Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks – A playoff preview?

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San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks 7:30 CST March 18, 2011

According to basketball-reference, the Spurs have a 98.5% chance at making the playoffs and a 99.8% chance at beating out the Mavericks for the division title, but this game could be more than just sealing up playoff positioning.

Common wisdom suggests that the Spurs match up poorly against dominant bigs. Duncan’s been great defensively this year, but he derives most of his value as a help defender, often leaving Blair, McDyess and Bonner to match up against the opponent’s best scoring power forward or center. I was a little skeptical that this would be a significant factor, but to this point in the season, the Spurs have shown signs of struggling against elite teams with a prominent inside presence (albeit in a very very small sample size).

DateOppResultTmOppSignificant Injuries
Dirk/KG not injured3-39598.7
11/22/2010ORLW10697
11/26/2010DALL94103Haywood
12/23/2010@ORLL101123
12/28/2010LALW9782McDyess
12/30/2010@DALW9993Dirk/Haywood
1/5/2011@BOSL103105KG
1/14/2011DALW10189Dirk
2/3/2011@LALW8988
3/6/2011LALL8399
Total5-49797.7


The Spurs used the same lineup for the first 53 games of the season. Their success was often credited in part to this consistency. Finally, the Spurs switched things up and McDyess has started for the Spurs each of the last four games. The results haven’t been great so far, but the move might be predominantly to help the Spurs better match up with the aforementioned teams. McDyess figures to be the primary defender of Dirk Nowitzki tonight. My advanced scouting report on the Mavericks details strategy for defending Dirk.

How big of a deal is the Miami loss and the Spurs’ recent struggles

The Spurs’ 30 point loss to the Heat in Miami on Monday caused some to panic. There was growing sentiment that the Spurs are trending down. So should the Spurs be worried? Although there are some reasons for concern over the Spurs’ recent games, many causes of the Spurs recent struggles are cosmetic in nature.

We know that one game isn’t all that meaningful as a predictor. After all, the Spurs just beat the Heat by 30 just 10 days before their 30 point loss.

The Spurs have won 8 of their last 12, but have barely outscored their opposition in doing so. Over shorter periods of time, margin of victory is a much more useful predictor than record. There are some signs that the Spurs have struggled defensively as of late. Basically, the Spurs’ Defensive Rating is about 4 points worse than normal over their last 12 games. However, a couple factors that contribute to these poor defensive results are unlikely to continue.

First of all, opponents made free throws at an unmaintainable 84% rate. If we assume they had merely connected on these shots at a league average rate, the Spurs defensive rating over this span improves by close to 2 points.

Additionally, viewing these select 12 games is not an unbiased sample. Purposely starting with a poor game will make recent trends look artificially worse. The Spurs’ Defensive Rating over the last 11 games improves by more than a full point after removing the first game (against the Bulls). Of course, the poor performance against the Heat may have sparked concern about the Spurs defense, so including it in the data should be viewed skeptically. Once again, removing that game improves the Spurs defensive rating by more than a point.

Of course, we can’t really ignore those games, especially the game against Miami. However, both matchups against Miami might not have been the mismatches the scoreboard indicates. In both games, good or bad outside shooting accounted for most of the difference. (Good shooting is highly inconsistent over a short period of time.)

The Spurs made 17 of 28 three point attempts in the first game. If they had made “only” made these shots at their season average of 40%, the Spurs would have scored nearly 18 points fewer. On Monday, the Spurs made only 6 of 22 three point attempts, while Miami connected on 23 of 24 free throw attempts and 15 of 26 jumpers from the 16-23 foot range. If both teams were successful from these three ranges at a rate similar to their season percentages, the Spurs would have scored 12 points more and the Heat 11 points fewer. Given the circumstances, I suppose a 7 point game would be much easier to swallow… but these shooting streaks are obviously a part of basketball.

The Spurs not only want to test their potential playoff lineup combinations, but I’m sure they will be looking for redemption.

