Another gut-to-the-punch loss. Great way to start your school/work week.
But there’s a silver lining to this for the Dallas Mavericks: They don’t have to change a thing as they head back to San Antonio tied 2-2 after a crushing 93-89 loss to the Spurs on Monday in Game 4.
It seems unrealistic, but it’s true. After one of the more amazing finishes to a playoff game I’ve ever seen in Game 3, Dallas started Monday on a 12-2 run.
Then the Mavs realized they’re facing the Spurs.
Even down 2-1, the Spurs weren’t going to roll over and let Dallas take this series by the throat. Manu Ginobili, who has been a thorn in the Mavs’ side for far too long, turned back the clock for a game-high 23 points and made the two clutch free throws to ice this game and make it a best-of-3 situation.
Game 4 looked over by halftime. Dallas had no energy, shots weren’t falling and it seemed like they were settling from the perimeter. Monta Ellis played perhaps the worst half of basketball in a Dallas uniform, and the Spurs raced out to a 20-point lead early in the third quarter.
Then, something happened. With the way these NBA playoffs have gone, whatever happened can’t be explained. All I know is that DeJuan Blair almost brought the Mavs to a 3-1 series lead all by himself. Yes, that DeJuan Blair. In 10 minutes of action, he had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Read that again. Double take, much?
But Blair, the undersized 6-foot-7 center that is usually outmatched by the likes of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, used his energy on both sides of the ball to tie a game that seemed virtually impossible to tie.
Then it went downhill with 3:08 left. Blair inadvertently (depending on how you saw it) kicked Splitter in the head after he was called for a foul. Keep in mind, the Mavs were up 83-82 at this point.
San Antonio makes three straight free throws, Blair gets thrown out of the game and all momentum seems gone.
Not to mention it would’ve helped to make a few of the 10 missed free throws Dallas had. But what’s done is done.
Now the Mavs need to regroup, yet again after a tough loss, and find a way to win San Antonio and bring a 3-2 lead back to Dallas.
What does Dallas need to do differently? Overall, not much.
The Mavs have hung tough with the Spurs for all four games. Almost all of them haven’t been easy. Dallas has done all the right things to hang around with the mighty Spurs.
Dallas’ pick-and-roll defense hasn’t been all that bad. The only time the Mavs really needed to be efficient on that end was the back-breaking 3-pointer by Boris Diaw with 32 seconds left that was eventually the game-winner.
Diaw has been a Mavs killer since his days in Phoenix. In San Antonio, he’s a more deadly, efficient Mavs killer. Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t been great offensively, but when he’s guarding Diaw, it’s been an eyesore. And when Dirk picked up his fourth foul as early as he did, he was a liability defensively against Diaw. The Mavs need to do a better job closing out on him around the perimeter. If he’s making shots, it’s a problem for any team.
The Mavs will be fine with letting Ginobili, Duncan and Tony Parker to get what they want. Again, as long as the role players don’t get going, and Dallas can move the ball better like they did in Games 2 and 3, then Dallas still has a chance to head back home up 3-2.
Just don’t bring Tony Romo back for Game 6, if that is the case, please.
The truth is, Dallas should not have won this game for getting behind by so much, so early. The other truth is, somehow, it feels like Dallas has firm control of this series. It’s weird.
Buckle up, folks. Wednesday is going to be a doozy.
You can find Danny Webster on Twitter @DannyWebster21.