SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Mavericks have played 96 minutes of playoff basketball against the San Antonio Spurs. It's not a stretch to say that Dallas has been the better team for all but nine minutes of it and has upstaged San Antonio along the way.
The significance of the Game 2 victory can not be understated. The Mavs had lost 10 straight games to the Spurs. They had lost eight in a row in San Antonio. On top of that, they lost five consecutive playoff games to their I-35 rival. That is all wiped away now.
A massive part of Dallas' ability to secure the split was showing their strength in numbers. Everyone who played in Wednesday's victory for Dallas played with a sense of urgency and had a positive impact on the game.
"That's the formula," Mavs forward Vince Carter said. "We have to play, from top to bottom, like it's our last game. Everybody answered the challenge. The tough thing about it is that we have to do it again, again and again for us to come out victorious in this series."
While this is a 1 versus 8 matchup, in the Western Conference each team has a legitimate shot to give its opponent a fight. The Mavs have shown that they can battle against San Antonio for two games. While it's going to come down to adjustments and matchups, the Mavs must ensure they have one thing on their side in order to keep their momentum going.
"The only way we're going to win a series against a team like this is having guys playing at full capacity," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
They have Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Carter, but they're going to need Shawn Marion's versatility, Jose Calderon's shot-making, Devin Harris' speed and their three-headed monster at the center position. They're going to need everyone. That's the nature of a team that has its share of warts, though there aren't many showing through two games.
The Spurs have their big three, a Coach of the Year winner in Gregg Popovich and one of the deeper benches in the entire league. To stack the deck even more against Dallas, Nowitzki has only gone 11-of-33 from the field. On paper, Dallas should be dead in the water. Instead, Carlisle has pieced together a plan of attack that has the Spurs on their heels. The plan has involved a deep rotation full of unique parts.
Outside of Manu Ginobili's 27-point outburst in Game 2, Dallas' reserves are outgunning San Antonio's. As the end of Game 2 saw both teams empty their bench, the Spurs held a 51-40 bench scoring advantage in the loss. Dallas is showing more consistency though, as they're averaged 43.0 bench points through the first two games of the series. The Mavs' bench is filled with solid veteran players with specific roles on the team. Each of them is doing everything asked of them, and through two games they've emerged as a huge advantage that might now have Dallas in the driver's seat.
With the Mavs' Game 2 win, this has the potential to be a long series. They've been able to do it by beating San Antonio at their own game with crisp ball movement, solid execution and vexing defense. On top of that, they've done it with all hands on deck.
"I think we laid groundwork on how we have to play if we want to win," Carter said. "If we don't play that way, if not better, we don't have a chance to win."
Now with the home-court advantage, the Mavs are putting it all together at the right time. It shouldn't come as a surprise that there are many helping hands involved.