A couple quotes

If you don’t believe this is an important game, check out some quotes I found:

Jason Terry
“Everybody is going to talk about how this is just another game, (but) not for this team. Not for us. We struggled since the (All-Star) Break against teams that are right there in contention for a championship, so it’s a measuring stick for us — how far have we come?”

Antonio McDyess after the “longest practice day for the Spurs since training camp”
“A lot of the mistakes we made (on Monday), (Coach) wanted us to clean up going into the Dallas game. We feel this is a big game, so we wanted to clean up a lot of stuff.”

Key Statistics

SRS ranks:

Dallas: 3.95 (8th)
San Antonio: 6.15 (4th)

Player summary statistics from basketball-reference.com and basketballvalue.com:

Dallas Mavericks Player Ratings 3-17

PlayerGMPGUSG%OrtgDRtgWS/482 Yr APM
Dirk Nowitzki5934.228.21201060.22310.41
Jason Kidd6833.514.51101050.1192.6
Jason Terry6831.925.11071090.0990.21
Caron Butler2929.925.31001070.061-1.31
Tyson Chandler622814.51311020.2162.14
Shawn Marion6727.921.31061050.108-2.04
Peja Stojakovic1321.318.91061070.0851.1
Jose Barea6720.123.61061100.084-3.51
Brendan Haywood6118.412.81061040.0961.52
Rodrigue Beaubois1418.4271041060.1-2.8
DeShawn Stevenson6017.415.91081100.075-4.05
Brian Cardinal44129.91231070.119N/A
Corey Brewer68.517.51131060.1292.12
Ian Mahinmi448.316.31241050.179N/A



San Antonio Spurs Player Ratings 3-17

PlayerGMPGUSG%OrtgDRtgWS/482 Yr APM
Tony Parker6532.225.21141070.165-0.86
Manu Ginobili6730.926.31161040.1995.28
Richard Jefferson6630.815.51151080.117-0.82
Tim Duncan6728.722.91091000.1656.47
George Hill6128.217.71151070.136-1.74
DeJuan Blair6721.920.3106990.14-0.45
Matt Bonner5121.512.81311070.1623.62
Gary Neal6520.520.51091080.1-1.22
Antonio McDyess6118.1151051030.1062.18
James Anderson1812.415.11101090.084N/A
Tiago Splitter471117.51111030.139N/A
Steve Novak136.714.61391090.189N/A
Chris Quinn396.616.3961090.027N/A


Player trends, based on Efficiency per 48 minutes:

Dallas Mavericks Player Trends 3-17

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Dirk Nowitzki33.5406.5
Jason Terry20.725.75
Shawn Marion2528.83.8
Brendan Haywood19.322.63.3
Rodrigue Beaubois23.725.41.7
Jose Barea21.222.31.1
Corey Brewer18.818.80
Ian Mahinmi24.213.9-10.3
Peja Stojakovic18.411.2-7.2
DeShawn Stevenson14.39.1-5.2
Tyson Chandler30.228-2.2
Brian Cardinal14.912.7-2.2
Jason Kidd2322.6-0.4



San Antonio Spurs Player Trends 3-17

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
DeJuan Blair28.332.23.9
Matt Bonner20.323.33
Tiago Splitter22.225.12.9
Manu Ginobili28.3312.7
Gary Neal18.720.21.5
Steve Novak19.819.5-0.3
Antonio McDyess23.322.7-0.6
Tony Parker27.125.1-2
Tim Duncan32.430.4-2
James Anderson13.69.9-3.7
George Hill22.218.1-4.1
Richard Jefferson17.811.8-6
Chris Quinn12.33.3-9


Lineup data

Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Mavericks:
Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Haywood +62 in 341 minutes (+12.0 per 100 possessions)
Kidd, Stevenson, Butler, Nowitzki, Chandler +111 in 257 minutes (+24.1 per 100)
Kidd, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Chandler +54 in 143 minutes (+16.1 per 100)
Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Mahinmi +52 in 99 minutes (+23.5 per 100)

Obviously, Caron Butler is out for the year. Peja Stojakovic is listed as doubtful and Brendan Haywood is questionable for tonight’s matchup.

