With a matinee matchup set to kick off an Easter filled with playoff basketball, the San Antonio Spurs had just about all they could handle from the scrappy Dallas Mavericks.
The score ping-ponged back and forth for much of the game with each team going up by double digits at points. Veterans from the Spurs shined while the Dallas tenured faltered. The Maverick bench took hold of the game while the San Antonio role men proved to be a huge non-factor. The game ultimately came down to a series of runs, allowing the Spurs to take the upper hand in the series after one such 19-4 run to close out the game, winning 90-85.
Watch the highlights here.
But the game goes much deeper than the black and white of the box score. Let’s do a little Game 1 breakdown.
What Went Wrong
The Spurs bench was virtually nonexistent. Though known throughout the season as one of the deepest benches in the league, San Antonio’s backups were utterly embarrassed by the focused attack of their Dallas counterparts.
Dallas struggled early as their starting 5 struggled on both ends against the San Antonio core. It wasn’t until the spark plugs of Brandan Wright and Devin Harris checked in that Dallas seemed to show any signs of fight or life. This pick and roll tandem tore the defense apart, freeing up open jumpers for Harris when the defender sank, and when he didn’t, Brandan “The Helicopter” Wright was free to throw down a well-placed lob.
Manu Ginobili did his thing, but the bright lights of the playoffs seemed to be too much to handle for the rest of the Spurs bench. Despite Ginobili’s 17, the rest of the bench combined for only 6 points. They couldn’t score, they couldn’t defend, they couldn’t do anything. When it was all said and done, Dallas sported a monstrous bench differential of 46-23.
What Went Right
The Big 3 did their thing. The veteran trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili stepped up like they’ve done so many times before and, if nothing else, completely willed San Antonio to victory.
Where Dallas struggled, San Antonio shined. San Antonio exploited every weakness that the Mavs starters showed, attacking the defenseless perimeter continuously and posting up Duncan against a soft Samuel Dalembert.
Tony Parker blew past the defenders at will, knifing through the paint and scoring at virtually every opportunity. The pick and roll proved to be the key point of offense in game one, exploiting the switch-heavy Mavericks with ease. When Duncan screened, Parker would masterfully draw the bigger defender or simply dump it down to a now mismatched Duncan, who would turn and shoot or find a knifing backside perimeter player.
Dallas just couldn’t handle the onslaught of options late. Even with a 10-point lead heading into the final stretch, the Mavericks looked completely lost when San Antonio stepped up and executed. This late comeback will provide a much needed confidence boost in the coming games.
What to Change
The bench has to produce.
I’ve watched Dallas’ bench produce night in and night out all season; they aren’t going to back down. I’ve also witnessed each of San Antonio’s role players step up at different points in the season to explode for a 20-point game. Everyone knows that they are capable of stepping up and putting a game out of reach, but game one proved that they can also become a complete non-factor.
Dirk probably isn’t going to struggle again.
He’s coming off another monster, stat-filled season and this woeful game is not likely to bear a repeat performance. With only 11 points, it can almost be guaranteed that this will be his series low in scoring. What is a bit worrisome is how active he was despite his scoring production. Dirk proved to be a great decoy offensively as well as a menace on the boards. If only a couple more of his shots would have fallen, it’s pretty certain that San Antonio would be looking at a one-game deficit this morning.
Despite a pretty ugly, gritty game, it’s good to see San Antonio step up and finish. If game one would have come and gone with the adverse outcome, the series would certainly bring back painful memories of the 1-8 seeded debacle against Memphis of only two years ago. With a win, however, San Antonio is still sitting pretty to send the Mavs home pretty handedly.
San Antonio has yet to lose the Dallas this year, winning all 5 match-ups. They have their number and it’s still safe to hope for a quick 4 or 5 game series.