Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Game 2: Spurs 105, Mavs 84 (1-1)

Game 2 Notes Here...

Complacent - Adj pleased, especially with oneself or one's merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied.

Used in a sentence? The Mavericks seemed that they might have been a tad complacent on Monday night.

Here is today's question as we look back at a Game 2 effort that would have to be labeled as extremely poor: were the Mavs complacent? Or, were they simply the team that played road games like this all season? In 2006, if they would lose a game like this, it would be considered out of character, and perhaps complacency had set in on a road trip where they wanted to get a win, and since they got it on Saturday they felt quite satisfied with themselves heading into Monday. But, in a season where they went 18-23 on the road -- and where the Mavs have had losses of 19 or more at: New Jersey, Memphis, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Boston, Utah, Golden State, and Cleveland -- it is tough say with certainty that it was complacency. It might just be the 2009 Mavs being the 2009 Mavs.

I didn't like the intensity. I didn't like the effort. I certainly didn't like the energy. Were they not being greedy? Were they resting on their laurels? It would appear so.

But. The game of basketball is pondered and discussed on a regular basis in all sorts of places including this one. And sometimes we get a bit too complex in our discussion when all we need is simple. Here is a simple take on Game 2 for the Dallas Mavericks: They missed shots. They missed almost all of their shots. The only guy who ever showed any competency from the perimeter (a place they insist on living) was Jason Kidd. He did hit shots from deep, but he was not joined by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, or Josh Howard at any point. The Mavs did not hit shots. If they don't hit shots, they don't have a chance. If they could get 30+ points from layups from a guy like Tony Parker, I am sure they would. But they don't. They launch jump shots. They must go in. Said another way, they can have all the intensity they want and if the occasional jumper doesn't swish, they are screwed.

So what do we have in this series? How could these two games look so different? What do we believe? Are the Mavs the team that can exhaust Tony Parker like we saw in Game 1, or can the Spurs flip a switch and run the Mavs out of the gym like they did in Game 2?

Questions abound as we head to Dallas for Games 3 and 4. Two games the Mavericks better win unless they are comfortable with their season ending in another one and done.

And now, thoughts and observations from Game 2:

* Based solely on the merits of the last three playoff years, I have to admit what my eyes are telling me: Dirk still looks pretty lost out there on offense. This may go back to the premise of Dirk's effectiveness is completely linked to the result of his shots. But, much like the body language he sent out in Golden State and New Orleans, Dirk does not look like a defiant superstar who is just waiting to eat your heart for dinner. Three years ago in this series, Dirk looked like a guy who was determined to send San Antonio out of the playoffs. Since the Western Finals against Phoenix, his floating through these games are tough for me to defend. He must be the tip of the arrow. He must not be denied. Am I wasting my time asking for this in 2009?

* If the strategy against Tony Parker was to try to tire him out by giving him lanes to the basket, then mission accomplished. That one-man lay-up line was crazy. Surely there has to be another option. The fact that he only finished with 37 is based completely on Popovich and the Spurs changing objectives on offense to preserve Parker for future battles. If the object of the game was for Parker to score 50, there is no doubt in my mind he could have done it. I think 60 was in play as well. He was awesome. The folly of believing J.J. Barea is this Tony Parker stopper is somewhat reminiscent of the time the Houston Rockets thought Ryan Bowen had the formula for stopping Dirk in the 2005 Playoffs. Barea is a nice story, but Parker has about 100 playoff performances to prove that nobody hiding on your bench can stop him.

* The one chance the Mavs might have had last night (it could be debated how good a chance this actually was) was early in the third quarter as the Mavs were on a mini-run that had them within 9, at 61-52. J.J. Barea was dribbling around the Spurs defense looking for an opening and lost control a bit and fired the ball out of bounds on a pass intended for Josh Howard. If that drops, perhaps the lead goes to 6 and the game is on. But, it didn't, and the Spurs scored the next 8 straight, and the lead was back up to 17.

* Nowitzki and Terry combined for 46 points per game in the regular season. In Game 1, the two combined for 31 points. In Game 2, they combined for 30. With those numbers, aren't we somewhat shocked this series is at 1-1?

* I really appreciate Jason Kidd hitting these shots. In fact, he has such a tricky smooth 3, that it seems to me that he is one of the best options in the fourth quarter when you must hit a shot. But, does anyone in all of basketball shoot more long 2's than Jason Kidd? I don't mean inside the line; I mean three pointers where his front foot is clearly on the line. I swear it is every game with the guy. Like a wide receiver that has a foot out of bounds, Kidd somewhat sabotages his great play by not paying a bit more attention to detail. Once in a while, you can forgive the foot on the line 2, but he does it often enough that it grows annoying.

* The Mavericks are a decent rebounding team. They should be as good or better than the Spurs. But, they were absolutely embarrassed on the boards in Game 2. The Spurs were up 24-12 on the glass at the half, and for the game, 44-28. The Mavs had just 5 offensive rebounds, which is only 1 more than Matt Bonner's 4. Yeesh.

* I think Popovich did a masterful job with his defensive schemes. I will be quite curious if Rick Carlisle has an answer for that on Thursday. This is where we find out how good a coach he is. Locked in a strategy chess match with a coaching Jedi for two weeks will separate the average from the exceptional.

* Great to see the rich guy with the long gray hair and the hot pink Mavs clappers can get those same front row tickets in San Antonio, too. I think he is surviving the recession.

* Please take the ball to the hole early. Anyone?

* One thing I never get tired of in the NBA is the amazing effectiveness of the pick and roll. No matter how complicated basketball gets and no matter what new ideas great coaching minds might come up with, at the end of every season, we see the basketball is nothing more than the simple 2-man game that we all tried to master in 5th grade. It is so simple, and so unstoppable.

Bottom line after Game 2? We know this will be a long series. We know the Mavs' manhood is going to be challenged with the physical play that they don't seem to always enjoy. We know they got their one win in San Antonio.

I think we also know that the odds of the Mavs going 3 for 3 in Dallas are not favorable. You must assume the Spurs get one in Dallas, which means you have to win another in San Antonio. The roller coaster ride of a seven game series is on full display right now, and we will see how the Mavs respond in a very pivotal game 3.

Thursday night.

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