When the Mavericks face the Spurs on Thursday night, it should be an epic revisiting of one of the great rivalries in NBA history over the past decade. Instead, it is the best team in the Western Conference (record-wise, at the very least) vs. a lottery team whose great offseason plans have molded into disappointment and mediocrity.
If the Mavs are going to make this one competitive at all, even with the Spurs playing without Tony Parker, they're going to have to watch out for the little tricks the Spurs pull to make opponents' lives miserable.
The Spurs are masters of offense. They have the sixth-best offense this season, and that has been in a bit of a down year. But they still punish you with their system and their rotations. NBA defenders will talk about how the Spurs force you into impossible decisions, trying to guard the drive, the wing and the corner all at once.
But they also prey on a team's lack of attention to detail. See what happens here when the Mavericks fall asleep for just a second on watching the perimeter.
In In transition, the Mavericks are all reacting to the ball-side action. No one's calling out to cover the weak side. Someone has to communicate there to watch the shooters on the far side of the floor because the Spurs already have two guys spotted up.
On the other, it's a simple catch behind the screen. But the lack of communication gives them a second. Against some opponents, you can get away with that. With the Spurs, you cannot.
Here, you'll see the other effect. The Spurs get you so caught up trying to guard all their motion and activity that your rotations wind up a jumbled mess.
My favorite moment there is Shawn Marion shoving the guard to the wing shooter since he's already standing in the corner. The guard is so concerned about the corner 3, the Spurs' favorite shot, that he has jumped there despite help already being there. Once that happens, it's over.
You simply cannot survive any mental mistakes vs. the Spurs. The Mavericks make a lot. It could be a long night for Dallas on Thursday.
"Let's be honest, we're not sitting here and saying this is not something special,” said LeBron James, who shot just 3-of-11 and scored 15 points while sitting out the fourth quarter. “This is an unbelievable streak that we're on. We're playing great basketball. We're winning different phases of the game. We're winning different styles. We've won on the road, at home, double overtime games, at the end of regulation games, what the case may be. I'm not going to sit here and say it's not special. But at the same time we don't want to get caught up in it too much.”
Via Bo Churney