Random Thoughts: Spurs vs. Mavericks – Game #82

The Spurs needed to end the season with three straight wins in order to avoid the eighth seed. With a 105-94 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday night, San Antonio was able to do just that. The Spurs, who finished the season 48-34, are the seventh seed in the Western Conference and will face the second seeded Nuggets in the first round.

This evening, everything was going swimmingly for San Antonio for the first three quarters, as they got out to a quick lead that grew quite bountiful. However, Dallas was able to give the good guys a scare when they went on a 13-0 run in the opening minutes of the fourth period to get within five points with nine and half minutes remaining. Thankfully, the Spurs answered with a 15-6 run over the next four minutes to recapture control and end the 2018-2019 regular season in style.

-Tonight’s game will rightfully be remembered mostly for being the final game in Dirk Nowitzki’s illustrious career. What an amazing career it was. Highly competitive, revolutionized the game, worked hard and became virtually unguardable — especially for the Spurs, who never did find the elusive Dirk-stopper that we fans dreamt about acquiring for more than a decade. The good ol’ days wouldn’t have been the same without Nowitzki and the challenges he brought to the table.

-I was at the 1998 Nike Hoop Summit that took place in San Antonio that year. That’s the game where a 19-year-old Nowitzki went from a literal unknown to an overnight phenom by putting up 33 points and 14 rebounds against the best high school ballers in the United States. I remember being unable to comprehend what I was seeing. A seven-footer who could bring the ball up the court, shoot threes and beat guards off the dribble? That could not have been real life. I went home, searched the internet for anything about Nowitzki, didn’t find anything and then decided the Spurs should use a second round flier on that blonde kid from Germany. Little did I know…

Kori Ellis always says the nicest, most genuine person she has ever interviewed is Nowitzki. I mean, as much as I hated him for what he did to the Spurs, I always had to respect Nowitzki for that. Good run, man.

-Anyways, back to the Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge was a beast against the Mavs. He scored 34 points, pulled down 16 rebounds and hit 15-of-21 shots from the floor. As I’ve said recently, Aldridge looks to be in outstanding shape right now. He’s moving and jumping great. Tonight, his jumper was automatic, he was running the floor hard and he was being extra physical. Let’s hope he continues to peak as the postseason tips off.

-I was mostly happy with DeMar DeRozan. He was looking to make plays, took the ball to the rim with force and was active defensively. Also, he avoided trying to do too much and stayed within the offense. This version of DeRozan would be good enough for a strong playoff push. The Spurs don’t need him to try to win any games by going one-on-one. Play smart, defend and stay within yourself, DeMar.

-To finish the season, Aldridge edged DeRozan to lead the team in points per game. I’m not 100% certain but I’m pretty sure that it’s the first time all season Aldridge moved into the scoring lead. For every other day of the season, DeRozan was the team’s leading scorer. Useless yet interesting fact (I think).

Derrick White ended the season on a strong note. He has been struggling to shoot from deep for a while so let’s hope the 2-for-2 tonight can be a confidence builder. White took smart shots, was patient with the ball, made good passes and limited his mistakes. On defense, he wasn’t super energetic but he had his moments.

-In the final ten games of the season, Bryn Forbes averaged 14 points on 56.4% shooting from the field and 53.8% shooting from three-point land. That’s some good timing to put together the best ten-game stretch of his NBA career. He looks confident in all phases of the game right now. And with Forbes, confidence is usually half the battle.

Jakob Poeltl had some heady plays but didn’t have too much of an impact in his 20 minutes. That said, he has to be the happiest man in San Antonio that the Spurs will be facing the Nuggets rather than the Rockets. Against Houston, Poeltl would have only played spot minutes off the bench. Against Denver, the Austrian will start and could play north of 20 minutes per game depending on how the series unfolds.

-Although Rudy Gay missed a handful of open jumpers, he was playing pretty well versus Dallas. His rebounding, as it has been all season, was impressive. His passing was also noteworthy. In those two areas, this was a fitting way to end a remarkable season for Gay.

Davis Bertans knocked down three more three-pointers to hopefully finish the process of breaking out of his shooting slump. He also looked good on the defensive end of the court.

Marco Belinelli didn’t look good, unfortunately. Since missing a game with a hip injury, Belinelli hasn’t looked quite right. His movements are labored and he’s not getting much elevation on his jumper. Hopefully he can get healthy between now and Saturday night.

Patty Mills missed all but one of his five field goal attempts but he did other things well, namely passing the ball and pushing the tempo. 

-The Spurs, Clippers and Pacers all finished the season 48-34 so a drawing will decide the draft order for picks 18, 19 and 20. Each team will have a 33.3% chance of landing the 18th pick. Whichever team gets 18 will also get the 50th pick in the second round. The team that drafts 19th will also draft 49th pick, while the team that loses the drawing and drafts 20th gets the 48th selection.

-With the Warriors losing on the last day of the regular season, the Spurs will get the 29th pick from Toronto to complete the Kawhi Leonard trade.

-In the coming day or two, I’ll post more thoughts about the regular season as a whole and the playoff matchup against the Nuggets.

LJ Ellis