Mavs' plan: Keep Parker out of paint

AP Photo/Eric Gay

DALLAS -- Round 1 went to Tony Parker, who had 21 points and six assists in the San Antonio Spurs’ series-opening victory over the Dallas Mavericks. The tag team primarily responsible for battling the All-Star point guard can’t wait to get back in the ring.

All signs point to small forward Shawn Marion, the Mavs’ 35-year-old defensive Swiss Army Knife, opening Game 2 on Parker again. Backup point guard Devin Harris, who will probably play significantly more minutes than starter Jose Calderon in this series, will get plenty of time on Parker.

Marion has guarded everyone from point guards to power forwards for years, but he admits to a certain level of uncomfortableness chasing around the Spurs’ blur, but it’s a challenge the man known as “Matrix” embraces for the good of the Mavs.

For Harris, this feels like the good ol’ days during his first stint with Dallas.

“It’s fun,” said Harris, who played a key role as a second-year guard when the Mavs beat the Spurs in seven games during the 2006 West semifinals. “When I was here before, he was happy to see me go. I’m looking forward to matching up with him again.

“He got the better of us in Game 1. We have to try to return the favor.”

Parker did indeed express relief when the Mavs shipped Harris to New Jersey as the centerpiece in the Jason Kidd deal, acknowledging that Harris’ quickness and athleticism presented challenges for him.

However, it’s quite a stretch to suggest that Harris is a proven Parker stopper. Parker has averaged 20.5 points on 45.6 percent shooting in 12 playoff meetings against Harris, including San Antonio’s 2012 sweep over the Utah Jazz.

Marion has matched up with many of the league’s elite scorers during his playoff history, with his stellar defense on Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James/Dwyane Wade playing such a major role in the final three series of the Mavs’ 2011 championship run. As a point guard, Parker presents a different type of challenge.

The goal: Make Parker earn his points from the perimeter and force him to be an isolation player, disrupting the Spurs’ normally splendid offensive flow.

“You want to do whatever you can to keep him out of the paint,” Marion said. “If you can get him to take contested shots and he’s making them, more power to him. The thing is he gets really tired too when he’s having to try to break down people consistently every play.

“If we can wear him out doing that, that’s fine. Ain’t nobody else getting going. He’s going to get burnt out doing that. That means we’ve got to take advantage of him on the opposite end of the floor as well.”

Perhaps Parker showed some signs of fatigue Sunday. He cooled off significantly after halftime, scoring only six points on 2-of-6 shooting in the second half.

Of course, those two buckets were awfully big ones: a transition layup that gave the Spurs the lead for good with 3:25 remaining and a pull-up jumper off a pick-and-roll the next possession.

Those shots put the finishing touches on Parker’s Round 1 win. Marion and Harris are ready for Wednesday’s rematch.