The San Antonio Spurs bounced back from one of their most disappointing losses of the season to defeat the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. The Spurs played an inspired brand of basketball to escape with a 119-109 victory and improve to 27-36 on the season. The Mavs dropped to 39-27 with the loss.
The Spurs, who welcomed back LaMarcus Aldridge and Marco Belinelli to the lineup but were without Dejounte Murray (calf), Lonnie Walker IV (shin) and Jakob Poeltl (knee), played decently well in the first quarter. The offense stalled at points but San Antonio ended the period only down two points, 29-27.
The second quarter was mostly a struggle for the Spurs. The Mavs were on the verge of running away with it a few times during the stanza. Eventually, the Spurs got it together enough to go into halftime trailing just 59-54.
The third quarter was a lot like the second quarter. The Spurs played poorly to begin the period, while the Mavs seemed poised to take control. But down the stretch, San Antonio found their footing just enough to head into the fourth quarter down two points, 85-83.
All that hanging around and hanging around paid off in the fourth. The Spurs began the period on a 13-3 run to go up 96-88. San Antonio would expand their lead to as many as 11 points — but the Mavs had one more push in them. A layup by Kristaps Porzingis brought Dallas to within three points, 104-101, with four minutes remaining. But instead of folding to the pressure, the good guys went on a 12-3 run to secure the victory.
All in all, it was a really good win. The Spurs exhibited a lot of guts by holding on tight until they were able to make a fourth quarter run. That said, the Spurs shot extremely well from three-point range and they had a lot of very good individual performances — so it’s far from certain that this sort of effort is replicable going forward.
Spurs vs. Mavericks – Final Grades
LaMarcus Aldridge was back in action and he played about as well as could have been expected. I loved that he was uber aggressive on offense. He didn’t try to tiptoe his way into figuring out how to fit back in. Instead, he let it fly from the opening tip. Defensively, his overall activity level was very high. He played passing lanes well and also protected the rim. His rebounding was missing in action but, then again, it was a night and day difference having a real big man back in the lineup in terms of being able to compete in the paint on both ends.
The good: DeMar DeRozan’s passing was really good. He was making smart passes, not forcing the issue too much and flashed better and better court vision as the game went along. He also stayed focused much better than usual. The bad: DeRozan’s defense wasn’t good, to put it politely. He had his share of boneheaded mistakes — on both ends. Scoring-wise, he wasn’t that good. His shot-selection wasn’t great and he wasn’t attacking as ferociously as usual.
In the starting lineup due to Murray’s calf injury, Derrick White made his case to remain in the starting lineup. He impacted the game intensely in many areas. On offense, he took control when it came to playmaking and wasn’t as apt to defer as he usually is. He passed the ball well but also kept the defense honest by calling his own number a fair amount. Defensively, he was really engaged and competed hard. While his actual effectiveness was shaky at times, the effort was always there. His seven rebounds and four blocks help illustrate just how involved he was on that end of the court.
Eh, this was a very Bryn Forbes-ish game. Bad defense. A couple signs of life offensively — but not enough that his lack of defense should have been ignored.
Don’t look now but Trey Lyles is becoming an instrumental part of this ballclub. He’s playing big minutes consistently and he’s producing. He hit 4-for-7 three-pointers tonight — including a couple notable makes. He passed the ball well and displayed his high basketball IQ at various points in the game. Defensively, he wasn’t always holding his ground well but his mobility helped and he was really active on the boards.
Back from an illness, Marco Belinelli led the bench in minutes played. And, to his credit, he performed really well. He had a couple laughably bad defensive possessions but otherwise he might have had his best game of the season. Apparently, his sickness cured his shooting woes because his shot looked very healthy. Belinelli poured in 16 important points, moved very well without the ball and made a lot of heady plays.
If you squinted hard enough, you probably thought you saw the 2018-19 version of Rudy Gay out there. While he was still stiff, unable to jump over consecutively stacked postage stamps and held the ball too much at times, Gay being able to play the role of focal point for the bench unit was a key factor in this win. The Spurs went to him in isolations a lot and he was able to deliver. It wasn’t always pretty but it was certainly effective. Defensively, he had some difficult matchups but Gay was able to survive, although his work on the glass could have been better.
Patty Mills was playing primarily at point guard, which he hasn’t done much this season. He had his struggles running the offense but it’s difficult to be upset about his 5-for-5 shooting from the field. His energy was more than adequate on both ends, which — along with his shooting efficiency — helped negate most of his flaws.
Keldon Johnson is an easy dude to root for. He’s all energy. He’s all about winning. And he supplies an endless supply of hustle, toughness and physicality. It looks like the Spurs may have something here. His defense was eye-opening. There were questions about whether he was quick enough to be a quality defender in the NBA — but his quickness has passed the eye-test each time out. Tonight, he had some highlight reel worthy possessions on defense that will hopefully be a preview of things to come.
Drew Eubanks played seven minutes at backup center. He was decent enough — about what you’d expect from a third string center. On offense, he was getting in the way a ton and didn’t know where to be. Although, to be fair, his teammates missed him wide open a few times … and he did make a couple quality passes. Defensively, the effort was there but the positioning is still an obvious work in progress.
Wow, it turns out playing White a lot of minutes is a good idea. Who woulda thunk it? Seriously though, leaning on White and Lyles worked out well. Belinelli leading the bench in minutes also paid off, although obviously that was a risky decision by Pop. I would have liked more Johnson and even Gay could have played more — but at least Pop looked a lot more competent than he looked last game.
Next Up for the Spurs
The Spurs get a couple days off before playing the Denver Nuggets on Friday in the second game of their four game homestand. It’s also the first night of a back-to-back. If the Spurs can beat the Nuggets, it might be time to have the coroner check the body for a pulse one last time before the body is buried.