The greatest strength and staple of the San Antonio Spurs’ regular season success is now turning into their biggest problem in their first-round playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks.
“Our bench has to give us something,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told the Express-News Sunday as his team faces a 2-1 series deficit.
Apart from Manu Ginobili, San Antonio’s bench has seemed to disappear through the first three games of the series. It is a problem that will need to be corrected if the Spurs want to have a chance at advancing.
Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli have all underperformed so far in the playoffs. Add in starter Danny Green, who is averaging just 3.0 points per game in the postseason and has scored nine total points thus far.
Dallas has made adjustments from the regular season to the postseason and it has paid off so far. They have guarded the Spurs’ shooting threats and are forcing Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to do most of the work.
Tiago Splitter has done well and is averaging 9.3 points and 9.7 rebounds while doing his part on the defensive end. Splitter has limited Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki to just 15 points per game on 39 percent shooting.
Stopping Nowitzki is not San Antonio’s problem, stopping the Dallas role players is. Jose Calderon finished with 16 points in the Game 3 victory, while Monta Ellis scored 29 points on 54.5-percent shooting, including 12 of the final 22 points for the Mavericks.
Samuel Dalembert dominated the paint as he posted 13 points in 25 minutes. Before Game 3, he was held to just six points total in the first two games.
The Spurs held the Mavs to 85 points in Game 1, but much of that was due to Dallas going cold in the final seven minutes of the game as San Antonio rallied.
San Antonio isn’t built to win games with defense like years past, but they can not afford to have breakdowns and struggle to score the ball.
Game 4 is a must-win for the Spurs, coming home down 3-1 will almost ensure a first round exit. San Antonio must tighten up the defense on Ellis and Calderon. But above all, the bench must show up if the Silver & Black want to tie the series coming back to the Alamo City.
(Stats via NBA.com/Basketball Reference)