Tonight at 7 p.m. CST/ 8 p.m. EST, we'll be going live with another very special edition of the Spurscast Live. Thanks to a few friends of the show and site, we've arranged an interview with Sebastian Ginobili, brother of the Spurs' Manu Ginobili.
Currently a member of Libertad de Sunchales in Argentina, "Sepo" plays the guard position. His resume as a professional basketball player is stellar. This is just scratching the surface: he has been an All-Star in 2001-2002, 2004, 2006-2007, and in 2009 for the Argentinian LigaA All-Star Game, was part of the South American Club Championships in 2005, was named to the Latinbasket.com All-Argentinian LigaA second team in 2005, was named to the Latinbasket.com All-Argentinian LigaA first team in 2006, and was recently a member of the Argentinian LigaA Regular Season Championship team in 2008. His resume goes on and on.
Tonight we will discuss game one of the Spurs versus the Mavericks playoff series, talk about playing in Argentina, and his thoughts on Manu.
But don't let Mike and I have all the fun. Be a part of the interview by chatting with us live and asking questions in the chat. A select few will also have the opportunity to join us live "on-the-air" and speak with the man himself.
Get Project Spurs bookmarked, set your alarm clocks and join us back here at 7 p.m. CST for this special episode of the Spurscast.
Well game one is over and the Spurs lost to their rivals the Mavericks, 100-94. So what stood out from the box score in this loss? Aside from Richard Jefferson, Roger Mason, and well, pretty much any Spur not named Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker, looking terrible on the court, here are a few things that jumped out.
Free Throw Attempts
San Antonio Spurs: 14 vs. Dallas Mavericks: 34
The Spurs hit their free throws making 12 of 14 shots. Good for 85.7%. The Mavericks, on the other hand, just converted 73.5% of their shots from the foul line making 25 of 34. However, Dirk Nowitzki made all 12 of his free throws.
The huge discrepancy in foul shots taken could mean that the Spurs are not aggressive enough in attacking the basket or might be case of some early "home cooking." Let's just say in the third quarter alone, the Spurs only went to the line once. Thanks refs!
San Antonio Spurs: 37 vs. Dallas Mavericks: 45
The Mavericks out rebounded the Spurs in this game big time. They also got 13 offensive rebounds compared to the Spurs' eight. That meant more second chance points and better inside scoring opportunities for the Mavericks.
This is a huge concern for the Spurs as the Mavericks are just too big in the front-court with Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood in the paint.
Field Goal Percentage
San Antonio Spurs: 50% (39-78) vs. Dallas Mavericks: 47.3% (35-74)
The Spurs shot a better percentage overall from the field. But they have to do a better job at defending Nowitzki who hit 85.7% (12-14) of his field goal attempts on his way to a game high 36 points. Then again, does any team have an answer for Dirk? Unlike seasons past, the Spurs do not have a player like Bruce Bowen to frustrate Nowitzki.
To get back in this series, the Spurs have to be a lot better on defense. Their adjustment on how to guard Nowitzki will dictate how this series will go. It could be said to allow Nowitzki to do his damage and stop players such as Caron Butler and the other complementary Dallas players from putting up numbers.
The Spurs' role players has to step up. Roger Mason Jr. and Matt Bonner continue to struggle against the Mavericks in the playoffs and George Hill and Richard Jefferson were practically non-factors in this game.
By Jeff Cerda, Project Spurs
The much anticipated rematch from last years playoffs got underway at the American Airlines Area when Tim Duncan and the Spurs faced off against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
After being pulled early from the game against the Mavericks on Wednesday night after tripping over a camera man, George Hill returned to the starting lineup, while Tony Parker continued to come off of the bench.
The officiating was very questionable throughout the game tonight, calling one thing a foul on one end but not the same foul on the other end. It seemed like anytime a Spur player even thought about Dirk Nowitzki the refs were ready to blow the whistle and send him to the free throw line. There were numerous times when a Spurs' player would drive to the paint and contact would be made, but the whistle never came for the guys in silver and black. If you take away the six free throws during the “hack-a-Dampier,” the Mavericks shot 28 free throws to the Spurs 14. It seemed like every time the Spurs looked like they were going to make that real big run, the refs would make a questionable foul to stop any momentum that the Spurs had going.
The Mavericks won the tip to start off the game, but Manu Ginobili stepped in front of Jason Kidd to steal the ball and drive in for a lay up. The Spurs jumped out to a 6-1 lead early before Richard Jefferson picked up two quick fouls in just the first two minutes of the game to get Keith Bogans off the bench and in the game. Dallas then went on a 10-2 run led by Caron Butler and Nowitzki to go up 11-8 before Coach Greg Popovich called time out to stop the run.
