After dropping 12 straight to the Spurs in San Antonio dating back to 2010, the Dallas Mavericks defeated the the Spurs 105-101. Seth Curry led the way for Dallas with career highs in points (24) and rebounds (10) and 5 assists, while Barnes, Matthews, and Dirk respectively contributed 19 points, 17 points, and 15 points. Dirk also grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double.
In an unexpected twist, newly signed Yogi Ferrell got the start, joining Curry, Matthews, Barnes and Dirk in the starting line-up. Although somewhat surprisingly, Yogi’s insertion into the starting line-up instead of using Curry as the starting point guard is perhaps a recognition of Seth’s strengths playing off of the ball. If this was indeed Carlisle’s thinking, it paid off early as Curry carried the Mavs’ offense scoring 10 of the team’s first 16 points. Although Dallas enjoyed a modest lead for most of the quarter, San Antonio capped the frame with textbook passing and a Manu Ginobli three pointer to go up 28-27. Dallas was able to keep the game close in large part to their early hot shooting from distance, going 6-10 for the quarter.
Unfortunately, the Mavs’ shooting cooled down to start the second quarter, allowing the Spurs go on an 8-0 run including a bad foul by Finney-Smith on a Davis Bertans three point attempt. While the Spurs increased their lead, the quarter specifically belonged to Tony Parker. As if there was any question that rim protection is not a strength of the Mavs, Parker (averaging a modest 11 points per game this season) looked like his old self and scored at will. Although Dallas only made 6 shots in the entire quarter, there were some positives including an aggressive drive by Justin Anderson on Lamarcus Aldridge on one end, followed by a smart double team forcing the Spurs to take the ball out of bounds on the other. Dallas entered the half down 10.
Full disclosure: I fell into complete fan mode in the second half and forgot to keep taking notes. What should be noted is that as a team, the Mavs looked much more locked in on the defensive end. Whether this meant scrambling for the ball, crashing the defensive boards, or playing better-than-usual man to man defense (including an obligatory shout out to Dirk for his trademark swipe, and 4 blocks), for at least one half, Dallas looked like a playoff basketball team. Particular plays worth noting on the defensive end include Wes Matthews picking Kawhi Leonard’s pockets at half court in a way that Leonard usually does to others, and Doe-Doe swatting Dewayne Dedmon at the rim while an audible “Gimme that” rang through the At&T Center.
What was particularly impressive about the Mavs’ fourth quarter is that they stayed the course. Even when the Spurs cut the lead down to two, Dallas continued to pass well out of double teams, find seams in the defense, and make free throws (Thank you, Yogi). A great sign for Dallas was the balanced scoring in the starting line-up, as Curry, Matthews, Barnes, and Dirk all contributed 15 or more points. I could go on and on, but Dallas won in San Antonio for the first time in over 6 years, and this feels great. Go Mavs.
Dallas found their mismatches
Arguably the key to Dallas’ success on offense was the team’s ability to play off of mismatches extremely well. Whether it was finding Dirk against a smaller defender, Matthews sealing Parker, or Harrison Barnes on any Spur not named Kawhi, Dallas did a great job initiating their offense from an advantageous position by not forcing the action upon the catch, but taking what the Spurs gave them. A great example was seen in the fourth quarter, where Harrison Barnes continued to showcase his growth by rising over Mills, seeing the double as he elevated, and threw a pinpoint pass to Curry for a three. It may have only been a single play, but this is the type of play that Barnes struggled to make earlier on in the season.
Seth Curry is a gem
Not to get too sentimental, but I am really happy for Seth Curry. He is playing the best basketball of his career, and looks happy doing it. Early on in the season, his play warranted concerns of him being “a shooter that can’t shoot,” but his play over the past few months have solidified him in the Mavs rotation as one of the team’s best scorers. The best part of his season is watching him expand his offensive repertoire as he feels more comfortable with his role on the team. From spot up threes, to the slight hesitation to crossover to get in the lane, Seth too is improving before our eyes.
Dallas did the little things well
Small Xs and Os point, but early in the first quarter, Harrison Barnes had Tony Parker on a switch, sealed him and called for the ball. A second Spurs defender started shading towards Barnes, and in response, Matthews faked a cross-court passed, and then threw the entry pass to Barnes. Yes, yes, and yes. Too often, perimeter players get deterred from taking advantage of a clear advantage because the pass gets a little bit more difficult, and it was great to see Matthews not making that mistake.
Salah brought the defense
Who taught Salah Mejri how to play 1-on-1 post defense? I’m not hating on Salah, as I’m probably one of his bigger fans. That said, he never uses his forearm, loses a lot of leverage, and simply lets himself get bullied into deeper paint position by using his chest as his main line of defense. Perhaps its because he wants both arms available for a potential block, but I don’t think it’s worth the trade off in positioning.