Spurs:
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +147 in 669 minutes (+10.4 per 100)
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, McDyess, Duncan +29 in 147 minutes (+10.2 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +65 in 101 minutes (+35.3 per 100)

The Pick

Mavericks, barely

After picking the Spurs for a ton of consecutive games, I’m leaning towards going against them for the second consecutive time. The Spurs seem to be gearing for the playoffs already, but it might be a temporary setback. Once again, this should be a good test to see if McDyess is a better matchup against the bigger teams.

  • Ravi

    Pop needs to insert Tiago in the games and give him some game time over the next 15 games…this will be invaluable, come playoff time….

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Bry

    I hate to sound like a pessimist, but I just don’t think the Spus find these games very important. Meanwhile Dallas is at home and is fighting every game for playoff position. The Mavs have every reason to play their guys heavy minutes and come in amped up for a hard fight, but the Spurs have every reason to be conservative and worry about picking up a few easy wins at home over the next weeks just to clinch HCA. I mean, they are competitive and come to win, but if they are down 12 or 15 late in the 3rd I doubt that Pop will take it as a serious game and go for the victory.

  • DorieStreet

    I will follow the game via the internet–watching the shooting pct., rebounding counts, etc. as the game evolves.

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • rob

    Great points Scott.

    But if I may…The Spurs could make it a statement game for them as well. If the Spurs pull out a win in this game it will be because they played all out and really want this game. Which probably would be the last game until playoffs we would see the Spurs play all out.

    Go Spurs Go!

  • Pittsburgh Spurs Fan

    I can see the value in Pop waving the white flag and resting the guys if they find themselves in a 15 point hole late in the 3rd. BUT, on the flip, isn’t there also some value in getting some stick-to-it, come-from-behind, grind-it-out victory reps before the playoffs?
    Or are we just hoping that we get up on the playoff teams for 4 out of 7 games each round and then ride it out from there?
    Any thoughts on the save-the-legs versus the gain-comeback-confidence strategies?

    Obviously Coach Pop knows way more about the +/- of these approaches then I’ll ever want to, but I’m just curious to hear others’ thoughts on this…

    And aside from all of this, can we please just get down to business tonight and make Mark Cuban cry? Thanks.

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    Regardless of what happens in the game tonight, you know of 2 stone cold locks for the next message board…..both Hobson13 and TD = Best Ever won’t be satisfied with what the Spurs do. :)

  • DorieStreet

    @ Pittsburgh Spurs Fan

    Small picture (tonight’s game): if at end of 3rd qtr the Spurs are 10 pts behind or less–they’re in it to win it. If Mavs up by 15–end of bench gets PT.

    Big picture (remainder of season): at the 75-game mark– if Spurs are 60-15 or better, & still up by 5 over Mavs/Lakers, the starters’ minutes get reduced; after the 77th game, DNP-CD for the Core 3.

  • rob

    I just heard an interesting stat line via local sports radio. The Spurs are the best team at scoring points after a 3 day rest in the league.

    Don’t know if that will hold true against Dallas…but an interesting stat to say the least.

  • DBAGuy

    I really would have liked to give this game tithe Mavs, I want them to have home court against the Lakers, but we are way too close to the bulls and celtics. Let’s pull out a win and almost guarantee HCA during the post-season. I expect to see man-to-man in your face defense tonight.

    GO SPURS GO!!!

    Ps. Can you people leave td=be and others write what they want, it’s not like they are laker fans, they deserve to be heard.

  • Titletown99030507d

    @AlixBabaie,

    Include me also, but not because of how they play but because of the neglect that Splitter’s getting. That’s my season long beef. I won’t put a fork in it until either we win the championship or get eliminated. In other words when were done this season. Then we’ll see during training camp.
    GSG! GTG!

  • DorieStreet

    @DBAGuy

    Compare the Lakers & Mavs schedules for the rest of March. LA – 3 games every other day, 2 days off, then 3 games eod again–all at home.
    DAL – 3 homes games spaced over a week, but then 6 game road trip – 3 BTBs with 1 day between each- and the 4th game of the 6th is @ staples.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Pittsburgh Spurs Fan
    March 18th, 2011 at 4:43 am
    And aside from all of this, can we please just get down to business tonight and make Mark Cuban cry?>

    This +1000!