Coming out of the time out, Ginobili connected on a driving layup to stop the bleeding and put some points on the board for the Spurs who went scoreless for three minutes. After the two teams traded baskets for a few minutes Mavericks' Kidd hit a three-point shot and another 23-foot jumper that was just inside the three-point line to have Dallas up 20-14. Parker would answer with a 16-foot jump shot and another 12-foot shot for the last points of the quarter. At the end of the first quarter the Mavericks were up 23-18. Both teams struggled shooting ball, ending quarter shooting 45%(Spurs) and 36.4%(Mavericks) respectively.
The Spurs started the second quarter on a 7-2 run to tie the game at 25, led by Ginobili who got a steal from Kidd and went from end to end to finish with a driving layup and capped off the run with a three-point shot assisted by Bonner. Shortly after that Nowitzki and Matt Bonner got into a small scuffle after a foul was called on Bonner for being to aggressive and not allowing Nowitzki to gain position. Nowitzki looked frustrated as he shoved Bonner’s hands away from him and walked away from the play.
After going scoreless for the next 2:19, DeJuan Blair got a monster slam dunk over Nowitzki to put the score at 27-29, Mavericks. The two teams still continued to trade baskets as this was a back and forth battle with each teams’ defense not really playing up to par. Ginobili had 9 of his 16 first-half points in the second quarter for the Spurs while Nowitzki led the Mavs with 11 of his 19 first half points to have the Mavericks up 50-45 at the break.
After Nowitzki hit a 16 foot jumper to open up the third quarter the Spurs went on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 54. Antonio McDyess had four of those nine points which included a slam dunk and a 22 foot jumper that quieted the crowd in Dallas and forced the Mavericks to call a time out. The teams went back and forth again, exchanging the lead a couple of times before Nowitzki went on a 7-0 run by himself to have the Mavericks up 67-61 with 3:46 to go in the quarter. With Erick Dampier shooting 60% from the charity stripe on the season, the Spurs decided to go to a “hack-a-Damp” approach to put a clamp down on the Mavericks offense. Dampier went 4-6 during this time and made the last two in a row before coach Popovich decided to ditch the move. Nowitzki had 13 points in the third to lead the Mavericks to their biggest lead of the night at the end of the third, 76-69.
Caron Butler scored five quick points to start off the fourth to push the lead to 12 points, 81-69. Coach Popovich called a quick time out to settle down the Spurs and talk things over. After the time out the Spurs went on a 11-4 run that included two "and 1" plays, one from Ginobili and one from Duncan, to pull back within five, 85-80.
Yet again the teams would go back to trading baskets. With 5:28 to go in the game the Mavericks answered that run with a 12-6 run of their own that included a three-point shot from Kidd and Jason Terry, to push the lead back up to double digits, 100-88 with 1:54 to go in the game. Although Dallas would not score again, the game the game was out of reach.
With the Spurs not getting any of the calls, not making any baskets, nor getting any key stops down the stretch, Spurs fans knew that the Mavericks would take game one. The scoreboard didn’t reflect how the game was played late, the Spurs got the last six points to end the game but the Mavs out rebounded (45-37), out assisted (23-19), out blocked (4-1) and had less turnovers (15-17) than the Spurs, which all added up to a 100-94 victory.
- Dallas shot 34 free throws to the Spurs 14
- Dallas scored 39 points off of free throws and turnovers
- The Spurs benched only produced 27 points, down from their average of 39.2 and only grabbed 7 rebounds also down from their season average of 17.2
- Dirk Nowitzki shot 12-14(85%) as far as field goals and 12-12(100%) on free throws
Call-in Live: 210-757-0847
While many around the league have pretty much written off the Spurs in this series, we decided to let our staff take a crack at the crystal ball. Then we also asked some local media and other NBA bloggers for their take.
Michael De Leon, Founder/Spurscast host
The Spurs have given me hope after a squad of mostly D-Leaguers gave a completely healthy Mavs team a run for their money last week. DeJuan Blair also looked unstoppable and if the Spurs use him wisely and Parker and Hill are close to 100 percent, I've got to give it to the Spurs. It'll be a hard-fought, long, but fun to watch series. Spurs in 7.
Jeff Garcia, Co-founder, Spurscast co-host
Mavericks trade for Haywood, Butler not only boosted the Mavericks already loaded with Kidd, Terry, Nowitzki,and Marion, it pushed them over the top against the Spurs. The Mavs are too strong for this Spurs team and hold the home court advantage. Spurs will make it competitive but in the end will lose out. Mavericks in 6.
Robby Lim, Lead Writer
Spurs will be seeking redemption against the Mavs. Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan will be the main catalyst for the Spurs. DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner and Roger Mason Jr. could be the X-factors and their team defense will make the difference in this series. Against all odds, Spurs in 6!
