Previewing Game 3 of the Spurs-Mavericks first-round series.
1. Where We Are: We're tied 1-1 in the series after the Dallas Mavericks blew the San Antonio Spurs out of the water in Game 2. The Mavs' defense was by far the best it has been all season, a season in which they ranked 22nd in the league in defensive rating. They cut off the paint. They took away the 3-point shot. They forced the Spurs into a sloppy turnovers we're not used to seeing from them. San Antonio turned the ball over 24 times, which led to 33 points off of those mistakes. When the Spurs didn't give the ball away, their offense was solid. They didn't get a lot of 3-point looks but they made 38 percent of the ones they took. They also shot 48 percent from the field.
However, they turned the ball over in 26.2 percent of the possessions. Manu Ginobili was effective scoring the ball but he coughed up the ball six times. Their two big star players, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, had some pretty effective moments in their minutes but those minutes were cut short because of the blow out. Devin Harris and Shawn Marion fueled both ends of the floor for the Mavs, having disruptive defensive efforts and hyper-efficient scoring performances. Even though the series is tied 1-1, the Mavs have been the better team so far.
2. The Big Number: 46.2. That's the percentage of assisted baskets for the Spurs through the first two games of the series. The Mavericks have completely taken away the extra pass-making, free-flowing offense of Gregg Popovich by turning them into a team that attacks one-on-one. Dallas is willing to switch big men out onto guards and dare the guards to attack one-on-one, which is not how the Spurs became so successful. During the regular season, the Spurs assisted on 62 percent of their made shots. In the regular season, the Spurs assisted on 62.9 percent of their made baskets against the Mavericks. Rick Carlisle's game plan and the execution by the players has been stellar.
3. Key Adjustment: Pass the ball.
The Mavericks have turned the Spurs into a straight ahead team when they attack. What made the Spurs so good over the past decade-plus was the fact they moved the defense left to right and right to left. When you get the defense moving side-to-side, that's when rotations break down and you find shooters wide-open in the corners. It's what the Spurs do better than anybody in the league. And yet, the Mavericks have taken that away from them. The Spurs have been the third worst offense in the playoffs so far with only the Bobcats and Warriors posting a worse offensive rating so far.
4. The Big Story: Are we getting a repeat of the Spurs-Grizzlies series from 2011? Sure, it's a little too early to start wondering if the Spurs are going to lose this series because it's just 1-1, but the Mavs have them looking so uncomfortable and out of their element that it's starting to lead toward that problem. San Antonio is so good and executes so well that we could see them snap out of this pretty quickly. But we need to see it before we start thinking the Mavs can't keep this game plan up.
5. The Facts: 4:30 p.m. ET. Shawn Marion is probable for Game 3 with personal reasons. There are no significant injuries for the Spurs.