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Let’s Get The Gang Back Together For One Last Game

By Jeff Koch on May 2, 2014.

San Antonio 111, Dallas 113
Series tied 3-3

It took a wild 3 at the buzzer from Damian Lillard to prevent a record 6 series going to Game 7s in this first round. (As it stands, 5 is still a record.) That’s just how tight this first round is, particularly in the West. Ironically, the Blazers-Rockets series might be the actual closest; the Blazers have just been on the receiving end of some good bounces down the stretch of these games.

Meanwhile, back in our series, The Spurs had every opportunity to close this one out and just let it slip away. I put a lot of this on Manu, who finally had a really bad game. Missed shots, bad passes, bad decisions, the whole “Bad Manu” package. It’s not just the missed 3s, though; it’s the time and situation in which he takes them. It sometimes feels like he settles too easily for them, the path of least resistance. They often seem to ‘kill’ runs, too, when a made basket would put the Spurs over the hump a bit (go from up 5 to 7 or 8, for example), and instead he bricks a 3, a wild rebound leads to Dallas running out and putting the game back to one possession.

And while no Spurs fan wants to freely admit this, DeJuan Blair is killing us. He’s being absolutely disruptive: it’s quite clear he knows several of our players tendencies and is feasting off steals and disrupting the passing lanes. He’s also a beast on the offensive board. Dallas has been making hay off of second chance points all series.

But this speaks to a larger problem, one I’ve mentioned before: Dallas is getting more contributions from more of their players more frequently than the Spurs. Yes, Carlisle is coaching a great series. But so is Pop. Coaching can only put players and teams in positions of greater success. Ultimately, the players have to execute and actually succeed. Up and down the roster, it feels like every player on Dallas is getting about the most from them that could be expected. Calderon is hitting clutch shots; Harris is also hitting clutch shots and playing sold D; Carter is a man possessed, both shooting and driving and scoring; Crowder gives about 10 good minutes a game and has hit some clutch 3s; Ellis is wreaking havoc on the offensive end; Blair we’ve mentioned; Dalembert is playing like a 3/4 Dikembe Mutombo.

Conversely, the Spurs are barely scraping by with a dearth of quality performances. Duncan and Splitter have been solid throughout, the two most reliable performers in the series. Beyond that, it’s been up and down. Parker was subpar for the first several games. He finally got it going in Games 5 and 6…just as Manu fell off a bit. If we could ever get a quality game from the two of them, we’d be set. Leonard has had great moments, but hasn’t been the consistently disruptive defender we hoped, and not nearly as productive offensively as we expected. Green has disappeared offensively until tonight. It took Patty 3 1/2 games to get going, and he’s still nowhere near Regular Season Patty. Belinelli has just disappeared completely. Boris has been solid, but not great.

I wrote this way back in the first two games, and it still feels the same: Dallas is playing in the playoffs, San Antonio is playing somewhere between the regular season and the playoffs. I don’t think they disrespected the Mavs or thought they would cruise to a series victory. I just don’t think they ever caught back up to where they were after letting up in the final games of the season. And Dallas, to their great credit, have not let them find their rhythm.

But it’s game 7 now, and there must be urgency. One team’s season will be over by Sunday evening. The Spurs have earned this game at home, and they have all the advantage. They should win. Just don’t tell the Mavs that. They certainly believe that they deserve it and are playing as such. After two weeks, it seems like they might be right.

So two weeks later, we’re right back where we started. A Sunday afternoon, a game in San Antonio, two old rivals going at it one last time. Two weeks ago it was the first battle; this Sunday will be the last.

Go Spurs Go.

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