There’s close, and then there’s “stranger-breathing-on-the-back-of-your-neck-in-a-grocery-store-checkout-aisle” close. The San Antonio Spurs appeared to be the within the ranks of the latter scenario Sunday night when they had to keep swatting away at the Dallas Mavericks, who were continuously intruding on their personal space.
The Spurs (43-16), led by point guard Tony Parker’s 22 points and seven assists, held off the Mavericks (36-25), and reclaimed their territory with a close 112-106 win. Parker, who had been benched for six games by head coach Gregg Popovich in order to recover from mental fatigue, appeared fresher and more at ease than Raymond Felton at a shooting gallery with his 10 points within the first eight minutes of the game.
That didn’t stop Dallas from attempting to claw back whenever the Spurs (who turned over the ball 10 times during the first half) took the lead. With strong offensive performances by Parker, Tim Duncan (17 points and nine rebounds), Kawhi Leonard (16 points and seven rebounds), and Manu Ginobili (15 points and seven assists), San Antonio managed to hold Dallas at bay regardless of Dirk Nowitzki’s 22 points and seven rebounds.
Yes, they appeared to look like the vintage Spurs who would wow with their veteran style and correct their mistakes on the court (like bouncing back from those 10 turnovers by putting up 64 points during the second half with only three turnovers), but there are two key words in this sentence: Veteran and vintage. Of course Parker didn’t appear rusty or winded as he easily moved up and down the court—he had been resting since All-Star weekend.
You can’t say the same of 35-year-old Nowitzki, who has been figuratively killing it for the Mavs by coming through when it counts without the benefit of rest. Though even without Parker, the Spurs were 5-1, so it’s easy to see that vintage is a style that works for them due to outstanding team chemistry. Thankfully at the rate both teams are going, it’ll be easy enough to request a late curfew from their respective nursing homes come playoff time.
It’ll be another thing all together if these two wind up facing each other in the postseason, with San Antonio having the clear cut advantage since they’ve beaten Dallas in their last three meetings. Though the Mavs, with their coolness under pressure and unwavering ambition, won’t flinch if they do end up facing the Spurs in a best of seven games series.
Dallas goes on to face the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center in Colorado on Wednesday while San Antonio looks to continue their winning streak against Cleveland on Tuesday.