Dallas Mavericks: Tim Duncan

MavericksSoobum Im/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki and Spurs' Tim Duncan stayed loyal to their franchises.

The numbers were the only thing in doubt when it came to Dirk Nowitzki's negotiations, and even those were pretty predictable.

It’s fitting that Dirk’s three-year, $30 million deal will look a lot like Tim Duncan's. Those future Hall of Famers are two of a kind, a pair of historically elite power forwards for whom loyalty, competitiveness and unselfishness are all intertwined.

It’s commendable to be committed to spending your entire career with one franchise, a rarity in a sports world in which the first week of free agency seems to generate more interest than the NBA Finals. But these two faces of their franchises have sacrificed fortunes to significantly increase their odds of completing their careers on championship contenders.

Kobe Bryant showed a certain sense of loyalty with his commitment to play his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He’ll also make more next season than the Mavs and San Antonio Spurs will pay Nowitzki and Duncan combined.

Duncan’s sacrifice, a shared one with longtime teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, paid off when the Spurs claimed their fifth NBA crown in June. Nowitzki’s sacrifice just gives the Mavs a chance to rebuild a legitimate contender, a process that requires at least a couple of big steps after he left about $17 million of cap space for Mark Cuban to spend this summer.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Nowitzki has taken much less than market value to stay with the Mavs. He could have easily gotten a max contract the last time he was technically a free agent, but he left $16 million on the table to sign a four-year, $80 million deal.

That sacrifice didn’t even free up cap space. It just eased a bit of the financial burden on Cuban, who had been paying massive luxury-tax bills. In exchange, Cuban vowed to never let money get in the way of the Mavs’ pursuit of a championship, following through by trading for Tyson Chandler in a salary-dump deal with Charlotte.

Less than a year later, Nowitzki and Cuban chugged champagne out of a $90,000 bottle that went on Cuban’s bill, a small price to pay for celebrating the franchise’s first championship in a Miami nightclub.

That taste of a title ensured that Nowitzki would be a Maverick for life.

If Dirk didn’t own a championship ring, if he hadn’t filled out that final line of his NBA legend résumé, he would have faced a difficult decision this summer. He probably would have agonized over whether to choose loyalty to a franchise and a fan base or the chance to leave his adopted hometown to chase a championship, a la Karl Malone.

But the championship banner hanging from the American Airlines Center rafters made Nowitzki’s decision a no-brainer.

The negotiations with Nowitzki, who has never employed an agent, were easy. Now, there’s a lot of hard work to be done for the Mavs’ front office to reward Dirk’s loyalty like the Spurs have done for Duncan.
You probably won’t hear “Go Spurs Go” coming from Mark Cuban’s mouth, but he is rooting for the team that eliminated the Dallas Mavericks to win the NBA title.

Of course, Cuban has some ulterior motives.

The San Antonio Spurs winning two more series would make the Mavs feel even better about the way their season ended, pushing the top overall seed to seven games in the first round. More importantly to Cuban, earning a fifth championship ring might cause longtime nemesis Tim Duncan to decide to ride off into the sunset.

“I want San Antonio to win,” Cuban said on 105.3 The Fan’s “Ben and Skin Show” on Friday. “I want Tim Duncan to hit a game-winning shot to win Game 7, then go to the Finals, do the exact same thing, hit a game-winning shot in Game 7, run down the tunnel, never to be seen from again.

“I want him to retire on the spot. I hope he gets that last ring and it’s all the incentive he needs to retire.”
Nowitzki, Terry, HowardGetty ImagesThe Mavs' trio with the most playoff wins: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Josh Howard with 28.
Tim Duncan has earned the right to be recognized as the premier power forward in NBA history, but he’s also had the good fortune of being flanked by a couple of fellow future Hall of Famers for most of his career.


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Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker made NBA history with the Spurs’ Game 1 win over the Thunder in the West finals Monday night. It was their 110th playoff win together, matching the Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper for the most ever by a trio.

When Dirk Nowitzki’s career is done, he might wonder what would have been if he’d enjoyed such continuity with co-stars.

Nowitzki’s tenure as part of a big three was too brief, broken up by the time he was 26 because Mavericks management believed that Steve Nash was too brittle to reward with a big contract. Nowitzki, Nash and Michael Finley restored respectability to the franchise, but that trio won only 18 playoff games together.

