The San Antonio Spurs played well at times on Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks but, unfortunately, the good guys went cold at the wrong time. The Mavericks (19-16) beat the Spurs (18-15) by a final score of 115-104.
Before the game started, there was big Spurs related news: LaMarcus Aldridge won’t play for the Spurs again and San Antonio is actively looking to trade him. Of course, we’ll have more on this story as it unfolds.
Derrick White hit two free throws to tie the game at 95-95 with 7:56 remaining. Sadly, that’s when the offense died on the operating table. Over the next seven minutes, the Spurs missed all 11 of their field goal attempts. By the time they hit another shot, San Antonio trailed by 13 points.
The Spurs are the 11th best defensive rebounding team in the NBA. Tonight, though, they were awful on the defensive boards. The Mavericks totaled 13 offensive rebounds, including multiple backbreakers.
Spurs at Mavericks: Final Grades
In the first half, DeRozan was spectacular. He finished the first two quarters of play with 14 points, eight assists and three steals, while hitting 7-of-8 shots from the field. He was the biggest reason why the Spurs had a 59-52 lead at halftime. While DeRozan kept playing hard in the second half, his efficiency dipped. Overall, though, I thought he was a lot better than usual on defense and was consistently San Antonio’s most effective offensive weapon.
Murray never found a rhythm. With most of the rotation back in action, he kind of got lost in the shuffle. He wasn’t handling the ball as much as usual, which obviously impacted his play. He passed up a few shots and also forced a few shots. His playmaking was limited. Defensively, he was efforting but there were too many gambles and too few jackpots.
Well, after the Aldridge news, it’s now officially official that Poeltl is the team’s starting center going forward. Congrats to him … but his play tonight wasn’t worthy of a letter home to Vienna. The good: He set tough screens, rebounded well on the offensive end and his mobility on defense was impressive. The bad: His defensive rebounding and boxing out were poor, his defending at the rim wasn’t as good as it typically is, and he could have been more aware on the offensive end.
It was another difficult shooting night for White. He missed all four of his three-pointers and hit only one of his four two-pointers. To make matters worse, his misses made him play with a palpable amount of uncertainty on the offensive end. Additionally, his passing was equally as wonky as his shot. The bright spot was his defense. Both his one-on-one and help-defense were on point.
Johnson was back in the starting lineups and he had his ups and downs. Ups: His three-point shot looked good, he attacked the rim with vigor and his perimeter defense was a little bit better than normal. Downs: His help-defense was usually a step late, his drives to the hoop were often poorly thought out and the Spurs really would have benefited by Johnson being more ferocious on the boards.
For a lot of the game, Mills was locked and loaded to deliver timely buckets. His shot looked smooth and he was picking his spots well. Sadly, as the game went on, Mills’ effectiveness waned. By late in the fourth quarter, he wasn’t providing much of anything. Defensively, he was okay at first when defending Luka Doncic but that didn’t last long.
Like Mills, Gay was great early on. He charged out of the gate by hitting his first three three-pointers while also making plays on defense. But soon after, the bottom fell out. He went 1-for-9 the rest of the way and, while he was competing, his slowness on defense was painful to watch.
Lonnie Walker IV
A lot of good stuff from Walker against the Mavs. He entered the game with his attack mode activated. He was launching threes and driving to the rim with gusto. He wasn’t always making positive plays but his energy and determination were undeniable and, with Walker, that’s usually more than half of the battle. His defense was also better than usual.
Lyles got some backup center minutes in the second half. He … didn’t do much. This is further evidence that Lyles can look good as a starter but he hasn’t figured out how to play well off the bench.
Eubanks was the backup center in the first half. He had a good block and battled on the boards.
A few of Pop’s decisions had me scratching my head. First of all, Walker playing only 18 minutes didn’t make much sense. The Spurs were starving for dynamic offensive players and that’s what Walker was tonight. Secondly, putting Mills on Doncic was suicidal. That might work for a play here or there but Doncic is just too big for Mills. Considering that there are more than a handful of players on the team that I’d rather Pop put on Doncic, this was another strange decision. Finally, I know Gay started off on fire but Pop was way too slow to realize that he ran out of gas at some point in the second quarter.
On Friday, the Spurs take on the Orlando Magic at the AT&T Center. After that game, they have a five-game road trip against Eastern Conference teams. With that road trip looming, the contest against the Magic is a game the Spurs need to win.