SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Mavericks’ defense stood strong in the first two games of the team's opening-round series against the San Antonio Spurs. They started to show signs of breaking down in Games 5 and 6. Their defense officially shattered into pieces in disappointing fashion early on in Game 7.
The message, as it has been all season long, was to make the defensive end of the floor the priority. They had to be dialed in on that side of the floor to have any chance to complete the miracle upset.
Instead, the Mavs ran into a buzz saw. They fell behind by as many as 14 points in the opening quarter and 29 just prior to halftime. Whether it was Tony Parker, Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili, the Spurs were able to get whatever they wanted when they had the ball.
In the end, San Antonio’s big three combined to score 24 of their team’s 35 first-quarter points.
"We just got hit by a tidal wave early," Carlisle said after the loss. "They had their best game today. We just weren’t able to do quite enough to stay in it early."
After San Antonio’s huge surge, Dallas tried as hard as it could to battle back and stay within reach. The hill the Mavs had to climb continued to grow, but they continued to try. Dallas had answers in this series, mainly from its bench, to quell whatever surges San Antonio mustered in the series. Game 7 told a different tale.
"It just didn’t happen today. They kept piling on," Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "Whoever came in made shots for them. We never really could weather the storm. The hole was a little too big."
It was clear that San Antonio was out to hit the Mavs first and put them on their heels. The message coming into the series was that Dallas had to match San Antonio’s level of intensity. If it wasn’t able to do that one more time, it would be in for a long Game 7.
"What we were trying to avoid all series happened tonight,” Mavs forward Vince Carter said.
Dallas made its decision to negate San Antonio’s ability to hurt it from 3-point range. That worked for the better part of the series, but the Mavs ultimately couldn’t stop the momentum being built as the series continued. Dallas allowed San Antonio to score 113.0 points per game over the final three games of the series.
With continuity being desired going into next season with their personnel, the Mavs will have to figure out the right balance of sacrificing offense in order to strengthen their disposition on defense.