Spurs/Mavs Game 4 Recap
A study in youth league hoops.
Chances are many of you spent some part of your childhood’s playing rec league basketball at your local (choose one: YMCA, JCC, Church, youth center, outdoor courts, middle school gymnasium) and in a short amount of time picked up on many of the fundamental nuances of the game. For those who continued beyond their pre and early adolescent years onto the high school, college or pro levels, many aspects of the game changed or developed to higher levels of play and sophistication. Still, many of the basic principles and observations from the earliest stages of rec hoops can be applied even to the pro game. Sitting and watching the Spurs and Mavericks do battle for the fourth time in this 2009 playoffs, I couldn’t help but reminded of so many of the lessons I learned during my earliest years on the hardwood.
Give the good kid the ball…
There are two types of youth league teams: the collection of solid players who work as a unit to achieve victory and the collection of indoor kids who were blessed with the presence of one or two star attractions. What the laws of basketball usually tend to dictate, as was the case today, is that five is usually better than two, but not always by a large margin.
Tony Parker, if he hasn’t already, is quickly moving towards eclipsing Tim Duncan as “the man” in San Antonio. Sure the franchise record 31 first half points is nice, yea the playoff high 43 points is grand, but Mr. Longoria yesterday proved to be the kid coach is always instructing the other players to “give the damn ball to!” Duncan is still the second option, but then…nothing. You all remember playing those teams; it’s seemingly two-on-five every time down the floor with a trio of stiffs watching as the dynamic duo who reached puberty first drain basket after basket. Parker and Duncan were responsible for 21 of the Spurs 29 shot attempts in the first half; there were points where even Duncan would just stand by and watch while the point guard extraordinaire dribbled through everyone Dallas had on the floor. Making matters even scarier for Mavs fans was the emergence of Parker’s mid-range game, which once again when on, makes him nearly unstoppable.
All looked right with the world going into the half with Dallas missing their last seven field goals and the Spurs making their last seven straight. Then Parker cooled off. It was bound to happen sooner or later. The Mavericks didn’t so much change or step up their defense as much as TP just wasn’t hitting the shots he had in the first half. After attempting just eight field goals in the first half, everyone not named Duncan or Parker got to put up twenty shots after the break. It becomes a lot easier when the people who are placed on the court to feed daddy’s little star are suddenly the ones who face the pressure to put the ball in the basket and struggle to a paltry 6 of 28 from the floor.
Always follow your shot…
One of the first things coaches always teach their kids, because you know everyone of you wanted to chuck the rock as soon as it landed in your little hands back in the day. If you’re going to throw it up as quickly as you got it, at least chase it down so you can get another shot when it lands off the mark.
Dallas finished with a +15 advantage on the glass, but most importantly carried a +8 edge on the offensive boards. In a game decided by single digits, you better believe this was one of the deciding factors. Erick Dampier owes the bulk of his 10 points to his second effort inside and Ryan Hollins likely made the statement of the game with his put back over Duncan and his subsequent primal scream/fist pump. The Spurs are starting to show their age and the wear and tear they have been suffering, particularly in the way that Dallas is out working them on the offensive boards. Four different Maverick players had multiple offensive rebounds in the ballgame.
Practice your free throws, those are easy points…
You think Tony Parker isn’t going to be thinking that after this game? With the Spurs charging late in the game, Parker had a chance to get the deficit down to three before clanging a pair of freebies. Granted, George Hill’s trey a few plays later got it to a three point game anyway, but in a game in which the momentum was teetering on the edge of swinging the Spurs way, those free throws were monumental. Especially coming from Parker who had been unstoppable for the majority of the contest. Dallas however, heeded the wise words of rec coaches everywhere, going 33 of 39 from the line. Josh Howard gets the gold star for the evening, converting four of five in the final 2:49.
There are other ways to help the team win besides scoring…
This was generally a coach’s way of saying as nice as possible, “Johnny, stop shooting the ball, you suck.” For the better part of this series, that’s been Dirk’s problem. Not so much that he sucks, because he doesn’t, but the Spurs have been doing their damnedest to make it look that way. After dealing with physical defenders, double teams and just generally poor shooting, Dirk had likely his best game of the series despite only netting 12 points. He hit the glass hard, hauling in 13 boards, but just played smarter basketball. Rather than trying to force his mid-range game, he looked to make the smart pass more often. He read oncoming double-teams better, he made the extra pass, he did all the little things that don’t make the box score. Is it cliche? Sure. But did it help Dallas win and take a strangle hold on this series? Absolutely.
Most importantly…have fun!
The Mavericks sure looked like they were. Everyone got in on the action, there was ball movement, players weren’t standing around on offense, and it was fun to watch. Josh Howard got his game one mojo back and all is right in the big D right now. The Spurs continue to make the games interesting because, well, they’re the Spurs. But right now that doesn’t seem to be enough. Dallas has too many weapons, and Duncan and Parker are proving that despite their absolute greatest efforts, they need at least a little help to pull out a win. San Antonio didn’t look like they were having fun tonight, they looked like they were standing around waiting for Tony to save the day. Maybe going home to a familiar setting is what they need right now, maybe that’s the ice cream sunday after the tough loss that makes everything better. As for now though, Dallas is on a sugar high and these kids want to keep playing as long as they can before Mom says it’s time for bed.