Friday, April 24, 2009

Game 3: Mavs 88, Spurs 67 (2-1)

My Notes from Game 3's unlikely route ...

The bad news is that if you were looking for the normal ice-cream headaches and adrenaline rushes that accompany playoff basketball, you may have had to find another fix for that. The good news is that the stress-free Game 3 at the American Airlines Center was the equivalent of a 1st round TKO in a prize fight. From the moment the game started, it appeared the Mavs were committed to pushing the tempo and running the ball. They were committed to staying after the glass aggressively. They were committed to getting the ball to Dirk in different spots to keep the double teams from being so easily applied. And they were committed to defense.

No complacency tonight, my friends. How could that possibly be the same team we saw in Game 2? And the beauty of a 7 game series is that across Texas right now, the Spurs are asking the same thing for entirely different reasons in their city. How could they possibly be the same team their city saw in Game 2? Ah, the drama builds.

So what worked? Everything. They decided to play the JJB card again by sending Barea into the starting line-up to guard Mason initially. But, the actual idea of switching out Antoine Wright for JJB was a simple tempo move. And since it worked with such precision and decisive authority, the Spurs were on their heels from the opening tip. A couple Barea lay-ups and a couple Josh Howard floating shots and the Mavs were up 10-2. The Spurs would get the lead down to 7 at 23-16, but according to my memory that was as close as they would get.

The defense was wonderful. Erick Dampier did not perform any body slams on Tony Parker, but he did get after the defense with great conviction. Brandon Bass was swatting Drew Gooden's weak garbage into the crowd. Josh Howard was jumping in passing lanes and introducing George Hill to the concept of the block from behind. If they played like that on more occasions, nobody would dare accuse the Mavs of being a weak defensive club.

But, as we know, it takes two teams to contribute to such a monumental landslide as we saw Thursday night. And let's face it, the Spurs missed shots they generally make. Tim Duncan went 2-9 and just about all of his shots were shots he normally converts. The Spurs missed many open 3's, and once the flood gates opened it was over.

It honestly is not easy to pick particular items that were the keys to victory, because everything went right. For, San Antonio, nothing went right. Taking care of the home court is imperative, and they are now 1 for 1. It is one win, albeit an extremely decisive win, and now the Mavericks must show what they are made of on Saturday against an annoyed Spurs team in what seems like just hours.

Notes and Observations from a shockingly easy Game 3 Win:

* In some sports, like my beloved NHL, I often wonder the importance of being at home. It seems that in hockey most of the time a team has the ability to play a similar style both at home and on the road. But, as it pertains to the Dallas Mavericks, especially the 2009 Dallas Mavericks, it is vital that they are at the AAC to play an attacking style of basketball. On the road, they settle. They settle for the first comfortable shot they find, and they settle for low-effort defense. At home, the crowd must inspire them because they do not seem to settle. They get to the rim with far greater frequency, and they play the passing lanes so much better. I know it is not uncommon to get more calls at home, too, but for the Mavs, the style of their offense in particular is way too different at home and on the road. It is actually quite frustrating when they launch jumpers all night for their road games and then act surprised when they fail to get the same results that they get in Dallas.

* Usually, the plus-minus stats give somewhat mis-leading information. But, tonight, I see Erick Dampier was a +37 which I would be willing to bet was his career high. JJB was +36. And boy, was he good. Love that young man right now, and I certainly wonder if he will play less than 30 minutes in any of the remaining games in this series. Tony Parker was a -31. Not to jump to conclusions of superlatives, but I will also wager that was his career low. Anything higher than 20 either way is generally remarkable. So, +37 is off the charts. Damp for president. 2 points never looked so huge.

* Things I don't remember seeing before? The Spurs had quarterly scoring totals of: 16, 14, 12, and 25. That is right. They had 42 points at the end of 3 Quarters. In fact, they were barely above a point a minute for a good portion of the entire first 36 minutes. Crazy. And how about this - do you ever recall an NBA game where the high scorer for one team had 12 (Parker)? How high school is that? The entire Spurs starting front line combined for 6 points as Duncan had 4, Bonner went off for 2, and Finley took the doughnut.

* Speaking of Matt Bonner, I want Dirk to punish him. It is one thing for Stephen Jackson to knock you out of your game with the belly to belly defense, but don't you dare allow Bonner to get away with that, Dirk! In Game 3, Dirk did a nice job of dismantling that dude, perhaps because they stopped with the high post and put him out wide on the point guard's extended right. Game 4, if they insult you again by putting that silly red head anywhere near you, big fella, it is time for him and Greg Popovich to pay.

* Without being a Spurs historian, I would suggest in games where Jacque Vaughn plays more minutes than Tim Duncan, the Spurs record is not very good. That happened in Game 3. 16:18 to 15:30.

* When talking with the great Bob Ortegal on Thursday's radio presentation, he indicated what we have all be told our entire lives: "Rebounding is effort". Sometimes, your shots won't fall, but all you have to do is show interest to get rebounds. On Monday, the Mavericks were out boarded 44-28 in San Antonio. In game 3, The Mavericks had 28 Halftime. And they won the battle 51-41, despite almost 20 minutes of garbage time.

* Here is the difference between Greg Popovich and Rick Carlisle. If Carlisle would have took out the starters with 7:42 to go in the 3rd Quarter of a pivital Game 3 (even down 26 points) I would have been irate. I might have driven down to the arena and been waiting outside the lockerroom to try to get at him. Sorry, but you don't surrender a playoff game. You just don't. 7 minutes left in the game? Sure. But, in the NBA where everyone makes a run, who says they don't have it down to 12 at the end of the 3rd Quarter? Will anyone rip Popovich on this topic? Are you kidding me? 4 rings, my friend. He can send out his training staff to play the 4th Quarter if he wants to and nobody is going to challenge his jewelry. And there is the difference between the coaches.

* I thought Josh Howard was money on both ends of the floor. Man, he can really help this thing when he does what he does. I don't mean to type this same paragraph every single game, but the difference he can make is like no other player on the roster. I was pretty interested in the 2 man game that Josh and Damp were running against Finley and Duncan. It looked like they wanted Duncan to try to cover Josh, and then have Damp roll to the hoop with Finley. You have to love playoff match-ups.

* At least we know George Hill will shoot. 10 shots? So much for being nervous.

* OK. I say this with extreme caution, but after 3 games, I am ready to say it with at least some level of courage. Tim Duncan really is not right. He just looks tentative on offense - against Dampier! And on defense, I am not saying he is a non-factor, but he is quite ordinary. Duncan is arguably the best big man of this generation, so I will believe he is human when the Mavericks get to 4 wins, but this is not the same Duncan we have watched do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

* Jet is troubled by Bruce Bowen. There is no doubt about it. I would have been curious to see what Terry's final line is if the Spurs wouldn't have tapped out so early in the game, but when Bowen is guarding him, it appears Terry is having a difficult time getting loose.

So, let's be honest. Do you have any idea what happens next? Would any result on Saturday surprise you? These 3 games have all been very, very different. One good sign is that the Mavs always seem to bring their game at home, so if the Spurs are going to get Game 4, it is going to require the most titanic of efforts. If not, the Mavs will have a commanding 3-1 lead. Of course, they also had that after 4 games in 2006, but still needed OT in Game 7 to get the close.

This is getting very interesting. Any chance they will change the tip time on Saturday so it doesn't conflict with the NFL draft?

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