SAN ANTONIO – Dirk Nowitzki didn’t like the play call with the game on the line Thursday night at the AT&T Center.
That had nothing do with Nowitzki not touching the ball. Nowitzki’s issue with the pick-and-roll play was that the spacing didn’t allow Vince Carter enough room to create.
Yes, Nowitzki welcomes the opportunity to hit a game-winning jumper, but he has the utmost confidence in Carter to hit clutch shots.
“Vince has been great, so I can’t even complain about that one,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ 92-91 loss to the Spurs. “I didn’t necessarily like the play call with me standing right there in his way, but he’s been clutch ever since he got to us. Made some big shots last year for us and all season this year, he’s probably been our most clutch player. We’ll live with that shot, but like I said, I don’t think he had enough options.”
Coach Rick Carlisle, who didn’t have a timeout to mull over his options after the Spurs took their foul to give with 5.6 seconds remaining, called for Carter to run a pick-and-roll with Brandan Wright at the top of the 3-point arc.
After the Spurs switched, putting power forward Tiago Splitter on Carter, the Mavs’ sixth man created some space and launched a 26-footer that hit the front rim and fell to the floor.
“We were trying to get a clean, open shot or the cleanest shot that we could get,” Carlisle said. “Vince is the one guy we have that can create the best separation. It was either going to be a roll to Wright or Vince taking the shot himself.
“It’s just very difficult in that situation with five seconds to get the ball to Dirk and get him in a position where he can really do something with it. They’re going to be laying all over him. Vince created a good shot. It just didn’t go down.”
Nowitzki’s problem with the play was the poor spacing. He felt like his presence to Carter’s left added clutter, forcing Carter to settle for a long jumper instead of attacking off the dribble.
“Like I said, give the ball to Vince, it’s great,” Nowitzki said. “But there was really no room for him to go. I was standing right there on his left. I probably should have cut out or done something to give him more room to drive. This way, he only had the 3.”
But the only problem Carter had with the play was that his shot didn’t go down.
“It’s five seconds, so it’s tough,” said Carter, whose hot streak was halted with a 10-point, 4-of-12 shooting night. “We didn’t have a timeout, so you just have to make a decision and go on the fly. It was a good look. I didn’t feel like I forced a shot or anything. I just needed that thing to go in.”
A few more notes from the Mavs’ fourth loss of the season to the Spurs:
1. Wretched rebounding: The Spurs’ 49-35 rebounding edge was the stat that popped out of the box score to Carlisle. It was especially bad in the first half, when San Antonio outrebounded the Mavs by a 31-14 margin.
“That was the difference in the game,” Carlisle said of the Spurs’ dominance on the glass.
It’s a problem that has plagued the Mavs all season. They rank 28th in the NBA in rebounding differential.
“Honestly, we’re not a great rebounding team,” said Nowitzki, who led Dallas with 11 rebounds. “That’s pretty obvious. We usually have to fight really hard and have five guys in there battling. We’re not the most physical. We’ve got to fight.”
2. Duncan’s dominance: Wasn’t Tim Duncan supposed to be on the decline? The 36-year-old Duncan has disproved that theory all season and was especially dominant Thursday night against the Mavs.
Duncan led the Spurs with 28 points and 19 rebounds, making 12-of-20 shots from the floor. The Mavs had the misfortune of facing Duncan, who didn’t travel with the Spurs for Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota, when he had a few days of rest.
“That’s a Hall of Famer with some rest,” said Elton Brand, who picked up five fouls in 22 minutes trying to defend Duncan. “He got it going. It just wasn’t the block. He ran the floor, faced up, off the dribble. He really hurt us tonight.”
3. Terrific trip: The Mavs didn’t end it the way they wanted, but this could be considered their best road trip of the season.
The Mavs went 3-1 on the trip, beating Detroit, Minnesota and Milwaukee to string together three straight road wins for the first time all season. The Mavs play eight of their next nine games at home and will probably have to keep winning at that clip to have any realistic hope of making the playoffs.
“We had some great wins, great team efforts with everybody contributing,” Nowitzki said. “That’s the only way we’re going to make a run here in the last 18 games or whatever we’ve got left. … We’ve got to be clicking on all cylinders.”