San Antonio Spurs Game 3 defense: Keeping it old school
AT&T CENTER – Of all the positives to glean from the San Antonio Spurs 94-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks in Friday’s Game 3, one aspect in particular might give Spurs fans the most hope for the playoffs. The Spurs turned in a vintage defensive performance, reminiscent of so many title years, in taking a 2-1 lead over the Mavs.
The Mavs shot a mediocre 44% from the field on Friday night against the Spurs, and were coerced into three shot clock violations and 16 total turnovers.
But the most telling sign for Spurs fans was the ability for the Spurs to get stops when it counted most, against an efficient offense. For most of the regular season, the Spurs uncharacteristically made mistakes in crunch time, both offensively and defensively, as they squandered away close games.
“The team defense was good, we rotated well and covered people,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “For the most part, youâ€™re not going to keep Dirk from scoring, but we made it tough on him.”
On Friday night, the Spurs time to shine started after a Dirk Nowitzki jumper gave Dallas an 81-80 lead with 3:03 left in the game. Down late to a top team in the Western Conference, the Spurs countered with a big jumper from Tony Parker. And on the defensive end, San Antonio’s scrambling rotations led to a missed 3-pointer from Jason Kidd, a miss from JJ Barea, and then a traveling violation on Barea.
On the other end of the floor, Parker hit another jumper, off a nice feed from Tim Duncan, to give the Spurs a three-point lead. After a Dallas timeout, the Mavericks got Jason Terry room for a jump shot, but Antonio McDyess blocked the attempt to a teammate.
Parker then made a third straight jumper, giving the Spurs an 86-81 lead with 52 seconds left.
After another Dallas timeout, Dirk Nowitzki had a good look from the field, but missed again. Manu Ginobili gathered the rebound and drew a foul (and hit both free throws) to put the cap on stretch where the Spurs went on a 8-0 run to effectively end the game.
With all the confusion during rotations that the Spurs encountered, it’s no small task that they were able to successfully finish defensive possessions with rebounds.
“Theyâ€™re [Dallas] long, theyâ€™re big and when youâ€™re running around the gym trying to guard as many threats as they have, sometimes youâ€™re a little naked on the boards and that seven-footer has an easier time than your 6’2″, 6’7″ guy,” Popovich said.
If the Spurs can turn in a similar effort on Sunday evening in Game 4, San Antonio could for all intents and purposes grab a hold of this series and pencil themselves in for round two.