The Dallas Mavericks fell to the San Antonio Spurs by a score of 90-85 in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series. The final score provides us with the outcome but fails to tell the entire tale of what happened in this game.
The Mavericks were expected to be nothing more than a speed bump in the Spurs championship run, but the boys from Dallas had the heavily favored Spurs down 10 points with 7:45 remaining.
As encouraging as this was for the Mavericks, stopping the Spurs inevitable run would be the real test. Before the Mavericks could extend their double-digit lead, the Spurs went on a 15-0 run. None of the Mavericks could buy a shot, including the two players they have leaned on most this season, Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis.
As frustrating as this loss for the Mavericks, there are some positives that may be taken away from their Game 1 loss on the road. Let’s take a look at what the Mavericks did right, and wrong in San Antonio.
This was a big X factor coming into the series and the Mavericks bench did more than their part in Game 1. The Mavericks second unit scored 46 points against the Spurs, seven more than the Mavericks starters accounted for.
Devin Harris played one his best games as a member of the Mavericks, leading all Dallas players with 19 points. Harris played so well Carlisle had a hard time taking him out of the game. Starting point guard Jose Calderon only played 16 minutes by comparison.
In addition to strong play that Devin Harris provided, forwards Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder also played well for the Mavericks. If the Dallas bench continues to play this well, the Mavericks will give the Spurs all they can handle for the remainder of the series.
The Spurs averaged 112 points against the Mavericks in the four matchups the two teams had during the 2013-14 season. While the 90-85 loss was tough to stomach, holding the Spurs to 90 points is a positive sign for Dallas on the defensive end of the court.
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle spoke about the importance of chasing the Spurs off the three-point line and his message was clearly received. The Spurs went only 3-for-17 from 3-point range as the Mavericks worked to secure the perimeter.
Spurs head coach Greg Popovich will undoubtedly have a plan in place to improve the Spurs scoring output in Game 2 and the Mavericks will need to maintain their focus and energy on the defensive side of the court.
Slowing down Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan was critical to the Spurs pivotal 15-0 run that changed the outcome of Game 1. The ageless forward finished with 27 points and seven rebounds, and he was plus-24 for the game.
The effort was there for the Mavericks but they never found a way to slow Duncan down. The Spurs have rested Duncan throughout the season so they could extend him when the playoffs came. Duncan played more than 37 minutes in Game 1 and the Spurs needed every one of them.
If there was a realistic solution to stopping Duncan, the Mavericks would surely employ it, but it won’t be that easy. There is no stopping Tim Duncan in a playoff series, but Dallas must make him work harder for his looks, and attempt to keep him off the offensive glass.
Another X factor coming into this series was the Mavericks play late in games. This was the first time this season the Mavericks have played well enough against the Spurs for the game to come down to the end of the fourth quarter.
While the Mavericks bench stepped up today, the Mavericks two best players, Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis were surprisingly absent. Ellis and Nowitzki both shot 4-for-11 from the field and they both finished with only 11 points.
Late in games the Mavericks rely on Nowitzki and Ellis to create offense, and Dallas had no chance of contending with the Spurs without at least one of their stars playing well down the stretch. The Mavericks have little room for error in a close game against San Antonio. Counting the win on Sunday, the Spurs are 11-1 in games decided by five points or less.
If the Mavericks continue this level of play, they will find themselves battling San Antonio in games that will be decided by a small number of critical possessions. The challenge for Dallas will be finding a way to outperform San Antonio when these moments arise.
Tags: Dallas Mavericks