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Thursday, November 25, 2010
Role reversal, the 3-ball for division foes

By Jeff Caplan


Weird doings are going down with the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.

The Spurs won championships boring legions of NBA fans with defense and fundamental offense. So what in the name of Gregg Popovich is going on this season with the Spurs second in the league in scoring, fast-breaking and 3-point-shooting their way to 108.0 points a game? As for that agitating defense the Spurs are so known for? Well, they can still lock down, but the quickened pace is making for more possessions and the Spurs are giving up an unheard of 98.9 points a game.

It has added up to a 12-game win streak an NBA-best 13-1 record.

"They've got a bunch of guys that can score, spread the floor, shoot and they play regular Spurs defense still," Dirk Nowitzki said. "They look really, really good."

Meanwhile, the Mavericks (10-4) enter Friday night's anticipated first matchup of the season in San Antonio practically having traded places with their rivals. Put the 'D' in Dallas because the Mavs rank in the top eight in scoring defense (92.4) and field-goal percentage defense (43.8).

The Spurs, possessing an interesting mix of young players surrounding the original Big Three plus a rejuvenated Richard Jefferson, have made a living beyond the 3-point arc. They're second in the NBA in 3-point percentage (43.0), third in 3s made per game (9.0) and sixth in 3s attempted per game (20.9). Five Spurs are shooting the long ball better than 39 percent, led by Matt Bonner, who has hit 20-of-32.

The Mavs aren't shy with the long ball either, not by a long shot. They're 10th in both attempts per game (19.0) and 3s made per game (6.6).

In the last two games alone, Dallas has launched 47 from beyond the arc and has made just 15 (31.9 percent). But, the key for the Mavs has been timing. Wednesday at Oklahoma City they made 4-of-8 in the final period after entering the fourth quarter having made just 5-of-19. A night earlier against Detroit, the Mavs made 2-of-3 in the decisive fourth quarter after having made just 4-of-17.

Jason Terry, stone-cold throughout Wednesday's comeback win at Oklahoma City, bounced in 3-pointer that gave the Mavs a 93-90 win. Nine 3s (albeit on 27 attempts) boosted the Mavs to 111 points, just the fourth time in 14 games they've scored in the 100s.

"That was huge. It was that kind of night for me, though, personally," Terry said. "I haven't shot the ball particularly well the last two games, but just hanging in there, my teammates picked me up, talking to me, and to hit a timely basket like that, it's huge for your confidence."

Jason Kidd, equally cold, suddenly swished just his second 3-pointer on nine attempts to make 98-93. Nowitzki is also resurrecting his 3-point shot, having made 6-of-8 in the last two games after making just 2-of-11 in the first 10 games.

A shootout in San Antone. It's not only possible, it's likely.