Mavs’ Carlisle threw wrench at Spurs, can Blazers’ Stotts add the kitchen sink?

By Jeff Caplan,

VIDEO: Previewing the Spurs-Blazers conference semifinal

SAN ANTONIO — If Terry Stotts doesn’t answer his phone, he’s probably still on the line with his former boss Rick Carlisle.

The second-year Portland Trail Blazers coach is next in line to take his shot at the living legend that is Gregg Popovich, the Coach of the Year, the coach of the No. 1-seed San Antonio Spurs, the coach who stood 48 minutes away from wondering what the hell happened while retreating to his wine cellar for the remainder of the playoffs.

“I’m certainly glad it is over,” Popovich said Sunday evening following his team’s first complete performance in Game 7 of this first round series, a 119-96 start-to-finish thumping of Carlisle’s upstart and eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks. “It kept many of us up night after night trying to figure those guys out. Rick did a great job with his game plan.”

Stotts served as Carlisle’s offensive coordinator in Dallas for four seasons, including the 2011 championship run when Dallas beat Kobe Bryant‘s Lakers, Kevin Durant‘s Thunder and LeBron James‘ Heat in succession.

Stotts’ Blazers are a rock-and-fire offensive featuring cold-blooded point guard Damian Lillard and All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who’s coming off 29.8 ppg and 11.2 rpg against the Rockets in the first round, and 56 percent shooting against San Antonio in the regular season. 

What Portland is not, much like Dallas, is a lock-down defensive squad.

Among West playoff teams, only the Mavs entered the postseason with a worse defensive rating than the Blazers. So Stotts will have a keen interest in studying Dallas’ film to see how a season-long turnstile defense successfully choked off San Antonio’s lethal 3-point game, and limited the Spurs’ precision offensive attack to 93 points or fewer in three of the first four games. The Mavs had the series split 2-2 at that point, and felt they could have commanded a 3-1 lead.

“The games to steal was Game 1 (90-85 Spurs) and then maybe Game 4 at home (93-89 Spurs) when they really weren’t quite used to what we were doing defensively yet,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Over the series, they attacked our defense better and better.”

Particularly Tony Parker. Carlisle knew he didn’t have the more talented team and needed to devise different approaches in an attempt to temporarily, if not longer, discombobulate the Spurs machine. Dallas practically begged Parker and Tim Duncan to do the damage while they sold out to cut off everybody else best they could. It worked on Danny Green until the final two games. Marco Belinelli was never a factor and Patty Mills shot 26.1 percent from beyond the arc.

All-in-all, Dallas made 10 more 3s in the series than San Antonio, whose 49 3-pointers were just seven more than the Spurs made in their four-game regular-season sweep of the Mavs.

“Rick Carlisle is one of the most clever guys around, and trying to follow all of his stuff is really difficult,” Popovich said. “That was the toughest part for us, in addition to them playing so well.”

Earlier in the series, Popovich told Parker to shoot 25 times if that’s what the defense dictated. Only that’s not the way Parker’s wired to run an offense that’s always looking for the next pass. Parker averaged 14.5 shot attempts in the first four games. Gradually, a scorer’s mentality began to take hold in Game 5 when he put up 23 shots, followed by 23 more in Game 6 and 19 in Game 7 when he scored a game-high 32 points on 57.9 percent shooting.

“I just knew that I had to be aggressive if we wanted to have a chance to win the game because of the strategy that the Mavericks chose,” Parker said. “They just dared me to score.”

In Sunday’s first half, Parker went 9-for-12 from the floor for 24 points, and just two assists. His shooting chart looked like a giant blob under the basket. Only three of his shot attempts came from outside the paint. San Antonio led by 29 in the second quarter and 68-46 at halftime. By the time he exited at the 5:47 mark and the Spurs leading 111-81, Parker had tied his season-high of 13 free throw attempts, eight more than he shot in any of the previous games in this series.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the Mavericks,” said Parker, who scored 62 points in the first three games and 77 in the final three. “They tried to switch, they tried to do different stuff to get us out of our game, and it worked the first three, four games. We had a hard time to play our game, to play Spurs basketball, to move the ball. Finally, Pop decided to just let me go and be aggressive and see what happened. It worked out pretty good.”

So the Spurs advance to find another young and talented up-and-comer to challenge their time-tested superiority. Golden State last year put a scare into Spurs Nation with a hotly contested six-game series. Now it’s the Blazers, a younger, more explosive version of Dallas with 3-point bombers stationed around Aldridge.

Two more athletically gifted teams in Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers begin their semifinal series on Monday night.

“That was a great warmup, if I can call it a warmup,” Parker said of the just-completed series with Dallas. “It was tough to play in.”

As the Blazers head to San Antonio for Game 1, it’s now Stotts’ turn to figure out how he can keep Popovich up at night. So if his phone is busy, it might be a while.

He’s likely got Carlisle on the other end.

