The San Antonio Spurs fell to 12-18 on the season after a 102-98 loss to a Dallas Mavericks squad that improved to 20-10. In this relatively low scoring affair, the Spurs hung in, made a few runs but ultimate succumbed to a young team that has more talent and an offense that is much more modernized than San Antonio’s throwback attack.
The Mavs scored the game’s first eight points — but the Spurs soon rallied back. With a dunk by Luka Doncic (24 points, ten rebounds and eight assists), the Mavs went up 20-15 with 90 seconds remaining in the period. But, again, the Spurs battled back. This time, they ended the quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 24-20 lead into the second period.
The second saw something of a role reversal. After a LaMarcus Aldridge three-point put the good guys up by three points with 2:42 remaining in the half, Dallas closed the quarter with a 10-2 run to take a 52-47 advantage into the break.
In the third quarter, the Spurs fell apart in the second half of the period and were down 79-66 with 81 seconds to go in the stanza. But another run — this time a 13-2 run in less than three minutes — brought the Spurs within three points, 82-79. Unfortunately, that’s when the Mavs caught fire from three-point range. After hitting six straight threes, Dallas ballooned their lead to 15 points.
The Spurs once again battled back. In fact, they had the ball down only four points with around ten seconds remaining but one last missed shot by the Spurs sealed the game for the Mavs.
Overall, the glass half full view of this game is the Spurs defended well and if Aldridge wouldn’t have gotten in foul trouble and if the three hired (and redundant) guns for the Spurs (Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli) weren’t ice cold, San Antonio very well could have pulled an upset. As it was, the Mavs had to get hot from deep to put the Spurs away.
Then again, the glass half empty view is this iteration of the Spurs will always be susceptible to a three-point disparity being the difference in a game so that’s not a valid excuse and that San Antonio isn’t in a position to be thinking about moral victories.
Spurs at Mavs – Final Grades
I was pretty pleased with LaMarcus Aldridge, all things considered. The Mavs are difficult to defend but Aldridge remained active and had his moments on that end. His foul trouble included a couple of questionable calls, so it wasn’t totally his fault. Offensively, he was more demonstrative than usual. I thought he could have done a lot more on that end but his touches were too sporadic. In retrospect, the Spurs should have gone to Aldridge much more often.
DeMar DeRozan’s stats look a lot prettier than his actual play. He trudged his way through this game on the offensive end. He dribbled a whole lot but was rarely able to create open looks for himself or others. For whatever reason, he looked less athletic than usual; the 30-year-old’s first step was slow and his spring didn’t have much pop to it. DeRozan was also frustrated for much of the game and that negatively impacted his decision-making at times. Defensively, he was adequate, particularly off the ball.
This was a really rough game for Dejounte Murray on the offensive end. His playmaking was lacking, his passes were usually either ill-timed or ill-conceived, and the ball didn’t go in the basket when he called his own number. Defensively, he had some good moments against Doncic and his length and anticipation created a few turnovers. But, unfortunately, some of his defensive effectiveness was negated by dumb fouls and the fact that he was surprisingly inept on the boards.
Considering his struggles in recent weeks, this was an okay game by Bryn Forbes. He missed all four of his three-pointers but he made all three of his two-pointers. Forbes provided life here and there when the offense was otherwise bogging down. Defensively, I thought Forbes was healthily above his average. He was more focused, reacting better and even helped a bit on the glass.
The good: Trey Lyles hit another three-pointer, pulled down more boards and showed off his surprisingly good ball-handling abilities. The bad: Lyles’ defense left a lot to be desired. He wasn’t closing out on shooters well or providing effective help. He also wasn’t doing a good job of boxing out in scramble situations.
This was closer to the Rudy Gay we came to expect the last couple years. He came into this game shooting only 28.1% on threes — a far cry from the 40.2% he shot last season. Against the Mavs, he was able to bury 4-of-7 three-point attempts and his stroke looked as good as it has all season. He was also able to create for himself, which helped the bench unit. Defensively, he was really active. Gay’s eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks were a result of his tenacity on that end. The Spurs could really, really use this version of Gay more often this season.
Derrick White was more aggressive than usual. Yes, he can still turn up the volume a couple more notches but this is definitely a step in the right direction. I especially liked how he shot threes whenever given an extra inch of daylight. His playmaking was solid and he took care of the basketball. I was a bit underwhelmed by his defense, though. Plus, he could have done a better job of consistently pushing the pace.
Just like Forbes, Patty Mills was 0-for-4 on threes and 3-for-3 on twos. He had a couple of really good plays defensively out on the perimeter during the first half. Unfortunately, his defense waned as the game progressed and his playmaking was a disaster all night long. Whenever he started dribbling and looking to pass, something bad was bound to happen.
Jakob Poeltl hit all three of his shots from the floor, a couple of which were of a more-spicy-than-usual variety. Poeltl also blocked two more shots and was hustling up and down the court. But he also gave away points at the line, didn’t corral all the rebounds he needed to corral, didn’t always close all the way to the three-point line and his reaction speed to everything seemed to be a beat behind.
Marco Belinelli missed all four of his three-pointers, a couple of which couldn’t have been any more wide open. His overall activity level was higher than usual … but that activity rarely led to positives on either end. Defensively, he was caught out of position a handful of times and it wasn’t uncommon to see Belinelli watching his man score from a distance.
The DNP-CD for Lonnie Walker IV is frustrating. Pop did try Murray and White together for a little bit before bailing. The way Pop is currently handling his rotation, the Spurs have to shoot well in order to win games. The problem is this team is a sub par shooting team — so the results are going to be sub par … unless three or four of the shooters on this team suddenly turn their seasons around.
Up Next for the Spurs
The Spurs return home for a three-game homestand against the Pistons, Warriors and Thunder. San Antonio really needs a clean sweep of these three home games. With January and February lining up to be very difficult months, the Spurs need three wins now to hopefully build momentum.