Mavs surprise as Spurs spin their wheels

By Jeff Caplan,

VIDEO: Dallas dominates San Antonio 113-92 in Game 2 to even series

SAN ANTONIO —series that’s bolted off-script boils down to one simple reason as to why that is: The eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks have more players playing harder than the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.

And now Gregg Popovich, the Coach of the Year whom his astute counterpart Rick Carlisle called the Coach of the Century, must figure out why that is.

And it could be worse. The Spurs were seven-minutes, 45 seconds and a trademark Dallas meltdown from heading a few hours up north down 0-2. Carlisle was so protective of Wednesday night’s 20-point lead that after Popovich emptied his bench with six minutes to go, Carlisle kept Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Monta Ellis out there for another three minutes.

“Having such a poor performance in the playoffs really bothers me,” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, whose sizzling shooting for a game-high 27 points was buried by a multitude of lazy, lackadaisical Spurs possessions and a season-worst 24 turnovers.

“We,” Ginobili continued, “are going to definitely have to play much, much better to have a chance in Dallas.”

To have a chance in Dallas? Where the Mavs’ 15 home losses, two to the Spurs, are the most of any West playoff team? That’s how strange this thing has become.

Here we are through two games and the sixth-most efficient offense in the league during the regular season is being choked at every turn by the eighth-least efficient defense. The Spurs’ offensive rating (98.6 points per 100 possessions) in the series is barely a tick better than the Charlotte Bobcats, who are matched up against the Heat. Their defensive rating (108.3 points per 100 possessions) would rank 28th in the regular season, just ahead of the Bucks and Jazz. That’s bad company.

And who would believe that the Mavs’ playoff defensive efficiency in these strange first two games would position them third in the regular season behind the Pacers and Bulls?

“We are mixing things up a lot and doing things we don’t really want to do, but we have to because they are such a potent team and they have such great players; they have the Coach of the Year,” Carlisle said. “It’s a monumental task, but we are in this thing to win.”

Dallas surprised San Antonio in Game 1 with a tweaked-up defense that switched on pick-and-rolls and was wholly focused on chasing the Spurs off the 3-point arc. It worked. The Spurs went 3-for-17 from deep and, again, were fortunate to pull it out late.

In Game 2, there were no surprises. San Antonio made 10 of its 20 3-point attempts, so that wasn’t the issue. Into the second quarter, the Spurs were shooting better than 70 percent, yet as their shooting percentage kept rising, so did their deficit. The culprit was nine turnovers in the first quarter and six more in the second. Then there were all those missed free throws: 18-for-29.

“It’s a bad combination to not play good defense at one end and give the ball up at the other end and not shoot free throws very well either,” Popovich said. “That’s a bad combination at both ends of the floor. That means you got your butt kicked and that’s what happened tonight.”

This cohesive, finely tuned engine is suddenly missing pistons. Topping the list is small forward Kawhi Leonard. Other than Ginobili, photos of San Antonio’s reserves should be plastered on milk cartons. Marco Belinelli, a key acquisition this summer who meshed so early and so well, has been nonexistent. Ditto for Patty Mills and Boris Diaw. Starting shooting guard Danny Green has six points in two games. Unlike Game 1, Parker and Tim Duncan didn’t find open real estate to the rim this time and combined for 23 points. Duncan had 27 and Parker scored 21 in Game 1.

For Dallas, which basically went 10-deep in Game 2, role players have provided such a boost that they’re in this position despite Nowitzki going 11-for-33 from the floor in the two games. Devin Harris has been sensational with 37 points on 15-for-25 shooting. Marion had 20 points, Ellis went for 21. Former Spur DeJuan Blair and the erratic Sam Dalembert provided real juice.

And point guard Jose Calderon, the tortoise trying to play against the hare, bounced back and scored all 12 of his points in the Mavs’ hugely important third quarter that they won 32-24.

See, just as Dallas built a 56-41 lead with a couple minutes left in the first half, San Antonio knocked it down to 56-51 at the half. It was their one and only spurt of the night.

“All season, sometimes we let up a bit and compete all the way until we get in trouble,” Nowitzki said. “I like our intensity right now. It is a little dangerous going home because we have been a decent road team all year. At home, we have not figured it out yet.”


