San Antonio vs. Dallas, Game 6: Spurs 97, Mavericks 87
Tim Duncan – The Big Fundamental came through in a big way in the deciding game of this series. From the opening tip onward, he looked like a guy who has won 4 championships and multiple MVP awards, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He was aggressive, but controlled throughout the game and imposed his will on the Dallas defense time and time again. He might not be the Spurs’ best player any longer, but he is still the key to their success.
Manu Ginobili – “The Nose” did what he always seems to do in these situations. Namely, he scored when they needed big buckets and was just an all-around nuisance on his way to tallying 26 points, 5 assists and 2 rebounds for the game. You have to wonder about the confidence (or is it cockiness?) of a guy that everyone in the arena knows is going to go left…who still goes left. He has supplanted Duncan as San Antonio’s best player because of his toughness and his ability to get his shot off seemingly whenever he desires. Even though he’s arguable lost a step, he was still too much for the Mavs to handle.
Caron Butler – Dallas traded for Butler in order to bolster their scoring and defense, and he did not disappoint throughout the season. He finished this game with 25 points, but didn’t have quite enough help in this contest to pull them through. Whether it was scoring coming off of screens, breaking down his defender off the dribble, or scoring on broken plays, Butler simply has a knack for putting the ball in the basket. The Mavs need to keep him around for a few more years as they likely begin to retool their team after this latest disappointing postseason result.
George Hill – The Spurs have a lot of help on their bench, with Hill, Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair and company coming into the game in relief. However, it was the product of IUPUI that put dagger after dagger into Dallas in this game. He hit enough off-balance leaners and deep three’s to wind up with 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting, effectively nailing the Mavs’ coffin securely shut by the time the last minute of the game arrived. As the commentators noted, he is the future of the Spurs’ backcourt, and they look to be in very good shape indeed.
Rodrigues “Roddy” Beaubois – The star of the night was not any of the established All-Stars though. No, it was the guy who was drafted with the 25th overall pick by another team (Oklahoma City) who made the biggest impact for Dallas, and almost single-handedly dragged the Mavs back from the brink. He provided them with a burst of energy in the first half that exhibited his lightning quick moves and his smooth shot as he helped whittle away at what had been a 22-point lead by the Spurs. He finished with 18 points for the game as he blew past Tony Parker, a pretty quick guy in his own right, time and time again. He will definitely be a player to watch over the next few years.
Dirk Nowitzki – Yes, I know that he finished the game with 33 points, leading all scorers. However, he also picked up 4 fouls in the first half, which limited his availability for part of the game. Incidentally, it was when he left the game that Dallas made their run to cut into the Spurs’ massive first half lead, led by Beaubois. Dirk is an amazing talent, especially when it comes to shooting, as he is able to get his shot off against nearly any defender from inconceivable angles that seem to defy mathematical possibilities. Yet, that being said, he still relies on finesse when physicality would serve him much better. I’m not saying that makes him “soft”, but it does lead to him not putting enough pressure on the players defending him, as he goes through his array of pump fakes and jab stebs, since they know he isn’t going to attempt to drive by them. A somewhat disappointing series for the big German in my opinion.
Rick Carlisle – I am not an NBA coach, nor will I ever hold that title. Still, even my 7-year old nephew would have known to bring Beaubois back into the game as soon as possible in the 4th quarter, rather than going back to the ice cold Jason Terry. Terry finished the game with 1 made field goal, while we have already detailed the exploits of the young rookie in this game. It is decisions like this that have led to Dallas losing in the first round 4 of the last 5 postseasons. I do not place all of the blame on Carlisle, since I believe that coaches merely coach, while players have to make plays; however, when you make a blunder like that with your season hanging in the balance, it makes you wonder about a coach’s job security. Dallas had fought back from a 22-point deficit, went on a 38-15 run to take a one point lead in the 3rd quarter, most of which was fueled by the presence of Beaubois. It made no sense to leave him on the bench when he was so hot that molten lava seemed like a sno-cone in comparison. Poor judgment, if you ask me.
Predictive and/or anticipatory officiating – What does that mean, you ask? Well, I’d be glad to tell you. This is what happens when an official anticipates a foul happening, so they are already blowing their whistle before the foul actually occurs. As my buddy, Rob, likes to say, it is tantamount to “conspiracy to commit a foul”, since no actual foul has happened. I love that phrase, so I’m stealing it and keeping it as my own. Officials need to call fouls as they see them, not before then.
Dallas - Well, the Mavericks made a big move this year by trading for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, both of whom played very well for them, and still came up short in the postseason. I foresee big moves this offseason, especially with the number of big name free agents out there on the open market. Mark Cuban cannot simply sit idly by and let this team drift back into the mire that they were in when he purchased the team. Of course, he shouldn’t be a complete reactionary either, since blowing up the team could prove to be even worse than early playoff exits. I’m not sure who needs to go and who needs to stay, but I do know that a shakeup is required. It will be interesting to see what approach he takes in retooling this team, and whether or not it involves trading Dirk Nowitzki.
San Antonio – The Spurs will await the winner of the Phoenix vs. Portland series, which has been much more competitive that anyone anticipated. The Spurs have one of the best benches backing up a tremendous group of starters who only drawback is their age and mileage. If Duncan, Parker and (especially) Ginobili can stay healthy for another month of play, then you could be seeing them hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy this summer. They have the experience, the coaching, and the talent to pull that off if their luck holds out.