Tim Duncan didn't play in this game. It may surprise you that I'm upset by that. I think it sets the Mavs up for a no-win situation. If the Mavs win, then they should have won because Duncan was out, and no one is impressed. If the Mavs lose, then they weren't even good enough to beat a Duncan-less Spurs team. As it was, the Mavs didn't win, because they couldn't stop the hot shooting and referee-blinding theatrics of Manu Ginobili.
1. Manu Ginobili - I'll get into his theatrics later. For now, I will just focus on the positives of his game. 37 points on 50% shooting, 11 of 12 from the line, 4 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and a block.
2. Tony Parker - I don't want to deny Parker a spot here for his 23 points, 2 boards, 3 assists and 1 steal because he might sue me for $4 million like he did to that international model that claims he cheated on Eva Longoria with her. If her allegations are true, I'm sure I'm wondering the same thing as everyone else: how in the hell does Tony Parker pull this kind of tail?
3. Josh Howard/Jason Terry/Brandon Bass - It's a 3-way tie for the 3rd Cheer because they were the only Mavs that really participated in keeping the Mavs in this game up to the very end. They combined for 60 points on 60% shooting, 50% from behind the arc, hit 15 of 20 free throws, grabbed 18 of our 38 rebounds as a team, and had 5 assists, 2 steals and a block as group. The bulk of the production rests right here. Everyone else just rested.
- Dirk's Digits: I was fully expecting Dirk to go insane in the absence of Duncan, and I was fully disappointed. This wasn't all on Bowen's defense either. I can't completely credit Bowen because he went 0-7 from the floor, and because I hate him. Dirk still had 15 points and 9 boards, but he only shot 4 of 11 from the field and turned the ball over 4 times.
- This game breaks down into 2 categories: things the Mavs did to screw this up, and things the refs did to screw this up. Let's start with the Mavs.
- The Mavs had a nice 10 point lead in the 2nd quarter and led by 7 at the half. But that all went to crap when they let the Spurs outscore them 31-17 in the 3rd. The Mavs spent the rest of the game trying to play catch up against a good team. More times than not, that doesn't work out very well.
- The Mavs turned the ball over 15 times, leading to 23 points for the Spurs.
- The Mavs had a lot of very disorganized plays in the 4th quarter which lead to poor shot selection, such as the 12 3-pointers we jacked up. We only made 4 of them, and the 8 misses allowed Parker and Ginobili to get the long rebound and push the ball in the open court.
- We just kept on screwing things up tonight, and the Spurs kept on capitalizing on it.
- But all that said, we were down 2 with about 3 seconds left. Dirk got the inbounds pass on the right baseline behind the arc and let 'er rip. He missed. Ball game. Now, normally Dirk will always be my first option to take that shot, and then Terry after him, and maybe Stackhouse after that. There isn't anyone else I would feel confident enough in to want them taking that particular shot in that particular situation. However, on this night with Dirk shooting the ball about as well as my 2 year old, I would have found someone else to take that shot.
- Now on to the refs. I won't say the refs truly cost the Mavs this game. The Mavs did shoot 35 free throws to the Spurs 22 and Oberto fouled out. But the refs did have more than a few questionable calls that all went the Spurs way. No shocker that the lead ref was Bennett "I have a Mark Cuban Voo-Doo Doll" Salvatore.
- Exhibit A: JET stole the ball with less than 8 minutes to go in the 2nd, and was out in front of everyone for what should have been an easy layup/dunk. If a player has crossed mid court and doesn't have anyone else in front of him/next to him, and he gets fouled, it's called a clear path to the basket foul. The player is awarded two free throws, AND they get the ball back out of bounds. Such was the dynamic of this play when Parker caught JET from behind and plowed into him to protect the easy basket. The refs decided not to call it a clear path foul, thus stealing an extra possession from us. Parker was so out of control when he fouled JET that he fell to the floor. JET actually went over to see if Parker was okay, and Oberto and Horry essentially ran up and shoved JET about 5 feet out of the way. No whistle there, either.
- The charging calls were all very close, but they all seemed to go in favor of the Spurs, or more precisely, in favor of Ginobili.
- Later, JET fouls Ginobili on a drive to the basket, but they call the foul on Josh Howard. In case you are thinking it must have been a close call, I will also tell you that Howard was about 8 feet away from the play when it happened.
- Then they call Erick Dampier for a flagrant foul on Ginobili. Not only should it have not been a flagrant, it shouldn't have even been a regular foul. A no-call or foul on Ginobili would have been more appropriate. Ginobili just builds up a head of steam until he's about as "in control" as a drunk after a roller coaster ride. He bull rushes into the paint, falling over even before he makes contact with Dampier, then kicks and elbows Dampier in the stomach and neck while hoisting the ball so high that it has snow on it when it comes down and then finally collapses to the floor as if he was shot with a bazooka. Flagrant foul on Dampier. That makes perfect sense. Ginobili can sell a call, and as long as the refs keep falling for it or letting him do it, then I guess he's got a good game plan. It's amazing he hasn't snapped his neck yet, though, or that some frustrated big man hasn't snapped it for him.
- Even later, Ginobili is fouled. The foul was legit. What wasn't legit was that they ruled it a shooting foul and gave him two free throws even though he wasn't remotely close to being in the act of shooting, nor were the Spurs in the bonus.
- When you add it all up, the 3 free throws that Ginobili got but didn't deserve, and the extra position that JET deserved but didn't get, then a 2 point loss by the Mavs could have been a 3 point victory regardless of how bad we played.
- One thing Salvatore did do well was to keep correcting whatever pothead was working the game clock for the Spurs. There were multiple infractions where the clock either didn't start on time or started too early or just plain didn't stop until about 10 seconds after the play was blown dead. Whoever this guy was, he must have eaten some wicked brownies to the point where he could smell colors because his motor reflexes were about as shot up as Sonny Corleone.
- If Spurs forward Fabricio Oberto would just share his hair with the rest of his teammates, they might all have enough for a little gel or mousse.
- Or maybe he could give some of it to Devin Harris to put on his face. Harris really can't grow facial hair, but he just keeps trying. Bless his little heart.
- I miss Michael Finley. He was my favorite Mav before Dirk got here, and in hindsight, it's too bad we had to let him walk for financial reasons. I would take him back over Eddie Jones, and Finley could probably still be starting for us. He had 14 points and 8 boards, and he hit 4 of 5 from behind the arc.
- The San Antonio crowd loves Robert Horry. I mean, when Horry came into the game and played all of his 6 minutes, this crowd treated him like he was ballin' in the Pope Mobile.
The Spurs/Mavs matchup is THE best rivalry in the NBA today. It's not one of those rivalries like it used to be where it meant more to one team than the other because one team just couldn't beat the other team for the life of them. If memory serves me correctly and you go back over the last 10 regular season games, plus that classic 7 game playoff series they had 2 years ago, I think the Mavs lead the series 9 to 8. That's about as even as it gets. Rarely are there blowouts, and frequently are there nailbiters down to the very last shot. I think there is a healthy mix of mutual respect, confidence, fear, and disdain between the two clubs to make this even better. I defy you to give me a better current NBA rivalry than this one, and while you are thinking of one, I'll be waiting until the next meeting when Duncan will hopefully be back. Go Mavs!