Mavs/Spurs Game 4 Recap
By George, I think Hill’s got it.
Tim Duncan had to wait on his thirty-fourth birthday to blow out the candles but his teammates showed up to the party with plenty of gifts, none better than a 92-89 victory over the Dallas Mavericks to give the Spurs a 3-1 lead in the series heading back to Dallas.
The Big Fundamental was late to the Playoff party, failing to score a single point in the first half. That wasn’t an issue thanks to George Hill. In case you haven’t noticed, the new guard for San Antonio, both figuratively and literally, is coming into his own. George Hill has been the X-factor in the series and displayed an outside touch to go with his speed. Remember the threes Bruce Bowen used to get thanks to the defense’s focus on Tim Duncan? They’re still here and Hill hit five of them in a monstrous display.
Hill’s performance was timely, as I had spoken with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich before the game, asking him to offer his thoughts on Hill’s improvement throughout the series.
“George is a really important piece of the puzzle on the offensive and defensive end,” said Popovich. “He’s played a lot of minutes and worked through some bumps and bruises really well. He continues to gain confidence. He’s a pretty young kid and hasn’t had much experience on this level. He’s handled it well.”
The second year starter was understandably the most visibly excited player on the court with Butler looking the most frustrated. There’s no replacement for composure in big games. Dallas had none of that left in the tank.
If you want a little insight into why the Spurs are one win away from the second round, here it is. San Antonio can win without a big game from Tim Duncan. Dallas cannot win without one from Dirk Nowitzki.
Much was made about the psyches of Caron Butler and Shawn Marion after their Game 3 benchings, one real and the other perceived, by Rick Carlisle. The results, like their efforts throughout the series, were mixed.
I’m not going to say Caron Butler was pressing but he had the look of Tiger Woods’ publicist the day after Thanksgiving. Great emphasis was placed on how Caron Butler would respond to his Game 3 benching. I’m not sure going 3-9 from the floor with two fouls in the first quarter was exactly what they wanted. Okay, Hell no it wasn’t what they wanted. On top of that, the Caron Butler show prevented Dallas from getting any sort of team rhythm in the first quarter. Their first half run was made with him on the bench and he shot his team in the foot in the third quarter. Butler finished with a +/- of -15. Hey, big guy. The offense runs through Dirk, not you.
Even with his Game 4 performance, we officially need to give Shawn Marion a new nickname. The Matrix just doesn’t work for him anymore. How about Flubber because his shot and play is bouncy and all over the place? Or we could keep with the Matrix film saga and call this part of his career Matrix: De-evolutions. He did help Dallas build a lead in the first half…before disappearing from the AT&T Center in the second half. I rest my case.
On a day when Ray Allen missed three straights free throws in the Playoffs for the first time since 2005, Nowitzki equaled the unimaginable feat by only shooting ten times the entire game. A lot of that happened because Antonio McDyess was in his grill most of the game, clearly frustrating Dirk to the point that he kept pleading his case for foul calls with the officials. But as the leader of the team in a pivotal game it is your job to get more looks. I’ve said before that Dallas can’t win with Dirk being the lone scorer but they also can’t win without him in attack mode.
Now that we’ve broken it down like Allen Iverson’s jumper and personal life, let’s hand out some Game 4 awards.
The young Lil’ Wayne Award
It’s story time. Once upon a time there was a rap franchise called Cash Money Records. Master P got most of the run but the real talent in the crew belonged to Lil’ Wayne. George Hill is, as Marcellus Wiley would say, that dude today. I’m not screaming for him to take Tony Parker’s job but he came into his own today. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the Spurs aren’t rebuilding, they are reloading.
The Stats Speak Volumes Award
Here’s the story of the third quarter. The Mavs are held to 11 points, go scoreless for 6 minutes and are outscored by 18. In fact, George Hill had as many points in that quarter as Dallas. That’s sick. Like being a fan of Jersey Shore sick.
The less buckets = more “Buckets” Award
Correct me if I’m wrong but Rodrique Beaubois does still play for the Mavs, right? Would it have killed Rick Carlisle to put him in to see if he could stop the bleeding in the third quarter? No, you’re right. It’s probably better to let Caron Butler shoot again…and again.
The lone gunman theory Award
There was no JFK-esque conspiracy as to why the Mavericks lost their momentum. I don’t want to do it but how can you not blame Caron Butler for this one? Maybe he forgot he has an All-Star on his team to help the cause. That is the only excuse I can think of.
The Kobe did It better than you, and Michael did it better than Kobe Award
With 3:13 to go in the third quarter, Richard Jefferson popped an off balance jumper and got the foul. He went with the quickness to the Michael Jordan turned Kobe Bryant fist pump…and then proceeded to miss the free throw after. Easy there, RJ. Let’s finish our dinner before we ask for dessert.
The pardon me, your bias is showing Award
With nine minutes left and Manu Ginobili stepping to the free throw line, the Spurs fans started to gently chant “MVP.” Umm, not today. Ginobili is as tough as any player in the game but he’s not LeBron. He wasn’t even the MVP of this game. Try again. If Manu is the league MVP then I’m dating the Miley Cyrus.” Neither choice seems well thought out.
The Spurs were a deceptive seventh seed heading into the Playoffs. Now we see them for who they really are, a Western Conference champion contender that just needed time to get healthy. Dallas has also been exposed. Today, we saw a group of skilled Mavericks players, not a team. One thing’s for sure. They will exit as a team filled with unrealized promise and a load of underachievement if they can’t run off three improbable straight victories. Dallas Mavericks basketball, it’s fantastic…ally underwhelming! As for San Antonio, they keep rolling on the river.