The Mavs’ trio with the most playoff wins: Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Josh Howard with 28. That’s followed by Nowitzki, Terry and the immortal Erick Dampier with 25, and Nowitzki, Terry and Jason Kidd with 24.
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki insists he hasn’t put much thought into what the numbers will look like on his next contract.

He just knows he’ll get a deal done to stay in Dallas, the only NBA home he’ll ever know.

“I have no idea honestly what it will be right now,” Nowitzki said. “I haven’t really thought about it since we just lost Game 7. That’s the brutal thing about a Game 7. When you win, you move on to the next round. When you lose, the season’s over the next day. Haven’t really put much thought into it. But like I said, Donnie [Nelson] and Mark [Cuban] were talking to me planning this summer and we’ll figure something out.”

Nowitzki verbally committed last summer to re-sign a two- or three-year deal at a significantly reduced salary after his four-year, $80 million contract expires this summer. He has never publicly discussed specifics about how significant that pay cut could be, but there has been a precedent set by two of his future Hall of Fame power forward peers.

Kevin Garnett signed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Boston Celtics in 2012. Tim Duncan signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs that summer.

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SAN ANTONIO -- Four times in his career, Dirk Nowitzki has experienced the ecstasy of Game 7 victory, once celebrating on the San Antonio Spurs’ home court.

Now, back at the AT&T Center, Nowitzki has to deal with the agony of Game 7 defeat.

"It’s awful," Nowitzki said after the eighth-seeded Mavs’ season ended Sunday with a 119-96 loss. "You can’t really grasp that your season is over now. It’s 3-3, and it’s anybody’s ballgame. It’s just one game and now your season’s over. It’s a tough one.

[+] EnlargeNowitzki
AP Photo/Eric GayDirk Nowitzki's Mavs pushed the Spurs to a seventh game but were ultimately knocked down along with each of the champs' other opponents.
"I’ll probably be proud of this team and what we did even to get to the playoffs in a couple of days, but right now, this one stings."

Nowitzki’s desire to win and competitive fire was evident on Dallas’ first possession of the game, when he drained a midrange jumper and let out a roar as he ran down the floor. It seemed distinctly possible at that moment that Nowitzki would have another epic Game 7 performance.

It was not to be, however.

Nowitzki missed his next five shots. By the time he made another one, Dallas was already down by double digits, with Spurs point guard Tony Parker driving and scoring seemingly at will.

Nowitzki finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, going 8-of-21 from the floor. That’s not a terrible day, but it’s nowhere near the standards of a future Hall of Famer who is one of three players in NBA history with three 30-point, 10-rebound performances in a Game 7.

It was a painful way to end a phenomenal season for the face of the franchise, who proved he could stay healthy and play at an All-Star level as a 35-year-old by averaging 21.7 points per game and accomplishing his goal of leading the Mavs back to the playoffs.

Now, Nowitzki enters free agency, not that there’s a lot of mystery there. It’s just a matter of Nowitzki and Mavs owner Mark Cuban working out the numbers on the contract he signs to stay in Dallas, the only NBA home he’ll ever know.

"I don’t know what’s going to happen as far as how much money we can pay him, but whatever it is, it won’t be enough because he has such high impact on everything that goes on with our team and everything that goes on with our organization," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "This is 30 years for me in the league, and I played with [Larry] Bird and I played with some great guys. There’s nobody that I’ve been around that carries a bigger load for an organization than Dirk Nowitzki.

"I can’t say in words how much respect I have for him and what he stands for and everything he’s done for this organization and for me in the last six years. And he’s got a lot of good years left. I think that’s pretty evident."

Nowitzki, who has claimed since last summer that he’ll take a significant pay cut, said it’s too soon to think about the details of the deal. A good guess: He’ll give Cuban a discount in the Tim Duncan range (three years, $30 million).

"That’s something we’re going to talk about way later," said Nowitzki, a 16-year veteran who has made more than $200 million in his career. "Right now, [I am] just disappointed that we lost a Game 7."

That’s a sickening feeling Nowitzki never knew until Sunday afternoon.

Dirk Nowitzki dominates Game 7s

May, 3, 2014

DALLAS – Few things make the face of the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise smile like a Game 7.

“It’s the ultimate thrill,” Dirk Nowitzki said after the Mavs pushed this first-round series to the limit with Friday’s Game 6 comeback win over the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. “It’s win or go home. Everything that happened before it is out the window. Nothing [else] matters.

“It’s just that one game. It’s great competition. It’s the ultimate competition. You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to embrace it.”

