The Spurs finished the regular season with the best record in the league, but matching up against the Mavericks in the first round was thought to be no easy task.
Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki playing at an All-Star level, and boasts a balanced offense that was tied with the defending champion Heat for the second best in the league per 100 possessions.
The difference in this series was supposed to be the defense, a statistical category where San Antonio shines but where the Mavericks were below the league average. That proved to be true in Game 1, where the Spurs held Dallas to just four points over the game’s final 7:45 to secure a 90-85 victory after trailing for much of the fourth by as many as 10 points.
Dallas overcame a very slow start to compete in this one. The Mavs managed just 12 first quarter points on 5-of-20 shooting, but managed to get back into it with a big second quarter, thanks to 10 points from Devin Harris off the bench. But despite the resiliency from Dallas, the brilliance of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, along with the tremendous San Antonio defense down the stretch proved to be too much.
Duncan finished with 27 points and seven rebounds in almost 38 minutes, and scored nine of those points in the final period after leaving the game midway through the third with what appeared to be a knee injury. Parker did his damage primarily in the first half where he scored 17 of his 21 points, but also had a killer spin move late that gave his team the lead for good.
The final tally on the run that the Spurs used to close the game was 19-4, and as usual, it was surgical in its precision. This was a game that was there for the Mavericks to take, but Dallas was doomed by its slow start and uncharacteristically dismal finish.
The Spurs, as they’ve been for the last 17 seasons, remained consistent.
The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, and find themselves down 3-2 as they head back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. The Clippers have had to deal with Utah’s formidable defense, so much so that they’ve built in counters to Jazz defenders overplaying shooters like JJ Redick.
One example of this countering method could be found in Game 3, when the Clippers ran a split cut for Redick. Instead of fighting endlessly around screens for a 3-point shot as you might expect, LA took the easy route and simply cut Redick to the basket for an easy layup as a means to take advantage of an overeager defender.
We’ve talked about the Split Cut here on NBA Playbook before. The Los Angeles Lakers used it earlier in the season to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that uses the split cut perhaps the most out of any team in the NBA.
Other teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, have adapted the Warriors’ use of the split cut as a counter for their own offense this season, which is a testament to just how useful it is.
If you need a reminder, a split cut all about a screener coming up to screen, then cutting toward the basket before his screen action fully takes place. It’s about timing, and catching defenders off guard when they go to set up their recover positions for screens.
For a full breakdown on the split cut and how the Clippers used it, watch the video above.
John Wall has been super, averaging 27 points and 11 assists while leading the Wizards to a 3-2 lead over the Hawks in the first-round.
Fred Hoiberg opened himself to clowning by complaining about Isaiah Thomas carrying.
So, the Bulls coach got clowned after the Celtics’ Game 5 win.
Late in the Celtics’ Game 5 win over the Bulls last night, Jae Crowder leg-locked Robin Lopez – the same dirty play that caused rancor for Matthew Dellavedova in the 2015 playoffs.
Lopez blocked Crowder’s shot, but the ball went to Al Horford, who attacked the basket. As Lopez tried to rotate to contest another shot, he couldn’t move. Crowder, who’d fallen to the floor, had him in a leg-lock. Lopez freed himself just in time to foul Horford.
Adding insult to avoided injury, Lopez got hit with a technical foul for complaining about the no-call.
I bet the league issues a technical foul on Crowder, too.