When playing the best team in the NBA, it's hard to ask for much more than a game-winning shot attempt at the buzzer. Unfortunately for the Mavs, Vince Carter's three pointer rimmed out as time expired and a frantic comeback fell inches short, giving the Spurs a 92-91 victory.
"I didn't necessarily like the play call, with me standing there in [Vince's] way," Dirk said after the game. The play call was simply a Dirk/Carter pick and roll from the top, but with only five seconds to operate, Carter was unsuccessful in attacking and had to settle for the contested shot.
Down 92-84 with 2:32 remaining, the Mavericks had to fight to get back into the game. The defense, solid all game long, showed up big to force a shot clock violation with 40 seconds left in the game.
Successful as they were on first chances, the Spurs hammered Dallas on the glass with 11 offensive boards and a 49-35 overall rebounding advantage. Tim Duncan grabbed 19 for the Spurs, including 5 offensive boards.
"We need wins; we don't take any moral victory from this," Carlisle said. 18 games remain for the Mavericks, who sit 3 games back of the Lakers for the 8th playoff seed.
The offense started off the game with a Mike James floater, a Chris Kaman jumper, and then a James-Kaman PnR. Not surprisingly, the Spurs quickly started 8-2 before the offense went to Dirk for a picture perfect face-up jumper. The Mavericks ended the first quarter down 22-17, hurt by a -7 rebounding margin.
The offense improved in the second half behind seven points from Dirk, but the Mavericks butchered the second quarter's ending - tied up at 41 with 2:25, they let the Spurs scored nine straight while failing to execute a potential two-for-one. The Mavericks were also outscored 28-11 in the paint for the first half.
+ Everyone wants Dirk taking the last shot, but I don't think it was feasible. He needs at least couple seconds to get off his shot and there were just 5.6 seconds on the clock. Pop is too smart to allow a pass directly to him in the high post or block, so either Dirk gets the ball outside the three point line with 5 seconds to create, or it goes into a guard who would have trouble passing to Dirk in time for him to do anything with it.
+ Carter, on the other hand, can receive the ball off the inbounds because he's a guard, and then create a shot. Again, remember that there's only 5.6 seconds left, and even the Dirk/Vince PnR proved to be too time-consuming. Dirk was right - the play should have been a Vince iso, for better or for worse.
+ Fantastic minutes from Brandan Wright tonight. He made a huge impact on the defensive end with his length because he actually played the 4 tonight. Duncan and Splitter would have abused him 1v1 in the post, but Carlisle kept Brand or Kaman on the floor to pick up one of them and let Wright help on the weak side.
+ There was even a double screen ran for Wright so he could pop up for a jump shot tonight, which hit nothing but net. I really hope Carlisle doesn't turn 180 and bench him again, because I swear it seems like he's improving as a player every chance he gets.
+ In the first half, Mike James had some success hitting shots in the half-court offense but hurt the Mavericks by not pushing the ball. Carlisle went to a Collison/James backcourt in the second half which, though incredibly scary, made sense with the success they had both had shooting the ball.
+ Carter, Nowitzki and Mayo (options 1, 2 and 3) combined to go 14 of 39 (36%).
+ Mike James played a pretty good first half, but took some of the shittiest pull-up jumpers in the second half that it's just impossible to like him. TEN SHOT ATTEMPTS. Ugh.
+ I ran out of the locker room to write this recap here before Vince Carter spoke, but Lisa said he was definitely dismayed about letting the team down. (Video to be posted when better wifi is available - LJ)
+ No rest for the Mavs, who face the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night at the AAC. After an emotional game tonight, it'll be interesting to see what type of mindset they come out with.