[+] EnlargeTim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki is 4-0 in Game 7s in his career and has averaged 28 points and 14.8 rebounds in those games.
Nowitzki is the ultimate Game 7 performer.

He knows nothing but the thrill of victory in the winner-takes-all series finales. Nowitzki is 4-0 in Game 7 action throughout his career, and his numbers in those games border on ridiculous.

You think joining a trio of Hall of Famers – Elgin Baylor, Bob Pettit and Hakeem Olajuwon – in the exclusive career 25-point, 10-rebound club is impressive? Nowitzki has averaged 28 points and 14.8 rebounds in Game 7s, with all of that experience coming between 2003 and ’06.

How silly is it that the big German was stereotyped as a “soft Euro” until he led the Mavs on a 2011 championship march without a series going seven games?

Dirk registered a points-rebound double-double in each of his four swings at a Game 7. The only other active players with four such Game 7 double-doubles in their career are Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Nowitzki has three 30-10 Game 7 lines. He’s the only guy who can make that claim in the basketball-reference.com database, which dates to 1986. The only two-timers in that time span: LeBron James and Karl Malone.

Nowitzki put up a 31-point, 11-rebound line in his first Game 7, when the Mavs avoided going from up 3-0 to out by beating the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2003 West first round. He had 30 and 19 in a Game 7 win over the Sacramento Kings the next series. His least impressive Game 7 line – 14 points and 14 rebounds – came in a 40-point rout of the Houston Rockets in the 2005 first round, the most lopsided Game 7 in NBA history.

Then there was that classic overtime duel against Duncan in the 2006 West semifinals, the only time the Spurs have been knocked out on their home floor in a Game 7.

Duncan blew up for 41 points and 15 rebounds. Nowitzki had 37 points and 15 rebounds. Dirk’s driving and-1 forced the game into overtime, and the Mavs prevailed.

“It’s going to be a game of runs and you’ve just got to weather the storm sometimes,” Nowitzki said when asked how that Game 7 experience in San Antonio might help him prepare his teammates for this massive challenge. “That game, we were up 20. Next thing you know, [Manu] Ginobili makes a 3 and we were down 3 in the last minute. You’ve just got to play every possession.

“In the playoffs, that’s what you focus on. In a Game 7, you don’t want to think ahead. You don’t want to think about your next shot. You just worry about your next possession. You play this possession as hard as you can. … You got to stay in the moment.”

Take it from a guy who has risen to those moments as well as anyone in NBA history.
Shawn MarionJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsShawn Marion's defensive versatility has been on full display in this series against the Spurs.
DALLAS -- This might be the last night that Shawn Marion wears a Dallas Mavericks uniform.

Not that he’s sentimental about the situation entering the must-win Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs.

“I’m not looking at that right now,” said Marion, whose five-year contract expires this summer. “We’ll talk about that when it’s done.”

Regardless of when it ends, Marion’s tenure with the Mavs is worth celebrating.

When he arrived in Dallas in the summer of 2009, many considered him a former star on the decline, as he was coming off brief, unsatisfying stints in Miami and Toronto following his glory days in Phoenix. “The Matrix,” a four-time All-Star whose scoring average soared as high as 21.8 points per game with the Suns one season, redefined himself as a great role player in Dallas.

Dallas doesn’t win the 2011 championship without Marion’s sensational work as a defensive stopper against a parade of superstars including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The fact that Marion has never been named to an All-Defensive team is met with great dismay within the Mavs organization, which lobbied for him to be Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.

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Dirk NowitzkiJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAmong key players in the Mavs-Spurs series, Dirk Nowitzki is the one who's yet to leave his mark.

DALLAS -- Several players in the Mavericks-Spurs series have Hall of Fame résumés and, one by one, they’ve flashed the greatness that should grant them basketball immortality in Springfield, Massachusetts.

With one exception.


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We’re still waiting for that great game, or even that great moment, from Dirk Nowitzki after the teams split their four contests.

Tim Duncan, widely considered the premier power forward in NBA history, dominated during the series opener. He scored 27 points, a third of which came during the fourth quarter, in the Spurs’ Game 1 win -- during which San Antonio fought back from a 10-point deficit.

Spurs point guard Tony Parker, a three-time champion and six-time All-Star, also delivered on Easter Sunday. He had 21 points and six assists in San Antonio’s first victory.

