All-Access Donuts: Spurs 109, Mavs 100
DONUT 1: Setting the table ...
The Dallas Mavericks, winners of four straight, sought to tie their longest winning streak of the season with the San Antonio Spurs in town. Instead, just over halfway through the first quarter, the Mavs found themselves attempting to dig from beneath the avalanche, trailing by 11.
Dallas had no answer for Kawhi Leonard (16 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, five assists, two steals), Tim Duncan (20 points, 15 rebounds) or Patty Mills (a game-high 26 points, including 6-of-11 behind the arc) … meaning that despite Tony Parker missing the game, the Mavs found no respite from an onslaught from the point guard position.
The Mavs would fight back, leading by as many as six after a 16-2 run in the second, before the Spurs responded with an 11-0 burst of their own, but it was Dallas ahead at the intermission (even without a Shawn Marion half-court attempt that didn't count just after the buzzer).
San Antonio dominated the third, scoring 16 fast-break points, in part due to five Mavs turnovers leading directly to seven Spurs points, and though Dallas would make a late push they would not reclaim the lead after San Antonio scored the first six points of the third, falling by a final of 109-100.
The official NBA highlight reel:
DONUT 2: Clean sweep … again ...
For the second consecutive season the Spurs have swept the season series with the Mavs.
What was once a heated rivalry has become a display of one-sided dominance as the Mavs have lost nine straight to the Spurs by an average margin of 14.8 points, and featured only one game ending within five points.
The last time the Mavs beat San Antonio, DeJuan Blair started at power forward for the Spurs and Lamar Odom played just over 20 minutes for Dallas, going 1-of-7 for 4 points.
Not since 1991-92 through 1993-94, when the Spurs swept the Mavs in three consecutive seasons, has the season series been swept by either team in back-to-back campaigns.
These past two seasons also mark the only two the Mavs have been swept by the Spurs since Dirk Nowitkzi joined the team … with the last sweep coming over the 1997-98 season.
"I will say,'' coach Rick Carlisle offered wryly, "the law of averages is in our favor."
Shawn Marion's Video Visit summarizes the situation:
"They just have our number," Trix said.
DONUT 3: The benches ...
For the majority of the night, the Mavs held one distinct advantage over the Spurs: the bench.
No Mavs bench player posted a negative plus/minus, while no starter was better than Monta Ellis's minus-8, and in a game the Mavs lost by nine, Devin Harris posted a plus-22 … the mirror opposite of Jose Calderon's minus-22.
Devin tries to talk us through this in his Video Visit:
The Dallas bench outscored their Spurs' counterpart 29-to-20 and was at the heart of almost every major Mavs push.
DONUT 4: Breaking the trends ...
After the win over the Jazz we noted several trends that seemed to be feeding the Mavs' improved winning percentage after the All-Star Break, including outperforming opponent's behind the arc, either winning or keeping the rebounding battle close, and not allowing opponent's the gift of a wide advantage in free-throw attempts.
Against the Spurs, Dallas was only able to maintain one of these trends: the Spurs attempted only one more free-throw than the Mavs.
DONUT 5: Behind the arc ...
San Antonio dominated from deep, hitting 16-of-34 tries (47.1 percent) compared to only 5-of-12 for Dallas (41.7 percent) … at minus-11, it marked the second worst 3-pointers-made differential of the season for Dallas, topped only by a minus-12 in a loss against the Suns Dec. 21st.
For the season, Dallas is now 31-7 when they make more threes than their opponent, 3-2 when both teams make the same number and 14-23 when the opponent makes more … and only 3-10 when their opponent makes at least four more.
Perhaps oddly, when you consider that a team is likely to resort to 3-pointers when trying to erase a deficit, the Mavs are also 25-11 when they simply attempt more threes than their opponent, regardless of whether they are making them or not.
DONUT 6: On the glass ...
The Mavs held their own through three quarters on the boards, out-rebounding the Spurs 37-35 after three.
That changed in the fourth, when San Antonio had more offensive rebounds (6) than the Mavs had total (5).
The final rebounding differential was a minus-6 for the Mavs, thanks in large part to the 13-5 advantage for the Spurs in the fourth.
DONUT 7: The Big Two ...
Dirk Nowitzki finished with 19 points, 8-of-14 field goals, six rebounds, one steal and no turnovers … and he didn't attempt a 3-pointer for the first time this season.
Monta Ellis ended up with 24 points, 10-of-22 field goals, four assists, four rebounds, one steal and two turnovers.
Both displayed signs of physical discomfort at times throughout the night. Dirk seemed to be nursing his right hip area and showing a slight hitch in his gait at times, though it obviously didn't limit him too much, as he played just over 34 minutes and was effective.