Lance Fell, Staff Writer
Spurs versus Mavericks. Is there a better rivalry NBA? Some might say the Lakers and the Celtics, but the fact that the Mavs and the Spurs play in the same conference, better yet the same division, and are connected by I-35, makes this, in my eyes, the best rivalry in professional basketball. What more could a diehard basketball fan ask for? The Mavericks will no doubt come out confident and look to finish the Spurs off quick. But with Tim Duncan in playoff mode, Mavs fans can forget about bringing out their brooms. Expect a tough, emotional series, with some bad officiating just to add some spice to this already tasty series. Duncan will do what he always does against the Mavs, and wreck the paint against all people who challenge him, and Manu will do his Manu thing. We’ve already seen him own Shawn Marion more than once. But with Tony Parker not at full strength, and Caron Butler being the physical, aggressive player the Mavs have always needed, I don’t see the Spurs pulling this out. As much as breaks my heart to say this, sorry fellow Spurs fans, Mavericks in six.
Emily Allen, Staff Writer
If my crystal ball is right, then Mark Cuban should put his championship dreams away for another year. On the other hand, San Antonio should get ready to go all seven games with Dallas, because I don't see either team going down easily.
This isn't a matter of whether or not the Spurs can complete with the Mavericks. Anyone who watched Wednesday night's game knows that San Antonio actually began to show some life from the old school Spurs, who played some of their best ball in the clutch near playoffs. Even second-seed Dallas knows the seventh-seed Spurs have the athleticism and firepower to come in and take the first round - I think they will, but as any game or series is in the IH-35 rivalry, it will be a knock-down dragout fight to the very end. Spurs in 7.
Jordan Rivas, Contributor
A healthy Ginobili, Parker, and Duncan means the Spurs are one of the most dangerous seventh seeds in league history. The Spurs have championship pedigree, coupled with a full roster of healthy veterans, and a momentum swing that saved the last stretch of an otherwise lackluster season. The Spurs are as healthy as they've been all year, but the pieces will all have to come together the way we hoped they would when this squad was pieced together. If they don't the Spurs will see a first round exit, but based on the last twenty or so games of the regular season, I think the Spurs are hitting a momentum push at the right time. Spurs win in seven games.
Jeff Cerda, Contributor
They say “everything is BIGGER in Texas” and the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks rivalry is no exception. These two teams have some history to say the least and the Mavs got the best of the Spurs the last time these two teams met in the playoffs. Things will be different this time around however, because the Spurs will have a healthy team this year to go along with that sour taste they have in their mouths after an early exit from last years’ playoffs thanks to the Mavs. The Spurs have been there and know what it takes to win a championship, something that the Mavs have yet to do since joining the NBA in the 1980-81 season. I believe the Spurs will pull out a “upset” series win over the Mavs, 4 games to 2, winning game 6 back in San Antonio to have the Alamo City celebrating fiesta style. GO SPURS GO!
Chris Duel, ESPN 1250 The Zone
Spurs in Six. Bad news for the Mavericks: Gregg Popovich has the Spurs peaking at just the right time. The Spurs record against playoff teams in March and April proves they are ready make noise against the Mavs. Add the intangible of having lost to the Mavs in the first round last season plus the health of Manu Ginobili. The Spurs will get a split up in Dallas, bring it home and take care of business at the AT&T Center and later close it out back home in Game 6. We say it all the time - the Spurs are built for the playoffs. If they can remain healthy, they can go to the Western Conference Finals.
Larry Ramirez, KSAT 12
The Spurs will beat the Mavs in 6 games. The big 3 are healthy and looking good. Manu will probably be the difference in this series. I think George Hill be a big factor too if he’s 100 percent. Home court is important, but I don’t think it secures a series win this year in the West with the conference being so strong.
Richard Oliver, San Antonio Express-News
Manu, pain-free at last, will bring pain to Dallas. Mavs favorites, but Spurs team playing w nothing to lose will have last word. Spurs in 6
Humberto Cervera, WOAI
I'm thinking that this is a pretty easy call. The way the Spurs look, they can't hang with the Mavs bigs and Caron Butler will be able to slow Manu down enough to knock the Spurs out of the first round for the second straight year. Sorry to say Mavs in 6.
Rey Moralde, The No Look Pass
really hate betting against the Spurs, even this year. I've said over and over that as long as Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich are there, the Spurs will not die. Even though the Mavericks were scorching hot after the trading deadline, they have slowed down towards the end of the season. Still, I feel this has been the best Mavericks team since the Finals team of 2006... and Mark Cuban isn't too far off when he said that this is the most talented team he's ever had. Plus, the Mavs eliminated the Spurs (yes, without Manu but...) in a cinch last year.
I'll say Mavericks in 6 but I hate betting against the Spurs and I won't be surprised if San Antonio does take it. Take my money now.
