It’s been a very long time since the San Antonio Spurs were completely healthy, and it seems to be worth the wait after an impressive 112-106 win over the Dallas Mavericks, led by Tony Parker, back like he didn’t miss any games at all.
Parker scored 22 points and added 7 assists while shooting 10-of-15 from the field against the Mavs’ famous no-defense, pulling off a few acrobatic moves in the process. Six Spurs players finished in double digits, including Tim Duncan with 17, Kawhi Leonard (playing great since his return) with 16, Manu Ginobili with 15, Boris Diaw with 14 and Tiago Splitter with 11 points.
On the Mavs’ side of the ball, Dirk Nowitzki led the team scoring 22, followed by Vince Carter with 21 points coming off the bench and Monta Ellis scoring 17 points
As expected, it was a high scoring game in a high pace, and surprisingly without too many turnovers (20 overall). It came down to who had the ability to get stops and deny the opponent from entering the paint enough times. Not surprisingly, the Spurs came out on top in this one, forcing the Mavs to only 14 attempts from the free throw line (making nine of them), while the Spurs finished with 24-of-28 in free throws, getting a bit of help from a one-sided officiating crew.
Dirk Nowitzki even yelled at referee Derek Richardson that he doesn’t need to be intimidated by Gregg Popovich so much. The Mavs never got in foul trouble, but it did seem like every ball that got through their very soft perimeter defense either wounded up in the basket or sending a Spurs player to the line.
But this is the difference between these two teams at the moment. The Mavs have done well enough to improve compared to last season (or maybe the only difference is Dirk Nowitzki being healthy), but the Spurs are, like in most years, the Superior team in almost every aspect, and especially defensively. It also had to with Dallas not getting an all-around help. Shawn Marion struggled defensively and finished with only five points and four boards on 2-of-7 from the field.
What’s interesting considering what we’re used to from the Spurs is everyone coming back just as March begins. San Antonio are usually an excellent regular season finish team, and with them trailing the Thunder by only 1.5 games, it seems like more than a coincidence that the timing of their returnees seems so coordinated. What’s more impressive is that it didn’t really stop them from being a winning, mostly, team.
The Spurs have a soft March schedule, but their season and standing will be determined in the final 17 days of the season: At Indiana, home to Golden State, at OKC, home against Memphis, on the road against Minny and Dallas, home with Phoenix, at Houston and finishing the season with an easy game against the Lakers. They’ve had problems with Houston and Oklahoma City this season, and their ability to handle them in the final encounters will be very telling about their prospects or repeating as NBA finalists. We already knew they’re much better than the Mavs, even without everyone being at Gregg Popovich’s disposal.