  • DBAGuy

    @DorieStreet

    I guess even if we were to give up this game, seems like Mavs have no way to hold that #2 spot. Lets give them a whooping tonight then :)

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Len

    It’s always personal when the Spurs play their “little brother”. Time to smack these guys in the mouth and remind all the rude, pretentious, wanna-be Mavs fans what a true champion looks like.

    Go Spurs Go!

  • rj

    i disagree with an earlier statement that the spurs aren’t taking these games seriously. whether it’s the writing on the wall or the elephant in the room, TIAGO SPLITTER MUST PLAY! a major point of concern after last season was a mismanagement of our bench (hairston, mahinmi). seems this could be a reoccuring theme with pop as our core ages and young talent is acquired. injuries were indeed a big problem, but with such a hefty lead, pop hasn’t been eager to get tiago on the floor. face it folks: if we get eliminated this year, it will be because we are getting beat up on the inside and our big s are slow to recover on the pick and roll. if i’m pop, i’m taking minutes from bonner and blair to see if tiago can shine this late in the season. if he doesn’t look rotation worthy? bring him out when okc and la are man-handling us

  • DorieStreet

    Please –can this fanbase stop with bringing up Ian Mahinmi/2 years with Spurs-32 games total-squat.
    With the Mavs this season: 44 games played——-drum roll, plz***8 min/gm =3pts, 2rebs, oblks. Someone help me –what drvies the fascination???

  • SAJKinBigD

    @Dorie – I can’t say. I’m not one of ‘em and I laughed when the Mavs signed him. The folks here in Dallas think he’s the second coming of something though, particularly when Haywood’s acting petulant or isn’t playing well. He still fouls like a madman.

  • DorieStreet

    @SAJKinBigD

    Can Jerry use him? Put on 40lbs; bring him off the edge…..:)

  • Bruno

    If we lose, good the Mavs stay#2.If we win , good,increases confidence to playoffs.

    @DorieStreet

    Splitter isn’t MAhinmi, the guy was Spanish MVP, Spanish Finals MVP beating Barcelona(euroleague champion) without HCA by 3-0

  • Hobson13

    Alix Babaie
    March 18th, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Not true. If the Spurs win tonight, I’ll be the first one to talk about what the Spurs did right. If we lose tonight, then it will probably be the defense’s fault (sense we tend to not have scoring issues). I don’t have any problem giving credit where and when it’s due. There just hasn’t been much good to talk about lately.

    Great article by the 48MOH gang.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Dorie

    It’s mainly what we have seen him do vs us. Many players who if you look at the stats for the year are not too impressive, but when they play SA they look better that what we have in uniform……Just Like Gooden, Gee, Samuels, and many others have had great games and had you wondering who are they and what could they do for us……

  • DorieStreet

    @Bruno

    Mavs will have to get hot like Bulls & Thunder to just keep pace with Lakers. I stated this yesterday–compare DAL/LAL for next 2 weeks. If Mavs don’t play better than .500 ball, OKC could make legit push for #3 spot-only 3 games back in loss column.

  • DorieStreet

    @TD=Best EVER

    Gooden–just a couple of rebounds from avg. solid dbl-dbl. He was hurt that spring we got him for the playoff push, right? The man has played for nearly half the league’s teams; starts off good but tails off.
    New era will be here inevitably; got to get our share of this young talent in the fold and let them flourish.

  • chromao

    The (not so) funny thing is that (almost) everybody here takes for granted that we already have HCA in the west. With 15 games to be played and the LA Lakers with the softest schedule (10 home games, 4 away games) this HCA is not yet a sure thing at all! I really hope that the Spurs approach this Dallas game seriously, as a must win, lest everybody, players included, start raising doubts about the Spurs as a contender.

    In addition, we have seen from the Detroit and Sacramento games that the sub .500 and otherwise struggling teams we still have to face (Sacramento, Houston, Phoenix, Utah) must be taken seriously, since the are by no means sure wins.

