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Pick poison: Duncan in paint or 3-point shooters

4/21/2014

SAN ANTONIO -- All due respect to Tim Duncan, but the Dallas Mavericks don't consider him to be more dangerous than the San Antonio Spurs' army of 3-point shooters.

That might sound crazy to say about an NBA legend who ranks sixth on the league's all-time postseason scoring list, but it's based in sound logic.

The Spurs' shooters scorched the Mavs as San Antonio swept the regular-season series between the teams. The Spurs were 42-of-97 (43.3 percent) from 3-point range in those four wins over the Mavs, including 16-of-34 during a visit to Dallas earlier this month.

The Mavs picked their poison in Game 1 of this playoff series, making their defensive priority denying the Spurs open looks on the 3-point line. Duncan made them pay, scoring a game-high 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting.

"Their game plan was to get up in our shooters and make us do something else, so my role was a little bit bigger tonight," said Duncan, who averaged 18.5 points on 48.9 percent shooting against Dallas during the regular season. "I got some great passes from my guards, some great dump-offs. My job was just to finish the plays."

Credit Mavs coach Rick Carlisle for coming up with a defensive game plan that worked.

No, it wasn't good enough to get the win. But place the blame for the Mavs' 90-85 loss Sunday on the fact that an elite offensive team was held scoreless for a stretch of almost six minutes in the fourth quarter.

This was by far Dallas' best defensive performance against San Antonio this season. With the Spurs going only 3-of-17 from 3-point range, they scored 15.4 points fewer than their regular-season average -- and 22.3 under their norm against the Mavs.

Danny Green, who was 12-of-20 from 3-point range against the Mavs this season, was shut down in the series opener. He was scoreless and managed to attempt only one 3-pointer.

Patty Mills, fresh off swishing six 3s in a 26-point performance during the Spurs' April 10 win in Dallas, was also a nonfactor in Game 1. He was held to two points and was 0-of-3 from long range.

"We got killed on 3s in the first four outings this year, so it was no secret," Dirk Nowitzki said. "We stayed a little more at home on the 3-point shooters. I mean, you've got to give them something. Duncan in there is obviously still solid. He can go over both shoulders, has a little face-up and is very good on the block, but I guess two points is better than three."

That logic still makes sense despite Duncan's dominant performance.