Previewing Game 6 of the Spurs-Mavericks first-round series.
1. Where We Are: The San Antonio Spurs have had more trouble than most non-Dallas Mavericks' fans have expected, but they still hold home court advantage with a 3-2 series lead after five games. We saw a full complement of the Spurs' weapons in their Game 5 victory in which Tony Parker helped build a huge lead early on. Parker was fantastic getting into the paint and getting other players involved before Vince Carter checked in and started leading the Mavs back into the game. Once the Mavs were able to right the ship, we were treated to a great display of basketball the rest of the night.
That's where the Spurs ultimately took over. Manu Ginobili continued his superb play in this series with another big game. Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan helped control the boards and get plenty of opportunities within the flow of the offense. And Tiago Splitter had a monster fourth quarter that helped keep the Spurs out in front of the Mavs and ultimately close the game out. Now we're headed to Dallas where we'll likely see another beautiful display of basketball execution and great coaching.
2. The Big Number: 26. That was the points in the paint advantage for the Spurs in Game 5. They lived in the paint, making 27-of-45 shots in the paint while the Mavericks only attempted 32. The Mavs had just one more point in the paint (28) than the Spurs had made baskets inside. The Mavs are living off of outside shooting, which is something they've been successful with throughout the season. However, you have to wonder if the Spurs continually getting easier shot attempts will eventually break the Mavs' will or if the Mavs can continue surviving as a mostly perimeter team.
3. Key Adjustment: Turn long rebounds into fast break points. Both teams will need to find a way to get easy buckets to start and extend runs. With two teams often being the type of attackers to take outside shots to set up the rest of their offense, good closeouts and missed jumpers going long on the rebound gives the defense a chance to turn things around quickly and attack in transition. Neither team has been that proficient in running this series and we've seen good transition defense, but either Devin Harris or Tony Parker getting quick scoring chances could be the big boost in Game 6 that secures a victory. Take advantage of your quick guards.
4. The Big Story: The coaching battle in this series should be talked about more than it has been. The cliché is that both guys are playing chess but it really looks to be that way. The Mavericks' game plan of turning the Spurs into a team that attacks straight ahead instead of moving the defense side-to-side in order to confuse them has been brilliant. The Spurs countering with taking away key weapons in the series like Dirk Nowitzki and forcing Monta Ellis to win games for them has been a great counter. We're seeing arguably the two best coaching jobs in the playoffs so far and they're going head-to-head. This has been brilliant.
5. The Facts: 8 p.m. ET. Samuel Dalembert is probable for Game 6 with a sprained ankle. There are no significant injuries for the Spurs.