AT&T CENTER – San Antonio Spurs fans have been grumbling all series long that the Spurs team that showed up in the playoffs is not the same squad that went on a 19-game winning streak and easily swept the regular season series with the Mavericks.
Those cries may not have fallen on deaf ears as the Spurs seemed back to playing Spurs basketball at home for Game 5, securing the series lead with a 109-103 win.
Identity crisis? Apparently gone as ball movement, pick & roll mastery, ball security and defense were the Spurs’ calling card once again.
Tony Parker, running on fumes with this first child being born shortly before the game, kickstarted the Spurs, making his Game 4 struggles a distant memory.
“It was a pretty special night for him. I think his first child is a little bit more important than the game but he managed to do them both,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He had a hell of a night and he was magnificent for us.”
Parker scored 10 first quarter points to pace the Spurs.
Aside from the fact that Parker had a crazy 24 hours prior to the game, he was also day-to-day with an ankle injury, but cleared to play before the start of the game.
“It was crazy. I didn’t sleep the whole night. I’ve basically been running on adrenaline,” Parker said.
While Parker faded a bit in the second and third quarters, he was a key player in keeping the Spurs in front of the Mavs in the fourth, scoring nine points, including one three-pointer that gave the Spurs some breathing room just after Dirk Nowitzki missed an easy jumper that would’ve shrunk the lead to two points.
The Spurs will be looking to close out the series with the Mavericks in Dallas on Friday night.
Carter’s throwback game
The last time I remember Vince Carter dominating a playoff game, it was with the New Jersey Nets. Carter has been a constant thorn in the Spurs’ side through this series even if his per game averages don’t reflect as much.
Aside from the last second three-pointer to win Game 3, Carter had a turn back the clock night as well-defended, low percentage shots kept falling through the net for him.
Carter finished with 28 points (season high) in 27 minutes, shooing an efficient 7-of-9 from the three-point line.
“I was just trying to be aggressive, just leaving it out there and trying to do whatever we can to get a victory,” Carter said. “A couple of shots started to fall for me, so I was just trying to help out with the scoring load and take some pressure of Dirk.”
Tiago’s clutch 4th
While the Mavs have presented some matchup nightmares, it seems as though Tiago Splitter was tailor-made for this series.
The Spurs were likely expecting more than eight points and six rebounds per game after they rewarded the Brazilian center with a lucrative contract during the offseason, but Splitter seems to be performing where and when it counts.
“He was really active. I thought we moved the ball better than we had in the past,” Popovich said. “Tiago is a big part of that. He reads the lanes and understands the timing of things pretty well. His blue collar type stuff was really great tonight.”
Splitter matched Parker’s nine fourth-quarter points as he put on a pick & roll clinic. When he wasn’t finishing at the rim, and actually dunking, Splitter found teammates slashing inside for easy baskets.
Splitter finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.