John Karalis, Reds Army
My heart is telling me Spurs, but my head is telling me Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki is too good. Take over the game when he wants good. And it's not like Richard Jefferson is going to stop him.
The only hang up I have is that Spurs front court. Dampier and Haywood are slightly more than serviceable, but they're not Tim Duncan, and they're not DeJuan Blair. And I know that in the playoffs, the ability to dump it into the post and bang on the boards is huge. Besides, Manu has spent April pretty much treating opponents like fresh fish at Shawshank prison. He's hot at the right time, and that's gonna help.
But, ultimately, I think the Mavs are too good all around. They've got the best player on the floor. They've got Jason Kidd... who can still get it done. And topping that off with Caron Butler and Shawn Marion on the wings and Jason Terry off the bench is just a little too much. I want to pick the Spurs here, but I can only pick them to make this a hell of series. Dallas in 7.
Mookie, A Stern Warning
Last season I said these exact words "Never underestimate the heart of a champion. Any team that includes Tim Duncan and Tony Parker can not be discounted when it comes to playoff time." I then went on to predict a 4-1 Spurs victory in the series. How wrong I was.
And yet, once again, I stick by that same edict. The Spurs have some incredible players with a remarkable history of success. Few players in the NBA have the level of success that they have in recent years. However, this time the emphasis is squarely on the shoulders of Manu Ginobili. He has been in sizzling form of late and coupled with George Hill's spark-plug ability, represents the chance of clinching the series for the Spurs.
All of that said, the Dallas Mavericks have a phenomenal squad this season -- one which I've been eyeing since the all-star break as the only potential team to knock off the Los Angeles Lakers in the West. The addition of Caron Butler (and to a lesser extent Brendan Haywood) means a great deal. This Mavs machine will be good enough to send the Spurs off into the sunset without a second round berth. But it won't come easily. Final prediction: Mavs in 7. And what a great series it will be -- saddle up, we're in for some entertainment in Texas.
Jackie Taylor aka That Sports Babe
Experience is going to play a part but only a small one in this series. Jason Kidd has been there done that many times but with different teams. Timmy’s been there done that 15x with the Spurs. Cohesiveness of team play is going to be the most integral thing and although the Mavs haven’t had much time to get to know one another’s post-season styles, I still think it’s going to cause problems for the Spurs.
Personally, if I were Pop I would consider benching Richard Jefferson entirely and going with a defensive powerhouse of Timmy at center, DeJuan Blair at small forward & Matt Bonner (“The Southern Ginger”) at power forward. I’m not sure if that’s an OPTION but I see that as a major key in San Antonio getting out of this alive let alone carving out a few wins. Typically this would not be the time for San Antonio to “test the waters” with a new lineup but I don’t think there is much choice considering what the Mavericks are working with.
I foresee Carlisle going with Dirk-a-licious at center & Haywood at power fwd and anything after that is just gravy. The Spurs biggest problem is not that their old….they just don’t have ENOUGH good players. With the Mavericks bench housing people like JJ Barea, Roddy Boo-boo & The Jet, they are always going to have some fresh legs to go out there and tear it up whereas San Antonio is going to have to rely on the same ol squad to carve them out a W. Their young guys are not that good in comparison and although I love Antonio McDyess, the fact of the matter is that San Antonio had better be out to a horrendously large lead before they throw him in and rely on him to keep the peace while Timmy takes a breather.
Dallas has come on like a house on fire this year. With the addition of Caron Butler for scoring and Haywood for blocking, the Mavericks are staring the Western Conference Playoffs in the face, in my opinion. This is just a small hurdle in their post-season. I say Mavs in 6.
Matt Scheelar, Bust-a-Bucket
Last year the Mavericks took it to a Spurs team that seemed to be in decline. With the two teams matching up again in the first round, both teams look very different. The Mavs have shown flexed their muscles by beating San Antonio 3 times during the regular season, but things will be different in the playoffs. Manu Ginobili has been playing incredible basketball while Parker and Duncan have limped to the finish line. I think the Spurs are that snake waiting in the grass, they hate how Dallas rolled them last year and will want revenge. I think Timmy and Tony are going to show up like they did during their championship runs. I like the Spurs in 7, this will be a great series.
With game one vs. the Mavericks just hours away, let's take a closer look at the series.
Point Guard: Tony Parker vs. Jason Kidd
Parker and Kidd have some history going back to the summer of 2003, when the Spurs almost lured Kidd over to San Antonio. Since then, Parker has made a point to make San Antonio forgot all about Kidd. In last year's playoff series, Parker torched Kidd. But I'll give credit where it's deserved. Kidd has played very well for Dallas lately, but will his 37-year-old body be able to stand up to a much quicker Parker, even if he isn't back to 100 percent after his injury. Kidd's production has suffered a drop off in the playoffs the last two years. His minutes have also been up this season, so if Parker is having his way against the Mavs, I wouldn't be surprised to see Carlisle throw out Barea or Beaubois if Kidd struggles early. Edge: Spurs.