San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, another three-time champ and arguably the best sixth man ever to fill that role, was the Spurs’ only real bright spot in Game 2 (27 points) and starred in their Game 4 win, scoring 23 points and dishing out five assists.

Ginobili would have been the Game 3 hero if Mavs sixth man Vince Carter, the No. 25 scorer in NBA history and an eight-time All-Star, had not one-upped him. Coming just 1.7 ticks after Ginobili’s go-ahead runner, Carter's buzzer-beating 3 from the deep-left corner is the series’ most memorable moment so far.

(Read full post)

DALLAS -- The sixth playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs feels like the good ol’ days to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, or at least it did when he was giddy after a thrilling Game 3 win.


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"It felt like 2006 in that war that we fought down there," Cuban said, referring to the classic West semifinals that the Mavs won with a Game 7 victory in San Antonio.

Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki, one of five players to play in both series, isn’t so sure about that.

"I don’t feel like I did in 2006," Nowitzki said, half-joking about his advanced age. "But it’s a fun, fun playoff atmosphere, battling with that team that’s been through so many playoff battles. That’s really all. I’m not really thinking about eight years ago. I’m living in the moment."

We’ll all live in the moment when Game 4 tips off Monday night. For a moment, though, let’s look back at the past and see the similarities between these two Mavs-Spurs series through three games.

2006 -- Spurs 87, Mavs 85: Tim Duncan dominated, putting up 31 points and 13 rebounds as the Mavs played single coverage against him the vast majority of the night. Nowitzki had an off night, scoring 20 points but going only 8-of-20 from the floor while being harassed by Bruce Bowen. The Mavs couldn’t close out the Spurs because of a crunch-time offensive drought, going the final 4:07 without a field goal in a game that ended with Jerry Stackhouse air-balling a contested 3-point attempt.

2014 -- Spurs 90, Mavs 85: Duncan dominated, putting up 27 points as the Mavs played single coverage against him the vast majority of the night. Nowitzki had an off night, scoring 11 points and going 4-of-14 from the floor while being harassed by Tiago Splitter. The Mavs couldn’t close out the Spurs because of a crunch-time offensive drought, going 7:44 without a field goal in a game that ended with a meaningless layup by Devin Harris.

[+] EnlargeDevin Harris
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty ImagesNow in his second stint with the Mavs, Devin Harris is turning back the clock to replicate his impact on the 2006 series.
2006 -- Mavs 113, Spurs 91: Harris played a huge role in the Mavs evening the series, scoring 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting after being inserted into the starting lineup. Duncan had another big night with 28 points, but the other two members of the Spurs’ Big Three were nonfactors. The AT&T Center crowd was dismayed by all the whistle-blowing, with the Mavs getting 35 points off 43 free throws in the Spurs' biggest home playoff loss since Game 1 of the 1996 West semifinals.

2014 -- Mavs 113, Spurs 92: Harris played a huge role in the Mavs evening the series, scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting off the bench. Manu Ginobili had a big night with 27 points, but the other two members of the Spurs’ Big Three were nonfactors. The AT&T Center crowd was dismayed by the Spurs' sloppiness, with the Mavs getting 33 points off 24 turnovers in the Spurs' biggest home playoff loss since Game 2 of the 2006 West semifinals.

2006 -- Mavs 104, Spurs 103: The Mavs seized control of the series with a one-point home win, pulling out the victory after a wild fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands several times. The game was decided by mistakes in the final moments, the most costly being a Ginobili turnover with two seconds remaining. The superstars -- Duncan (35 points, 12 rebounds) and Nowitzki (27 points, 15 rebounds) -- both had big games.

2014 -- Mavs 109, Spurs 108: The Mavs seized control of the series with a one-point home win, pulling out the victory after a wild fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands several times. The game was decided by spectacular shots in the final moments, with Vince Carter’s corner 3 at the buzzer one-upping Ginobili’s lefty runner 1.7 seconds earlier. The sidekicks -- Tony Parker (19 points, six assists) and Monta Ellis (29 points) -- both had big games.

Pop: Mavs playing harder than Spurs

April, 27, 2014
DALLAS -- Whether he really meant it or just used it as a motivational ploy, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich played the “Mavs want it more” card Sunday morning.

With the Spurs down 2-1 in the first-round series against the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, Popovich challenged his team to try harder.

“They got a lot of guys playing well, and they’re playing hard,” Popovich said. “They’re playing like it’s really important to them. And I think we need a few more people doing that.

