in the front of the media scrum.

Though unrecognizable to some, Neal continues to make the Spurs front office look like a group of geniuses. The 25-year-old “rookie” is averaging 8.1 points per game off the bench for the Spurs this season.

“When we needed it, he stepped up and hit the shots,” Spurs guard George Hill said after the game. “Our whole team was looking for him and he made the shots.”

Neal finished the game against Dallas shooting 6-10 from the floor and 5-8 from the 3-point line.

“Gary has been important to us all year long coming off the bench, scoring [and] playing hard,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game.

George Hill also had a solid game offensively for the Spurs. He finished with 12 points on 5-8 shooting and six rebounds, but his aggressiveness in the second quarter helped the Spurs jump out to a 16-point lead under four minutes into the period. The Spurs only held a two point lead to begin the quarter.

Hill was aggressive attacking the basket off the pick-and-roll and the threat of him hitting 3-pointers in transition opened up at least one pull-up 3-pointer for Manu Ginobili.

“I think George, he has some moments where he’s not as aggressive as we’d like him to be, [but] he’s starting to understand that’s what we want from him all the time and he’s getting better and better at it,” Coach Pop said.

Also of note from the Spurs’ win over Dallas, was the performance put on by Tim Duncan. TD put up just two points and four rebounds in San Antonio’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, but proved that he can still produce.

Duncan finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes on Thursday night (Including 7-7 from the free throw line. Rejoice!). And every time the Spurs needed to get the game back in control or reset a series of bad offense, they went to #21 down low.

When it was pointed out that it’s nice to know that Tim Duncan can still bring it when need be, Tony Parker made it plain and simple for all to understand.

“We know that,” he said.