On Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs made a statement: they pretty much crushed the Thunder, leading almost the whole game in Oklahoma City, winning and reminding the Thunder and the entire Western Conference, "Hey, don't forget about us."
Tonight, I believe, the Mavericks said the exact same thing.
The woes of the losing skid last night aren't erased in the slightest but Saturday night's 106-99 win over the Spurs showed exactly what we loved about this Dallas team when they were eeking their way up the standings a while back: balanced offense, some good perimeter defense and some solid rebounding.
The Mavericks were leading the entire night and were in control for a majority of the time. San Antonio, to its credit, stayed in, hitting some threes and just being the Spurs: annoying, pesky, efficient and super smart. But Dallas was better.
Oh, and I know the Spurs played last night. But Manu didn't play last night and the Spurs play a ton of young guys (weird, I know). So don't even start.
Onto the bullets:
- Remember when Dallas was known for notoriously shitty third quarters? Well, they've strung together back-to-back solid frames when coming back from the locker room, tonight outscoring the Spurs 34-22 which gave the Mavs the breathing room for the eventual Spurs push. The second half struggles have been a confusing concern for this team. Their strength has always been closing teams out as the game waned on and it wasn't happening this year. Not sure what's to lame for the sudden shift back to normalcy: player's getting their act together, Rick Carlisle giving more emphasis to starting the third better or whatever. Third quarters are getting better and that's all that matters.
- On the radio earlier this week, I heard an interesting sound clip from Carlisle. He said rebounding from outside the paint and in between the three point line is becoming more and more important in this league as teams are building their offense from beyond the arc more than ever before. His point was definitely valid tonight. San Antonio's three-point shooting is crucial just as it is deadly and they hit 11-of-24 against the Mavs. But in those 13 misses, Dallas rarely gave up the offensive rebound, overall killing the Spurs on the glass 48-35. The Spurs feast off chasing down the long misses from all the threes they shoot and Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois and Vince Carter were tremendous in staying home, not leaking out and digging in to grab a board.
- Oh hai, Jason Kidd. First double-double, with 14 points and 10 assists. Not having to chase around Tony Parker did wonders for Kidd's offense and the Spurs left him the open man on their double teams and Kidd rightly made them pay. This was a 2011 playoffs vintage Kidd game, in control and making smart plays and knowing when to push it and when to pull it out. He shot a couple of heat-check jumpers but that's fine, considering he was making the ones when he was open off a swing pass.
- Jason Terry's tryout for 29 other teams is going pretty well. 17 points on 10 shots, three made three's. Well done. Of course it wouldn't be a complete Jason Terry night if it weren't for those two ill-timed turnovers in the fourth quarter. But Terry made the Spurs pay along with Kidd being the open man on some great Mavs ball movement.
- Gary Neal and Danny Green are the bane of my existence.
- Oh and there was Dirk Nowitkzi. With this and the Bobcats game, Dirk has really been looking for his shot. It hasn't been especially accurate (Dirk was just a shot off from his normal 50 percent mark) but I for one am glad Dirk is being this aggressive. And will Dirk transition threes ever get old? I say no. Also, seven free throw attempts! Hooray!
- This seems really weird to say, but I doubt the Mavericks win with Shawn Marion playing tonight. Not to slight Marion at all, but the way the Spurs played Dirk and with the double teams, the Mavs closing unit desperately needed Carter's shot making to be on the floor. Carter hit one three in the final minutes before swinging the ball to Terry for another dagger. If that was Marion? He probably flings up a horrible three or stops the ball on the first try and then the Spurs probably leave him open again instead of chasing him to force the ball away which led to Terry's three. Can't say enough about Carter's mere presence as a shot maker in Dallas closing unit.
- Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright held their own on the glass but were completely outmatched by Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Just another reminder that Brendan Haywood is really a crucial player.
- I really appreciate Lamar Odom's effort lately. He's got a bounce to his step, he's rotation way better on defense and he's still crafty in finding open men in the half court. But he still can't buy a basket. 1-for-7 tonight. For now, Odom's mere effort will give him a pass – that's how horrendous he was before the All-Star break. But eventually Odom is going to have to give the Mavericks second unit more scoring.
- Rodrigue Beaubois isn't there. But he's getting close. Superb game offensively and guarding Tony Parker into a 5-for-12 shooting night. Let's keep an eye on this.
- That's all I got. It's 11:13 p.m. CT and it's St. Patricks Day. BE RESPONSIBLE EVERYONE.