Shooting Guard: Manu Ginobili vs. Caron Butler
Can anyone really stop Manu? Manu has been phenomenal for more than a month and he's causing a lot of critics to give the Spurs a second look. Butler doesn't have much of a chance defending Manu, so we'll likely see a lot of Shawn Marion matched up on him and possibly even some spot minutes for DeShawn Stevenson, but that's not likely to change much of anything, especially considering Ron Artest had his hands full when the Spurs went through Los Angeles earlier this month and Manu put up 32 on him. Now Caron Butler is not chopped liver. He's averaged 15 points and five boards since coming to Dallas, but if the Spurs force him out of his comfort zone, they can make him pretty ineffective. Butler makes his living about 18 feet away from the basket, where he shoots at about a 45 to 50 percent clip constantly. If the Spurs can keep him on the outside, he makes only about 29 percent of his shots. Butler also seems to know that this is his weakness, which is the reason he's only put up 11 three-point attempts in the last six games. Edge: Spurs.
Small Forward: Richard Jefferson vs. Shawn Marion
If you put both players side-by-side, stats-wise, Marion and Jefferson look to be pretty even. But Marion's defense is the difference-maker. He's still got the speed to defend smaller players on the perimeter and he's got the length to be a nuisance on the inside. If Marion stays on Jefferson, I can see him giving Jefferson his space while he sags off to double on Tim Duncan or try to swipe at the ball. If he does, Jefferson's got to make him pay, either by hitting open jumpers or by faking to draw Marion back in so he can then drive past him for a layup or dunk. The trouble is, Jefferson hasn't played as aggressive as he should be all season long. Jefferson hasn't used his athleticism to his advantage all season long. By now, Spurs fans are used to thinking about anything Jefferson does as a bonus, but it's not expected. His production varies from game to game, whereas Marion is usually a consistent contributor in scoring, boards and defense. Edge: Mavericks.
Power Forward: Tim Duncan vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Can you ask for a better matchup in a first round series than pitting two of the best power forwards in the game against each other? Tim Duncan has quietly had a noter great season when many expected that this would be the year Parker would take the reins. Dirk is Dirk. As a Spurs fan it's frustrating to see him seemingly knock down every shot, even when very well defended. Fpr the past couple of years though, it seems like the Mavs have been successful running one play for Dirk that the Spurs can't seem to solve, the high screen. This usually leaves Dirk with a shorter player on him that he can either back down or shoot over. When Duncan is at his best down low, there's no player that can stop him, so the Mavs will likely throw a bunch of different players at him and try to frustrate him early by having players swipe at the ball and try to force it out of his hands. Luckily for the Spurs, Duncan is one of the better passing big men in the post and when his wings are hitting, the Mavs won't no where to turn. Edge: Even.
Center: Antonio McDyess vs. Erick Dampier
It would be very beneficial to the Spurs if Dampier stays on Dyess. Dyess has range up to about 16-18. Bringing Dampier out to leave Duncan room to work would take Dallas' best shot blockers out of the post. This also spaces the floor for the Spurs, but McDyess has to be able to hit his shot in order to keep Dampier from doubling. Edge: Even.
The Spurs have had the luxury of having on of the deepest benches they've ever had, but coming into Dallas, they may have some competition. When George Hill enters the game and Parker goes to the bench, there's almost no drop off. Hill likes to shoot the corner three, but he's just as comfortable driving to the basket or pulling up for a mid-range jumper. He's also excelled on defense and uses his long arms to deflect or alter shots. DeJuan Blair showed last week that he may play a bigger part in this series than originally thought. He put on a clinic against the Mavericks and the Spurs will hope he'll be able to make the Mavs bigs look just as bad throughout this series. Matt Bonner and Roger Mason are hired guns and when they're hitting, the Spurs are rolling. Also look for Keith Bogans to provide some defensive e relief on Nowitzki. And just when you thought the bench was done comes Garrett Temple, who averaged over 11 points per game starting for the Spurs in Hill's absence. For the Mavs, it all starts with the sharp-shooting Jason Terry. But beyond that they also have Barea, Brendan Haywood, Beaubois and DeShawn Stevenson. If Blair is the Blair of Wednesday's game, then it's edge Spurs, but I'm not expecting to see a repeat performance. Edge: Even.
