The San Antonio Spurs almost let an entire season of work slip away from them against a team they haven’t lost to in more than two years, but the Dallas Mavericks froze in the fourth quarter, like they did in the first, falling apart in the end and losing 85-90, finding no answer to Tim Duncan and Tony Parker taking things to a different level in the fourth quarter.
Duncan left the game in the third quarter with worrying signs of an injury but came back in the fourth quarter to win the game. He led the Spurs with 27 points, providing most of the firepower as the Spurs went on a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to come back from 10 points down to grab a 86-81 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Tony Parker helped out with 21 points and Manu Ginobili completed the “old” three’s contribution with 17 off the bench.
The Mavs had an awful first quarter with only 12 points, but their defense, focusing on stopping the Spurs from killing them from the outside, worked very well for most of the game. San Antonio shot only 3-of-17 from beyond the arc; all the made shots were by Manu Ginobili. But eventually, as their defense started playing better, so did the offense, and the Spurs simply started focusing on hurting Dallas from close range. The Mavs aren’t a good enough defensive team to take away both scoring options.
It was interesting to see how much San Antonio struggled while Duncan was off the floor. They were only 3-of-17 from the field while Duncan was on the bench during the game (he played 38 minutes, making 12-of-20) including 2-12 during his stretch on the bench following a knee injury. With him on the floor, 67% of their attempts came from the paint. With him off the floor, the Spurs couldn’t find a way inside, taking only 29% of their shots from inside the paint, going only 1-5 on those attempts.
The Mavs only got 22 points combined from Nowitzki and Ellis. It was the first time Nowitzki has scored only 11 points in 40 minutes or more of a playoff game. Ellis struggled with his best weapon – driving to the basket, as the Mavs got only four points out of his seven drives, while they averaged an NBA-best 12.5 points off of Ellis drives during the regular season, with him driving to the basket 10 times a game.
The bench put the Mavs up top during the game. Devin Harris scored 19 points, Brandan Wright was energetic as always with 11 points and Vince Carter scored 10 points. However, their inability to stop points in the paint or get themselves was hard to make up. The Spurs were awful, especially in the first half, when shooting from long range, with only 3-of-18. However, Tony Parker was the one who pushed them forward in the first half (7-of-8, 14 points) as San Antonio finished with 56 points in the paint.
This was the first move which was almost won by Carlisle. The problem is that he is in an inferiority when it comes to options on both ends of the floor. The Spurs will learn from their struggles and probably respond. Unless the Mavs find a way to get Nowitzki and Ellis more involved and free, this series will end quite quickly, even if non of the games ends in a blowout.