NBA Roundtable

Playoff Previews: San Antonio vs Dallas

In General NBA on April 18, 2009 at 11:12 am

Regular Season Standings

  • San Antonio Spurs — 54 wins and 28 losses
  • Dallas Mavericks —  50 wins and 32 losses

Regular Season Matchups

  • The Mavs and Spurs split the season series 2-2
  • Two of the games where blowouts and two where closely contested, with the teams splitting both sets of games.
  • Each team also lost and won once on each other’s home court.

Mavericks Outlook

Josh Howard

The key to Dallas’ playoff hopes rests with Josh Howard. Dallas will get reliable contributions from Dirk, Kidd, Terry, Dampier and Bass … but Josh Howard … Howard has been inconsistent all season. He is the X-Factor for this team, the guy who change the series from a close call to a Mavericks win.

The Spurs starting wings are weak defensively, and nearly all of them (Mason, Finley, Bowen) are very poor rebounders. Josh Howard needs to be that great rebounding wing, and dominant 20+ppg scorer, that he has proven to be in the past and if he can do that? Then Dallas will have an excellent chance of knocking the Spurs out. The good news for San Antonio? Josh Howard has underperformed all season and it doesn’t look like he’s going to come good.

During the season series with the Spurs, Josh Howard dropped 21ppg and grabbed 8.3rpg, so it appears that he enjoys playing the Spurs. These numbers should give Mavs fans some added confidence.

No DeSagana Diop

The Mavericks have done a good job defending Tim Duncan in the past, but that was mainly down to DeSagana Diop who did a brilliant job defending the post against Tim. Diop had the physical size and heft to contest Tim’s post position, and make it difficult for Tim to back him down, and then had the athleticism and length to contest the shot. Duncan had real problems with Diop.

Dampier does a solid job defending Tim Duncan and will make him work for his points, but Tim knows how to attack Damp and does a good job of doing so.

A couple of days ago the Mavs won a great game against the Rockets, and young Ryan Hollins gave a good defensive performance against Yao Ming. He’s the Mavs backup center with Diop gone, and someone to watch in this series. He’s been a very poor player for most of his NBA career but perhaps he’s finally starting to turn a corner.

If Hollins does not defend Duncan, and since Damp normally only plays 23 minutes a game, we may see Dirk Nowtizki defend Duncan in the low post. The Spurs would enjoy that … but it may be the Mavs best option — Bass’s quickness defensively and offensive ability add a lot to Dallas.

Jason Kidd + Jason Terry

Both players had very impressive seasons and particularly impressive outings against the Spurs. Kidd averaged 13 points, 8.8 assists, and 7.3 rebounds a game against San Antonio. Terry meanwhile, dropped 21.7ppg on 52% shooting from the field, while also adding 4.3 boards and 5.3 assists.

Rebounding

The Mavericks figure to have a huge rebounding advantage against the Spurs. Dallas was tied as the 6th best rebounding team in the NBA, while San Antonio got (barely) out-rebounded by their opponents on the season and where a pedestrian rebounding team.

The Mavs advantage on the backboards figures to be even greater than that because of the Ginobili injury, and Pop’s decision to sit George Hill, two losses which severely weakens the Spurs rebounding from the perimeter.

Spurs Outlook

Ginobili Injury

How big a loss is Manu Ginobili?

The Spurs losing Ginobili is the equivalent of Boston Paul Pierce. Could Boston win a Championship without their Finals MVP from a year ago? Not a chance.

Unfortunately, the situation is even worse than that for San Antonio because not only are they without their Paul Pierce, but they also have no fourth star as good as Rajon Rondo and no second big man as good as Kendrick Perkins.

In other words, the Spurs are dead in the water. San Antonio has no hope of contending for a title this season, they simply do not have the talent, not without Ginobili.

Manu Ginobili is an All-NBA caliber player. Teams cannot replace a player of that quality with a bench player and expect to maintain their contender status.

So, a question or two:

  • Do San Antonio have a shot at winning a title? No.
  • Do they have a shot at winning a playoff series or two? Absolutely.

Tony Parker

Watch out for Tony Parker, he destroyed the Mavericks during the regular season, dropping 31.3 points a night and adding 7.3 assists for good measure.

The Mavericks have nobody who can stop him, their pick and roll defense is weak (bigs slow, don’t show well) and their guards struggle mightily against quick point guards. Tony Parker has had some incredible individual performances in the playoffs in the past, but this series might top all of them.

Nobody Can Guard Dirk

A couple of seasons ago the Spurs switched out slow footed big men like Nazr Mohammed and Rasho Nesterovic, in favour for quicker more athletic big men like Francisco Elson and Fabricio Oberto. They did this in large part to better matchup with the fast paced Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks’ star power forward Dirk Nowitzki.

