Tag: Mavs-Spurs Game 1

NBA Playoffs: George Hill insists ankle was fine despite limited playing time last night

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George Hill started last night’s game in place of Tony Parker, but was scoreless in 18 minutes of action with three rebounds and two turnovers. Not the kind of play Gregg Popovich liked to see out of the player widely deemed to be the Spurs’ x-factor, and Pop let him know it the best way a coach can: he benched him.

The subplot here is Hill’s bum ankle, which he injured in the last game of the regular season. Did Pop really sit Hill because he wanted to afford George some extra rest, and his poor play in the first half was just a convenient excuse to do so? Seems logical. Even with Pop’s surprising rotations in some games, benching Hill over being ineffective for a half doesn’t seem like a luxury he can really afford.

Even weirder, though: despite Pop’s ambiguous claim that he “didn’t like what he saw,” (in regard to Hill’s play or the injury?), Hill himself insisted that there was nothing wrong with his ankle. From Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas:

The benching left the second-year guard who has been so integral to the Spurs’ late-season resurgence perplexed.

“I was fine. I don’t know what to say. I was fine, though,” Hill
said. “I couldn’t say I just wasn’t aggressive enough. I don’t know
what it was, to be honest. The foot was fine.”

Caplan also raises the possibility of Tony Parker returning to his starting point guard role, which would seem likely. Parker was actually the Spurs’ seventh man last night, and though his performance was hardly revolutionary (18 points on 14 shots, four assists, two turnovers), he looked far better than Hill in almost every regard. Even in stepping away from the numbers, Hill had a hard time triggering the offense when he was given those responsibilities, while Parker was far superior (though again, not especially great) in that regard. 

NBA Playoffs: Mavs and Spurs deliver as promised, but Dallas draws first blood

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Butler_Dunk.jpgDallas and San Antonio both played well but not perfectly. That said, the most important word in that sentence is both, as every terrific performance was countered and every sloppy play met with another by the opposition. It was a game of brilliant, beautiful, and flawed (but balanced in its flaws) basketball, and we shouldn’t want it any other way.

The Mavs and Spurs played a tight game throughout, until the Mavs’ late-game execution allowed them to pull away to a safe, decisive margin. Dallas overcame some decent shooting from San Antonio thanks to taking slightly better care of the ball, parading to the free throw line (in part due to favorable officiating), and limiting the Spurs’ effectiveness in the pick-and-roll in the second half.

Front and center was Dirk Nowitzki, whose shooting was otherworldly. Nowitzki finished with 36 points on just 14 shots, but the most impressive part of Dirk’s evening was his 85.7% shooting from the field. Nowitzki simply refused to miss, as he supplemented his usual array of turnarounds and fadeaways with a few lucky bank shots and a series of makes after contact. There are nights where Dirk is dialed in, and then there are nights like this. If anyone ever questions just how special an offensive talent that Nowitzki is, I would simply pull up this game on the non-existent video monitor, cue a highlight reel of improbable shot after improbable shot, and rest my case.

Dirk was hardly alone, though, as Gregg Popovich made perfectly clear. ” There aren’t many nights where Dirk is not special. He was special tonight, but he had a lot of help,” Pop said. “A lot of other guys played really well; Butler killed us and both big guys were really good on the boads defensively. Jason [Kidd] was a gnat. He was a focused, driven individual, as usual. They had a lot of people well. They played sharper than we did.”

Pop is right: Butler’s 22 points, Kidd’s 11 assists, and Dampier’s 12 rebounds were all essential components of the Dallas’ victory. In a game so close, the importance of every contribution is magnified, and the Mavericks not wearing #41 were still incredibly valuable elements of a winning cause.

Naturally though, the Spurs wouldn’t have been competitive if not for superior performances from Tim Duncan (27 points, eight rebounds, six turnovers) and Manu Ginobili (26 points, six assists, four rebounds, five turnovers), the two stars whose success is absolutely fundamental to what San Antonio looks to accomplish. Their turnovers — some forced and some unforced — were a huge detriment to the tandem’s efficiency. That combined with the Mavs’ tightened defense on the screen-and-roll and Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood’s defense on Duncan in the post was just enough to surrender the momentum that Dallas needed to secure a victory.

Game one felt like a lifetime. Dirk was brilliant, Duncan persevered, Kidd’s was masterful in the half-court, Tony Parker (18 points, four assists) was moderately effective coming off the bench, Jason Terry had a mostly empty night (five points, three assists), George Hill departed early (just 18 minutes), Rick Carlisle altered his rotation (no minutes for Eduardo Najera, just 18 minutes for Brendan Haywood), and Gregg Popovich engaged in what can only be called shenanigans (three straight possessions of Hack-a-Damp in the third quarter). These two teams are just getting started, and if game one was any indication of what the rest of the series will be like, we’re in for a treat.