Final score: Mavs even series, stun Spurs 113-92

Chris Covatta

After letting a game one victory slip through their fingers, the Dallas Mavericks were sure to not make the same mistake in game two, turning the heat on in the second half and blowing out the San Antonio Spurs on their home floor.

If the Dallas Mavericks were let down by the fourth quarter implosion in the first game of this series, they certainly didn't show it tonight.

The Mavericks won every quarter, and were especially dominant in the second half, outscoring the home team 57-41.  Dallas snaps a ten game losing streak against the rival Spurs, and, more importantly, evens the series at 1-1.  The Mavs received a balanced perimeter scoring attack, getting 21 points from Monta Ellis, 20 from a near-perfect Shawn Marion, and 18 from bench ace Devin Harris.

The Spurs did their part to help Dallas seal the deal, committing 22 turnovers (24 team turnovers), which directly led to 33 points for the 8th seed Mavericks.  Manu Ginobili committed six by himself, though he also led all scorers with 27 points on 9-12 shooting.

It's hard to say what's been more amazing: that Dallas has -- for the most part-- looked like the better team in this series, or that they've done so without a Herculean effort from Dirk Nowitzki.  Dirk once again had trouble getting the jumpshot to fall, making just 7 of 19 for 16 points.  He did hit a few big shots (including an emphatic and-one complete with the patented "Dirk yell"), however, and hustled on defense as befits the playoff stakes.

Dallas should expect a strong response from San Antonio in game three, but in the meantime let's enjoy a terrific performance from the Mavs, who at the very least have the attention of the team that was heavily favored to start the series.

The game didn't exactly look like a high scoring blowout from the start.  After Tony Parker performed a layup drill in game one, Dallas made a concerted effort to stay back and make him take jumpshots.  Then Tony Parker made his first three jumpers of the night to put San Antonio up 13-6 five minutes in.  Gulp.

The Mavs weren't shooting tremendously well initially, but they were pushing the tempo and getting out in transition thanks to some Spur miscues. San Antonio saw five of seven possessions end in turnovers as the first quarter wound down, and a Dirk jumper for his first points of the night gave the Mavs a one point lead heading into the second quarter.

There, Dallas started to catch fire.  They scored on their first six possessions, although San Antonio did their best to keep pace.  When the Spurs began to miss some free throws, the Mavs stretched their margin to double digits for the first time, leading by as much as 12.  Manu Ginobili had the answers early, however, scoring 10 of the Spurs last 12 points in the final 3 minutes of the half, including an acrobatic putback to beat the buzzer.  Dallas headed to the break feeling good but up just five.

The third quarter, typically a bugaboo for Dallas in the regular season, proved to be the team's best, as the starting backcourt poured in 18 points (including 12 from Jose Calderon) and Dallas used an 8-0 run to build their lead up to 15.  A pair of Patty Mills free throws made it 13 heading into the final frame with the road team sensing blood in the water.

Dallas began the fourth quarter with another burst, this time an 11-0 run to blow the game open and make it a 23 point advantage. Dirk Nowitzki hit a tough jumper over Boris Diaw and yelled "and one!" as the ball sailed into the basket for a three-point play opportunity. After a pair of layups from Vince Carter and Devin Harirs, Gregg Popovich saw the writing on the wall and subbed in the "white flag" lineup with just under six minutes left and the score 101-81.

Observations:

  • Where to start?  It was absolutely a team effort tonight.  The Mavs had energy at both ends, and just about everyone did their part.  Perhaps that should be a feather in the cap of coach Rick Carlisle, who after heaping praise(deservedly) on Popovich, did his best to try and outcoach the legend.
  • Easily the stat of the night: 24 team turnovers for San Antonio, against just 8 for Dallas.  Between that and some extra free throws, Dallas ended up getting off 28(!) more field goal attempts, 92-64.  That kind of discrepancy is next to impossible to overcome.
  • Speaking of field goals, Shawn Marion hit his first seven, getting plenty of easy baskets in the fast break, but also knocking down a couple of long bombs.  Every once in a while the Matrix has a game like this, where he looks like he's about to turn 26 and not 36.  Here's hoping he has a couple more games like this left in the '13-'14 tank.
  • Monta Ellis didn't have the most efficient night, but did his part to carry the offense for Dallas on a night where Dirk was a mere mortal.  Four layups, four free throws, and four jumpshots(including a three) for Monta, as well as three steals and just one turnover.
  • Jose Calderon had a forgettable game one and looked awful in the first half of game two, but couldn't miss in the third quarter, where he scored all 12 of his points.  The Spurs seemed to be overplaying the screener in pick and roll action, leaving Calderon open several times.  Calderon is hardly a threat to drive, but give him an unmolested look from 16 feet and you're in trouble.
  • The third piece of the three-guard attack, Devin Harris once again came off the bench and thrived, making 7-9 shots, including a pair of threes.  Harris had an ice cold stretch to end of the regular season but has thankfully appeared to find his stride at the right moment, and has been probably the Mavs' best player through two games.
  • Color commentator Mike Fratello noted it in the broadcast, and I think it's worth repeating: is Tim Duncan healthy?  He banged knees with Monta Ellis toward the end of game one, and has not been nearly as dominant since as he was before.  He attempted just five shots in 30 minutes, and was beaten off the dribble several times, including once by Dirk Nowitzki, who is hardly fleet of foot.  It may have simply been an off-game, but sufficed to say I will be paying close attention to how Duncan responds going forward.
The series now heads to Dallas, where the Mavs will get a two day rest before playing game three Saturday afternoon at 4:30 on TNT.  I'm not sure how the early start will affect things, but I expect a very motivated Spurs team to come out looking to take back home court advantage.

As Charles Barkley is keen on saying, a playoff series doesn't begin until a home team loses.  In that case, I guess that means this series just got started.


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