Marion Photo Courtesy CH/ProjectSpurs.com
This season, the Mavericks continues to have the Spurs' numbers as they won the season series 3-1. But that's practically irrelevant because the first two meetings were back in November when the Spurs were still struggling bringing in their new comers to the system. The second meeting was in early January, before the Mavericks traded for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson with the Washington Wizards. If you look at the last game to close the 2009-2010 NBA regular-season, it was a game where Popovich gave Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan some rest. Basically, the Mavericks beat the Spurs' role-players.
One can say the Spurs and the Mavericks will enter this year's playoffs somewhat unfamiliar with each other. Though the odds are in the Mavs' favor, but the Spurs has proven time and again they are still one of the better teams in the NBA and their championship pedigree will play a big role as they will open the playoffs on the road for the first time during the Duncan era.
This playoff series will be a battle of adjustments and exploiting mismatches which means Mavericks' coach Rick Carlisle and Spurs' coach Popovich will have their works cut out for them. Obviously, this series will still be decided by the players' execution down the stretch and how will they respond to the playoff pressure but the chess match between Popovich and Carlisle should be an interesting side story.
On paper, the Mavericks and the Spurs are tough teams to beat. Both have solid starting fives and have a deep bench which will play a significant role in this playoff series. Expect both teams to impose their will on each other and to play at their strengths.
The Mavericks will not lack in offensive firepower. Dirk Nowitzki remains to be a matchup problem for the Spurs. Adding Butler to the mix along with Mavericks mainstays Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, all this provides a more potent offense for the Spurs to worry about.
Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier will try to take advantage of their length and height against the Spurs' front-court. However, the Spurs still have Tim Duncan and rookie DeJuan Blair. Blair, if given significant minutes, could be this series' X-factor for the Spurs. You know he caught the Mavericks coaching staff's eye when he poured a 27 points and 23 rebounds on Dallas to close out the regular season.
On the other hand, the Spurs have enough offensive weapons of their own. Ginobili has played a lot like the Manu that helped the Spurs to win championships, Richard Jefferson has come a long, Parker is recovering nicely from a hand injury, George Hill has been solid (provided that he's healthy) and Duncan will get his usual share on offense.
They will probably create some mismatches on the back-court where they have a slight edge on the Mavericks. Yes, the Dallas Mavericks could boast a back-court that includes Jason Kidd, Marion, Terry and J.J. Barea but with the way the Spurs have played lately how can you argue against a Ginobili-Parker-Hill combo?
However, looming questions can be asked whether Parker is fully healed from his recent injury and is Hill healthy enough to play in the post season after tweaking his ankle in the Spurs' regular season finale?
Haywood and Dampier could impose their will on the inside against the Spurs smaller front-court.
Marion and Kidd have more playoff experience which should come in handy if they are matched up against Keith Bogans, Hill and Malik Hairston. Although Bogans is a seasoned veteran and Hill has shown his poise this season.
Barea and rookie Rodrigue Beaubois could help the Mavs' aging back-court to keep up with the Spurs.
San Antonio Spurs:
Coach Popovich might be hesitant to use his younger, inexperienced players such as Blair. But with the way Blair has played, especially against Dallas in the last meeting between the teams, he should be given significant minutes especially when Duncan is resting on the bench.
Ian Mahinmi, for all his faults, could be a viable option to defend Nowitzki on short stretches. He has the foot speed and athleticism to keep up with Dirk on defense. Plus it is six fouls to use on Nowitzki and Spurs fans know how Mahinmi loves to foul.
Bogans, Hill and Hairston could make life more harder for Butler and Marion on offense.
Matt Bonner and Roger Mason Jr. MUST hit their shots at a fairly decent rate to make the Spurs harder to defend. Both are coming off horrible playoff performances against the Mavericks in the 2009 NBA playoffs. They have something to prove and now it's their time to shine.
In last year's playoffs against Dallas, the Spurs practically relied on one player -- Parker. This year, they have enough firepower to counter the Mavericks. The Spurs will be seeking redemption and it should be a great playoff series between the two teams.
Give us your take on this series. Leave us a comment.
We already spoke to Brian Cuban to get his opinions on the Spurs-Mavericks series, but to get a Mavs blogger's perspective, I talked to Rob Mahoney of the excellent Two Man Game Mavs blog. Make sure to also check out Rob's work on Hardwood Paroxysm and Pro Basketball Talk.
1. Mark Cuban recently said that the Spurs-Mavericks rivalry has been underappreciated and underhyped. I don't know how anything Mark is a part of can be underhyped, but do you share that sentiment with him?
Absolutely. The Spurs and Mavs have more mutual respect than some of the other contemporary rivalries (Celtics-anyone, for example), but the two teams have been so evenly matched for so long. In terms of producing consistently competitive games, I'm not sure there's a better match-up in the league. This is what NBA fans are getting in the first round of the playoffs, and to have this kind of competitive basketball this early is a gift. Seriously. Then once you factor in the intra-division competition, the geography (and the frequency with which fans of both teams interact as a result), and the playoff history between the two teams, I fail to see how this is anything less than one of the more compelling rivalries in the league.
