Mavs backcourt punishing Parker and Co.

By Jeff Caplan,

VIDEO: Vince Carter’s buzzer-beater gives Mavs 2-1 series lead

DALLAS — One minute, 54 seconds into Game 3, Gregg Popovich had steam spewing out his ears and he gave Tony Parker an earful.

On consecutive possessions, the All-Star point guard provided no defensive resistance as Jose Calderon routinely dribbled the ball upcourt, lost Parker and lofted passes to Samuel Dalembert and then Shawn Marion for easy buckets at the rim. After Marion’s alley-oop, Popovich leaped from his chair, angrily signaled timeout and marched directly toward Parker and chewed him out.

It was the beginning of another strange night for Parker and the Spurs.

Parker responded by ramping up his effort and he had an excellent first quarter, and 17 points at the half. But he had to work his tail off to get it. And guess what? Dallas made him work at the other end, too. Calderon, who looked like a moped in a backcourt full of speed bikes in playing only 16 minutes in Game 1, continued to turn the tables as he did in Dallas’ Game 2 road win, and had 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting as surprising Dallas led by five at the half.

Calderon made plays with his dribble, made floaters and knocked down two of his three 3-point attempts. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting and nine assists in 30 minutes. Parker, who Popovich had told earlier that if he had to shoot 25 times then do it, played only 13:24 in the second half, scored two points, missed four of five shots and finished with 19 points on 18 shots.

“I don’t know,” Parker said of how the Mavs made him a non-factor in the second half. “It just happened, flow of the game in the second half. I played less, you know, and I don’t know, they didn’t do anything special.”

Maybe so, but the unfolding and improbable story line of this first-round series that the eighth-seeded Mavs suddenly lead 2-1 over top-seeded San Antonio is the dominance of the Mavs’ backcourt. No one could have expected Calderon, Monta Ellis and Devin Harris to outshine Parker, who is carrying a burdensome load, and his underachieving pals who had been so good throughout a 62-win season.

And, actually, Dallas’ 109-108 victory Saturday evening was indeed special. With 1.7 seconds left after Manu Ginobili spun in an off-balance leaner for the potential game-winner, Vince Carter, his heels barely inside the sideline, swished a desperation, fall-away 3-pointer from the deep corner after pump-faking Ginobili in the air. The shot instantly rekindled memories of Ray Allen‘s backbreaking 3-pointer against the Spurs late in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

San Antonio played Game 7 tough last June, but ultimately lost, leaving a feeling the Spurs allowed the title to slip through their fingers. Among some who watch the Spurs closely, there was some question after Saturday’s loss if they’re falling into a ditch they won’t escape.

“You always feel like it happens [last-second game-winners] more against you than in your favor, but it’s always tough,” said Ginobili, so far the Spurs’ only other reliable backcourt presence. “I’ve been doing this for 18 years and it’s happened multiple times and it hurts always, especially in the playoffs. We are not out. We lost a tough one, but we’ve got to come back on Monday and play even better so as to not to get in that position.”

The Spurs are getting no help from starting shooting guard and 3-point specialist Danny Green. Green, guarded by Calderon, whose lone defensive job is to stick to Green, hit his series average in Game 3 — three points. Popovich has taken to mainly benching him. Reserve Marco Belinelli doubled his series average coming in of 3.5 ppg. Patty Mills, who blitzed Dallas for 26 points and six 3-pointers late in the regular season, had five points Saturday.

In Games 1 and 2, Harris scored 19 and 18 points and shot 60 percent. In Game 3, Ellis tortured San Antonio for 29 points, 12 in the fourth quarter. Still, San Antonio led 100-95 with 2:11 to go but couldn’t close it out. Ellis, fending off the defense of Kawhi Leonard, scored seven points in the final 1:37 and tied it at 106-106 with 24.9 to go.

Calderon, Ellis and Harris have played so well they’re allowing Dallas to excel even with Dirk Nowitzki having entered Game 3 as the Mavs’ fourth-leading scorer, unheard of in his career. He had 18 points on a pedestrian 7-for-13 shooting on Saturday.

Parker has had to deal with the 6-7 Marion as Dallas continues to switch up its defensive coverages. Parker went 9-for-18 from the floor with six assists and four turnovers. He played 6:49 in the third quarter, started the fourth quarter, but came out three minutes into it. The Spurs found some success with a small unit that included Patty Mills and a rare appearance from Matt Bonner.

Popovich stuck with it and kept Parker on the bench until the 4:06 mark.

