This is all you need to know about the Spurs‘ Sunday night dismantling of the Dallas Mavericks at the AT&T Center: At one point, three Spurs starters had failed to make a basket but their team enjoyed a 28-point lead.
If you wonder how such a thing could be possible understand that the Spurs have one of the deepest, most productive benches in the NBA and a defense that is on its way to becoming one of the most stifling in league history.
The Mavericks didn’t have the worst shooting night of the season for a Spurs opponent but they were close, missing 52 of 81 shots. That made it easy for the Spurs to run their perfect start on their home court to 24 straight games with a 112-83 win, even with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Danny Green eventually combining to make only 2-of-16 shots.
The Spurs got plenty of offense from two starters. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points – 13 in the third quarter – and Kawhi Leonard scored 15 points. Bench players, however, scored 66 points, the highest output off the bench all season.
Parker played the first eight minutes of the third quarter, but went to the locker room early, suffering from a recurrence of the sore hip that sidelined him for a couple of games earlier this month. Parker’s early departure likely was precautionary.
Aldridge’s domination of the third quarter turned a relatively tight game into a blowout. The Spurs fed him on five of their first six possessions of the period and he scored on all five.
“We were just trying to play inside-out more than in the first half,” Aldridge said. “We felt like we took more jump shots than usual. I was trying to be on the block and be more aggressive. I had a smaller guy on me and I was trying to take advantage of it.”
By the time the fourth quarter arrived Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks future Hall of Fame forward, had made only 2-of-10 shots and the Spurs were in complete command of the game. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had seen enough. Less than a minute after it began he responded to a referee’s decision he didn’t like by running onto the court and drawing two quick technical fouls that got him tossed from the game. That spared him having to watch his team’s most lopsided loss of the season.
But Carlisle also missed another Boban Marjanovic highlight, a powerful dunk by the 7-foot-3 Spurs rookie that “posterized” Mavericks forward Jeremy Evans and brought another sellout crowd to its feet.
It also resulted in the first technical foul of the big Serbian’s NBA career when he hung on the rim and glared at Evans, who had blocked his shot a minute earlier.
Gregg Popovich was perplexed by the call.
“(The referee) said he, what’s the word, taunted,” the Spurs coach said. “He said he taunted because he looked at him. I think he walked towards him, (the ref) said. I think there’s a distance you can walk towards somebody but not beyond a point, or something.
“I don’t know.”
For Marjanovic, his actions were all about protecting his space. Evans’ block, he said, had to be redeemed and players all over the world know what it means to posterize an opponent.
“Yeah, I know (posterize),” Marjanovic said. “I must try because last time I was making a big finish and he blocked me. I must pay back. This is like payback.”
On this night of unspectacular play one of the biggest ovations of the night was reserved for Marjanovic’s first entrance into the game, just past the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter. He did not disappoint, scoring seven points, grabbing four rebounds and, of course, posterizing Evans.
His teammates enjoy watching Marjanovic play as much as the fans and in this season of historic blowouts – the Spurs became the first team ever to record 15 wins by at least 20 points in their first 42 games – there have been plenty of opportunities for him. But Leonard made a plea to the fans to respect Marjanovic’s game, rather than treat him like a sideshow.
“He’s a good basketball player,” Leonard said. “It feels like to me, when he gets in, it’s not just a circus show. He’s more relaxed when he gets in. We pay attention to plays, and not the screaming.”
*Top image: The San Antonio Spurs 2015-2016 Roster and Coaching Staff. Photo by Scott Ball.