The Difference is a recap of the game that was, with one bullet point for each point in the final margin.
- This was, unquestionably, the single game of the 2013-14 Mavericks season which included the most “ooh,” the most “ahhs,” the most “AHHHHHHs,” and the most “NOOOOOOOOOOOs” all season. Staying sober was a challenge. Monta Ellis glided through the air, Dirk Nowitzki hit fades and spot-ups and layups, DeJuan Blair rumbled around the floor, Vince Carter and Jose Calderon both made it rain threes. Somehow, someway, Dallas won this one despite again surrendering a ton of layups, especially late in the fourth quarter. There’s perhaps no cliche hated more than “basketball is a game of runs,” but my god was that the truth in Game 6; for entire quarters at a time, one team was far superior to the other. Dallas just happened to be the better team at the end of a game decided by not much more than a bounce of the ball here or there. (And by a potentially catastrophic miscount by the officials.) I don’t really know in which direction this recap is headed, because my own head is in about a million different places. I guess that’s what the playoffs do to you — especially when covering a series as unbelievable as this one. Seriously, no matter what happens during Sunday’s Game 7, this was one of the greatest series I’ve seen in all my years of watching basketball. This all-out war has featured maybe the two best coaches in the world, at least five Hall of Famers, one player who Have It All, and two of the most electric environments in basketball. Honestly, there’s not much you could ask for in a playoff series. Most of them this year have been excellent thus far, but this one has been the best, and we are oh so spoiled. I’d rather watch Dallas and San Antonio play each other 20 more times through June than see any other two opponents match up for seven games. What an incredible two weeks of basketball this has been, and what a contest Game 7 will be. Is it Sunday yet?
- That said, if the Mavericks want to continue playing sports together beyond Sunday night, changes must be made and strategies must be implemented. Rick Carlisle was ahead of the curve in Game 6, as he assigned Dirk Nowitzki to Kawhi Leonard to begin the game. The Big German had been starting against Tiago Splitter in Games 1-5. Nowitzki also frequently found himself matched up against the ever-dangerous Manu Ginobili throughout the game. The adjustment paid off, I suppose; Ginobili usually resorted to haphazard drives to the rim in an effort to draw a foul. Leonard, meanwhile, is not nearly as crafty off the bounce as his Argentinian teammate. As crafty a scorer as the Spurs’ starting 3 is, Leonard didn’t prove himself capable of exploiting his quickness advantage over Nowitzki in Game 6. I’d expect the same exact plan from Dallas in Game 7. Another adjustment: Brandan Wright played zero minutes in Game 6. It was instead The DeJuan Blair Show (feat. Sam Dalembert) and, man, did Blair put on a show. He was everywhere, as usual, but in Game 6 he was also able to coax Tim Duncan into foul trouble… to the extent that Jeff Ayres found playing time in the fourth quarter of a road elimination game. Blair’s activity has been phenomenal for half the series — during the other half, he’s either been suspended or a net-neutral player. Dallas needs All-Star-caliber Blair in Game 7. (Yes, All-Star-caliber.) Oh, yeah, that Dirk guy is back, too. Nowitzki was 11-of-20 from the field, including 4-of-4 in a virtuoso first-quarter performance that set the Mavericks off on the right foot. Nowitzki might have provided the start, but it was once again Monta Ellis who provided the finishing push. “The Mississippi Missile” (underrated nickname) scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including hitting all three of his free throws. He also made a really silly pass that sailed out of bounds with 1.5 seconds left and the Mavericks up two, but it was a turnover that ultimately proved irrelevant to the final score. The Mavericks’ 1 and 1A were both ridiculously good when Dallas needed them most, and you’d better believe Dallas will need them again in Game 7.
Is it Sunday yet?