2. Josh Howard was always a Spurs-killer, especially on the defensive end. Who does Dallas turn to for perimeter defense?
Shawn Marion. He's done a spectacular job of holding the league's elite wings below their scoring averages this season, and I'd expect him to be on Ginobili duty. A few morsels to consider:
Kevin Durant in the '09-'10 season: 30.1 PPG, 3.3 TOPG, .476 FG% Durant against the Mavs this season: 22.5 PPG, 4.5 TOPG, .317 FG%
Kobe Bryant in the '09-'10 season: 27.0 PPG, 3.2 TOPG, .456 FG% Bryant against the Mavs this season: 16.3 PPG, 2.3 TOPG, .400 FG%
LeBron James in the '09-'10 season: 29.7 PPG, 3.4 TOPG, .503 FG% James against the Mavs this season: 25.0 PPG, 1.5 TOPG, .442 FG%
Dwyane Wade in the '09-'10 season: 26.6 PPG, 3.3 TOPG, .476 FG% Wade against the Mavs this season: 28.0 PPG, 4.0 TOPG, .333 FG%
Most of that is due to Marion, but the Mavs are also significantly improved at scheming to stop highly productive wing players. Caron Butler is also a good on-ball defender, and he'll surely have his shot at Manu as well. DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Kidd are alternatives as well, should Carlisle look to mix up his coverages (count on it).
In terms of stopping point guards though...well, that's a different story. Kidd is too slow, Jason Terry is meh, J.J. Barea is too small, and Rodrigue Beaubois tries but isn't too strong in his defensive fundamentals just yet. Tony Parker could do some serious damage if he can figure out how to tap into last season's magic. George Hill too, to a lesser extent, but he's obviously not the threat that a rolling TP is.
3. Manu Ginobili has been pretty much unstoppable since the All-Star break. For the Mavs, is it wiser to just let him get his and try to limit everyone else or do you see a gameplan in place for trying to stop Manu?
I kind of touched on this already (and in my own series preview), but I'd expect the Mavs to try to stop Manu specifically. Carlisle seems to prefer keying on the guys who trigger the offense, and there's no doubt that Ginobili has played that role late in the season. Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier are both solid post defenders, so the Mavs will let them try to hold down Tim Duncan. Meanwhile, Ginobili will face some tough man defense from Marion, Butler, and co., and surely a number of double teams and traps in various situations (particularly on pick-and-rolls).
I think that's the Mavs' best bet, as Dallas can significantly improve their chances by stopping Manu. He's just been too good lately, and removing that element from the series would give Dallas a big advantage. If the Mavs do try that strategy over the first game or so and it backfires, expect Carlisle to change things up. He's shown a willingness to adapt and modify his strategy throughout the course of the season or a playoff series (such as when he opted to start J.J. Barea in game three of last years' playoff series against San Antonio).
4. This series presents a lot of great matchups. Which one would you consider to be the key matchup of the series?
Manu v. Mavs is obviously a big one, but Dirk v. Spurs is just as crucial. I'm expecting Gregg Popovich to employ a similarly varied approach in covering Nowitzki: primary defense from everybody from Antonio McDyess to Matt Bonner to Richard Jefferson to George Hill, double teams galore, and anything and everything San Antonio can muster to get the ball out of Dirk's hands.
I think Nowitzki will still shine. McDyess had some success against Dirk in the regular season, but I don't see him as being a particularly effective long-term matchup. Dirk has become a solid passer out of double teams over the years, and that combined with his ability to shoot over his defenders should keep him very effective.
5. Do the Spurs have enough left in the tank to get past the Mavericks and possibly get Tim Duncan his fifth ring?
Yes and no. This series is pretty much a toss-up between two very competitive teams that know each other incredibly well. San Antonio definitely has what it takes to beat Dallas, they just have to execute a little bit better than Dallas and catch a few breaks. The same goes for Dallas, really; this one is going to be very, very close, with either team capable of taking it.
The ring though is a bit trickier. The Spurs match up well with the Suns, their probably second round opponent, and better than most against the Lakers. Winning a seven-game series against a struggling LA team is far from an impossibility, and if the Spurs can keep their regular season momentum going until the conference finals, they'd have a decent shot at the final boss. That's where the dream ends, though. The Spurs would likely have Cleveland or Orlando waiting on the other side, and those two teams aren't messing around. They're not struggling, they have legitimate superstars, play great defense, and boast incredible depth. Even if the Spurs had a great run all the way to the Finals, I'm afraid they'd probably be coming home without any hardware.
