Last Friday, the San Antonio Spurs went into Dallas and rocked the Mavericks on their home court. The final margin was just six points after a late-game flurry from the Mavs, but the Spurs were in control throughout. San Antonio put together an impressive offensive showcase, as the Spurs’ “Big Three” combined for 80 points on just 61 shot attempts. Every Maverick run was met with an equal or superior response, and though Dallas was able to execute a few strategies that were effective on a micro level, the game was ultimately a defensive failure.
Maverick center Tyson Chandler still sees the value in such a letdown, though. In an appearance on The Ben and Skin Show on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio in Dallas, Chandler reflected on the Mavs’ poor defensive performance of late, and how their reached something of a nadir in the game against San Antonio:
“…we were going into a stretch where we had been playing some bad basketball defensively and it went right into the San Antonio game. Sometimes it takes a wakeup call like that so you can say okay we can’t win that way and we have to get back to the things that we saw in training camp and that’s the way that we’re going to win. Even though they hurt sometimes when you take a loss it’s actually better for the team.”
Transcription via Sports Radio Interviews.
Chandler could be right. I’m sure the loss to Spurs was a wake-up call in a sense; if nothing else, it was a crystallization of the Mavs’ regression on defense that was impossible to ignore. It also definitely served as some kind of alert for Chandler on a personal level, as the Maverick center fouled out after just 22 minutes, finishing the game with only three points and five rebounds. That’s not quite good enough for a big game against one of the top teams in the league (and a rival, to boot).
Yet Dallas followed up their bounce-back win over Golden State with another poor defensive effort against Minnesota. Anthony Randolph, who has spent most of this season riding the bench for the Knicks and then the Wolves, dropped a career high 31 points on Chandler’s Mavs on Thursday night while shooting 14-of-20 from the field. That’s not exactly indicative of a defense that’s fully woken up from its in-season nap.
Perhaps that outing was an aberration for the new, post-Spurs-loss Mavs, but we have every reason to be skeptical. Dallas has been trending downward defensively since January, and though Chandler once had his team performing at an elite level on that end, they have yet to really recapture that early season magic.