The [Turnover] Margin: Good lord what was that?


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We’re doing The Margin for each of the playoff games during the Spurs-Mavs first round series, and for those readers not familiar with this format, let me get you up to speed. Stolen blatantly from our friend Rob Mahoney, The Margin is a bullet point for each point in the difference in the final score. Today, however, we’re going to do it a little different. Instead of the difference in the scoring margin, we’re going to do the difference in the turnover margin. Don’t feel cheated, though, they’re almost the same.

  • There’s nowhere else to start but turnovers. The Spurs coughed it up a season-high 24 times in Game 2. They did it in a variety of ways too. There were bad passes in transition, poor decisions in half court offense, traveling violations, illegal screens, three-second violations, you name it. If there was a way to turn the ball over, by God the Spurs crossed it off their checklist. The sheer amount of turnovers from the Spurs led to 28 more shot attempts on the night from Dallas. 28! On the plus side you could say that there wasn’t one central theme to the way San Antonio gave the ball away, they were just all around awful. That San Antonio was hanging around for most of the game was a good sign, I guess.
  • danny-green-spurs-nba-playoffs-mavs

  • As I said, as terrible as the Spurs were, they were in this game for the vast majority of it. San Antonio shot 50 percent from the field, the same from the 3-point line (10-for-20 from 3). A big reason for that was Manu Ginobili, who was incredible and shot 9-for-12 from the floor and hit five of his six 3-point attempts. But even still, Danny Green hit a couple of 3s, Marco Belinelli drained his only attempt and Kawhi Leonard hit one as well. San Antonio’s offense was much more effective in Game 2 than it was in Game 1, the Spurs were just extremely careless and it hurt them. Not giving the ball away every other time down the floor and only help some of the offensive rhythm they regained on Wednesday night.
  • On the other hand, the Spurs can’t keep wasting these great defensive performances Tiago Splitter is giving defending Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk is averaging 13.5 points per game on 33 percent shooting through the first two games, and you could argue Dallas should be up 2-0. Nowitzki is due to not only get back to normal when it comes to his scoring load, but give at least one vintage performance in this series. Splitter is doing well against Dirk, but you can’t expect it to last all series. Dirk is just too good.
  • All that stuff about the Spurs taking Dallas’ best shot in Game 1? Yeah, the players were right about that. Not us.
  • One of the weirder trends that we saw during Game 2 was how often the Spurs were giving up open 3s on the opposite corner. Generally, the Spurs are solid at closing out on shooters, but the Spurs gave up a numbers of attempts in the corners after good ball movement from Dallas. The Mavs were 4-of-9 (44 percent) in the corners in Game 2.
  • It seems the Spurs have no inside presence when Duncan is off the floor in this series. With his responsibilities defending Dirk, Tiago Splitter is often pulled away from the basket and can’t help rebound or defend the rim. This problem has been manifesting itself in some of the Spurs’ pick-and-roll help defense and resulted in a layup line for Dallas in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night.
  • The struggles on the defensive end protecting the paint also hurt San Antonio’s offense, as the Spurs haven’t been able to get out in transition and get many easy buckets. Getting those transition buckets tends to stretch out opposing defenses and open things up in the halfcourt, but that hasn’t happened yet this series.
  • This is kind of awesome.
  • Oh God, I’ve got seven more of these to go?
  • Kawhi Leonard was nowhere to be found on Wednesday night, both figuratively and literally. Leonard suffered through foul trouble in the first half of Game 2 and made little impact. In the second half, Leonard went 1-of-5 from the floor, with the one field goal a made 3 in garbage time, and was a -10 in the +/- numbers. It was an uncharacteristically bad performance from Kawhi.
  • On the opposite end of that spectrum was Ginobili, who turned in a vintage performance that, basically, went to waste. San Antonio doesn’t get many nights like that from Manu anymore—he carried the Spurs offense for long stretches of this game and was the only one providing answers to Dallas’ runs—and to let a game slip away while Ginobili played the way he did, well, that might be the most disappointing thing of all for Gregg Popovich and Co.
  • Was this the DeJuan Blair Revenge Game we all figured was coming at some point? Eight points, seven rebounds and four steals in 14 minutes of action. Blair entered the game to pretty resounding boos from the AT&T Center fans. Spurs supporters loved Blair when he was here, and will happily greet many former Spurs when they come to town, but you fire shots at the team and coach after you leave and they don’t forget.
  • Spurs starters combined for 30 shots, while San Antonio’s bench put up 34. That’s probably something that should change in Game 3. Assuming the turnover problem is corrected, I would expect those guys to get more attempts.
  • Dallas grabbed 14 offensive rebounds on Wednesday night, which is an uncharacteristically bad performance from the Spurs. But it’s a combination of two of the previous points made in The Margin. The first was Leonard’s foul trouble. Kawhi is an excellent rebounder for his position and not having him on the floor—especially against Shawn Marion, who is also a good rebounder at the 3—hurts the Spurs. And having Splitter farther away from the basket also puts a lot of pressure on the other Spurs to control the boards, which they obviously weren’t able to do.
  • Another thought on that last point: I have no data to back this up, this is only from personal observation, but it seemed like San Antonio had a hard time holding on to the ball in Game 2. I don’t know if it was lack of focus, lack of aggression, or what, but there were a lot of loose balls and rebounds that Spurs players would grab that they would have knocked away by someone in a blue uniform.
  • This was horribly beautiful:
    Tiago Splitter: Making the unconventional conventional since 2010.
  • Graham

    Gotta say, it feels like the primary Culprit was Carelessness. Maybe the team bought into the narrative too much and it showed in their execution, like they expected the Mavs to roll over and die. They should have known better. Good news is it seems like it’s an easy fix,, and Pop has a few days to really get into the team’s collective ass for their lackadasical play.

  • Ray Briggs II

    I was at the game and just about everyone around me felt it was pure lack of effort and carelessness. This isn’t Dallas first time in the playoffs and they took it to the Spurs and they reacted with little energy and no sense or urgency. I expect better next game.

  • jgonzaba


  • Dapimp Ofdayear

    The offense, and specifically turnovers have been played up by everybody. And rightly so. However, you can mark my words: Defense is going to win this series. I know that the Spurs defense is designed to concede low percentage mid-range jump shots, but they at least have to throw some different wrinkles at the Dallas guards, who are feasting on barely contested those same mid-range attempts at the elbows, top of the key, and the free throw line. We need to recapture that desperation, that “appropriate fear,” much like we felt against Golden State last year.

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