Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Game 5: Mavs 106, Spurs 93 (4-1)

Game 5 Notes ...

Even though I knew the Spurs were not right going into the series, and even though I thought the Mavericks would eventually win this series...I didn't think that the series would end like this. In front of their fans, and in their house. Sweet.

The Mavs won Game 5 in San Antonio with great poise and great execution. So much so that they never trailed and although the game was not without drama, the only mystery on display on Tuesday night was wondering how the Mavs would answer each Spurs surge with a surge of their own. Many moments with many fist pumps from many couches across North Texas. And if anyone in South Texas forgot why the Spurs spent so much of the series double teaming Dirk, they were reminded tonight.

All 6 of the Mavericks who get most of the minutes (Dirk, Jet, Josh, Damp, JJB, and Kidd) all played solid games or better. You weren't sure how tough the Spurs were going to make closing out the series for the Mavs, but they left no doubt in the 2nd and 3rd Quarters when they threw everything they could at Dallas. But each time the Spurs knocked the Mavs out of rhythm, they were answered. The most memorable rally might have been when the Tim Duncan show cut the lead to 63-59. The Mavs get a timeout, and Dirk takes over with back to back hoops, followed by Josh Howard's 3 pointer and the lead goes back to 11 only 90 seconds after the time out.

So, is this fool's gold? Many will not be impressed with this series win because of who the Mavs beat. Many will rationalize it as "low-hanging fruit" against a team begging to get beat. But, I am torn. On one hand, I recognize that it was a perfect match-up for Dallas and maybe they are not back to being a playoff squad worth believing. On the other hand, I think the Mavericks now have a certain self-belief back and maybe their fragile psyche has been revived enough to give Denver/New Orleans (c'mon, we all know it is Denver) everything they can handle. The truth shall be told. Bottom line with me? At least we now have a debate on the topic worth having. Last year our only debate was wondering when Cuban will pull the plug on this nonsense.

Anyway, to the diehards of this team, take a few hours to enjoy this. We have certainly seen that playoff series wins are rare and are not to be marginalized. 8 teams win a series each year, so in a league of 30, that is not too shabby. These guys had their manhood challenged several times and answered many questions. Now, they live to fight another bully and further restore their league-wide reputation. And they didn't even have to wait until the summer of 2010 to smile again.

More random notes from the kill-shot game of the series:

* Dirk was dominant. He was really, really good. Once again, if there were coaching errors in this series, they appeared to come from the San Antonio bench, and this time they decided to start the game with Bruce Bowen on Howard, Parker on JJB, Finley on Kidd, and Bonner trying to defend Dirk 1-on-1? Ummmm. Dirk scored 11 of the Mavs first 16, and the Mavs were up 16-6. Time out, Spurs. Change your strategy, but was the damage already done? The margin for most of the rest of the game was about 10 points. Dirk had 31 points, 9 rebounds, 3 sneaky-nice assists, and some solid defense on Tim Duncan in spurts. Well done, big man.

* Speaking of Duncan, that was a defiant effort from the big man. He was awesome and not ready to go out quietly. I wonder if he will ever be right in the spring time again, where you can routinely expect 26 and 13 from him. He appears to be aging pretty quickly and now you can still count on 2 or 3 games per series that are high quality, but 2 or 3 others where he is quiet. But, who can blame him? He has some serious miles on his tires. Check this out. 899 regular season games for 33,000+ minutes. AND, 160 playoff games for 6400 more minutes. AND, 128 games at Wake Forest for 4500 more minutes. AND All-Star games, International games, and pre-season games. He is 33, but how many miles is that for normal big-men who are not rode as hard? Can you ever count on him to be "the man" moving forward? I am not saying he will be a spare from here on out, but for a Spurs team that has had a superstar post-man for pretty much the last 20 seasons, are they finally going to have to see the world from a place where the rest of us see it? It is like the Cowboys and Quarterbacks. I am pretty sure they don't even know how spoiled they have been down there.

* Happy Birthday, Josh Howard. Another big performance from the man many of us gave up on in 2008. Now, I might be back to where I was about 3 years ago on the guy. I might not be interested in trading him unless someone wants to overpay. What a difference 45 days makes.

* George Hill = promising. Bonner, Mason, Gooden, Thomas? I would not buy much stock in that crew. And you know something? Neither would Greg Popovich. Trouble for the Spurs is this: All of them are under contract for 2009-10 except Drew Gooden. I am not sure he will be invited back. I know in 2006 everyone talked "end of an era" and then they turned around and won it all in 2007. But, I don't think a healthy Manu bridges the gap between where they are and a 5th banner.

* Erick Dampier, who knew you had it in you? 2 Double-Doubles in 1 series? 12 rebounds and 11 points in Game 5? Now, before you put your feet up, let's formulate a gameplan to bang with Nene for 7 games. The Mavs will be short a few bullies in that match-up, so we need some toughness from Big Damp.

* This might be the portion of the blog where I complain about the evolution of basketball. I like the NBA game, and I enjoy the 3-pointer as much as the next guy. But, geez, this idea of passing up wide-open 7 foot shots to find a guy in the corner for an equally open 23 footer is not what Dr Naismith had in mind. It has gotten so out of hand that you don't even expect a guard to shoot in the paint anymore (unless it is Tony Parker going in for another lay-up) because they just want to kick it back out. Did you see Dirk actually leave Tim Duncan all by himself under the hoop because he was more worried about George Hill standing open in the corner? There is no defensive principle ever taught in basketball by any coach that would ever tell you to leave the best center of this generation wide open under the rim because you are worried about an open 3 from the corner. But that is what these guys have processed in their brains. A wide-open 2 is less painful to give up than a wide-open 3. Crazy.

* The game had another quarter to go, but Jason Kidd delivered the dagger at the end of the 3rd Quarter with his bomb from the Spurs bench. And he knew it, too. 82-67 was pretty much all she wrote. It was also very cool to see Terry get loose, finally. When he hits a big shot, his march back down the floor is a thing of beauty.

* I think I may need to be reminded why Tony Parker is thought of as 3rd best in the Chris Paul/Deron Williams/Parker debate. If forced to pick one for my team, I might have to take the Parisian Torpedo. Or maybe that is a 58 point home loss talking for me.

* For as miserable as the man appears to be when things aren't going right, I would imagine that Mark Cuban is having a nice day. Say what you want, but the man does not make knee-jerk decisions. He had many opportunities to blow this thing up, and yet for better or for worse, he has stayed the course.

Winning is fun. Winning against a rival who is never shy to remind you that they are better than you is even more fun. Enjoy. More battles are ahead.

Enjoy your summer, Spurs. You obviously bring out the best in the Mavs.

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