Dirk's Video Visit:
"I thought we were a little slow today,'' Dirk said. "We've got to set a better tone.
Ellis once more showed us the tone of toughness he's setting on this roster, playing through a bruised tailbone he acquired after a hard fall resulting from a Derek Favors' foul in the Utah game.
The pain didn't curb Monta's aggression, as he continually attacked the paint and rim, going 5-of-9 in the restricted circle and 6-of-11 in the paint overall, taking several falls on his tailbone as a direct result. He wore the pain on his face, but not in his disposition.
DONUT 8: Pop on Dirk ...
After Thursday's shootaround, Gregg Popovich was asked about Dirk Nowitzki.
"Well, hell, you shoot it that much, you're going to pass somebody," Popovich joked. "He shoots it every time he gets it …"
Pop would then go on to speak glowing of Dirk:
"Ever since he got here day one, when nobody knew who the heck he was except Nellie, he's done a lot of great things. He started out a bit slow until he got used to the deal here and then became Dirk, a Hall-of-Fame player and somebody who's arguable the best pure shooter we've ever seen.
"And he's done it with class. He's showed up every minute that he's available, plays hard all the time, great teammate. He's somebody special."
In other words, people that know basketball know what and who Dirk is.
DONUT 9: Setting up teammates ...
Dallas tied for their third lowest assist total of the season with 16.
Perhaps it's not a coincidence then that Jose Calderon finished with only one assist to go with his 14 points, 5-of-11 field goals, 2-of-3 3-pointers and two turnovers.
This marked only the tenth time in Calderon's career that he's totaled one-or-fewer assists in a game in which he played at least 20 minutes … four of those have come with the Mavs.
DONUT 10: Rick Carlisle's Video Visit ...
"I'm not answering any questions about playoffs until we get there,'' Rick said. "We got work to do. One of our goals is to get there (playoffs). When we get there we will talk about match ups. Right now, we have to win two games.''
DONUT 11: Mavsellaneous ...
*This was the second time this season the Mavs have allowed two players to get at least 15 rebounds in the same game (Tim Duncan with 15, Kawhi Leonard with 16).
The other came in a loss to the Clippers, when Blake Griffin (15) and DeAndre Jordan (18) did so.
*Dallas had their four-game winning streak ended by the Spurs, it was the fourth winning streak of at least four games this season for the Mavs, their longest being five.
Last season, the Mavs only had two such streaks.
*In addition to Nowitzki not attempting a three for the first time this season, Vince Carter went without an attempt behind the arc for only the third time this season. Carter finished with six points, 2-of-5 field goals, four rebounds, two assist and one block in just over 27 minutes.
*The Spurs, on the second night of a back-to-back as well as their third game in four nights, will face the Phoenix Suns on Friday … is it a safe bet Popovich may not attack that game with full urgency, or with a full lineup?
It's a right the Spurs have earned by their play, just as the Mavs are in the position to have it matter to them by their own play.
Pop was asked if the win affects his rotation plans for Friday.
"No, the win doesn't have anything to do with it,'' he said. "It's all about schedule, minutes, that sort of thing. That's what it's always about. It's got nothing to do with who we play, or whether it's a win or a loss. Never has been."
So, are you going to be sitting anybody against Phoenix?
"The game just ended,'' Pop said. "We're going to have some of that good barbeque that they have here, enjoy it for about a half-an-hour, and then we'll think about tomorrow."
The Spurs did experience a scare of the sort that makes a coach want to be careful giving guys meaningless minutes when Duncan crumpled to the court holding his right knee in the first quarter. Duncan went up tunnel but emerged a few minutes later and returned to the game.
"It really wasn't that bad," Duncan said. "It just scared me more than anything."
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
While it would have been great to get a victory, and to keep the winning streak alive, this was not a game essential to the Mavs playoff hopes. It could have allowed them to need only one win in their final two to clinch a playoff spot regardless of outside results. As it stands, a win over the Grizzlies would still clinch that spot regardless of any other outcomes … but the Mavs magic number remains two with two to play.
We don't mean to portray that as a silver lining, or to diminish the loss, only to point out that the Mavs playoff hopes are still very much alive, as is the fact that they remain in control of their own destiny. (With the Warriors' late-night loss to Denver, the Mavs are in eighth but are just one game behind Golden State for sixth - but two games in the loss column.)
Dallas will play its final home game, unless there are playoffs in their future, Saturday night against the Suns … and then have three full days without a game to prepare to close the regular season against the Grizzlies next Wednesday.
"Obviously, Saturday's huge for us," said Harris. "We've got to come out with that type of effort, knowing that our season's on the line and it's a game that we must have."
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