The Postseason Notebook: Mavs-Spurs, Game 5
With some brief resistance and a whimper, the 2008-2009 season came to a close for the San Antonio Spurs. I can’t say I’m surprised by the game’s outcome. Inconsistent defense and mediocre contributions from our role players have been endemic to the entire series. But I will admit, I am disappointed.
First and foremost, I want to congratulate the Dallas Mavericks. They were the better team this series. They played inspired ball on both ends of the floor. Anyone interested in criticizing their poise or defensive tenacity has the burden of proof firmly placed on their shoulders. Dallas has the talent and depth to cause some trouble this postseason. I wish them luck as they head into the second round.
Before I address the numerous frustrations I felt during tonight’s loss, I want to take a brief moment and thank Tim Duncan. During the closing stretch, Tim Duncan was dialed in. He made his final 8 field goal attempts of the second half. When the entire team looked resigned to the idea of defeat, Duncan was draining mid-range jumpers and trying his damnedest to coordinate our defensive efforts (our perimeter defenders did not keep up their end of the bargain). He was a relentless competitor to the end, unlike many of his teammates. It may sound odd, but his 4th quarter effort made me as appreciative of him as I have ever been.
I’m not going to mince words: I am very frustrated George Hill didn’t see more minutes this series. Since he entered the game late in the third quarter of Game Four, he was one of the most reliable men on the court. He was confident on both ends of the floor. His length, athleticism and energy added an element that had been lacking all series. And, despite concerns about his readiness, he gave just as sophisticated a performance as any Spur not named Duncan, Parker or Bowen. I am not saying Hill would have been the difference between a 4-1 loss and a series win. But his hunger would have been a welcome counterbalance against the ceaseless focus we saw Dallas give.
As always, Tony Parker gave his all in the pursuit of victory. So much has been said about his contributions this postseason that I don’t have much more to add. But it would have been an injustice had the final recap of the season not mentioned his 26 points and 12 assists during 45 minutes of play.
In my hastily assembled pre-game bullets, I focused on two aspects of our play that needed to vastly improve: Our outside shooting and our defense. The Spurs were 3-16 from beyond the 3-point line and gave up 106 points. It’s safe to assume neither of my concerns were properly addressed.
Throughout the season I attempted to play the role of augur. Each 3-point shot that flew overhead painted a disturbing portrait of the offensive inconsistency to come. All I asked is that a single shooter rise to the occasion this evening. I guess that was too much to ask.
But my disappointment in our outside shooting pales in comparison to the frustration I experienced as a result of our defensive effort. The Mavericks would have had a more difficult time shooting from outside had they been in an empty gym. In between the catch and release, their 3-point shooters had time for a quick nap. Failed rotations weren’t seen as opportunities to reorganize and retaliate. Instead, we shot one another incredulous looks in the hopes of passing the buck. I’ve never thought of the Spurs as an elite offensive team, even during the championship runs. But our defensive struggles this series shook the spirit in a way to which I am unaccustomed.
There are several other, more microscopic issues I had with tonight’s game, the most glaring of which was Popovich’s decision to have Ime Udoka cover Dirk Nowitzki. I know a lot of Spurs fans disagree but I think Ime is a decent role player. Nonetheless, he possesses nowhere close to the height or savvy required to cover Dirk. Kurt Thomas did a far better job against Nowitzki while on the floor.
But aside from that particular match-up, I don’t feel like mulling over the details. Hopefully the next time we face the Mavericks we will be a different team and the limitations unearthed this series will have been surpassed.
I’m not positive how much more Tim and I have to say about this series but be sure to check back in over the course of the offseason. Tim and I plan on remaining very active over the coming the months. Despite the frustrations we experienced over the last week or two, It’s been a great season. I really enjoyed it and I hope you did too.