    Therefore, it is astonishing to read peole write about the Dallas X Los Angeles second round series as already set, pending only which one will have HCA .

    Go Spurs!

  • DorieStreet

    @Chromao

    +10 \I’m glad you mentioned Houston. Spurs fans–let’s give some love to our IH10 rivals. They went through the TMac malaise; looks like the Yao era is over; but they aren’t wallowing in self-pity. 50-win seasons 4/6 years, in playoffs 3/4 seasons. Making moves right & left (maybe too many, but hey–looks like it’s paying off); don’t know if Rick Aldeman’s the coach to get them back in the serious hunt. But the team is scrapping to get the #8 spot; and our division – the Southwest -is the only one that has a chance to have every team over .500-and maybe in the playoffs.

  • Titletown99030507d

    @rj,

    Bravo! Well said my man. What is it going to hurt at this point? Unleash the Brazilian!

  • Titletown99030507d

    @Bruno,

    I agree Bruno but, unfortunately americans don’t care about the Spanish liga. But I do. It’s the fundamentals these people bring to the NBA that make them worthwhile pursuing. They have more of it and know how to play as a team. Sometimes balls out athleticism isn’t always the savior. If you have no BBIQ and can’t play with others than athleticism is moot to some extent. At least Splitter has the fundamentals, the BBIQ, and is willing to play with others. Throw the poor man a bone.

  • Hobson13

    chromao
    March 18th, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Excellent points. HCA is not guaranteed. Out of the next 15 games, 12 are against playoff or playoff contending teams. Including Portland (twice), Boston, Memphis, Denver, Atlanta, and Phoenix (twice). Even though the Spurs do have a big lead (7 games in the loss column) we certainly need to play well and wrap this up. It’s not time to take the foot off the gas and coast. Maybe we can do that for the last 3 games if things are sealed by then.

  • idahospur

    A win tonight puts HCA almost officially on the records as we take down the Mavs and just have to worry about the Lakers sneaking ahead. Only 15 games more until playoffs start!

    GO SPURS GO!!!!

  • Titletown99030507d

    I don’t care if the Mavs get home court or not in the second round if they meet up with LA. I just want both teams to run around and wear their asses out for 7 games of overtime . This would be ideal for the Spurs. Then they can deal with Tony and the gang thereafter.

  • DorieStreet

    @rj, Bruno, Titletown99030507d–

    Direct your requests to:

    AT&T Center, 1 AT and T Center Parkway
    San Antonio TX 78219
    Attn: G. Popovich

  • Flavor

    Hobson, I agree. I also don’t care if the Mavs have HCA. 7 games of OT between LA and Dallas would be sooo good.

  • Pingback: Spurs Nation » Blog brother wonders if Pop will be able to rest regulars soon

  • jwalt

    chromao and Hobson, get a grip. We will be the first seed. If not, then we are so bad that it doesn’t matter. If we go 8-7 then either the Lakers or Mavs would have to go undeated to tie us. Please, relax.

    Having said that, this game is huge for the Spurs. They need their self confidence back, and what better way than against their hated rivals. That’s a great stat that Rob brought up, hope it shows tonight.

    And will the “Splitter has to play” mantra please take a break? Have you seen him play? He has had good moments but half the time it looks like he can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. If he were to be given Blair’s minutes I wouldn’t mind. But McDyess and Bonner have to play, pure and simple. So who the 4th big is just isn’t the do all or be all of our team’s chances. (Bonner has the third best +/- ratio on the team, behind only Manu and Tim. Why he gets so much criticism remains a mystery to me. Pop plays him for one reason, Pop likes to win).

  • Flavor

    Actually, I mean I agree with Titletown.

  • Titletown99030507d

    @DorieStreet,

    I need a stamp!

  • Titletown99030507d

    @jwalt,

    That’s because those times is when he has 37 seconds to chew his gum!