Fast forward to the 2008-09 season and San Antonio has found itself in a similar position to 2005 and 2006, when they failed to have a good matchup for Dirk. Kurt Thomas flat footed defensive efforts make him a poor defender away from the rim, and consequently a poor fit next to Duncan. Matt Bonner, is at best, a mediocre defender who cannot slow down Dirk Nowitzki.  Then there’s the third big man for San Antonio, Mr Drew Gooden, who Dirk has quite simply lit up several times in the past. Drew isn’t a good enough defender to bother a focused and determined Nowitzki.

This leaves San Antonio with two choices — Tim Duncan and Fabricio Oberto.

Oberto has been out of the Spurs rotation for large parts of the season and appears to be their fifth choice big man heading into the playoffs, so it’s unlikely he sees much playing time early in the series. If San An struggles, then Oberto may be called upon. Which basically leaves Tim Duncan shouldering a whole lot of weight, and if he’s defending Dirk, that leaves the rest of the Spurs wide open because their defense has been soft this season.

Oh yeah, and Dirk, he’s dropped 26/10 on San Antonio during the Spurs-Mavs season series.

Spurs Starters vs Bench Defensively

The four best perimeter defenders on the Spurs are Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, George Hill and Ime Udoka. All four players come off the bench.

Out of the regular rotation players, who are the Spurs weakest defenders on the wing? Roger Mason Jr and Michael Finley.

Tony Parker’s defense has taken a slight knock this season, but that is to be expected since he’s shouldering more of the offense. Parker is now the Spurs best perimeter defender in the starting lineup. When he’s focused defensively he can be an above average defender, but for most of the season he’s been mediocre or slightly above average.

The situation is also interesting for the big men. Obviously, Tim Duncan is the Spurs best big man defender. But the second best (Oberto), third best (Thomas), and fourth best (Gooden), big man defenders all reside on the Spurs bench while Matt Bonner starts.

In other words, the Spurs have a lot less defense in their starting lineup these days. If Tim Duncan has to guard Dirk Nowitzki, some of those starters could become over-exposed.

Rebounding From The Perimeter

Manu Ginobili is one of the finest rebounding guards in the NBA. The Spurs will feel his loss grealty, because not only do they lose that great contribution, but because Manu’s replacements are very weak rebounders.

  • Very weak rebounders — Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Roger Mason Jr (when playing on the wing)

Tony Parker is a slightly below average rebounder and Jacque Vaughn is a below par rebounder too. George Hill on the other hand? He’s a very talented rebounder for a point guard. So, the Spurs will suffer a second loss from Popovich’s decision to drop George Hill from the rotation.

Currently, the Spurs only figure to have one above average rebounder in their rotation and that is Ime Udoka. There is some good news here though, and that’s that Udoka has seen a huge increase in minutes over the last month and half, going from under 10 minutes a night to around 20 minutes a game.

The Great Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan has never failed to advance past the first round. That incredible achievement, 11 seasons as a pro, is under threat this year.

Timmy had been playing some incredible basketball this season, however, an unfortunate injury knocked him off pace and he’s struggled on and off with his knee ever since then. He’s not a full strength but he’s still a dominant figure.

Duncan remains the linchpin of everything San Antonio does. He controls the game through his remarkable defense, his excellent rebounding, high quality passing, his team offense and some very good low post play. Then add in his leadership and other intangibles.

There is no doubt that Tim Duncan is the Spurs best player, despite some efforts in the media to portray Parker as such.

The good news for San Antonio is that Duncan has altered his scoring this season. He’s taken more jumpshots than in previous seasons in an effort to reduce the banging his body has taken, and that could help him greatly as he battles through this present injury.

During the season series, Duncan dropped 23/14/4 on Dallas. Look for him to grab control of the series through his defense and rebounding.

Final Thoughts

These two teams should feel very happy with the playoff draw because they’re in the opposite half from the Los Angeles Lakers. In truth, any one of these teams — San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans, Denver — have a legitimate chance at advancing to the Conference Finals. Both first round series look closely contested, and the second round figures to be a repeat.

Conclusions

This series has the potential to go seven games and could go either way. It’s completely up in the air.

I think Dallas has a slight advantage, but that’s only if the play to their fullest ability and that’s something which they’ve (read: Josh Howard) had major problems achieving this year.

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  1. Ahhh, the series from which I might just get depressed knowing that Manu won’t be playing. But both teams will play it out to their maximum potential. After all, both teams know that this could determined Texas pride for this years playoffs.

    I’m going to say the one could make a whole difference here is Tony Parker. His record against the Mavs this season speaks for itself. On his best, TP is a speedy Gonzalez and the Mavs will have a tough time in trying defend him or slow him down.

    Of course I would like to see Oberto being given some quality minutes here. He can do the “dirty job” in trying to limit Dirk from making the most. This would allow Duncan to roam freely on the near post.

    Not the most exciting series, but still plenty to look forward too.

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