After falling to the Houston Rockets on Christmas Day (Wednesday), the San Antonio Spurs returned to the court Thursday in their first meeting against the Dallas Mavericks. Awaiting the Spurs was former Spur DeJuan Blair and a Mavericks team that was playing winning basketball with a few other new additions like Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert.
After 48-minutes of play Thursday, it would be Danny Green leading the charge in perfect fashion as he scored 22 points while never missing a shot from the field in going 7-of-7 shooting, and 5-of-5 from 3-point range in a 116-107 win for the Spurs.
From the get go, the Spurs maintained the lead as they began with a 27-20 first quarter. The Mavericks would tie them in the following two quarters but in the fourth with 5:43 remaining, it looked like the Spurs were going to coast to an easy win with a 100-85 lead over Dallas. However, Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki had other ideas as they led Dallas to a 12-0 run in less than two minutes (3:55) to cut the Spurs’ lead to 100-97.
Green (3 points), Tim Duncan (6 points), Manu Ginobili (3 points), and Tony Parker (4 points) would provide the closing plays in the final four minutes as the Spurs outscored the Mavericks 16-10 to hold on for the 116-107 win.
Danny Green: As mentioned above, Green finished with 22 points, shot perfect from the field, 3-point range, and even the free throw line (3-of-3) while he also gathered three steals and two blocks in 27 minutes. Green also helped put the Mavericks away by scoring 8 points in the fourth quarter.
In his four games coming off the bench, Green is averaging 11.8 points, shooting 68.2% from the field, and 64.3% from 3-point range while playing just one minute less per game than his usual starter minutes. Take a look at the difference in his production from the starting unit to the bench.
Tim Duncan: Duncan finished the night with 21 points, 13 rebounds, he shot 7-of-8 from the free throw line and blocked two shots in 32 minutes. Most of Duncan’s scoring plays came from Blair defending him and as you can see from his shot chart, the Spurs looked to him in the post more often than usual.
Tony Parker: After scoring just 6 points against the Rockets, Parker responded Thursday with 23 points mainly by drawing contact in the paint as he made 11 of his 12 free throws. In the third quarter, Parker scored 9 of his 23 points. As Jeremy Lin and the Rockets’ frontcourt kept Parker away from the paint on Wednesday, he didn’t have too much trouble with Jose Calderon defending him or Blair, Nowitzki, or Dalembert’s rim protection.
Tiago Splitter: Splitter only played five minutes in the first half, but in the second half, he began to become a problem for the Mavericks’ frontcourt as he scored all 12 of his points in the second half by mainly getting to the free throw line where he shot 8-of-11 from the stripe.
Boris Diaw: Diaw had a “Diaw” type night going for 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, while he also grabbed 5 rebounds and threw 5 assists.
The Spurs’ Bench: Whether it’s Marco Belinelli coming off the bench or Green, the Spurs’ bench has been one of the most consistent pieces of their team. Against the Mavericks, the bench outscored Dallas 49-28 and the bench was responsible for more than half of the Spurs’ assists (12 of 22).
DeJuan Blair’s Revenge Game: Thursday was finally Blair’s chance to play against his former team and he did a solid job. Blair finished with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, he grabbed 11 rebounds, threw 3 assists, had 1 steal, 1 block, and 2 turnovers in 23 minutes of play. He didn’t however play in crunch time when the Mavericks went on their late run in the fourth when they cut the game to one possession.
· Turnovers in December: 12 of the Spurs’ 18 turnovers came in the second half. During the Mavericks’ 12-0 run to cut the game to three points, the Spurs’ turnovers were a key part of that sequence. In the month of December, the Spurs are ranked 4th in opponent points off turnovers at 17.8 points per game. Thursday, the Mavericks were able to score 17 points off of the Spurs’ 18 turnovers.
· Free Throws Galore: In the win, the Spurs shot 35-of-42 free throws. The Mavericks’ defenders just couldn’t keep from fouling the Spurs’ players as both Calderon and Vince Carter each collected 5 fouls, while Nowitzki and Ellis also got called for 4 fouls each.
· Defense still an issue: Outside of the first quarter where the Spurs held the Mavericks to 20 points, Dallas scored 31, 26, and 30 points in the following three quarters. The Mavericks also shot 46% from the field and since they aren’t known as one of the top 3-point shooting teams, their 29% clip from beyond the arc wasn’t too much of a factor in the game.
· Marco’s struggles as a starter: Since joining the starting unit, check out the difference in how much Belinelli’s been struggling with the starting unit. Specifically, take a look at his 3-point shooting percentage.
Where they stand: With the win, the Spurs improved to 23-7 on the season. They moved to 13-3 on the road, they are 7-7 against teams that are .500 or above, and 13-6 against the Western Conference. They hold the 4th highest Net Rating in the NBA at +7.8. They’re 7th in offensive rating at 106.2 points per 100 possessions, and their defense ranks 5th in the league at 98.4 points per 100 possessions.
Up Next: The Spurs will return to San Antonio where they’ll host the Sacramento Kings on Sunday at the AT&T Center. The Kings are currently 8-19 on the season, 3-8 on the road, and are 5-12 against winning teams. The Kings have an offensive rating of 102.3 (16th) points per 100 possessions, a defensive rating of 106.6 (28th) points per 100 possessions, and have a Net Rating of -4.3 (23rd).