3-on-3: Game 2 reactions
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As Spurs Land tries to come to grips with a tougher-than-expected first round series, Jason Gallagher from TrueHoop Network site Ballerball joins Matthew Tynan and me to discuss what’s happened so far and what’s up next in today’s 3-on-3.
1. How has your outlook on this series changed after two games?
Matthew Tynan, 48 Minutes of Hell: Well, I picked a sweep. So… yeah. Really, I think the Spurs are fine. They played like garbage in Game 2 (and much of Game 1), but Carlisle’s usage of this “hide our worst defenders and switch on all pick-and-rolls” defense has absolutely been effective and made this series serious. This is going to be more difficult than I originally thought, but I’d be shocked if Dallas pulls it off.
Jason Gallagher, Ballerball: There is absolutely nothing bold about this, but it’s now looking like it could be an actual series as opposed to a blow-out. The Mavs have taken their discipline to a whole other level this series. Because of the lack of actual raw talent on this team, being concise and dedicated to Carlisle’s strategy is the only way in hell that Dallas has a shot at competing in this thing. Whether it’s sticking to their defensive schemes or being disciplined in their shot selection, Carlisle has these guys locked in and looking like the better squad.
Really, I don’t think even the homer-est of Mavs fans saw this coming. That said, as one of our astute commenters pointed out in a recent post, we saw a similar first two games of a series in San Antonio’s second round matchup last year with Golden State. I get that the Warriors and Mavericks are two completely different teams, but San Antonio’s reaction to the beginning of each series was about the same. But San Antonio made their adjustments and controlled the rest of the series. I think we’ll see something similar with this series, it’s just going to be tougher for the Spurs than expected. That said, Rick Carlisle is a different beast than Mark Jackson.
2. How long can Tiago Splitter continue to limit Dirk Nowitzki’s offense?
Tynan: I don’t see any reason why it’s going to be much different. Splitter has been very effective, and this version of Dirk lacks the foot speed to get by opponents consistently on the dribble-drive and off pump-fakes. Unless Dallas starts to introduce some new offensive wrinkles for Dirk in pick-and-pop situations, it’s hard to imagine he’ll just go off consistently against San Antonio’s defense. Then again, it’s Dirk we’re talking about.
Gallagher: This does sort of feel like a ticking time bomb, doesn’t it? Tiago is doing about as good a job on Dirk as I’ve seen all season, but I think Dirk is due for one of his patented “good defense, better offense” type of games. Charles Barkley said it after game two; when you’re older you can’t dominate an entire series, but you can certainly have a couple dominant games. I think we’ll see Dirk dominate at least one of these games on his home floor.
McNeill: I can’t imagine for much longer. Splitter is doing an excellent job staying close to Dirk and bodying him up without fouling, but Dirk is still a elite player with a high release and excellent mechanics. The shots will start falling soon. Luckily for the Mavs, Nowitzki isn’t killing Dallas when he’s on the floor as a result of his lack of offensive production. Dirk’s net rating is +8.7 points per 100 possessions so far in this series, which is about double his regular season average.
3. Will Game 3 be a bounce-back game for Kawhi Leonard and, if so, what will that look like?
Tynan: It has to be. I’d put my money on him producing better than six points and five rebounds, and really, he’s due. We’ve seen what he’s capable of doing against Dallas, and he’s got to turn up the aggressiveness about 10 notches to get himself going. The Spurs don’t necessarily need him to score systematically in half-court sets; they need him to bring the game-changing chaos that makes him so unique.
Gallagher: Absolutely. Game 2 was a turd in the rough for Kawhi due to that silly foul trouble he got himself into. I have too much faith in him and Pop to think that Kawhi will duplicate this in Game 3. The Mavs are practically daring anyone but Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to take over on the offensive end, and I think Gregg Popovich finds a way to get Kawhi going. On the other end, he’ll be far more disciplined and be back to his defensively dominate self.
McNeill: I think you have to expect Leonard to be a lot better in Game 3. [Thanks, Captain Obvious.] Foul trouble played a huge role in Leonard’s disastrous Game 2, which is something that doesn’t typically happen. Leonard only racked up four or more fouls eight times in the regular season. San Antonio will need Leonard to post up plenty in Game 3, especially if Dallas continues to match-up Monta Ellis on Kawhi. Watch out for Monta trying to draw the charge on Leonard down low, though. Leonard creates a lot of contact when backing Ellis down, and the opportunity seems too great not to give it a shot. As far as what a bounce-back game looks like, I think it’s something in the 15-18 point range with the threat for double-digit rebounds. The key is how much chaos he can create defensively. If he can get a couple of steals for easy baskets, well, that’s the type of stuff opposing teams can’t plan for.