“Manu was rolling, he was playing great and he [Popovich] felt leaving me on the bench to have more energy for the last four minutes,” Parker said. “I trust Pop’s judgment. Me, personally, I feel fine. The team was playing well.”

Well enough until Carter’s heroics.

But the No. 1 seed shouldn’t be sweating like this, not against a team it had carved up over the past two seasons. If the Spurs’ backcourt doesn’t find Parker some help soon, it could be a very, very early summer.


  1. rich says:

    I always like it when we’re undordogs and not on anybody else’s radar. that’s right keep it that way. For the 4th straight game, even on our own floor, we are a +4 to +5 , works well for me, no complaints lol !

  2. Marco29 says:

    Great shot for Carter, nice story for a great vet. yet, the constiency in the calls between the drives of Monta Ellis and Manu Ginobilli is puzling. Why does Ellis get a Plus 1 while Diaw does not touch him (even the commentator aknowledges it)? It’s Ellis who makes a contact with his elbow to Diaw’s chest. And if Ellis gets a foul for that why does Manu not get one while Dalenert clearly bumps him? It’s been Hard for the Spurs to get calls in the 4th quarter just like Duncan who gets his arm grabbed a little bit earlier.
    Anyway, it was a high playoff intensity game and I hope the rest of the series stays at the same level. With maybe a ltlle bit more consistent foul calling….

    • rich says:

      i understand the observation bias, i’m guily of that too… but surely bad calls, missed calls can go both ways. Mavs would have won game 1 too if calls were made correctly. Truth is home court advantage somehow plays a role on refs decisions no matter how anyone denies it. Basketball is a human game therefore there are human errors. If any team puts themselves in a posistion where one blown/missed call makes a difference then they can’t whine if being on a losing end.

      • Marco29 says:

        Sure but it is a close series and each possession, each call or no-call counts. I understand home court advantage given by the refs but it should not be too obvious.

  3. theholyspectator says:

    if spurs lose then miami clearly is winning the title…the west is just built on speed and athleticism, something spurs dont have…boy this 2014 playoffs is just too entertaining right now

    • rich says:

      haha, that’s what they said too in 2011. We’ll see. If Brooklyn lose then Miami would definitely win the East, but not necessarily the Championship.

  4. As a MAVS fan, I am thrilled and surprised by this turn of events, based on our unpredictable season. Naturally, I was dreading this match-up with the Spurs — who seem to have our number.

    However, if you consider the plays per minute of all three games, the Mavericks have outperformed the Spurs during this young playoff series…despite our franchise player scoring below average numbers. It’s exciting to watch so many of our bench players shine and hold their own against a dominant and seasoned Spurs team. No telling what can happen when Dirk gets in his groove.

    I realize this series is far from over but it’s amazing that the Mavs are holding their own when no one (outside of Dallas) even included us in playoff conversations. GO MAVS!!!!

  5. Brick-shooter says:

    Carlisle is outcoaching Popovich on this one. And all of that with Dirk having 2 off-nights and an OK-game.

    Who is really the coach of the year?

    • Marco29 says:

      It’s hard to admit that Pop has been outcoached so far. Carlisle has found solutions to Pop’s adjustements and Spurs are in big trouble on both ends ot the floor.It’s time for the COY to step up and get the team out of this dead end.

    • lumenpierce says:

      Ummm…you don’t win the award because you outcoached someone 2-3 games

      • Marco29 says:

        I am not saying that Carlisle should get the award but that he was outcoaching Pop so far and almost playing with his mind by calling him the best coach of the century or the best coach ever while mastering him out. Personnally, I believe Pop is among the top 3 or 4 on the all time list (in a close race with Riley for the 3rd spot) but that the award this year should have gone to Hornacek.

  6. Rima says:

    itrs 2-1..slow down ppl not over yet.go spurs!

    • rich says:

      true that ! can’t get too high with highs, just like can’t get too low with lows… it’s far from over. If Spurs get tonight’s win, Mavs again is in the same starting position.

  7. aces says:

    So to all the ppl that say Parker is the best pg in the league, jus stfu…u have to play on both ends which is why Cp3 is head n shoulders above everyone else. Thank you n have a blessed s sunday

  8. Adrian Meli says:

    They really shut him down-was surprised (but happy) to see him pulled out of the game late. It was painful to watch Manu though!

  9. MavsFan says:

    And everybody was saying this was a sweep by the mighty spurs… Dallas could lose the next 3 games and I still would be proud of them, they proved”the experts” wrong.

  10. Felix says:

    I know, Parker did great yesterday. He took what the defense gave him and they shut him out of lane, but he made shots. Mavs win was a lucky shot, plain and simple. That ball could have easily gotten out just as it went in.

