AT&T CENTER – “It felt good. I felt fresh,” said San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker in his first game back from injury, as he led the Spurs to a 112-106 victory over the Dallas Mavericks with 22 points and seven assists in 32 minutes. Along with Parker, Tim Duncan chipped in 17 points and nine rebounds, Kawhi Leonard scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, Manu Ginobili came off the bench with 15 points and seven assists, Boris Diaw scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Tiago Splitter finished the six players in double-figures scoring mark with 11 points.
Against a Dallas squad that had come into the AT&T Center 7-3 in their last 10 games, the Spurs were able to build stable periodic leads of 10-11 points in the game, but turnovers were their largest obstacle in the first half. Dirk Nowitzki (22 points), Vince Carter (21 points), and Monta Ellis (17 points) led the Mavericks in scoring, but the entire Dallas team had trouble scoring for the first three quarters, as the Spurs held on for the win in the fourth. Here were a few story lines from the Spurs’ 43rd win of the season.
Parker excels in return from injury
“He looked good,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich of Parker. “He really looked fresh and didn’t lose any rhythm it didn’t look like.” Whether it was cutting to the lane off of screens for layups, connecting on his mid-range jumpers, or finding his teammates when slicing through the lane, or when seeing double-teams, Parker made the right play the majority of the night. After missing six games in a row, he finished shooting 10-of-15 from the floor, collected seven assists, and four secondary assists while running 2.3 miles (second most on the team) in the game.
“I thought Parker looked great again coming out from a nice little 10-day break that they can afford to give him,” said Nowitzki after the game.
As you can see from his shot chart, a rested Parker can become a nightmare for a defense all over the floor. Parker also defended Jose Calderon for the majority of the night and held him to 4-of-11 shooting, six assists, two turnovers, and eight points.
Versatility on both ends of the floor
With their first full lineup back since January 04, the Spurs had plenty of options to use on both ends of the floor. The thing about the team is how each player can just light up the scoreboard randomly at any moment in the game. Take a look at their leading scorer’s by quarter.
First quarter: Parker 10 points, Diaw 6 points
Second quarter: Duncan 5 points
Third quarter: Ginobili 10 points, Leonard 6 points, Parker 6 points
Fourth quarter: Duncan 8 points, Ginobili 5 points
Ginobili was a classic case of a player just catching a rhythm quickly on the Spurs’ roster. With 2:40 left in the third quarter, Ginobili had yet to score a point. From that point, he made four straight free throws, then knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers for 10 Spurs points a row. Whereas Dallas needed Nowitzki, Ellis, or Carter to have a solid quarter throughout the game, the Spurs could rely on six different players to come through for them in spurts. Along with their 28 assists, the Spurs also racked up 13 secondary assists. San Antonio assisted on 72% (28/39) of their made baskets.
“Whatever pick-and-roll coverage you decide to do, they have a million counters to it,” said Nowitzki. “They’re a tough team to defend.”
The other area where San Antonio’s versatility came into play was on defense. With Nowitzki and Ellis being Dallas’ prime offensive weapons, Popovich was able to throw multiple defenders at the two during the game. Nowitzki saw Diaw, Splitter, Duncan, and even Leonard on him for stretches, while Ellis saw Leonard, Danny Green, and Marco Belinelli defending him for possessions at a time.
“Just give him a different look,” said Popovich of using multiple defenders on Nowitzki. “He is such a great player and nobody stops him, but at least giving him a different look makes me feel better like I am trying.”
Nowtizki finished shooting 9-of-17 for 22 points, while Ellis shot 7-of-15 for 17 points and three turnovers.
“We are our own worst enemies sometimes…” – Gregg Popovich
In the first half, the Spurs had built a 10 point lead, but saw it shrink quickly with 10 turnovers in the first 24 minutes. “We get a 4-point, 6-point, 7-point lead and then get two or three turnovers and it’s a tied game,” said Popovich for the turnovers. “We are our own worst enemies sometimes, but in the second half, we only had three turnovers and only gave up a 3-pointer. That was a big difference for us,” concluded Popovich.
As the turnovers have risen as of late, Popovich said pregame the rise can be attributed to over aggressiveness on offense (passing too much, trying to score too quickly), and all the unfamiliar lineups the team has had to use in surviving through their injury period. Popovich said even with players returning to full health, the turnovers will still happen as the team tries to build consistency at first.
Where San Antonio Stands
· Regular Season: 43-16 (2nd in the Western Conference)
· Home Record: 21-8
· Vs. Opponents with +.500 records: 19-13
· Vs. The Western Conference: 25-10
(All Stats and Player Tracking data via NBA.com)