GAME 4: Spurs 92, Mavs 89. My Top 10 Observations
9. Head coach Rick Carlisle is bemoaning the 50/50 balls. Two words: Tuff Juice? Remember back when the trade was made during the All-Star break? Everyone gushed about Caron Butler's toughness. He was supposed bring a mental and physical edge Dallas has sorely lacked. With Shawn Marion mostly on the bench and Butler a passive bystander, the Mavs' refrain sounds all too familiar.
8. Watch this series and tell me again it's not one of the best rivalries in sports. It's all-out, all-in basketbrawl. Too bad Eddie Najera and DeShawn Stevenson haven't been invited to the fight. Yet.
7. The Mavs go to San Antonio. In one game they hold the Spurs without a 3-pointer and one game they limit Tim Duncan to one basket. Somehow, they went 0-2. Hard to fathom.
6. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is killing Carlisle in this series. Motivated his team by calling them dogs after Game 1 and in Game 4 he decided to stop Dirk Nowitzki. In a drastic change, the Spurs double-teamed Dirk on his first dribble. The result? He took only 10 shots. The doubles came from San Antonio's center, meaning Popovich is daring Erick Dampier or Brendan Haywood to beat him. They can't. Carlisle, your move.
5. Dirk was flustered and not very good in Game 4, but where's his help? Duncan goes 1 of 9 but wins because George Hill answers with 5 3-pointers and 29 points. In his gut don't you just know Dirk is asking "Where the eff is my George Hill?!"
4. If Dallas loses the series, it was lost in the third quarter of Game 4. Up 15, they became very passive at both ends. And yes, Dirk, I'm on your ass for at least not getting a hand in the face of Antonio McDyess on consecutive 15-foot jumpers.
3. A lot of this falls on the bald, old head of Jason Kidd. Given his much-ballyhooed basketball IQ, shouldn't he be able to see the simplicity of this cunnundrum? The Mavs are better than the Spurs, but only when they play faster than the Spurs. Remember? San Antonio has four rings, each acquired by luring opponents into a walk-it-up, grind-it-out style of basketbrawl. Dallas can't win scoring in the 80s. The faster the pace, the less orchestrated the game, the better its chances of scoring and, in turn, winning. Let San Antonio set up its half-court defense and the Mavs deteriorate into a bunch of long-distance jump-shooters with the shot clock on their back. It's up to Kidd - and head coach Rick Carlisle - to push the pace and shove the Spurs out of their comfort zone. You can just tell me the final score - sans teams - and I can tell you who wins in this series. Over 100 Dallas wins. Low 90s, it's the Spurs.
2. I hate when Kidd uses the tired crutch of "We had open looks, we just didn't make shots." Bull. Shit. When passing out of a Dirk double team, the ball is too frequently stopping in Jason's hands. Whatever he does he needs to do it quick. Shoot. Pass. Drive. Whatever. Just do it and be committed to it. The Spurs thrive on getting the ball out of Nowitzki's hands, and having it stagnate in Kidd's.
1. Bleak as this looks, Mavs in 7 is still doable. Improbable, but doable. Of the 189 teams that have trailed 3-1, only 8 have rallied to win the series. So it is possible. I still believe.