[+] EnlargeGregg Popovich
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsSpurs coach Gregg Popovich challenged his club after Saturday's loss to the Mavericks.
“I don’t think the guys are disrespecting Dallas because we beat them in the season four times. They know it’s the playoffs. But at the same time, I’d like to see a little bit more nastiness, a little bit more physicality, a little bit more fire from people.”

Has effort been the difference in this series so far? Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t buy it.

Nowitzki said he actually thought the Mavs stole Game 3 despite being outplayed by the Spurs. He thought both teams battled, recalling several hustle plays made by the Spurs, and pointed out that a team that scores a go-ahead bucket with less than two ticks on the clock tends to almost always win.

“Ah, I think the Spurs always play hard,” Nowitzki said. “Pop is such a hard coach on them. If they don’t compete, you know what’s going to happen in the film session the next day, so I think they always compete hard.”

Sounds like the Spurs had one of those film sessions Sunday morning, when they studied a lot of the things they did wrong to allow the Mavs the opportunity to win on Vince Carter’s miraculous, pump-fake-and-fadeaway 3 from deep in the left corner at the buzzer.

“Everybody’s a little pissed off, and that’s good,” Spurs star Tim Duncan said. “We’ll come out tomorrow and we’ll be ready to go.”

The Mavs, who have plenty of defensive execution mistakes to clean up after Game 3, are stressing the importance of keeping their edge and disposition.

Nowitzki made a point to call the Spurs “still the heavy favorite” after the euphoria of Carter’s buzzer-beater died down a bit. The Mavs have seized home-court advantage in there series, but that will be gone when they board the team jet if they let their guard down for Monday’s Game 4 at the American Airlines Center.

“We definitely don’t want to get comfortable now,” Nowitzki said. “Yeah, it was a big game, but if we lose tomorrow, we’re tied going to their place with two home games for them. We want to keep the same mentality we’ve had this whole time. Play hard.”

Pop’s challenge to the Spurs: Match the underdog Mavs’ intensity.

Dalembert had 'different motor' in Game 3

April, 27, 2014
DALLAS – In a playoff game featuring all-time greats Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, the big guy who made the biggest impact was Samuel Dalembert.

Yes, the same Samuel Dalembert who bounced to five teams over the last five seasons and was picked up off the scrap heap by the Dallas Mavericks well after the free agency frenzy last summer.

Yes, the same Samuel Dalembert who played a grand total of nine playoff minutes for the Milwaukee Bucks as they were swept in the first round last season.

The “Haitian Sensation,” whose 13 points and 10 rebounds marked his first playoff double-double since 2008, just looks like a different dude. That’s been true for the most part since the All-Star break, but Dalembert really took his game to a different level during Saturday’s thrilling 109-108 win that gave the Mavs a 2-1 series lead over the San Antonio Spurs.

“Tell you what, Sammy had a different motor tonight,” buzzer-beating hero Vince Carter said. “For whatever reason, he was attacking, rebounding, defending, just doing it all. We need his presence. I think he understands how important he is to this team and he’s taking the challenge.”

In this series, that challenge starts with defending Duncan, the future Hall of Famer whose game will be textbook material for post players for generations to come. Dalembert certainly didn’t shut down Duncan, who led the Spurs with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, but he kept him off the glass (five rebounds) and made him work hard for his touches.

For all those points, the Spurs were outscored by 16 points in Duncan’s 36 minutes on the floor.

Meanwhile, Dalembert was a monster as a rim-protector (four blocks) and a beast on the offensive glass (six offensive rebounds).

The biggest knock on Dalembert, other than his punctuality problems that popped up a couple of times early this season, has been that he often lacks energy. Nothing could have been further from the truth in Game 3, when he played like his pants were on fire, to borrow a Rick Carlisle phrase, and fired up the crowd with his emotional gestures a few times.

“Sam was real active and he’s just has got to keep doing what he is doing,” Carlisle said. “When his activity is like this, he’s rebounding it and he’s got a presence at the rim it makes such a big difference for us. We need him to do that.”

Dalembert, a big man who fell out of Milwaukee’s rotation last season for heaven’s sake, was so good in his 25 minutes that he felt comfortable somewhat subtly lobbying for more playing time via the media.

“I’ve been trying since the playoffs started to be active and be all over the place, grabbing rebounds and getting possession,” Dalembert said. “Unfortunately, my time is limited. When I do get the time to do my job and protect the basket, I respond.”

