The San Antonio Spurs, playing without guard Manu Ginobili, poured one out on the Dallas Mavericks Thursday night, using an 11-for-18 first half shooting binge from three-point range to open and shut the game door at home 93-71.
The Mavericks came out a couple of steps slow and the Spurs were ready to take advantage, including Gary Neal, who recently had an appendectomy and only rejoined San Antonio on January 3. Neal was in the starting lineup and celebrated by knocking down the first three three-point shots he took; before the game hit the six-minute mark, Neal had nine points and the Spurs a 14-point lead.
After that, it was all downhill for the Dallas Mavericks who, according to Mavs Moneyball, forgot to start their engines when the game started:
Pathetic. Awful. Putrid. All those described the Mavericks effort level in the opening 12 minutes of this game against the Manu-less Spurs. It would be easier to swallow if the Mavs were traveling for their back-to-back to face a team they haven't seen much and was lacking a key rotational player - perhaps heading to Chicago and not being prepared for Taj Gibson if Carlos Boozer were inured, due to lack of familiarity and game tape. But no, this is the Spurs. And there was Jason Kidd, in the game's first three minutes no less, with weak close out after weak close out against Gary Neal as he repeatedly killed it from beyond the arc. No Mav was above exerting a little more than minimal effort in the opening quarter. Dirk Nowitzki was absolutely dreadful on rotations, Brendan Haywood was ludicrous in his shot selection and overall, Dallas' team defense was disastrous as San Antonio racked up an absurd amount of wide-open looks. True, it was the Mavs sixth game in eight nights, but this was also the Spurs sixth game in nine nights. And if there was one quarter that the Mavs could actually be competitive before the tired legs kicked in, it would have been the first. Awful. Truly awful.
The Spurs played some classic San Antonio-style basketball against Dallas, moving the ball exquisitely around a meticulously well-spaced floor throughout the game, creating wide open lanes for which Tony Parker could drive (11 points, 8 assists, 29 minutes) and many spot up three pointers for Neal, Richard Jefferson (16 points) and Matt Bonner (5-9 from three, 17 points). The Spurs, on the whole, shot 12-23 on spot up threes, 16-33 on threes overall, according to Synergy Sports.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks were as bad shooting as the Spurs were good. Dallas didn't make their first three-pointer until the third quarter and were an almost perfect 1-for-19 for the game from out there. Through three quarters, the Mavs were 16-59 from the field, a 27 percent rate.
The Spurs starters played until one minute was left in the third quarter. The bench finished up that quarter and a 5-0 run to put the Spurs ahead 66-42 at which point both teams emptied the benches. The only starter to come back into the game in the fourth quarter for the Spurs was Neal, who made his final three-pointer of the night to finish with 12 points.