Posted Apr 19 2010 7:52AM
DALLAS -- Gregg Popovich tried Antonio McDyess. Richard Jefferson and Tim Duncan took their shots, too. Two and three Spurs came on occasion. San Antonio's coach even went to intentionally fouling Erick Dampier ... in the third quarter.
All of it in the name of slowing/disrupting/annoying Dirk Nowitzki. None of it worked, but the 36 points from Dallas' sweet-shooting 7-footer weren't front-and-center when Popovich began the initial diagnosis of what will be a three-day autopsy.
Seventeen turnovers leading to 20 points. Thirteen offensive rebounds leading to 12 points. General sloppiness. Specific breakdowns. Pop doesn't hide emotions by nature and his disappointment was there for all to witness.
"We've got to have a few more people step up and play worth a damn," he said after San Antonio dropped the Western Conference first-round opener 100-94 Sunday night. "I thought we had a lot of guys that played like dogs."
Richard Jefferson barked along the same lines. A four-point showing in his San Antonio playoff debut didn't do much for his disposition, and opens up another round of Jefferson bashing in the Alamo City. His assessment that "nothing" good came from Game 1 and those who saw differently were merely blowing smoke up their shorts won't find too many challengers.
But at least one dog found a few bones after the Spurs opened the playoffs for the second straight season with a loss to Dallas. Manu Ginobili, almost giddy after missing out on last year's series, was the anti-Pop.
Being back in the playoffs is Ginobili's first victory, and his perusal of the final box offered glimmers before the Spurs boarded a late-night flight back home. He saw 50-percent shooting and a game that was striking distance for much of the second half.
"Good side of the story," Ginobili said.
The Mavericks came away cautious. Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker gave Rick Carlisle's crew plenty to think about. San Antonio's Three Amigos combined for 71 points on 29-of-52 shooting. The supporting cast didn't so much as growl.
But Duncan looked spry, matching many of Nowitzki's shots for degree of difficulty. Stealing the opening tip, Manu needed just six seconds to make a bigger playoff impact than a year ago. Super sub Tony Parker -- how long does that last with George Hill going goose egg? -- found those familiar openings in the paint.
"Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili put a lot of pressure on us on the defensive end, and when you've got a guy like Tim Duncan setting screens our bigs are going to have their work cut out defensively," Dallas point guard Jason Kidd said. "And you just try to make it tough on those guys because they are all All-Stars and know how to play at a high level, especially this time of year."
San Antonio's initial reliance on their old guard may be the Dallas difference. Whatever bending the Mavs did in Game 1, they still have more than enough bounce-back. Nowitzki's evening was superb -- he missed only two shots on 14 tries and one was his first of the game. The performance was the 34th of at least 30 points in 88 career playoff games, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
But one of Nowitzki's longtime teammates said he's seen plenty of better postseason games from 2007 MVP: "He didn't even get that many touches." What makes these Mavs more dangerous, and what Pop will also ponder before Wednesday's second game back in Dallas, is the rest of the roster.
For as well as these two franchises know each other, these teams aren't that well acquainted. The current Mavs and Spurs didn't meet once this season with all the pieces that were on the American Airlines Center floor Sunday.
One of the newcomers to the rivalry, Caron Butler mixed in attitude with his 22 points. His old Washington big man, Brendan Haywood, and Dampier had as many offensive rebounds (eight) as all of the Spurs combined. Kidd flirted with another triple-double, and the last of his three 3-pointers sealed the win with 2:57 left.
"They had a lot of people play well," Popovich said. "They played sharper than we did."
Both teams took bites in Game 1. One just showed more teeth.
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