If Dalembert keeps playing like that, he’ll get plenty of minutes, quite possibly in another series.

Physical Blair plays with fire vs. ex-team

April, 24, 2014
SAN ANTONIO – Truth be told, there might have only been one member of the Dallas Mavericks who was happy to draw the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

That’s bench banger DeJuan Blair, who seeks some sort of redemption or revenge after riding San Antonio’s bench during the Spurs’ run to the Finals last season, his fourth and final year with the franchise.

[+] EnlargeDeJuan Blair, Tim Duncan
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsDeJuan Blair had eight points, seven rebounds and four steals in 14 minutes vs. the Spurs in Game 2.
"Yeah, but I'm not going to bring that up,” Blair said after the Mavs evened the series with a stunning rout in Game 2. “The Spurs are a great team, but we can play with the best of them. We showed that tonight, but we've just got to keep it up. It's going to be a long series."

It’s guaranteed to go at least five games now, in part due to Blair’s contributions Wednesday night after a quiet Game 1 against his former team.

Blair had eight points, seven rebounds and four steals in 14 minutes during the win. The Mavs outscored the Spurs by 13 points with Blair on the floor.

Those numbers can be found in the box score. There’s no telling how many bruises the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Blair left on old buddy Tim Duncan while battling his future Hall of Fame former teammate on the block and under the boards.

“He had a physical impact,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Blair. “He was on the boards and was getting deflections. The only way we’re going to win a series against a team like this is to have guys playing at complete full capacity, and he did. He gave us a huge lift.”

The highlight of the night for Blair was stripping Manu Ginobili in the open court and rumbling for a one-man fast break that he finished with a spinning layup. That play was a bonus for the Mavs. Blair’s job is to throw his big body around.

“That's my plan,” Blair said. “We don't have anyone on this team to do that. I know if I can play, I can come in and bring that physicality and just do what I do."

Blair didn’t get to do that much during last season’s playoffs, giving him a little extra motivation when he returned to San Antonio with the Mavs this postseason.

3 Points: More concern over Monta or Dirk?

April, 23, 2014
Monta Ellis and Dirk NowitzkiRocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Mavericks need more from Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki in Game 2.
ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.

Is the 11-point, 4-of-14 performance in Game 1 by Dirk Nowitzki or Monta Ellis more concerning?

Gutierrez: It has to be Ellis. Nowitzki has seen everything in terms of defensive schemes, especially from the Spurs. He got looks from his favorite spots. Sunday's opening tilt just provided a game where the ball didn't go in the basket. The Spurs attempted to make Ellis settle for the dreaded long two-point shots rather than getting to the rim. The Mavericks will have to continue to find ways to get him to the rim. A byproduct of him getting to the rim is manufacturing more trips to the free throw line. Dallas only had 13 more free throw attempts. Easy points come at a premium and Ellis can help in that department. If opportunities aren't created for that to happen, the concern will continue to grow.

Taylor: Ellis' poor game is definitely more disturbing because he has no real playoff track record. We know what Dirk can do and we've seen it 10,000 times. He's played in 129 playoff games and won an NBA Finals MVP; Ellis has played in 16 playoff games and only started 11. Ellis had a really nice regular season, but we all know playoff basketball is different. We can assume he'll bounce back and play well, but there's no guarantee.

MacMahon: Ellis has never had it all during the playoffs. It’s not much of a track record -- and most of it is from his second NBA season, when he was the fourth or fifth option on the “We Believe” Warriors -- but it’s butt ugly. His averages from 16 career playoff games: 9.8 points, 39.7 field goal percentage, 2.1 assists, 2.0 turnovers. Nowitzki, on the other hand, has a Finals MVP and is one of four players in NBA history with career playoff averages of at least 25 points and 10 rebounds. We know Dirk delivers during the playoffs much more often than not. Ellis has to prove he can perform in the postseason.

Should Rick Carlisle change the starting lineup for Game 2?


Who should start for the Mavs in Game 2?


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Gutierrez: MacMahon noted on Twitter that Dallas' starting five is minus-40 in 33 minutes of action against San Antonio this season. The only logical move I see making is inserting Devin Harris as the starting point guard for Jose Calderon. I don't think it is the wisest decision, though. There are no assurances that Harris would bring a better start to the games. What we do know is that he's a vital cog in the dynamic bench Dallas has. Even if he still is on the floor with some of them, moving him to the starting lineup disrupts the cohesion that has been established with the bench. The more reasonable option is shifting the workload of minutes in favor of Harris.

