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April 30, 2010
Playoff Prospectus
A Texas Tale

by Bradford Doolittle

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at San Antonio 97, Dallas 87 (Spurs win 4-2)
Pace: 85 possessions
Offensive Ratings: Spurs 114.7, Mavericks 102.8

Believe it or not, the Spurs' defense wasn't as good this season as it's been in the past. After falling from third to sixth in Defensive Rating last season, San Antonio dropped three more spots this season. The offense improved--from 12th to ninth--and the Spurs' power rating improved by two full wins, from 51.8 (8th in the NBA) to 53.8 (5th). Indeed, the Spurs were a favorite in their first-round matchup with Dallas in every way except for seed and homecourt advantage. Score one for point differential, because Dallas is dead, and it was old school Spurs defensive muscle that ended the Mavericks' season.

San Antonio held Dallas to eight first-quarter points and a 40.0 Offensive Rating, the worst one-quarter performance of any team so far in the playoffs. The Mavericks were 4-of-18 from the floor, 0-of-5 from the line, didn't attempt a free throw, retrieved just two of 13 offensive rebound chances and committed five turnovers in 20 possessions. San Antonio led 22-8 after the opening period and pushed that lead to 41-19 in the second quarter.

Give Dallas credit for not packing it in. The Mavericks outscored San Antonio 38-15 from its low-point, taking the lead on a Dirk Nowitzki three-point with 4:57 to go in the third quarter. However, the Spurs answered with a Manu Ginobili three and kept the Mavericks at bay the rest of the way.

This marks the third time in four years that Dallas has been knocked out in the first round. At this point, you have to wonder what direction the franchise is going to go. In terms of true talent level, this year's Mavericks were about a 51-win team, though they actually won 55 games. That's not bad, but it's not a title contender and this is the league's oldest team. After the game, Nowitzki was circumspect about his future and Mark Cuban was downright inconsolable, muttering something about not being proud of the NBA. Nowitzki can opt out of his contract (and walk away from $21.5 million), Brendan Haywood is an unrestricted free agent and Erick Dampier didn't reach the contractual incentives that would have guaranteed the last year (and $13 million) on his contract. Of the other players, only Shawn Marion's deal looks particularly onerous, given his decline as a player, but Jason Kidd, Caron Butler and Jason Terry probably could be moved. You'd think that the Mavericks would retain Nowitzki and attempt to re-tool around him, but it seems fairly clear that this incarnation of the Mavericks isn't going to win a championship. There are also rumblings that coach Rick Carlisle may be on the hotseat.

The Spurs' plan all along was to peak at playoff time, and that seems to have happened. San Antonio got tremendous work from its healthy-looking big three of Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, plus an emergent performance from George Hill in the Dallas series. San Antonio played Nowitzki straight up almost the entire series and he was generally productive. But San Antonio shut-down the big German's teammates. Butler had another big game in game six and Roddy Beaubois came off the bench to contribute, but those three accounted for 73 of Dallas' 87 points. Against a team that was executing its own offense as well as the Spurs were, those guys needed more help. A lot more help.

The Spurs move on to the Western Conference semifinals, where they'll meet the Suns. Game one is Monday in Phoenix.

G6: San Antonio 97, Dallas 87 (Spurs 4-2)
DAL   8  26  29  24 - 87
SAS  22  25  23  27 - 97
DAL          Pace  oRTG  eFG%  oREB% FT/FGA  TO%  TCHS
First Quarter  20   40.0  .222  .154  .000  .250  2.90
Second Quarter 22  118.0  .477  .455  .227  .136  3.99
Third Quarter  23  126.0  .619  .250  .143  .174  5.31
Fourth Quarter 20  122.8  .526  .200  .211  .051  3.99
------------------------------------------------------
FIRST HALF     42   80.9  .363  .292  .125  .190  3.44
SECOND HALF    43  124.5  .575  .222  .175  .117  4.64
------------------------------------------------------
FINAL          85  102.8  .469  .262  .150  .154  4.05
======================================================
SAS          Pace  oRTG  eFG%  oREB% FT/FGA  TO%  TCHS
First Quarter  20  110.1  .500  .300  .100  .050  5.13
Second Quarter 22  113.4  .444  .364  .500  .181  5.15
Third Quarter  23   99.9  .500  .182  .045  .043  4.24
Fourth Quarter 20  138.1  .556  .333  .389  .102  6.17
------------------------------------------------------
FIRST HALF     42  111.8  .474  .333  .289  .119  5.14
SECOND HALF    43  117.5  .525  .263  .200  .070  5.20
------------------------------------------------------
FINAL          85  114.7  .500  .293  .244  .095  5.17
======================================================

SERIES BY GAME
TEAMS         Pace   oRTG  eFG%  oREB% FT/FGA TO%  TCHS
SPUR1           88  106.4  .526  .200  .154  .192  4.56
SPUR2           83  123.2  .530  .364  .169  .109  4.52
SPUR3           85  110.6  .487  .300  .263  .129  4.61
SPUR4           86  106.8  .493  .217  .240  .139  4.65
SPUR5           94   86.2  .378  .191  .282  .191  3.86
SPUR6           85  114.7  .500  .293  .244  .095  5.17

MAVE1           88  113.2  .507  .310  .338  .170  5.29
MAVE2           83  106.3  .406  .286  .224  .085  4.61
MAVE3           85  105.9  .500  .250  .184  .188  4.27
MAVE4           86  103.3  .461  .267  .234  .174  4.42
MAVE5           94  109.6  .476  .304  .274  .128  5.05
MAVE6           85  102.8  .469  .262  .150  .154  4.05

Follow Bradford on Twitter at @bbdoolittle.

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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