Thursday, April 22, 2010
"When they are hitting shots and you are not your hitting shots, then you fall behind by 14" - Bob Ortegal, during 2nd Quarter of Game 2.
And once again we find out that in this city, during this decade, there is nothing worse for a team than to hear how great it is for a couple of days. Running from the front of the pack is dangerous territory for the Cowboys and Mavericks, we have found. When they have doubters and are being challenged, they are pretty salty. But, when everyone agrees after Game 1 that the Spurs are just the same old Spurs who we kicked around last time - Beware!
I know the stories will all read about some obvious themes of Game 2; Richard Jefferson actually doing something, the Big 3 for the Spurs being so money, and the Mavs not shooting well - but to me, this seemed more about the Mavs thinking rather early that they could do this the easy way. Give the ball to Dirk and watch him go. Then when he picked up rather quick foul trouble, it was "make it up as we go" basketball with a big dose of Eduardo Najera and almost no sequence in the 1st Half where Jason Kidd and Dirk were on the floor at the same time. It seemed the easy way consisted of almost no movement on offense and settling for bad shots out of rhythm. But, more disconcerting to me was the lack of resolve on defense for a good portion of the game. Especially in the 1st Half, where - let's face it - the game was won.
For instance, the Mavs got right back into things in the 1st Quarter after falling behind 16-5 right away. They start making plays and digging their way out of a hole, but then in the final 30 seconds of the 1Q, they allow Tony Parker 2 extremely easy trips to the rim. Then, in the furious rally of the 2nd Half, how many times did they have to gamble so much to get back that they left the Spurs with a wide open look? In this league, if you give a guy a chance to set his feet and lock in, it usually ends with a swish. And Manu Ginobili is a lethal sniper with open looks. He is clinical in his finishing, 23 points on 13 shots with 4 shots from behind the 3-point stripe.
Take just about any measureable for Game 2, and the final summary must simply be that the Spurs were the clear deserving winner of the contest. The Mavs were out-shot substantially (48% to 36%), out-rebounded (51-42), and just overall out-played.
Sometimes, in these games, it is best to ask "Who needs this game and who just wants it?". It was clear that the Spurs understood that Game 1 was not good enough and had their manhood challenged to a point where they were going to bring more muscle and resolve on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the extra day of rest perhaps was just 24more hours for the Mavs to hear how this trade has made them a clear title contender.
Not so fast, Mavs. If you thought it was going to be easy, then shame on you. But, closer to the truth, probably, is that the Spurs may be the 2nd best team in this series, but it isn't by too much of a margin. If you thought the Mavs would ultimately advance in Round 1, but that it will likely require a big Game 7 performance, then you were conceding that the Spurs were going to win 3.
Now, as usual, the Mavs did not choose the easy path. They must feel it is mandatory to get one back in San Antonio. This is a task that they have clearly demonstrated they are capable of doing, but nevertheless, they must do it again either Friday or Sunday. If not, their season shall be hanging be a thread by Sunday evening. And that would be a feeling that would be most unpleasant.
Let's visit a number of random topics in our Game 2 summary:
* When Dirk is making every shot he takes and when Caron Butler is there to offer big offensive support and when Jason Kidd is hitting every open 3 he sees, then the Mavs look dangerous on offense. But, when Dirk is on the bench, and Shawn Marion is an offensive-end passenger, and Kidd is missing shots, and Dampier is just standing there, then the Mavs look like they are working for every last point. Those 1st Quarter possessions will not be rushed to the Basketball Hall of Fame anytime soon. Yuck.
* I said before the series that the days of the Tim Duncan 35 and 20 performances in the playoffs are dead and gone. I may have been right, but let's not underestimate how awesome 25 and 17 can be. Duncan still, at this advanced age with thousands of miles on his tires, is still at worst, one of the very best low post threats in the league. In fact, as I write this, I am trying to come up with a post presence that I would rather have in 2010. And, honestly? I think you must still go with "high miles Timmy" over anything else out there. He is truly one of a kind.
* The Mavs got back into the game with the 3 Guard lineup of JJ Barea, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry. It seemed to stretch the Spurs a bit when it was used. The zone defense was also tried. Let's put it this way: Rick Carlisle just about played every trick he had and they all failed when you can't put the ball in the basket. I say he played just about every trick, because there is a certain Guadalupe-born product who had a wonderful seat last night for the game.
* From the be careful what you wish for category: I wanted Skin in a collared shirt for Game 2. I am not sure I am responsible for his wardrobe adjustment (doubtful, at best) but if the Mavs are going to roll that out for the collared shirt, then let's get back to the designer "cool guy" t-shirts, eh?
* You know you are a great coach when everyone knows you are just trying to motivate your players and even though everyone knows you are just using the oldest coaching trick in the book - it still works like a charm and Richard Jefferson plays all night like he gives a rip. Well done, Coach Popovich. If there was one guy I could have coaching my team, he is on the very short list. I know he does things that drive Spurs' fans crazy, but the good so outweighs the bad.
* This just in: Manu goes to his left! Perhaps you could shade him in that direction on the ball.
* I think Brendan Haywood is up for rough play. I greatly enjoyed his heavy screen on George Hill followed by jawing with the Spurs bench when they had something to say. Caron and Haywood quickly get people to recalculate their "Mavs are soft" readings after a few minutes of game play. I still think I need more Brendan (+6) and less Dampier (-20).
* In the 2 games, we saw the various results that the Matrix can give you at this point of his career. Game 1, he got out and ran, he played some decent defense, and he looked like a real factor. In Game 2, he looked like a guy who has nothing left in his legs and a general passenger. So much so that his minutes were fewer than Dampier and Haywood. It is clear that Carlisle chooses either Marion or Terry and seldom both. So, when Jet is shooting well and you need points so badly, there is no place on the floor for the Matrix.
* Speaking of "Manu is lefthanded", here is another one: Matt Bonner can hit those 3's if you leave him wide open. He has one trick. But, it is fairly lethal if he starts hitting them. Geez, do I watch more Spurs games than the Mavs do?
* Tony Parker controlled the game last night for big chunks (as great point guards can do). Nobody is suggesting JJ Barea isn't worth a look, but when you are down 20, and you have one of the great change-ups in the league at the end of your bench, when do you unleash Beaubois? I know he is prone to a turnover and a blown pick-and-roll, but you are down 20, right? That would seem to indicate some of your trusty veterans may not be playing perfectly, Coach.
* Dirk was taken right out of his flow with the early foul trouble. I still need him to not allow himself to float when he is back in the game. Eye of the Tiger, big fella. He played far more passively with the ball in Game 2. In Game 1, he was determined to get his. More of that, please.
* I don't know what to make of the furious rally in the 3rd and 4th. It was nice to see plenty of fight and urgency, but never for a second did I think they were going to win that game. They just could not get stops at cruical times all night long. The Spurs dribble drives were killing Dallas, and then they would find Duncan down low for an easy 2. Tons of energy was expended, and let's not forget that the Mavs are actually older than the Spurs. It does show the Mavs what they must do to be successful: compete, push the tempo, and get the Spurs out of their comfortable pace. But, I would have hoped the Mavs were already aware of all of that before Game 2. Guess they needed a bit of a reminder.
* From here on in, a game hits every 48 hours. No long rest the remainder of the series. The war of attrition, words, sweat, and nerves is under way. The real ice-cream headaches are yet to come.
Down I-35 we go.