San Antonio Spurs 111, Dallas Mavericks 86: Diaw scores for once, Manu scores again
Although a Spurs-Mavs game is a meeting of two rivals, we’re talking about two rivals headed in opposite directions right now. Not to say that Dallas can’t recover, especially with Dirk Nowitzki gradually readjusting to NBA basketball, but the Spurs are a polished product simply working out the kinks and preparing for a playoff run, while the Mavs are… something.
There hasn’t been one major theme or trend that has defined the Spurs’ season thus far, except for maybe the team’s depth, and Sunday night’s 111-86 win over the Mavs was a demonstration of that. Manu Ginobili had his second straight 20-point game, which I suppose is something to be cautiously optimistic about. It’s dangerous to be anything but cautious around Ginobili and his penchant for catastrophic injury. Outside of that, though, this game was felt like a mish-mash of random.
Ginobili scored 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting and hit all six of his free throw attempts. Manu looks like he’s rediscovered his efficiency, having shot at least 50 percent from the field in each of his last four games. Earlier in the season Ginobili had not been shooting well from the 3-point line nor finishing around the rim, and his shooting percentage had suffered for it.
At this point in his career, we can expect him to set teammates up for good shots, but the major scoring bursts and out-of-nowhere plays are limited. Instead of being the wild, unpredictable Ginobili that will be forever remembered by NBA fans of this era, the Spurs primarily need Ginobili to execute the plays as they come, knocking down open shots, finding Tiago Splitter and others on the pick-and-roll, and limiting his turnovers. The sporadic moment of brilliance will be enough to satisfy casual viewers.
It will be interesting to see how he plays on Monday night against the Nets. Manu has played well in his last two games. His performance in the second night of a back-to-back will be a good barometer for how his body is responding in this early season. Is he turning a corner and regaining his form? Or is Ginobili on the same level, physically, that Tim Duncan was the past two seasons, where he simply needs his rest in order to look fresh?
While Ginobili was continuing a two-game scoring binge, one Boris Diaw went on a little shooting run of his own. Diaw is a frustratingly effective player in the Spurs’ system, in that he can make all the passes and reads that San Antonio needs him to in order to have the dynamic offense it does, but often lacks the selfishness needed to take the open shot. Actually, Boris is almost selfishly unselfish. By wanting to make the extra pass more than is necessary, he sometimes hurts the team.
The Spurs have a mantra on offense that is “good to great.” If you make the extra pass, your good shot could be someone else’s great shot. It’s for the benefit of the team, and the Spurs score at a better rate because guys are willing to give up their own shot for a teammates better one. Diaw is a bit of an enigma in that a lot of times by passing up an open shot, the Spurs offense goes from “good to okay.” Or, as in the case of one play in Friday night’s win against the Rockets, “good to shot clock violation.”
In the second half against Dallas, the Mavs went to a zone defense for a stretch. Diaw has a great feel for spacing on the floor and does a fantastic job finding a seam. When teams front Duncan in the post, you can expect Diaw to recognize exactly where to go to relieve the post-entry passer and punish the defense for fronting Duncan. With Dallas going zone, it was important for Diaw to take the open shots he was given. And he did. Diaw shot 4-of-4 and scored all 10 of his points in the second half, and was clearly more aggressive offensively than he’s been at any point the entire season. The Spurs offense was better for it.
And now, a couple more notes from another sizable Spurs win over Dallas:
- Tiago Splitter is really good at drawing fouls. He shot six free throws against the Mavs and really has a knack for drawing contact. This goes back to his time in Spain, as well. I remember when he was awarded the Spanish League MVP, he drew something like six fouls per game that season. It’s taken him some time to get established here in the States, but he’s definitely become a good player in the NBA. I haven’t found a site that tracks fouls drawn (all, not just offensive), so if anyone knows of one, kindly point me in that direction in the comments.
- One interesting wrinkle I’ve seen a bit over the last few games is the Spurs running some action to get Danny Green and others open 3s on the angles. The Spurs love the corner 3, this we know, but they’ve been doing some things to get open 3-pointers in between the corners and the top of the key. At any time when the ball is in the corner and is dribbled out, you’ll often see the other perimeter players sliding their feet and keeping space between themselves and the ball. Lately, I’ve seen more plays where one of the Spurs’ big men seals the defender guarding the man at the top of the key. The ball handler will then send a skip pass over the screen to an open shooter. Against the Rockets on Friday, there was one play where the Spurs tried to enter the ball to Duncan in the post. The Houston defender on Duncan fronted TD, preventing the post entry pass. Tiago Splitter flashed to the high post on the ball side, looking for the pass from the wing, where he could play a little high-low with Duncan. James Harden, who was defending Danny Green at the top of the key, dropped down to cut off the pass in to Splitter. Splitter then sealed Harden where he was and, recognizing this, Green started to slide away from the ball, opening up a 3-point shot and giving himself plenty of time before Harden could try and recover.
- Patty Mills took six shots against the Mavs, garnering the backup point guard minutes over Nando De Colo. The Patty Mills Shot Counter doesn’t go up to six. This will be fixed ASAP.