The San Antonio Spurs took on the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night in their first game following the Rodeo Road Trip. Playing without an injured LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs made a late run but ended up losing by a final score of 109-103 to drop to 24-33 on the season. With the win, the Mavs improved to 36-23.
Coming out of the gates, Pop went ultra small by replacing Aldridge in the starting lineup with Lonnie Walker IV. The maneuver failed to pay dividends as Dallas took control early. The Spurs were in a double-digit hole before the quarter was even halfway over and were down 36-20 at the end of the period.
San Antonio struggled to grab any sort of momentum in the second quarter until the final few minutes before the halftime break. The Spurs scored 17 of the quarter’s final 26 points to pull within 59-49 at intermission.
The third quarter was basically a lost 12 minutes for the good guys. The Spurs kept trying to make runs but the Mavericks responded each and every time. Heading into the fourth, the Silver and Black trailed 88-77.
San Antonio’s defense stiffened in the fourth quarter. In the period’s first six minutes, the Spurs outscored the Mavs 13-1 to take a one-point lead, 90-89. The lead traded hands multiple times in the next couple minutes. After a three-pointer by Walker tied the game at 96-96, the Mavs retook control with a 12-0 spurt. By the time the Spurs got up off of the canvas, the game was over.
All in all, this was a disappointing way to return to South Texas. Outside of a few stretches, the Spurs never really played that well. That said, the good guys fought in the fourth quarter and had a chance to pull out an improbable win. Let’s hope they can build on that toughness in the season’s final 25 games.
Spurs vs. Mavs – Final Grades
In most ways, DeMar DeRozan played really well. He scored 27 points on 15 field goal attempts, got to the free throw line nine times, passed the ball extremely well (nine assists) and helped out on the boards (eight rebounds). He was also decent at times on defense and remained alert to his responsibilities. The issue with DeRozan tonight was his attitude. He spent a lot of the game mopping, pouting and directing his frustrations at the refs. DeRozan being unfocused seemed to rub off on his teammates, who in turn also spent a lot of time complaining. Considering he’s a leader on this team whether he likes it or not, DeRozan needs to focus and can’t get so easily distracted.
After going 0-for-7 in his last outing, Dejounte Murray once again struggled offensively. His missed ten of his 13 attempts, many of which were clean looks. His outside jumper looked totally out of rhythm. Murray’s playmaking was also lacking and his sloppiness was making things harder for his teammates. He had some good moments on defense and rebounded well but his transition D was iffy and he missed a few rotations.
Statistically, Bryn Forbes appeared to have done his job. He scored in double figures and his accuracy was acceptable. That said, watching him play was frustrating. His defense oscillated between nonexistent and terrible. The Mavs were drawing up playing to pick on him specifically and Forbes was powerless to do anything. As the game went along, he added in a handful of boneheaded plays on the offensive end. By the time the fourth quarter arrived, he was unplayable.
Lonnie Walker IV
Lonnie Walker IV had a quiet start on the offensive end. Eventually, though, he got going and provided a needed spark in the second half. He drained both of his three-pointers, began attacking the rim with more chutzpah and handed out a few quality passes. Defensively, Walker’s main assignment was Luka Doncic. Considering the Slovenian went for 26 points, 14 assists and ten rebounds, I can’t say Walker did a great job on him … but he competed and contested the young superstar relatively well. Overall, though, while Walker did pretty good in most phases of the game, he still has tons of obvious room for improvement.
Trey Lyles didn’t make a ton of noise tonight but he did some good. He started at center and did a good job on the glass, particularly on the offensive end. His defense of the rim was adequate and he was decently effective when he was forced to switch out on smaller players. Offensively, Lyles hit a big three-pointer in the fourth quarter but he was hesitating way too much tonight. Lyles is at his best when he’s decisively attacking — and that version of him was MIA against the Mavs.
The Spurs were desperate for some big shots from Patty Mills this evening. While Mills delivered sporadically, his 3-for-11 shooting just wasn’t accurate enough to really help push the Spurs over the top. I didn’t love his shot-selection; he took a lot of contested threes that he usually doesn’t shoot. Defensively, he had a handful of hustle plays that helped out but he was a liability in one-on-one matchups.
Derrick White was better than he was last time out but that’s not saying a whole lot. His playmaking is still severely lacking. He went 4-for-6 on two-pointers and didn’t have a turnover but San Antonio needs more than that out of White. He’s good enough to take command of the offensive attack but that never took place versus Dallas. On defense, he had a few highlights but we’ve seen him be a lot more impactful than he was on Wednesday night.
Rudy Gay had a horrendous start to the game. He was bricking left and right, looked slow on both ends of the court and wasn’t helping the Spurs at all. Eventually, Pop put Gay at center and he finally was able to help a little bit. Being at center allowed Gay to mask his slowness on defense and provided him built-in mismatches on offense. While he recovered from his terrible start, Gay never really impressed much.
With Aldridge out of the lineup, Marco Belinelli was the major trickle-down recipient of the available playing time. And, hey, he did well. He drained 4-of-6 three-pointers, pulled down a season-high eight rebounds and scored 14 points in 21 minutes. He wasn’t good on defense, of course, but his effort level was satisfactory.
After Jakob Poeltl checked into the game in the first quarter, Mavs center Kristaps Porzingis proceeded to score 11 points in the next two minutes on 4-for-4 shooting from the field, including 3-for-3 on three-pointers. That … wasn’t good. It wasn’t all Poeltl’s fault but Dallas was taking advantage of the Austrian’s propensity to try to protect the rim. Beyond that difficult start, Poeltl did okay. He wasn’t notably good on either side of the court, though. Interestingly, even with Aldridge out, Poeltl only played ten minutes.
Without Aldridge, Pop decided to fully activate his mad scientist mode and went with super small lineups. On paper, it made some sense because the Mavs don’t post-up their bigs and always have at least four perimeter-oriented players on the court at all times. In reality, the Spurs weren’t able to figure out how to coexist within their new, smaller lineups on the fly. Pop stuck with it and eventually his tiny lineups started to pay off in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, San Antonio ran out of gas after their spirited comeback and the mad scientist was handed an L.
Up Next for the Spurs
The Spurs end this three-game road trip with two games they really, really need to win. On Saturday, they host the Orlando Magic. On Monday, it’s the Indiana Pacers visiting the AT&T Center. A loss to the Magic this weekend could be one of the final nails in their lottery-bound coffin.