San Antonio Spurs 129, Dallas Mavericks 91: Spur 3s and Leonard steals sink Mavs
AT&T CENTER — It would be poor use of the inverted pyramid to begin any recap of the San Antonio Spurs’ 129-91 win over the Dallas Mavericks without talking about the blitzkrieg the silver and black put on the Mavs from distance. The Spurs set a franchise record with 20 made 3-pointers en route to blowing out Dallas in Dirk Nowitzki’s first action of the season; the previous franchise record of 19 3s was set just 15 days ago in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Spurs hit 20 of their 30 attempts from beyond the arc, nailing four times as many 3s as Dallas on the night. Danny Green, who had been struggling with his shooting lately, was the main culprit in San Antonio’s hot shooting. Green knocked down 7-8 3-pointers and 9-10 overall to lead the Spurs with career-high 25 points. Tony Parker knocked down both of his corner 3 attempts and Kawhi Leonard hit 3-7 3-pointers for the Spurs.
The 3-point shooting was the easily the difference in the game (Thank you, Coach Andrew, please tell us more about winning basketball), but it wasn’t the most important takeaway from it. The San Antonio offense will always be able to generate open looks from behind the arc. They may not be as wide open come playoff time, but the looks will still be there. It’s just a matter of whether or not the Spurs will knock down those shots. That’s why Pop was rather blasé about how great the shooting was and how thoroughly they beat Dallas:
“We were fortunate it was one of those nights when your opponent has a bad night and you have a great night… We have been on the other side of those too… There’s not much you can do when the other team makes 20 3s… That’s an aberration and when that happens you are probably going to be in good shape.”
The Spurs are going have nights like Sunday night (okay, maybe not that good) and others where they can’t get anything to fall. Either way, they’re always going to have good looks from 3-point range.
The biggest positive for the Spurs from their win over the Mavericks was the impact Kawhi Leonard had on the game. Missing from the lineup for 18 games, Leonard returned in Friday’s win against the New Orleans Hornets and left a good impression on coaches and teammates. Leonard was given back his starting spot versus Dallas and produced 17 points on 6-11 shooting with five steals and four rebounds in the win.
Leonard’s performance against the Mavs harkened back to the nights he had in the first two games of the season against the Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder when he had five steals in each of those contests. Leonard the Disruptor gets his long arms in passing and driving lanes, causing havoc wherever he goes. His first steal led to a missed layup as the Dallas defender changed his angle when contesting the shot and it caused Leonard to miss. He didn’t make the same mistake again, scoring after each of his next four steals, two of them for dunks.
While the open 3-pointers the Spurs offense generates are a product of the offensive system the Spurs run, Leonard’s defense is something that can’t be game-planned for. He randomly leaves his man to try and poke the ball away from an oblivious offensive player or deflects a dribble by reaching in from farther away than any one man should.
Leonard’s defensive playmaking not only stymies the opposing offense, it generates easy baskets for the Spurs. Every point off of a turnover that Leonard creates by jumping passing lanes and deflecting balls makes all those open 3-pointers the Spurs get in the half court even more deadly.
“Kawhi gets in the [passing] lanes. He’s got the long arms and big hands,” Danny Green said after the game. “He got some fast break dunks for us which opened it up for us a little bit.”
For the Spurs, Leonard’s play represents the biggest variable in the team’s championship aspirations. We generally know what to expect from the team’s offense and defense; it’s a matter of whether or not San Antonio hits its shots, prevents penetration and corrals the defensive rebounds. What is unknown every time they take the floor is how much of an impact Kawhi Leonard will have and what the aftermath of his destruction might look like.
And now some non-Kawhi Leonard notes from the Spurs’ win over the Mavs:
- After the game, when asked about Manu Ginobili’s changing role in the Spurs offense, whether he’s more of a facilitator than go-to playmaker now, Tim Duncan responded: “He’s a basketball player.” It was Duncan’s way of kindly saying that Ginobili is just going to make the plays as they come to him, whatever that may be, but it had an eerie ring of a quarterback who doesn’t have the ability to make all the throws. The dreaded “game manager” or “Tim Tebow” compliment.
- One of my favorite games to play on Twitter during a Spurs game is the #PattyMillsShotCount game, which started late last season when several of us bloggers would try to guess how many shot attempts Mills would hoist when he entered during garbage time. Now we have a handy graphical representation of Mills’ gunslinging courtesy of our own Jesse Blanchard:
- I know how good Boris Diaw’s passing ability is and the dynamic he brings as a playmaker, but I can’t help but think the Spurs’ offense flows better when he becomes more of a catch-and-shoot player. San Antonio big men absolutely need to be able to pass the ball well and make good decisions, but Diaw takes it one step too far. When either receives a pass and puts up a shot or pump fakes and drives, the Spurs usually get good results. But when he dribbles around too much and makes last-second passes, the Spurs become too unselfish and often end up with a worse shot than they did had Diaw shot it. I’m nitpicking, but it’s something I’d like to see improve even more as the season goes on.
- We’re 1000 words in and no mention of Tony Parker’s 18 points and six assists and Tim Duncan’s 15 points. Ginobili also had a season-high nine assists. There’s your mention.
- Besides Leonard’s five steals, Ginobili had four of his own and Nando De Colo had two. The Spurs as a unit forced 17 steals. “We don’t create that many turnovers normally, so that’s a heck of a night for us as far as steals are concerned,” Pop said.