G5: Spurs 109, Mavs 103 - No Walk In The Park

The Mavs entered Game 5 riding a psychological ploy, a shootaround at a San Antonio park featuring soccer balls and Frisbees. Now, after a 109-103 loss to the Spurs, coach Rick Carlisle is putting away the Frisbees. 'There are just things that we're going to have to do in Game 6 that are all about guts and digging down,' Rick says. 'We can do it. We will do it.' All-Access Analysis:

DONUT 1: No more room ...

The Dallas Mavericks landed in San Antonio to open what had become a "best-of-three" series with the Spurs. Fresh off the disappointment of a letdown that spanned the entire second quarter, and bled out into both the first and third, and likely cost them Game 4, Dallas tripped out of the gate.

San Antonio glided to a 21-8 lead before the game was six minutes old. For the rest of the night, the Mavs were playing catch up, meandering from looking completely out of synch to somewhat ready to compete Dallas could never quite overtake the Spurs in a game that felt a breath away from becoming a blowout throughout.


Carried early by Vince Carter, who had his best game since joining the Mavs three seasons ago, and getting vintage Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter, Dallas refused to fall away, pulling within four with just under three minutes to play.

As Dirk tried to will the Mavs to a win, scoring 14 points in the fourth on 7-of-10 field goals, the Mavs defense remained helpless to curb the Spurs pick-and-roll, and incapable of stringing together timely stops as San Antonio held on for the 109-103 victory.

"We didn't play enough defense to win," Nowitzki said. "Even though we were scoring in the fourth every time down, we just couldn't get stops to really get back into it. They kept scoring. If they missed, they got an offensive rebound and kick-out threes. I just thought even when we were scoring in the fourth we didn't get enough stops to really get over the hump."

The series now comes back to Dallas for Game 6 on Friday with the Spurs up 3-2 after consecutive wins.

DONUT 2: Dirk uber once more …

For much of the night, Dirk seemed to grant more focus to barking at the refs than attacking the Spurs. With every whistle he didn't hear on the offensive end, and each that sounded at the other, the aggravation boiled.
Through three quarters, he had 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting, appearing flustered and frustrated.

In the fourth, that anger redirected from the officials to the Spurs defense. Suddenly, Dirk was Dirk again, as he hit his first six attempts of the quarter before missing an open look behind the arc, his only 3-point attempt of the night before a meaningless 40-footer as the clock expired.

During that perfect 6-of-6 stretch from Nowitzki, the Mavs would shave only one point from the San Antonio lead.

And so went the night.

Dirk finished with a game-high 26 points on 10-of-20 field goals to go with 15 rebounds.

"I just made some shots,'' said Nowitzki. "I thought I actually felt pretty good in the first half. ... I had a bunch of balls that rolled in and out. I stuck with it, my teammates said keep shooting, and I was able to make a couple there in the fourth.''

DONUT 3: Difference in disposition …

There will be many in Dallas more than willing to note that Dirk's frustration with the officiating was well warranted, and perhaps they would be correct. However, this was born of disposition, of aggression.

Simply put, for the majority of the night San Antonio and Dallas were at opposing ends of the pendulum's swing in terms of aggression and physical intensity.

The Spurs attacked. The Mavs, though not necessarily stagnant, rarely acted as the aggressor at either end of the court.

As the tone was set, the Spurs set it with a physicality the Mavs failed to match.

DeJuan Blair, serving a one-game suspension for the kick to Tiago Splitter's head late in Game 4, you were missed.

The raw highlight reel:

Carlisle tried to impact the disposition by skipping the traditional pregame shootaround, instead opting to take his team to a San Antonio park, where they played Frisbee and kicked around a soccer ball.

It sounds a little silly, and after a loss is a decision that deserves a mention here. But it's a familiar coaching tactic. (Even the hard-ass Jimmy Johnson used to throw his Super Bowl Cowboys a behavioral change-up by announcing Austin training-camp practice was cancelled and a trip to the Barton Springs swimming hole was on.

There is nothing wrong with the tactic except that it didn't result in a win.

DONUT 4: Half Amazing …
DeJuan Blair dragged the Mavs back into Game 4. Serving his suspension, he was not available for Game 5.

Devin Harris started hot, joining Vince Carter in the first quarter to morph a 13-point deficit into just a single point by the end of the quarter … the duo scored 11 points on 4-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-3 behind the arc, and added six rebounds as well.

After the first, Harris would cool off, hitting only 1-of-8 attempts over the final three periods to finish with eight points, five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.

Carter only got better.

Carter would finish with his second-highest scoring total in a game since joining the Mavs and his highest playoff total for any team since 2007, when he was Jason Kidd's teammate in New Jersey.

"The mentality was just to be aggressive and make plays,'' Vince said. "A couple of shots started to fall for me, so I was trying to help out with the scoring load and take some pressure off of Dirk.''

His final numbers: a game-high 28 points, 10-of-16 field goals, 7-of-9 3-pointers, three rebounds and two assists.

"He played extremely well,'' Carlisle said, calling Vince a "no-doubt first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. "He was very aggressive. ... We just need him to continue to attack.''

DONUT 5: In the paint ...
We've referenced the aggressive nature of San Antonio's approach in Game 5, and the Mavs' inability to sustain a matching intensity. When all was said and done, perhaps the points scored in the paint captured this best.