    • MrNBA says:

      That shot was all net. It wasn’t luck. Luck is when the ball dances around the rim before it goes in like that shot from Diaw and Ginobili. But just like that Allen 3 pointer from game 6 last year or that buzzer-beater against the same Spurs with 0.4 remaining from years ago (from some irrelevant old dude), luck had nothing to do with it.

    • rich says:

      I almost said the same thing, but statistically Vince shoots very well from that part of the floor. I am a Mav, and between taking the last shot by Carter from that angle trailing by 2 versus a San Antonio possesion to win a game, I would take the former.

  11. Realist2014 says:

    Amusing how people talk a team up when they are winning then when they have some bad games It’s over. Of all the teams you count out the Spurs? Dallas is no push over but, be real Pop’s machine is proven. This series isn’t over until one or the other has 4 wins in their column.

    • Marco29 says:

      Sure but game 4 is a must win for the Spurs cause I don’t see them winning this series if they trail 1-3. Pop needs to find the adjustment to the backcourt of the Mavs and their defense on the 3 pt line. Also, on the defensive end they need to change their system especially on the screens set for Ellis. Go spurs

    • Marco29 says:

      As a Spurs fan I want to believe the Spurs can still win it and but I am very concerned. Spurs need to come back to their old selves that had them beat Dallas 10 times in a row and win 30 games on the road.

  12. spurs-fan-but says:

    goes to show that (withstanding criticism of the never aging spurs) this san antonio team can’t make it out of the athletic west conference that time. when you have trouble containing devin harris and calderon, wait and see how much fun okc will have when (if) they meet in the conference finals. the defensive focus and prowess (other than leonard) just isn’t there for this team. Even if they get out of a matchup with the Blazers/Rockets, they don’t match up well with high octane scoring teams anymore. The Spurs will execute the offense no matter who they are playing against, so they are always better off playing defensive teams like memphis that can’t score, or tired lebron james getting minimal help from co-stars. I repeated many times that if David Lee played last year, they would have been taken out of the semis. I love what the Spurs have done and have utmost respect for Pop and his acute court generals, but this is the end of the road for the best PF of all time, provided no lucky matchups in the next rounds.
    P.S: Matt Bonner MUST play more, force the Mavs bigs to guard outside.

    • Zac says:

      Only difference-maker for SA is Ginobili, as Dallas switches on all Picks, only good P&Rs on SA are Parker and Ginobili. the bigs can drop of Parker because he has no good three. They cant drop of Ginobili. Pop knows that and thats why the last play he ran was a high screen for Ginobili. However, Ginobili is mad and wild sometimes, thats why i wouldnt take my chances on him. SA also has no player besides Duncan who can exploit a mismatch, who is good in 1:1-Matchups. But Duncan is Old and cant run all P&Rs, that tires him out. The other players are all spot-ups, they get no shots because there is almost no ball movement for SA.
      The best play for Dallas is a Screen with Dirk. Calderon, who can PnP, Ellis with both PnP and PnR, and Harris with PnR. Dirk will not turn into a volume shooter this series, because he is too often used in screens and this tires him out. But SA cant switch a PnR with Dirk, because he would easily shoot over every guard he sees or post ihm up a little and then one-leg-fade. Also, dirks handoff to an already cutting ellis is so quick and lethal, i dont see any way to defend that play.
      Will be an entertaining series.

  13. jdub455 says:

    I can smell something… U-P-S-E-T…. lol… go MAVS!!!

  14. parker says:

    parker doesnt need to give more, hes been on fire. Danny Green, Bellinelli, their entire bench need to step it up.

  15. g says:

    now, after a few games, a lot of the predictions made pre-playoff sound almost ridiculous. but to anyone who followed the regular seoson very closely there are no surprises. in the west every team can make it all the way, personally i think that OKC and the spurs have lower chances than the clippers or portland. dallas for example is better now than in their championship year, with a much better and deeper backcourt, and they are not as dependent on nowitzki anymore. calderon was absolutely incredible this last game both facilitating and shooting and i think that at this point the spurs are the underdogs.

  16. Playoffs says:

    Rick Carlisle is an AMAZING coach. I’m not even a Mavs fan (my Lakers are long dead) but the consistent way in which Rick makes use of underdog teams is amazing. Even their lone title was against a far more talented Miami team.

  17. jack says:

    This is what experienced players do. Carter is an old sly wolf that knows all the tricks and won this time. Good for him and his team. Unfortunately this loss endangers San Antonio’s dreams to play in the final game. Parker and Green have to give more if they will qualify for the next round.