With three seconds left in game four of the opening playoff round between the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, Mavericks guard Monta Ellis missed a 1-foot layup that could have tied the game at 91. Instead, Tim Duncan would grab the rebound, pass it to Manu Ginobili, and Ginobili’s late free throws secured the 93-89 victory for the Spurs, as they tied the series at 2-2 heading back to San Antonio for game five on Wednesday. Here were a few key’s to the Spurs’ victory.
Strong defensive effort
After the Mavericks scored over 108 points in games two and three (both wins for Dallas), the Spurs produced a solid defensive effort Monday, by holding Dallas to 89 points in the win. Even when you look back at game one, the Spurs held the Mavericks to 85 points that evening, and the result was a win. Aside from the third quarter, where the Mavericks scored 29 points, the Spurs never let Dallas score more than 24 points in a quarter, and in the second quarter, San Antonio held Dallas to just 13 points.
One area where the Spurs had a major effect, was in keeping the Mavericks, most notably Monta Ellis, out of the paint. The Mavericks were averaging 38.0 points in the paint through three games in the series. Monday, the Spurs held Dallas to just 28 points in the paint, meaning only 31% of the Mavericks’ scoring came from the most efficient area on the floor.
The Mavericks shot 38.1% on the evening and 29.2% from three point range. Though Dallas grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, they were only able to score 12 second chance points off those possessions. Per the SportVU data, The Spurs contested 52% of the Mavericks’ shots on the evening (47 contested attempts on 91 total shots).
Looking at some of the Mavericks’ individual players, the Spurs’ defense really had an effect on Dallas’ two main offensive weapons, Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki.
Ellis needed 20 shots for 20 points, as he only made six of them. 39% of Ellis’ shots were uncontested, as he shot 2-of-9 contested, and 6-of-14 uncontested. Kawhi Leonard and Ginobili were given the primary assignments once more of defending Ellis, and as you can see by his shot chart below, the Spurs only allowed seven attempts at the rim, where Ellis only made two of those attempts. Eliis also had four turnovers in the loss.
Nowitzki too needed 19 shots for his 19 points, as he had a tough shooting night, only making seven of his looks. Both Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw were responsible for contesting 70% of Nowitzki’s shots, as he finished 5-of-14 contested, and 2-of-6 uncontested. In the fourth quarter, Leonard also defended Nowitzki for some possessions. Nowitzki also turned the ball over twice in the loss.
Jose Calderon added 13 points, as he kept Dallas near the Spurs in crucial moments, making three of four of his 3-pointers on the evening. Lastly, DeJuan Blair had an impactful game in the second half, as he scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and had two steals, while shooting 5-of-5 in 15:52 minutes. But the momentum swung when he kicked Splitter in the head late in the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 83. The Spurs would go on to outscore the Mavericks 10-6 to win the game after Blair was ejected for kicking Splitter in the head.
Diaw, Mills, Ginobili anchor Spurs’ bench
Though Ginobili had been playing well enough off the bench in the first three games of the series, he was lacking production from his bench mates Diaw, Patty Mills, and Marco Belinelli. Monday, Diaw and Mills provided reinforcement support off the bench with strong offensive efforts. Ginobili finished with 23 points (7-of-14 shooting) and five assists, Diaw with 17 points (7-of-12 shooting), four assists, and four rebounds, and Mills with 10 points (3-of-5 shooting) and two assists.
Together, the trio combined for more than half of the teams points (56%), as the trio scored 50 points combined, while they were also responsible for 11 of the Spurs’ 16 total assists. The Mavericks, only got 30 points from their bench on the evening. Ginobili continued to do what he’s done throughout the series, execute in the pick-and-roll, and either finish the play at the rim, or draw fouls, and earn his points from the free throw line. As I wrote before game four, I thought the Spurs would work to put Diaw in the post more, and they did just that, giving Diaw opportunities to either score or make plays for others. Diaw was also huge from beyond the arc, as he made 3-of-6 three pointers, including one that was a critical basket in the fourth quarter. Mills on the other hand, had been getting his normal looks throughout the series, he just couldn’t buy a basket. Well, the lid finally came off the basket Monday, as he looked comfortable making his quick-fire jumpers off the pick-and-roll.
As for Belinelli, the next section below will describe why he was once again a non-factor.
The domino effect: From Parker to Green to Belinelli
In 30:19 minutes, the Spurs got 10 points (5-of-14 shooting), three assists, and four turnovers from their main offensive weapon, Tony Parker. Whether it’s starting to look like less confidence in his jump shot, which the Mavericks are daring him to shoot, or the fact that he turned his ankle in the first half, Parker just didn’t have one of his best outings Monday.
The Mavericks’ defensive plan once again, was to allow Parker to shoot uncontested jumpers, as 57% of his looks were uncontested. Parker made two of his six contested looks, but just three of his eight uncontested looks. Parker did come through on one critical play late in the fourth quarter, as the Spurs were leading 85-84 with 1:37 remaining, Parker nailed an open 17-foot jumper to push the teams lead to 87-84.
Still, with Parker being the Spurs’ primary penetrator in the paint, he’s being forced to shoot from the outside on a majority of his looks, and the domino effect continues on the effect it’s having on both Danny Green and Belinelli’s play. As written Monday, both Green and Belinelli rely heavily on spot-up jump shot attempts, looks that come from dribble penetration from Parker and then passing. With Parker only given five shot attempts in the paint (see below), he’s not able to make Green and Belinelli factors, which in turn is forcing Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to keep them on the bench for a majority of the game.
Green played just 15:11 minutes and finished with two points on 1-of-3 shooting, with no 3-point looks. Belinelli only played 12:02 minutes, finishing with 0 points and 0 three point looks.
(All Stats and player tracking data via NBA.com/stats)