  1. Swish41 says:

    Mavs in 6, maybe 5 if they stay hot, San An had the best record in the league, but did not do well against the top teams in the league. The Mavs are pretty much a “new” team with 10 players on the roster not here from last year, so the chemistry took a while. But looks to be there now. SA has been replaying last years game 6 all year, and now they cant go to another gear, waisted all the energy being mad during regular season. They have 3 players, Mavs go 10 deep. Dirk hasn’t even shot well yet!!!! SA doesn’t have another level to go, they are playing there best, Get ya tissues, hankerchiefs, and whatever else u may need SpursNation, gonna be a lot of cryin on the river walk after this one

  2. overTHERE says:

    This was probably the worst game I’ve seen the spurs play all year… didn’t think they would sweep the mavs but thought they’d beat them in 5 or 6 at the max. But if they continue to turn the ball over 20+ times, and miss almost everything at the charity stripe its going to be a short series for the defending western champs.. I can’t seem to get one prediction this playoffs, it is a wild ride so far, even in the East its somewhat surprising to see a hobbled Bobcats team play Miami so well, would it be out of the question to suggest if healthy Al Jeffersons’ Bobcats team could have upset the heat? Portland seems to be the team playing with the most confidence and can trouble and/or beat either the Spurs or OKC whom both I believe will eventually progress through this grueling first round.

    Nothing like playoff basketball and its only the first round!!

  3. Bruce15 says:

    Spurs will beat em, Go Spurs Go!!!!

    • RoMav says:

      Not looking to promising for those Spurs. No Meshing like with all the Dallas players. It will be ticked up a few more notches on the Home court.. A likely surprise tossing of those 1st place Spurs as was the Case for the 1st place Mavs a couple years ago and were tossed like salad by GS…. Smile

  4. theholyspectator says:

    would be awesome if all the west coast games went to a game 7

  5. John says:

    This is NBA playoffs! Everything is possible, esp. Upsets!

  6. 1C2 says:

    chinaman says:
    April 24, 2014 at 8:52 am
    you people really believe that dallas could beat san antonio in a 7 game series?
    reply for you man = and you really believed that Dallas can’t do that???

    • RoMav says:

      It is a very promising chance. It is the NBA. Anything can happen.. Spurs got a wake-up call these 2 Games and Dallas made it stick in Game 2….

  7. theholyspectator says:

    no question spurs or okc will be in the WCF…but both teams will go thru a ton of beating to get there, they both taking quite a beating

  8. boyscout says:

    spurs won 62 games, they gotta be a little tired. Keep goin at ’em hard Dallas and you got a great chance

  9. Big Al says:

    Game 2 was a perfect scenario for Monta Ellis to prove that he should have been an All-Star this year instead of Tony Parker, who was only chosen based on past performances and current team standing. With the help of resurgent Dirk and Shawn, all speculation of a Spurs sweep is now put to bed. The next two games are back in Dallas, where they should win at least one more. Even if they lose the series altogether, the Mavs have already shown that they are better than most others think.

  10. DeeWig says:

    Told people not to write off my Mavs; the regular season is irrelevant…. just means a spot to the big dance.

  11. patrickmarc says:

    Just what I have said before: It will not be easy for spurs.

    • artifex says:

      Seems not easy for any team.
      Heat only team to win both games at home!!!
      What an exciting start for the playoffs.

  12. chinaman says:

    you people really believe that dallas could beat san antonio in a 7 game series?

  13. Tom says:

    10-1 in last 11 games… i’m not worried about them winning 3 of the next 5

  14. kensith says:

    Go ellis Go Dallas, prove people are wrong for not voting you as an all star. Prove that Dallas almost 60% win is solid. I believe in dallas. VC Marion Nowiziki, prove them age isnt a matter. GOGOGOGO

    • artifex says:

      “Prove them age isnt a matter”???
      That’s what SA are relying and teaching on all season.
      Such interesting series.
      I was confident that Dallas wouldn’t go down without a fight. BleacherReport predicted a 4-0 sweep (the only sweep in the playoffs)??? I doubted that and I was right. In the end I fear SA may get on to round 2 but I’m positive that the Mavs will overachieve as much as they did compared to expectations in the regular season (37 wins based on BR).
      They’ve been knocked off the 1st round so often – most remembered in 2007 – now is Dallas’ year to turn things around.

  15. The Spurs are a cat playing with a ball yawn, The Mavericks will unravel.

    • RoMav says:

      Nooo, Mavs are a cohesive Meshed group of players….. Home Court and the play from the Mavs has been ticked up a few notches….

  16. Marco29 says:

    Time for Pop to earn his tilte as the Spurs have been beaten on intensity and game plan.
    Spurs are the best team on the road and they better not forget it.

  17. SoCoooooool says:

    Surprise, surprise. I really thought the Mavs stood no chance, maybe make it to game 6 if they play really good.
    But seeing those 2 games, they really should have won both.

  18. jdub455 says:

    The only thing surprising in this victory is the lopsided score (primarily due to marion’s outside shots), other than that, there is no doubt that the mavs can compete with the spurs… the one who makes shots in the final 3 mins will determine who wins this series… mavs v. heat rematch anyone?!? Lol…