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11:22 PM ET, 5/15/06
First-half thoughts from Spurs/Mavs
Posted by Kelly Dwyer
Thoughts from the first half of San Antonio/Dallas' Game 3, which ended tied at 53-53 ...
San Antonio's offensive spacing in the first half is quite exquisite. It reminds me of the type of offense they used to frustrate and dispatch the Detroit Pistons in the Finals last year. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich always manages to create huge gaps between his perimeter attackers, with Tim Duncan floating from the right box to the left, without making it seem like a tired 1-4 set, or the cast of stand-around shooters you usually see surrounding Shaquille O'Neal or Yao Ming. It may not be enough to blow by the Mavs for 48 minutes, but should the Mavs start to miss perimeter shots, or get overanxious on defense, Coach Pop has the system in place for the Spurs to take over.
One issue with Avery Johnson's insistence that his Mavericks take responsibility for their own man on defense is that Dallas' help defense is sometimes hesitant and not always effective. They tend to double at the wrong time, hang onto shooters who don't need covering (like Bruce Bowen at the top of the 3-point arc), and find themselves caught between a double-team and staying home.
As has been noted, the Spurs are switching on just about everything, which makes sense if they were playing the Dirk Nowitzki from last season's playoffs. This year's model has no such issues scoring on defenders both big and small -– or Tony Parker-small. Dirk had 17 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the first half.
Nick Van Exel made one of two shots in the first half, and he's six of 26 (23 percent) for the playoffs. I'm not concerned.
Pop threw out Tony Parker, Brent Barry, Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan as his starting five, continuing to go smaller and smaller with each passing playoff game. That starting unit played 44 minutes together in the regular season, scoring 123 points and keeping their opponents to 83 points. Pretty damn good. It was the 10th-most used lineup all season for the Spurs, but the second-most potent. However, this particular grouping only played for the opening 5:18 of the first quarter, scoring eight points to Dallas' six. Not so hot.
A lineup using Manu Ginobili in place of Barry, was Pop's go-to lineup for most of the first half. During the regular season, it was half as effective as the lineup mentioned above, in about as much time, usually failing to defend well. The unit gave up 105 points (and scored 126) in 47 total minutes during the first 82 games.
Surprised to note that San Antonio actually has the rebounding edge after 24 minutes, 16-15. It seemed like Dallas was stronger off the glass, but maybe I just tend to notice Erick Dampier's hirsute wingspan patrolling the backboard more than any Spur.
Not sure what Steve Kerr was on when he referred to Devin Harris' slow start. He nailed a 20-footer to start the game, and finished the half with six points (making all three shots) and three assists in just 13 minutes. Steve's still a high number in my book, though, and he calls a great game.