Grades: Spurs @ Mavericks – Game #68

The Spurs were able to string together their sixth consecutive victory on Tuesday night in Dallas by a final score of 112-105. This is San Antonio’s longest winning streak of the season and their 39-29 record is good enough for sole ownership of the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

The game against the Mavericks played out as expect. It was a reasonably close contest throughout as the two rivals battled in the trenches. The Spurs are now 3-0 against the Mavs but have won those three games by a combined 16 points.

With San Antonio’s lead only three points with five minutes remaining, the Spurs got a strong finishing push — particularly by DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White. Considering this team’s struggles on the road, it was great to see the Spurs execute on both ends down the stretch to put another notch in the win column. 

LaMarcus Aldridge

The good: Offensively, LaMarcus Aldridge did a lot right. He was physical in the low post and wasn’t bashful about overpowering undersized defenders. He did masterful work of using power moves to eventually create room for his jumpers. Defensively, he was active to close out the game. The bad: For the first three and a half quarters, Aldridge’s defense was severely underwhelming. He was often slow to help, didn’t provide much resistance in the paint, wasn’t closing out to shooters well and didn’t hit the defensive boards hard enough. Offensively, Aldridge’s awareness wasn’t as sharp as usual, as the Mavs were able to surprise him with double-teams on multiple occasions. 
Grade: B+
Summary: Aldridge did well even though he wasn’t totally locked in. 

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan looked great physically. He was quick, bouncy and powerful with his moves. In retrospect, it’s now clear that DeRozan wasn’t healthy during his January doldrums. Watching him move now is night and day in comparison. Against the Mavs, DeRozan’s help-defense was top notch and he was mostly a positive in one-on-one situations. Don’t look now but DeRozan is starting to put together some quality defensive performances. Offensively, I have no complaints. DeRozan poured in 33 points on 19 shots, unselfishly created shots for others, relentlessly attacked the rim and rarely settled for anything that wasn’t a very good look. I was also impressed with how he played down the stretch. Not only did DeRozan make key shots, he played within the offense, let Derrick White do a lot of the quarterbacking and played at a smart, steady pace. It’s clear he’s learned from some of his struggles on the Rodeo Road Trip and no longer is looking to rely on inefficient hero ball during money time. 
Grade: A
Summary: DeRozan is playing some of his best basketball of the season. 

Derrick White

Whoa. Derrick White was straight up beastly at times tonight. Scoring-wise, White was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the floor. He patiently got wherever he wanted and shot the ball with confidence. Throughout the game, White’s passing was also excellent. He orchestrated pick-and-rolls exceedingly well and flashed his impressive court vision with pinpoint crosscourt passes. On defense, White was fantastic against Luka Doncic. Honestly, he embarrassed the Slovenian. White moved his feet very well, was physical and challenged shots. Yes, part of it was the rookie just having a bad game but White made life difficult for Doncic from the opening tip. The only knock against White tonight was his iffy help-defense. He was so locked into his individual matchup that his rotations suffered as a result. 
Grade: A
Summary: White played like he was the star in the making. 

Bryn Forbes

Offensively, Bryn Forbes was about average. This was his first game since the Rodeo Road Trip that he went without a three-pointer but he stayed aggressive, found some success within the three-point stripe and his passes were helpful at times. Where Forbes struggles was on defense — shocking, I know. While it wasn’t totally his fault that Jalen Brunson scored 34 points, Forbes certainly didn’t help the matters. He was soft when guarding man-to-man and his decisions in rotation left a lot to be desired and resulted in a handful of open three-point looks for the Mavs. 
Grade: C
Summary: Offense okay. Defense not okay. 

Jakob Poeltl

Jakob Poeltl was in the opening lineup again and did well enough in his 29 minutes to keep his starting gig. On defense, I liked his determination going after rebounds and he upped the difficulty level of a notable number of shots and passes. However, Poeltl’s mobility wasn’t as fluid as usual and it showed up most strikingly on transition defense and when caught on smaller players. On offense, his basketball IQ continues to shine. Poeltl’s not a seven-foot stiff; he understands the art of ball-movement and what he needs to do to fit in. Recently, he has a bad habit of halfheartedly rolling to the basket after setting a screen and hanging the ballhandler out to dry … and, unfortunately, that continued versus Dallas. 
Grade: B
Summary: Poeltl is showing he’s ready for the expanded role. 

Davis Bertans

Davis Bertans was a difference-maker. He was playing with the itchy trigger finger that he needs to be at his best. Bertans understood he was the best shooter on the court and let it fly when he had a free look at the rim. In addition to his trio of three-pointers, Bertans drew oohs and aahs with a thunderous slam on a strong drive down the lane. With the Latvian hunting for buckets, the spacing he created made the offense flow so much better. Defensively, Bertans was strong on the boards, held up well in the paint and extended his D to the three-point line with ease. 
Grade: A
Summary: Bertans played exactly how he needs to play. 

Marco Belinelli

Marco Belinelli played like he was trying to take the most difficult shots possible. He never looked comfortable yet didn’t hesitate to try another superduper leaner. Admirable at some level, I guess. Defensively, Belinelli wasn’t helping out much but he also wasn’t a glaring burden. All in all, though, the Spurs need him to play smarter. Belinelli needs to fire away but he doesn’t need to search out the shots with the highest possible degree of difficulty. 
Grade: D+
Summary: Belinelli was too, uh, ambitious tonight. 

Patty Mills

Patty Mills didn’t do a whole lot right against the Mavs. Defensively, he was a liability. There was no one to hide him on and Dallas noticed. Offensively, he wasn’t a whole lot better. I wouldn’t say Mills lacked energy tonight but he also wasn’t overflowing with enthusiasm as he is when he’s at his best.
Grade: D+
Summary: Mills was ineffective. 

Pop

With Rudy Gay missing his second straight game with an illness, Pop was down to eight players who know what they’re doing. With that in mind, he did pretty well. Add in the fact that he’s trying to limit White’s minutes and it’s definitely a juggling act right now. I thought he made the right call by giving extended minutes to Poeltl and Bertans — and didn’t look to Dante Cunningham for minutes. However, Pop putting Mills in the closing lineup was definitely a head-scratcher. 
Grade: B+
Summary: Pop pushed enough right buttons. 

Looking ahead: Good win. Impressive winning streak.

Next up, the Spurs get two days of rest before beginning a four-game homestand. First up is the Knicks on Friday. Needless to say, the Spurs have some revenge to serve in the AT&T Center. Serve it cold, boys.

LJ Ellis