Taylor: No. No. No. A thousand times no. This team won 49 games and pretty much achieved as much as it could with this roster of players who struggle to defend and rebound. Changing the lineup now would be a panic move. The Mavs have spent the season creating roles for players, so that guys are comfortable with what they're supposed to and when they should expect to get into the game. Changing the lineup for a streaky guy like Harris makes no sense. If he's hot, he'll play more. If not, he'll get his usual minutes.

MacMahon: I remember a couple of “panic moves” that worked out pretty well for the Mavs -- starting Harris for Game 2 against the Spurs in the 2006 West semis and starting J.J. Barea in Game 4 of the 2011 Finals. I just don’t think the Mavs benefit from this potential lineup switch, because it’d break up the best thing they have going, which is the chemistry of the bench. Plus, Harris did the vast majority of his damage when matched up with backup point guard Patty Mills in Game 1. The Mavs want that matchup again.

Did the Mavs pick the right poison by deciding that defending the Spurs’ 3-point threats was a bigger priority than stopping Tim Duncan and Tony Parker?

Gutierrez: Nowitzki is one of the best basketball players to ever play the game. In his spare time, he also doubles as a mathematician. He stated that they got killed on 3-point shots in the regular season against the Spurs, so the better prospect was to give up twos instead of threes by switching on most of the screens. It's likely that the Mavericks will continue to sacrifice twos for threes, maybe just with tweaks along the way. There's danger looming with Kawhi Leonard being another big benefactor of the switching. There were multiple times where he had a smaller guard switched onto him. An adjustment the Spurs can make is taking advantage of those mismatches. While it just presents another problem, Dallas will trade twos for threes every day.

Taylor: Absolutely. They held the Spurs to 90 points and stopped the crowd from getting really engaged by making the Spurs' litany of catch-and-shoot players essentially non-factors. You can't stop everything. Let Duncan get his and contain everyone else is a sound strategy. The problem wasn't on the defensive end, it was Nowitzki and Ellis making only 8 of 28 shots.

MacMahon: The Spurs averaged 112.5 points in their four regular-season meetings against the Mavs. They scored 90 Sunday. I’d say Dallas’ defensive strategy was pretty darn smart. San Antonio torched the Mavs from the perimeter during the regular season, going 42-of-97 from 3-point range. The Spurs were 3-of-17 from long distance in Game 1. Great adjustment by Carlisle. The concern now: Will the Spurs exploit the mismatch of Leonard posting up Ellis, assuming Shawn Marion opens up on Parker again?
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.

[+] EnlargeTim Duncan
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesBecause of the Mavs' focus on the Spurs' 3-point shooters in Game 1, Tim Duncan's role was expanded for San Antonio and he delivered.
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.

Mavs miss chance to end misery vs. Spurs

April, 20, 2014
Tony ParkerJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsThe Spurs seized the lead for good by scoring 15 points during Dallas' five-minute drought.
SAN ANTONIO -- Want to put on positive spin on the Dallas Mavericks’ Game 1 loss? OK, neither do the Mavs.

But at least Dallas proved it can play against the San Antonio Spurs, a franchise that has dominated its Interstate 35 rival for the last few years. The Mavs managed to build a 10-point lead with less than eight minutes remaining, a minor miracle considering that Dallas led during their four regular-season meetings against the Spurs for a grand total of 10 minutes, 45 seconds.

The Mavs’ success for the first 40-plus minutes Sunday at the AT&T Center doesn’t make their 90-85 loss any easier to swallow, however. If anything, it makes their 10th straight loss to the Spurs feel even more like a kick to the stomach.

“I’m always frustrated after a loss,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who fell far short of his lofty postseason standards with an 11-point, 4-of-14 outing. “Maybe I’ll see the positive tomorrow, but as of today, we had our chance.”

The Mavs couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to end their losing streak to the Spurs and start this series against the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs.

This game was there for the Mavs to take, especially after backup center Brandan Wright’s and-1 layup with 7:45 to go gave Dallas a double-digit lead. Then the Mavs melted down. Or the Spurs flipped the switch, depending on your perspective.

(Read full post)



Monta Ellis
19.3 4.4 1.9 33.8
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.7
AssistsR. Rondo 6.2
StealsM. Ellis 1.9
BlocksB. James 1.8