The ending of Game 1 felt like a punch to the gut.
Simply because the Dallas Mavericks may not get a better chance to steal a win in this series against the San Antonio Spurs.
But they’re the Spurs. They weren’t going to roll over easily. San Antonio went on a 15-0 run over the next five minutes to steal a 90-85 win over Dallas on Sunday.
This series is over, right? Clearly, Dallas can’t expect Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to shoot a combined 4-of-13 again, nor can the Mavs expect Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to cool off from their terrific Game 1 performances.
In that case, the Spurs shouldn’t expect Dirk and Ellis to both shoot 4-of-14. This series isn’t over, and the Mavs should feel more confident than dejected heading into Game 2 on Wednesday.
I was definitely in the majority that Dallas should feel more heartbroken than anything. The Mavs could’ve made a statement with a win on Sunday. But at least the Spurs know that if they want to get back to the NBA Finals, the Mavs won’t be a cakewalk.
Dallas’ defense was a thing of beauty in Game 1. Rick Carlisle had his team play man-to-man for the majority of the afternoon, with an emphasis on switching coverages. It provided some serious mismatches in San Antonio’s favor, such as Ellis matched up with Leonard at the free throw line.
Luckily for Dallas, the Spurs didn’t take advantage of those mismatches. But the switching also kept San Antonio away from the 3-point line, and the shooters always had someone in their face. Hence why San Antonio went 3-of-17 from 3-point range on Sunday.
Green, the Mavs killer from the 3-point line, took a grand total of two shots. Only one of those was from behind the arc.
In order for Dallas to even have a chance in this series, it needs to limit the 3-point makes for San Antonio and make the Spurs beat the Mavs from mid-range. For about 41 minutes, Dallas did just that.
But the Spurs found the perfect counter: Duncan guarded by the lanky Wright.
There’s no real reason why Carlisle left Dalembert, or Shawn Marion for that matter, on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. Duncan went to work on Wright and took advantage. Meanwhile, Dallas couldn’t make shots, especially Dirk.
The Mavs are going to need the playoff version of Nowitzki to be in full effect on Wednesday. That missed layup he had late in the fourth quarter epitomized the afternoon Dirk was going through. That won’t happen again.
Also, even though it won’t happen, starting Devin Harris at point guard seems like the best idea. I liked Jose Calderon matched up on Green for the entire second half, and it should stay that way. Harris is a better matchup defensively on Parker than Calderon, as obvious as that sounds.
Everything Dallas did defensively was almost perfect. Going away from a 2-3 zone, like Carlisle normally does, was a smart idea. That’s how 3-point shooters, more times than not, beat a team.
If the Mavs can continue to do what they’ve done defensively, and if Dirk can be the playoff version of himself, Dallas has a good chance heading back home tied 1-1.
And then things would get really interesting.
You can find Danny Webster on Twitter @DannyWebster21.