As the final buzzer went off, the top seeded San Antonio Spurs walked off the court with a 90-85 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Playoffs. It was in no way your typical victory for a one seed, especially one with a veteran savvy core like the Spurs. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives from the game on the path to the 1-0 series advantage.
Positive: 2005 Tim Duncan.
Wait, you mean this wasn’t 2005? Everything about Duncan today screamed 2005. He was absolutely dominant in the second half on the offensive end. The Big Fundamental only missed three shots after the first quarter, and scored six of the ten points in the fourth quarter run that tied the game back up. Not only did his play represent the golden days, he even brought the mini fro back with him today. Vintage.
Negative: Three-point shooting
As a team, the Spurs went 3-17 from downtown, which is a measly 17.6%. On top of that, the three makes all came from the hands of Manu Ginobili. Take him out of the equation, and the best three-point shooting team in the league made zero. In all honesty, that can’t happen again if the Spurs hope to wrap up this series quickly. Since April began, Marco Belinelli is only shooting 22.5% from outside, far below is 43% season average. This includes playoff totals. The Mavericks did do a good job closing out on shooters, but the Spurs need to find a way to get good looks and knock them down. That’s their game.
Positive: Defense on the star players
If you would have told me that both Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki shot 4-14 on the day, I would’ve assumed it was a blowout, and I honestly probably wouldn’t have believed you. Nowitzki had only shot a worse percentage four times this season. Tiago Splitter was absolutely fantastic defending him. Nowitzki did miss a few bunnies throughout the game, but it did seem that Splitter’s length bothered him. Speaking of length, Leonard’s length seemed to bother Ellis, as well. I wrote this during my position-by-position matchup article:
A very solid defender on the perimeter, Green will be largely tasked with containing Monta Ellis. We will probably see some cross matchups with Kawhi Leonard seeing some time on Ellis, but Green will most likely start the game on him.
I was wrong here. Coach Popovich decided to start Leonard on Ellis, and it made sense. Green saw a lot of time guarding Shawn Marion, not a huge offensive threat, to begin the game, with Parker not crossing over and staying on Calderon. Ellis did not make a field goal in the second half, thanks to the defense of Leonard and some great help defense down low.
Negative: Letting Devin Harris take over the game.
Devin Harris, thanks for making me eat my words. Here’s what I said before Game 1:
Calderon will definitely get the bulk share of PG minutes, so one shouldn’t expect to see Devin Harris go off on the Spurs like he used to in those classic Spurs-Mavs matchups. Imagine that Devin Harris. Yikes, that would be a scary backcourt.
That Devin Harris showed up today. After the Mavericks fell down early, Harris brought them back. On Dallas’ 17-3 run in the waning seconds of the first quarter, and into the second, Harris scored or assisted on all but two points. He made a strong case to start the second half, but Rick Carlisle opted to continue with Calderon, who really didn’t play that well. Harris shot 50% from the field, and kept Dallas in this game. One can’t expect Nowitzki to shoot that poorly again, so keeping Harris from going off as well becomes crucial.
Positive: Points in the paint
When the three-point shots weren’t falling (see above), the Spurs needed to find another way to score. Tony Parker almost singlehandedly found that advantage. In the first quarter, the Spurs only made one basket outside of the paint, and it came on a Tim Duncan jumper right outside of it. In fact, Tony Parker only made one shot outside of the paint all day. He continually found a way to knife through the defense, and when he didn’t score, he dumped it off in the paint five times. Ginobili followed suit and dropped it off for three layups. Tony Parker should be able to get by Jose Calderon over and over again going forward. The Spurs outscored the Mavericks 52 to 36 in the paint.
Negative: Bench play
The bench was shored up, as it usually is in postseason play. Fans saw Mills, Belinelli, Ginobili, and Diaw as the only bench players who played rotational minutes (Bonner only played two minutes). Those four men scored 23 points total, 17 of which came from Ginobili. The Spurs need to do a better job of getting more looks and opportunities to make plays for these guys, especially Mills. Mills is averaging 13.3 points on 53% shooting from downtown since April started. Playing him a few minutes with Parker could open up some more shooting opportunities.
It will be interesting if the Spurs can keep up with the positives, while trying to shore up the negatives through their adjustments the rest of the series. Game 2 is Wednesday night, scheduled for a 7:00 PM tip.