On Friday night, it was Round Three of the greatest rivalry the NBA has to offer as the Dallas Mavericks traveled to San Antonio to take on the Spurs. The Spurs looked like a team that was healthy and the Mavericks looked like a team ravaged by injuries as the Spurs won convincingly, 101-89. The Mavericks had to endure the 9th consecutive game without Dirk Nowitzki due to his sprained right knee. There were promising signs as multiple sources cited that Nowitzki had his most strenuous workout prior to the game, so it appears the end is near when it comes to the "When Will Dirk Be Back" storyline.
With the victory, the Spurs won their fifth consecutive game and the Mavericks have now lost four games in a row. This is the first time the Mavericks have lost 4th straight games since January 2009. The Spurs won their 14th consecutive home game which is their best home stretch since 2005. San Antonio is now an impressive 34-6 through 40 games of the season.
The Spurs were able to get into the lane early and often as they built an early lead to start the game. On the other side, the Mavericks had to scratch and claw to get shots up in the half-court. Tony Parker's aggression allowed seven of the first eight buckets for the Spurs to be all within five feet of the basket. Alexis Ajinca got his second consecutive start and he struggled on both ends of the floor and that led to his exit after the first timeout. Dallas ended the quarter with Ian Mahinmi, Brian Cardinal, Sasha Pavlović, Jason Terry and JJ Barea: that shows that the Mavericks are short-handed and searching for options. At the end of the quarter, the point guards were the story as both carried their teams (Kidd 5 points, Parker 10 points) but the Spurs led, 27-19. The Spurs shot 11-21 in the quarter compared to the Mavs 8-21.
Gary Neal and Matt Bonner came out early and hit three-point shots for the Spurs which led to a 14-3 run as the Mavericks continued struggling on the offensive end of the floor. To further express the struggles for Dallas on offense, the Mavericks did not get their second made field goal until the 8:28 mark of the second quarter. Jason Terry added the third field goal a little quicker as he hit a three-point basket to make the score 43-27 in favor of the Spurs as the quarter reached its halfway point. The Spurs quickly responded as they were able to build the lead up to 20 points, 47-27. Dominique Jones and JJ Barea gave the Mavericks a surge with inside/outside scoring and the rest of the team joined the party to help reduce the deficit. It wasn't enough though as the Spurs took a 57-42 lead at halftime.
Dallas only had 16 points from their starting five compared to 40 for San Antonio's starters. Tony Parker led all scorers with 12 points. Coming in to tonight's game, over the last eight 4th quarters for the Mavericks, the team was -29 in point differential. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, the damage was done in the first half.
The Mavericks put Barea into the starting lineup and move Shawn Marion to the power forward to start the second half in attempt to bring more speed and offensive punch to the group. The game went back and forth during the early part of the quarter which didn't give the Mavericks a chance to really cut in to the lead the Spurs created. The Mavericks suffered a drought that lasted nearly two minutes as they just appeared to be a team that consistently looked a step slower than the Spurs. Jason Terry entered at the halfway point of the quarter and continued his shooting woes as he went 0-3 for the quarter. Other than two layups by Barea and Chandler and a dunk by Chandler, all of the field goals were made by Shawn Marion as the Mavericks trailed the Spurs, 85-61, going into the final quarter. Shawn Marion led the charge in the quarter for the Mavericks as he totaled 12 of the 19 Maverick points in the quarter. Coming in to tonight's game, the Spurs had an impressive 17-1 record in games that they led after three quarters.
The fourth quarter saw both teams bring out their bench players as the game was out reach. The Spurs' second unit struggled on offense as it took them until the 9:03 mark of the quarter to get their first basket. The struggles led to starters coming back in to the game and that allowed the Spurs to rattle off back-to-back baskets to maintain a 19-point lead in the quarter. Pavlović returned in the fourth quarter and we learned a valuable lesson, his beard does not harness his overall strength (Sasha had the clean-shaven look as opposed to the beard). He showed some positive signs on both ends of the court in his second game with the Mavericks. With the game definitely out of reach, Dominique Jones got extended minutes in the fourth quarter and he responded well by attacking the basket and he hit multiple baskets and showed a lot of aggression on the court. He scored 9 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
The bench scored 55 of the 89 total points for the Mavericks. Dominique Jones had a career-high 13 points in the defeat. Jason Terry continued to struggle against the Spurs as he shot 3-14 from the field, Terry is now 11-of-43 (.256) vs. Spurs this season.
Tyson Chandler gutted it out as he played the game despite a fever and finished with 8 points and two rebounds in just 16 minutes of action as he struggled with foul trouble throughout the game.
The Mavericks are now 2-7 without Nowitzki during his injury. The Spurs were the first team in the first three match-ups of the season to win on their home floor. San Antonio is now 2-1 against the Mavericks, both victories were during Nowitzki's stint out of the lineup. Dallas has little time to recover from the tough loss as they travel to play Memphis on Saturday Night for their third stop of the four-game road trip. The Mavericks and Grizzlies split the first two meetings of the season with each squad winning as the road team; the game will tip off at 7 p.m. CST.