If I had told you last week that I would be slightly disapointed that the Dallas Mavericks would only come out of San Antonio with the series tied at 1-1, you would’ve probably done a spit take, laughed hysterically and then slapped me.
But, the Mavs should be up 2-0 in this series instead of it being tied at 1-1. They blew a ten point lead in game one with about seven minutes left to go, and ran the Spurs out of their own gym in game two. It’s amazing that the Mavericks have outplayed the Spurs for most of this series, but it’s even more amazing that they should’ve won both games in San Antonio.
However you spin it, it all comes down to one thing: the Mavs have given themselves a chance to win this series.
How big a chance remains to be seen, but it’s a chance none the less, and it should have the Spurs worried. Had Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis not combined to go 4-28 in game one, the Mavs would be heading back to Dallas sitting pretty with a 2-0 lead. But even still the Mavs should feel really good about where they are.
The biggest reason they have a chance to pull off a massive upset is because of their bench. Last week I said the Mavs bench would need to outplay the Manu Ginobili led Spurs bench, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. In the first two games combined, the Mavs bench has outscored the Spurs bench 86-74.
Devin Harris has been spectacular this series with a 19 point performance in game one and an 18 point performance in game two, and has been the x-factor off of that Mavs bench. Harris and the rest of the Mavs bench is going to have keep up that effort, and they can’t be outplayed by the Spurs role players like Danny Green and Patty Mills.
The most interesting part of this whole thing is that Dirk Nowtizki hasn’t even had a great game yet. Dirk was flat awful in game one with 11 points. He started game two 0-6 from the field, but ended with 16 points and going 7-19 from the field. One would have to think that Nowitzki is due for one of his classic playoff performances, especially since the Mavs are returning home for the next two games. Ellis rebounded from his bad game one performance with a 21 point outing in game two, and I think Nowitzki will do the same.
Dallas is clearly doing something differently now. During their 10-game losing streak against the Spurs, they were doomed by an a three-point barrage from San Antonio. The crisp ball movement and the ease at which the Spurs scored always overwhelmed Dallas.
In this series, Rick Carlisle has changed the script and done an excellent job of taking the three-pointer out of the Spurs bag of tricks. They may get hot from three later in the series, but Dallas isn’t going to allow that to beat them. For a team that has been as bad defensively as the Mavs have been all season, holding the Spurs to 90 and 92 points at home is tremendous, and it’s been thanks to a team defensive effort that will need to continue.
Plus, the Mavs offense looked more like what we’ve seen this season in game two, even without Dirk playing his best. Let’s not forget, the Mavs offense only had eight turnovers on Wednesday compared to the Spurs 24. Whether it was the Spurs just being straight sloppy or the Mavs actually bothering them, winning the turnover battle 24-8 is extremely impressive.
With Dallas returning home for games three and four, you would think the Mavs could do a lot of damage. But, the Mavs struggled at home towards the end of the regular season (remember the 4-4 eight game homestand), and have to come out firing on Saturday.
I said last week that the Spurs looked like a team on a mission to redeem themselves after last year’s Finals. But something seems off. I still think the Spurs will end up winning this series, but even if they do they need to be worried. They just don’t seem like they are going to be able to win 16 playoff games to win the title, with each opponent more daunting than the last. San Antonio isn’t going down without a fight, but the Mavs have put themselves in a position to maybe do something special, and hopefully they can capitalize.