The San Antonio Spurs (8-8) are back to .500 after losing to the Dallas Mavericks (8-7) on Friday night by a final count of 122-117. The Spurs trailed for a majority of the game before they stormed back in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the good guys couldn’t quite come all the way back.
The Spurs trailed by 11 points midway through the fourth quarter. That’s when their run started. With a minute remaining, DeMar DeRozan had a pair of free throws that could have tied the game — but he hit only one of the two freebies. DeRozan missed a short jumper on the next possession with the Spurs down by three points. A Jalen Bruson three-pointer on the subsequent Mavs possession put an end to the drama.
The Mavericks turned the ball over only six times, which begins to paint the picture of how unaggressive the Spurs were on defense. Dallas was mostly allowed to get any shot they wanted on offense.
Spurs vs. Mavs: Final Grades
It was a mixed bag for DeRozan. The good: He got to the free throw line 16 times. Despite carrying the offense for long stretches, he only had one turnover. He was aggressive yet played smart for the most part. Defensively, he was probably a smidgen better than usual. The bad: DeRozan didn’t shoot it well; he was only 2-for-7 outside of 12 feet. After the Spurs cut it to a two-point ballgame with two minutes remaining, he missed his next three field goal attempts in addition to the aforementioned free throw.
Johnson improved a lot from his forgettable game against the Warriors. While he didn’t hit a three-pointer (he had another ugly airball this game, in fact), Johnson drove to the basket with purpose. Although he wasn’t perfect decisions-wise, his forays to the rim usually paid dividends. He authored a couple good passes and his career-high 14 rebounds were certainly helpful. Johnson got a bit sloppy with his fouls and his outside shot needs to return for him to regain his full value on offense — but this game was a step in the right direction.
Aldridge showed an impressive amount of liveliness tonight. He hit four three-pointers in the first quarter and that seemed to energize him. He eventually started getting his hands dirty in the paint and remained mentally engaged. While Aldridge was better on the boards than we’ve seen him lately, his defense was painfully slow. He looked like he was wearing lead boots.
Lonnie Walker IV
Eh, more bad than good out of Walker against the Mavs. The good: Showed some flashes of being able to create off the dribble. I loved his aggression with regard to his three-point attempts. The bad: Never really made much of an impact on defense. Specifically, when he was guarding Luka Doncic, the Slovenian never felt him. Walker wants to be a defensive stopper but right now he doesn’t play with enough strength or ruggedness on that end. Offensively, his finishes in the paint were chutzpahless. Walker is uber athletic but he needs to use that athleticism when he’s trying to score in the paint.
Murray rolled his ankle a minute into the game. That was bad timing for the Spurs because Murray was likely to be their main defender on Doncic. Without Murray (and, of course, still without Derrick White), the team’s defense was a lot more predictable (not a compliment) and their offense was more often unidimensional (also not a compliment).
Mills only hit one three-pointer but still managed to impact the game positively in some ways. His energy and pace-pushing on offense were both helpful. He probed more than usual, which the Spurs really needed on this night. Defensively, while he got exploited on switches on multiple occasions, he might have been the team’s best impediment to stop Doncic from getting to wherever he wanted to go — as absurd as that sounds.
I didn’t always love Rudy Gay’s shot-selection but he ended up scoring an efficient 16 points, so can’t complain too much about that. Defensively, he had his moments where he was helping out. His long arms and physicality were plusses on that end. However, he was glacially slow in rotations.
This was one of the few games of the season where Vassell appeared to be a step slow on defense. While he had a few strong defensive plays, he was a step away from a handful of other potential stops. Offensively, Vassell didn’t do a whole lot. He wasn’t super involved but he did pass up a couple of shots he should have released. Interestingly, Vassell got some run at point guard and he didn’t seem fazed.
Not bad; not great. Poeltl could have been a lot stronger in the paint on offense. He missed out on two or three buckets simply due to being reluctant. Poeltl was pretty good on defense but his impact on that end wasn’t felt as consistently as usual.
Jones played his first two real minutes in the NBA due to Murray leaving with injury. He had a couple heady passes that make it clear he understands how to run an offense. Unfortunately, Pop pulled him after a few passive defensive possessions in which he basically ushered his man to the rim. Next time, Jones will need to play with more aggressiveness on defense when given a chance.
The Spurs rarely appeared to have a plan on defense. It didn’t help that Murray had to leave the game but Pop couldn’t come up with any defensive schemes to slow Dallas down at all. The only reason the Mavs didn’t score 130-plus points is that they were 4-for-18 on three-pointers in the second half even though the shots were mostly wide open. More imagination on offense down the stretch could have helped matters. Playing DeRozan 41 minutes and Mills 37 minutes were highly questionable decisions. Giving Jones a second chance couldn’t have hurt, could it?
The Spurs will try to end their two-game losing streak on Sunday when the Washington Wizards come to town.