The San Antonio Spurs head into this 2010 NBA playoffs with questions. Are they too old? Will Richard Jefferson pay off in the playoffs after a sub-par regular season? Is the lack of big men in the paint going to haunt them?
All these questions, and probably more, surround the team as they enter the playoffs. However, if there is one question Spurs fans can answer right away with an emphatic "yes," it's whether or not this year's team comes into the playoffs with a strong bench.
And it is the bench that will be the x-factor for the Spurs heading into the playoffs.
With the starters usually made up of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Antonio McDyess, Richard Jefferson, and Keith Bogans, the Spurs bench can arguably be a starting unit for any squad.
DeJuan Blair, Malik Hairston, Manu Ginobili, Ian Mahinmi, Roger Mason, George Hill, Garrett Temple, and Matt Bonner make for a potent second-unit that has proven itself to be the savior for the Spurs during the regular-season and a positive in an otherwise mediocre one. Some might even argue, this is the deepest bench the Spurs have ever had.
This bench has been the highest scoring bench in the NBA this season at 39.2 points per game. Granted it was against the Minnesota Timberwolves but the Spurs' reserves poured in a whopping 79 points in a 133-111 win on April 12th.
Furthermore, it was not uncommon this season to see the bench out-performing the Spurs' starters and outshining the opposing team's bench. Ask the Western Conference number one seed Los Angeles Lakers.
If one digs deeper into the stats, it reveals much more than just offensive production. The Spurs bench against the other 27 NBA team benches show they average:
- 17.2 rebounds
- 8.7 assists
- 3.0 steals
- 1.9 blocks
- 12.7 defensive rebounds
- 4.6 offensive rebounds
- shoot 45% from the field
- shoot 36% from the three-point line
- shoot 74% from the free-throw line
Insanity! All this makes them the number one bench in the NBA.
Naysayers will point to former Sixth-Man of the Year winner Ginobili coming off the bench as the main reason for these staggering numbers. While that point might have some kernel of truth, overall the reserves are a quality mix of youth and experience.
Blair, Hill, Hairston, Mahinmi and late-comer Temple make up the young Spurs coming off the bench.
In Blair, the Spurs have an absolute brute in the paint. Though small in stature, his wingspan, toughness, strength, knack for grabbing massive rebounds, and ability to finish around the rim more than makes up for the lack of height and ACLs. Might want to ask the Dallas Mavericks in the final regular-season game what Blair is capable of doing. In case you forget Mavericks, Blair pumped in 27 points and 23 rebounds.
Hill, though just in his second season, looks more like he is in his fifth NBA season. What a turnaround for this young Spur. He started his NBA career having a miserable performance in the 2008 Las Vegas summer league to now being Spurs' coach Popovich favorite player.
Hill's production for the Spurs from last year to this year has been astounding. He went from averaging 5.7 points last season to 12.4 this season. Shooting from 40% to 47%. Averaging 1.8 assists to 2.9 assists and shooting 32% to 40% from the three-point line this season.
But more importantly, he displayed poise and maturity when he stepped in admirably for starting point-guard Tony Parker, when Parker suffered a hand injury late in the regular season. He steadied the ship and ran the team like a veteran of 12 years in the NBA.
Hairston, Mahinmi and Temple round out the youngsters. They provide athleticism, energy and the "unknown" for any opposing team. Hairston can give the defense a boost, Mahinmi can contribute on both ends of the floor (if he doesn't foul out in an instant) while Temple has shown he can step in at a moments notice to run the point for the Spurs and make a significant contribution.
The experience off the bench comes from Ginobili, Bonner, Mason.
To say Ginobili has been on a tear of late would be an understatement. Since the All-Star break he has been averaging 22 points a game, shouldering the load for the team, proving his worth to the franchise and has been more vocal on the court with teammates. He has been the Spurs' MVP for the second-half of the regular season and now with a new contract extension making him a Spur for another three years, Ginobili is ready to win.
Bonner and Mason will provide the team with outside shooting but must prove they can contribute when it matters. During the 2008-2009 NBA season, both showed their value to the team during the regular season. Bonner against the Boston Celtics in Boston and Mason showed how clutch he can be against the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. But all this didn't matter as they disappeared in the 2009 NBA Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks.
Fast forward to this season and Bonner has added a running-hook shot to his repitoire and Mason is still deadly from the three-point arch.
Nevertheless, they both are poised to make opposing team defenses pay if they leave them wide open for a shot.
As you can see, this commanding mix of youth and experience is the x-factor for the Spurs in this playoff run. It doesn't matter which team the Spurs face in the first-round. With a bench like this, it should make the opposing coaching staff rethink their approach to the series.
But in the end, if the team wants to advance beyond the first-round, the supporting cast must maintain its level of excellence it displayed throughout the regular-season.
(Photo of Roger Mason/CH/Project Spurs)