VIDEO: Spurs cruise to Game 7 win to finish off Mavericks


  1. MR210 says:

    I wish Spurs would sweep their way to a championship – it could happen now that they’ve finally woken up following that Game 7 vs. the Mavs. They really can’t be stopped. Only team that can get in the way of the Spurs is the Spurs!
    They have unfinished business resulting from last year.
    Portland will be good for years to come, but it’s not their time yet – they need to pay their dues.
    OKC/Clippers – whoever wins that – will undoubtedly be a tough opponent for Spurs. That, I believe is the REAL nba championship – the Western Conference Finals.
    But as long as Spurs play their style and play defense – they should easily roll into the Finals with the Heat again and prevent the Three-peat.

    Then Duncan can go out on top….the way a TRUE champion should go out…

  2. kavika6 says:

    Arrogant? You obviously don’t know anything about the Spurs. The are the least arrogant team in the league.

  3. okc2014 says:

    I agree the Spurs are very boring. But floppers? I didn’t see where they flopped through the 1st round. This is a 1st rate team. Excellent, but just plain boring. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  4. rich says:

    I ca’t decide which one describes the Spurs best – floppers, boring or arrogant ? OK – ALL THREE !!! Go Blazers !

  5. ix says:

    I’m hoping for a different series from the Spurs, something like last years demolition of the Memphis Grizzlies. Spurs swept the series 4-0 and bottled up Randolph and Conley which were projected to be a very tight series. So Randolph is LA and Conley is Lillard. Manu is definitely the x-factor much like the same in the Dallas series. Spurs have advantage with bench but Blazers are young and can play more minutes.

  6. mattchew says:

    i don’t see okc winning it all this year… spurs vs miami rematch would be something to see!!!

    • artifex says:

      Clippers is the only team I can imagine getting to the finals besides those two.
      As tight as these playoffs are this year, one of the closest fistrounds ever and now, again 2 guest teams are up 1-0. But in the end Heat, Clippers and Spurs are the 3 teams with the least flaws in their game. OKC and Blazers depend too much on their big 2 [unless Ibaka/Sefo step up big], need others to contribute more (though Batum and others have shown some good support). Spurs and Clips have multiple options, more homogenous teams. 4 weeks ago I’d have said that about the Pacers too, but they are one man short now…
      While I don’t see the Wizards beat the Heat 4 times, I think the Nets can (they’ve done it this season but not in consecutive games). But if the Nets can win, I’d even take the Wizards over probably exhausetd Nets in CF. That would be THE surprise.
      But for now I have to go with the Heat.

  7. MrNBA says:

    The floppy Spurs flopped their way through the 1st round and they will do it again.
    As for the Mavs, I feel bad for the role players who played their hearts out, namely, Monta, VC, Harris, Wright, and Dalembert. They had this series won until Blair decided it was a good idea to kick someone in the head. And Brick Nowitzki, unbelievably, he needs to work on his jump shot badly.
    And it would’ve been nice if they had a legitimate interior defender to slow down all those layups. Someone like Tyson Chandler maybe.

  8. Michael says:

    LA will not be guarded by Tim, not primarily. This is where Tiago will play his role again. Tiago gave Dirk fits, now on to LA. LA generally plays lights out against Tim straight up… won’t happen much in this series on purpose.

  9. Lurch says:

    It was a nice Series between Mavs and Spurs. They had their Hands Full with Dallas.
    The Games between Blazers and Rockets also been very tight and Fun to watch.
    I hope to see a nice one as well between Blazers and Spurs.
    May the better one win, so let’s see some good BBall-Games and two good Coaches work it out for their Squads!
    Maybe the Nets can give the Heat an obstacle race which forces them to catch some breath….

  10. Gillsy says:

    I see this as an awesome series. They are quite evenly matched. They have mentioned in the preview how Manu will give the Blazers a hard time but Lillard will give them a hard time as well.

  11. NBA Fan says:

    I’m rooting for the Spurs in this series. I think this will be a great series. Whoever wins will give OKC/Clips a nice challenge. I think OKC may be western conference champs this year though.

  12. Mike says:

    Portland is about to get schooled. They’ll snatch a game or two, but San Antonio is too wise, too crafty. The field mouse is fast, but the owl sees at night. SAS in 6.

  13. squala96 says:

    Let’s see if LaMarcus and Damian can show their masters Tim and Tony how it’s done. The Spurs barely beat the Mavs, and the Blazers will be a much tougher customer. This will be really interesting, but I think SA will pull this one off.

  14. Aldrige says:

    Beat the spurs and let’s beat Okc.! Championship bound. Portland TrailBlazers! Never foget 1977. Make Dr. Jack Proud!

    • artifex says:

      Maybe for their 40th anniversary!
      I can imagine the Blayers among the top in 2,3 years but not yet, not now…

  15. Who cares says:

    I hope the spurs win this series because Portland would give the thunder a tougher time. As a thunder fan I would dread a 7 game series with Portland.

  16. iamironman says:

    Great series! Can’t wait for SAS vs POR! Lilliard and Parker head to head. Timmy will have his hands full with LA if that’s the match up they give him. POR in 6.

  17. Moe says:

    Go Spurs Go!