Dallas scored 28 points in the paint. The Spurs scored 26 more than that. Not 26 total -- 26 above the 28 the Mavs totaled.

To a degree, this isn't abnormal for Dallas, a team that often relies on the jumpshot, but it's hard to deny this level of separation. Being outscored 54-28 in any area hurts.

DONUT 6: That familiar chasm …

Dallas has been haunted by particularly grievous stretches of play this series. There was the collapse to close out Game 1 and the 21.5-minute span we noted in our game recap sitting around the second quarter of Game 4.

In Game 5, there were two horrid stretches that ensured the Mavs never tasted a lead.

Perhaps it was watching as Samuel Dalembert went to the locker room after getting his ankle rolled up less than three minutes in (he would return minutes later), but Dallas seemed helpless as San Antonio built a 13-point lead before half of the first quarter had passed.

Here's how those first six minutes appeared by the numbers:


We mentioned the tone set early by the Spurs. Don't be fooled by the fact that the Mavs had yet to fall in love with the 3-pointer, as seven of their ten shots came outside of the paint, only two within five feet.

By comparison, the Spurs attempted five of their 12 shots within five feet of the rim, outscoring the Mavs 10-2 in the paint.

DONUT 7: All too familiar …

The second slip into the chasm was more emblematic of the Mavs Game 5 problems.

After a Carter three tied the game at 42 with 6:39 to play in the half, Dallas fell in love with the three, and would not hit another field goal in the quarter, closing 0-of-9 … with six of those nine coming behind the arc.

If not for a simultaneous dip in efficiency from the Spurs, things could have been much worse.

From 6:30 remaining in the second to 4:50 left in the third, 13 minutes and 40 seconds, just over a quarter, the Mavs took more than half of their attempts from deep, hitting only 2-of-11.

The numbers for that stretch:


Of 21 Dallas attempts, only three came at the rim, and none of those three were converted.

Though the Spurs weren't converting at a particularly high rate, they continued to attack, outscoring Dallas 14-2 in the paint, including 8-0 at the rim.

Both teams made exactly two 3-pointers, though the Mavs had almost quadruple the attempts.

DONUT 8: By the numbers...

The Spurs 10-game winning streak over the Mavs fell with little fanfare. So, maybe history doesn't have to matter.

In NBA history, the team leading a 7-game series 3-2 has gone on to win that series 85.9 percent of the time (per whowins.com).

When the team that started the series at home, generally the higher seed and/or favorite, takes a 3-2 lead, they go on to win the series 92.2 percent of the time.

So ... the Mavs have either have a 14.1 or 7.8 percent chance of winning, historically speaking.

Or, if you want to find a rosier picture, remember that the Spurs have never won a series after losing Game 3 when the first two were split (0-9) … for some reason that's not as comforting as it was two games ago.

DONUT 9: Quoteboard …


"At the end of the day we are already trying to forget about this and get ready for Friday, and we'll be back on Sunday. We'll be alright.'' -- Jose Calderon.

DONUT 10: Mavsellaneous …

*Through Wednesday's games, only four players had totaled at least 25 points and 15 rebounds in these playoffs: LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan … and Dirk Nowitzki.

*Vince Carter has scored more points in a game as Mav only once, back on Jan 18, 2013 against the Thunder he put up 29.

*Behind Carter, the Mavs bench outscored their Spurs counterpart 40-32.

*San Antonio set a franchise low for turnovers in a playoff game, totaling only six … leaving Dallas with precious few easy baskets.

"We've just got to have a little more energy about our defense," Nowitzki said. "What'd they have, (six) turnovers? I mean, that's a joke in a 48-minute game. You know, we've got to be more energetic and get some deflections, get into them a little more. We've got to be the more aggressive team on Friday for sure, if we want to win."

*By scoring at least 20 points, Nowitzki ended his streak of four consecutive playoff games scoring under 20 … ensuring he would not set a new career high/worst, tying his streak in the 2001 playoffs.

*Dallas could not stop Tiago Splitter, who scored nine of his 17 points and grabbed six of his 12 rebounds in the fourth quarter. Dallas' pick-and-roll defense (where Splitter did so much damage), players said in the post-game locker room, was ineffective not due to strategy but due to energy.


*Shawn Marion once more did not play in the fourth quarter as Rick Carlisle rode the three-guard lineup.

*The Mavericks practice at 11:30 a.m. Media availability is around 12:45 p.m. and DallasBasketball.com will of course have full coverage.

DONUT 11: A date with ...

The Mavs will come back to Dallas for what could be their final game of the season Friday night. They carry the weight of consecutive losses spoiled by early infections of futility ... the weight of knowing their season could be one mistake from over.
"We know it's possible, but now we have to figure this puzzle out once again," Carter said. "I mean, I think it's always a new puzzle each game you go into, especially when you're playing in a seven-game series. It's always something a little different, so now it's really not much to change. It's just now our effort, and we have to go out there and lay it on the line."

They also shoulder an arrangement with fate, an ability to control their own destiny. As disappointing as today may be, tomorrow comes with the possibility of atonement, of hope.

Of a new puzzle to solve.

DONUT 12: The Final Word …

"We've had a lot of difficult losses. We always find a way to bounce back, and that's what we're going to do for Game 6." -- Rick Carlisle.

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