  • rj

    @ dorie street- lol touche! here’s something for you guys to chew on- we have one of the least intimidating arenas in the nba, right? are playoff “whiteout”‘s are non-threatening. why not do a fiesta color whiteout? orange, turqois, pink, and yellow (neutralize la fans) with our fans instructed to let out our most rabid gritos ( gritos are cries of excitement)! maybe even sporting the plastic trumpet noisemakers seen on the carts of fiesta vendors. that sounds intimidating and culurally magnificent!

  • Titletown99030507d

    @jwalt,

    We’re gonna die with Bonner! Did you get the gum joke?

  • Titletown99030507d

    @rj,

    That was good.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ jwalt

    “But McDyess and Bonner have to play, pure and simple. So who the 4th big is just isn’t the do all or be all of our team’s chances. (Bonner has the third best +/- ratio on the team, behind only Manu and Tim. Why he gets so much criticism remains a mystery to me. Pop plays him for one reason, Pop likes to win).”

    You ask why Bonner gets so much criticism…..
    1. He historically chokes in the playoffs
    2. is getting vastly overpaid – could have gotten him for a lot cheaper. There wasn’t even a bidding war for his services.
    3. His post defense is in a word HORRIBLE, and rebouding rate is worse.

    As many others have put it, If he isn’t draining 3’s like every 2-3 trips up and down the floor. He absolutely gets you killed everywhere else

  • Titletown99030507

    @TD=BestEver,

    Add to that, he now thinks he’s Lebron. “Just shoot from that big round line big fella and make them so we all can shut up including me. That’s all we want from you”.

  • DorieStreet

    @rj

    Hey—I can go for that. When I listen during telecasts, sometimes the cheers get to locked up with whatever music is playing. Are those noisemakers similar to the vuvuzelas?

    @jwalt

    Last 5 games: Bonner is 2-10 (1-3, 1-4, 0-1 each of the last 3 games).

    IMO- if we can get Jefferson involved in the flow early -and not just 3-pointers, but sets; and get him the ball where he can flush it once or twice a game–a defender will peel off and create space for outside jumpers.

  • spursgermany

    “don’t care if the Mavs get home court or not in the second round if they meet up with LA. just want both teams to run around and wear their asses out for 7 games of overtime . This would be ideal for the Spurs”
    POP NOT SO A SECRET WISH;and Celts Bulls Heat Magic going at each other in 7 gamer +overtime

  • TD = Best EVER

    1st half thoughts…..

    TD needs to block out stronger – Chandler is getting too many Offensive rebounds early…..
    -IS TD knee bothering him still – It looks like he favors it when doing anything explosive(jab step, running hook off that leg, etc)

    We have to take care of the ball and hold on to our leads better. I thought some bad shots(some quick shots) led to the Mavs cutting into our 18 point lead…….

  • TD = Best EVER

    Also Dallas has 11 TO’s to our 1and only down 5 points….. how is that possible…..

    Dallas is +3-offensive rebounds and +9 for the half.

    FG%
    Spurs – 43%
    Dallas – 50%

    We have to take better shots in the 2ns half, because we DOMINATED THIS HALF of you were just looking and didn’t see the score…….but somehow Dallas is still right there……

  • Daniel T

    Tyson Chandler – $12.6 M/yr, $7.2k/min, $19.k/pt
    Haywood – $6.9M/yr, $6.2k/min, $24.8k/pt
    Ian – .9M/yr, $2.4k/min, $6.4k/pt

    Considering how much Cuban is paying to have Chandler and Haywood on the team, it would be embarrassing for him if Ian were getting more minutes. In comparison, Ian’s a bargain for points per $.

  • Daniel T

    Ian in 4:48 wound up with zero points, 1 rebound and 1 PF. Haywood in 18:36 was able to get 2 points, 3 rebs and 2 pf. Chandler, making 12 times what Ian makes and nearly twice what Haywood gets, shows why he gets the big bucks and the big minutes with 22:12 in minutes and wound up with 3 points, 5 rebs and 6 pf. Add it up for the center position and in 45 minutes they scored 5 points, 9 rebs and 9 pf.

  • rob

    Scoreboard!

    For those who wish to dwell on the negative.