Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs
Time: 7:30 PM CT, NBA TV
Spread: SAS -15.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
Not too many would have predicted that as Thanksgiving nears the Dallas Mavericks would possess the worst record in the NBA. Dallas is just 2-10 and has lost five-straight games heading into Monday night’s clash with the 10-3 San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are just 3-3 at home, but Dallas has been playing very shorthanded without veterans Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams or J.J. Barea. Accordingly, the Spurs are 15.5 point favorites according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
The Mavs, simply, have been failing to score buckets. The team has scored 87, 64, 83, 77 and 95 points in its last five contests, all of which have been losses. Harrison Barnes is a legitimate scorer and looks to have been a good signing, but he is a having a rough go without much talent (healthy or otherwise) surrounding him. Barnes is playing 37.8 minutes per night while averaging 21.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, but without Barea, Williams and Nowitzki, Dallas is without three of its top five scorers.
Dirk has played in just three games this season as he nurses an achilles injury. It has to be wondered if the writing is not on the wall at this point. Though the 38 year old 18-year NBA veteran clearly still has the skills and talent to play nearly forever, his body is showing the beginning signs of full betrayal. Last season Dirk played in 75 games (all starts) while logging 31 minutes a night, but that type of durability and usage may have to be behind him.
And certainly at 2-10 the Mavericks are not knocking on the door of postseason, howsoever early it may be to make that judgement. Barnes is the show in Dallas, but it is not much of one for Mavs fans who are accustomed to having postseason plans. A trip to the lottery instead looms in the Mavs’ future.
The Spurs are on the opposite end of the spectrum as winners of its past five games. San Antonio knocked off Detroit, Houston, Miami, Sacramento and the L.A. Lakers to improve to 10-3 and first place in the Southwest Division. Nothing new for the Spurs, though. Gregg Popovich has transitioned the team out of the “Duncan era” after legendary forward Tim Duncan hung it up this offseason, but most assumed he would given the collection of talent he still has at his disposal.
Atop that list of collection is 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. He is averaging 24.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while coming up with 2.38 steals per game, as well. His impact goes far beyond those numbers, and Leonard should be in MVP discussions (but probably will not be). LaMarcus Aldridge is an efficient tool that has melded well into the Spurs attack, and though Pau Gasol’s numbers have precipitously declined, he has fit in relatively well and is the type of player to flourish playing for Pop.
The Spurs do have some issues with an aging backcourt, but Tony Parker has been better than most expected. It just has to be wondered if the Spurs can ask Leonard to cover the top offensive point guards, because neither Parker nor the offensively-minded Patty Mills are really all that up to the task. It would cripple lesser teams, but the Spurs continue to win and click despite the glaring weaknesses of its backcourt defense. Manu Ginobiili still presses onwards, though his 18 minutes per game are not quite as impactful as he was during his Sixth Man of the Year heyday.
Even so, the Spurs have a great collection of depth and are really developing two outstanding defenders in Jonathon Simmons and Dewayne Dedmon. Add into that mix a versatile Diaw-like forward in Kyle Anderson and sharpshooter Danny Green, and there is plenty of depth. David Lee is still a viable rotation big, too, though clearly far declined from his All-Star stint of several seasons ago.
The Spurs may have an odd collection and mix of talent, but Popovich is the best in the league at maximizing the talents on his roster and the Spurs are going to be right there atop the West fighting Golden State when the season concludes.
It should worry Western Conference teams that the Spurs have gelled so well despite just losing an HOFer that was thought to be the proverbial glue. It goes to show what a great system can do for middling NBA talents, as several Spurs players are clearly thriving where they may just be “anybodies” on another roster.