The San Antonio Spurs crushed the Dallas Mavericks 119-96 Sunday afternoon to capture a 4-3 series victory in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Thanks to a 68-point first half that saw the Spurs shoot better than 68 percent from the field, they waltzed to a Game 7 win behind a game-high 32 points (11-of-19 shooting, 10-of-13 from the free-throw line), four rebounds and four assists from Tony Parker.
All told, the Spurs shot 56.8 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three in the rout. The Mavericks shot 40.9 percent from the floor and 36 percent from beyond the arc.
“I thought our best game (of the series) was tonight," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters following the win, according to Project Spurs' Paul Garcia. "It was one of our best games of the year.”
Five San Antonio players finished in double figures, including four of the team's five starters (Tiago Splitter was the lone exception).
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 22 points (8-of-21 shooting) and nine rebounds, but none of the team's key offensive cogs were able to display the chemistry that helped them stretch the series to seven games.
Players are graded on a conventional A to F scale, with each contributor starting at a C and moving up or down based on the quality of his performance.
However, it's important to note that role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker, Point Guard
As always, the Spurs offense looked balanced from the opening tip. And while all five starters had logged points by the eight-minute mark in the first quarter, Parker continued to set the tone by blowing past defenders and working his way to the rim.
Whether he was kicking out to open shooters, converting easy looks or drawing fouls, he had San Antonio's offense looking fluid and composed.
Putting his lethal hesitation dribble to use time and again, he eviscerated a Mavericks defense that ranked No. 22 overall in efficiency during the regular season, according to Basketball-Reference.
The Spurs went on to shoot a staggering 68.4 percent in the first half, led by 24 points (on 9-of-12 shooting) in 19 minutes from the French maestro.
The game's leading scorer, Parker reminded us why he should be considered the league's most feared point guard when the postseason rolls around.
Tim Duncan, Power Forward
While Parker dominated the first quarter behind 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting (4-of-4 from the free-throw line), Tim Duncan efficiently went about his business down on the blocks and in the pick-and-roll.
Not only did he provide offensive consistency, he remained an imposing force around the rim on defense, which shouldn't have come as a surprise given past results. Entering Sunday, the Mavericks were shooting 33.3 percent at the rim when defended by Duncan, according to NBA.com, and that mark couldn't have improved much following a dominant Game 7.
Once again operating as the stabilizing force and fulcrum of the Spurs' well-rounded attack, Duncan poured in 15 points (7-of-8 shooting) and pulled down eight rebounds while blocking two shots.
Manu Ginobili, Sixth Man
Two early fouls could have derailed Manu Ginobili's aggression. Fortunately for the Spurs, that wasn't the case.
By the 11-minute mark of the second quarter, he had already matched his point total from Game 6 (six points on 2-of-3 shooting) and even showed off his creative chops with a sweet nutmeg pass on Dirk Nowitzki:
With the Mavericks defense in complete disarray, Ginobili took advantage and regained vintage form, much to the delight of fans who have come to expect inconsistency from the former Sixth Man of the Year.
Making a profound impact on both ends of the floor, the balding, ageless wonder posted a final line of 20 points (5-of-7 shooting, 8-of-9 from the free-throw line), five assists, three rebounds and a mind-blowing six steals.
We'll credit his magic lip balm for providing the inspiration necessary to catapult the Spurs into the second round.
Kawhi Leonard, Small Forward
Overshadowed during much of the Spurs' offensive onslaught, Kawhi Leonard faded into the background a bit.
However, that didn't mean he wasn't playing with his trademark stinginess on defense and plenty of composure on offense.
It was easy to get lost in the magisterial play of Parker, Duncan and Ginobili, but Leonard provided another steady performance that was reflected by a complete line of 15 points, six rebounds and one assist in 29 minutes.
Tiago Splitter, Center
Splitter's defense on Dirk Nowitzki wasn't immaculate, but credit the big Brazilian for making his German counterpart settle for mid-range jumpers time and again.
In fact, Nowitzki missed six of his first nine shots from outside the paint, which were evenly distributed on both sides of the floor.
Unafraid of combating more skilled offensive threats with his physical, confrontational style of defense, Splitter figures to be a crucial component of the Spurs defense in next round when he's tasked with defending LaMarcus Aldridge.
Despite posting a plus/minus rating of plus-15, Splitter was quiet across the board, managing a single point, two rebounds and a block.
Danny Green, Shooting Guard
After matching his point total from the series' first five games with a 17-point outburst in Game 6, Danny Green showed up early by knocking down triples and blowing by slower defenders en route to easy looks at the cup.
And just when it looked like Dallas was going to cut into the Spurs' lead, he dropped in a triple to cap off a 35-point first quarter that saw San Antonio shoot 68.4 percent from the field and 75 percent from three.
The Spurs were plus-21 with their perimeter savior on the floor, which makes sense given that he scored 16 points (5-of-7 shooting, 4-of-6 from three) to go with three rebounds and a steal.
When Patty Mills came off the bench in the second quarter, the Spurs offense decided it was time to explode.
Get this: In seven first-half minutes, he shot just 1-of-4 from the floor and scored four points while picking up two personal fouls. But in those seven minutes, the Spurs were plus-14, which spoke to the tremendous jolt he provided the team's second unit.
He went on to finish with seven points (2-of-8 shooting), while Boris Diaw chipped in eight points, seven rebounds, five assists and a very nice defensive showing when the Spurs turned to him as the center in their small lineup.
Key Players: Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki, Power Forward
Dirk Nowitzki entered Sunday's contest averaging 28 points and 14.8 rebounds while shooting 53.3 percent from the field in four career Game 7s, according to NBA.com.
Early on, he wasn't on pace to match those gaudy numbers.
And while his production would ramp up after producing 17 of the team's 46 first-half points, Nowitzki also posted a team-worst mark of minus-23 over the game's first 24 minutes.
Forced into playing the role of center when the Mavericks spread things out with four guards, Nowitzki's responsibilities as a shooter were scaled back just a bit, but it wouldn't have mattered either way.
He couldn't do it all himself and failed to receive the support necessary from his fellow running mates in order to pull off the upset.
Monta Ellis, Shooting Guard
The hero of Game 6, Monta Ellis didn't display the same spark that helped the Mavericks force Game 7.
Missing on three of his first four shots would have been bad enough, but Ellis also picked up two personal fouls in the span of eight minutes, which forced Rick Carlisle to enlist the help of the reserves.
Poor defense against the Spurs' torturous backcourt didn't help Ellis' cause during a first half where he combined to have as many personal fouls and turnovers as points. He managed 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting (2-of-6 from three).
His transformation during his first year in Dallas was superb, but it's a shame he couldn't help close out the Spurs in style.
Jose Calderon, Point Guard
In two of the Mavericks' three losses against the Spurs during the Western Conference quarterfinals, Jose Calderon tallied single-digit points.
With that fact in mind, it wasn't shocking to see the Spanish floor general sputter to the tune of four points (2-of-8 shooting) on an afternoon when the Mavericks were thoroughly dominated.
He also failed to distribute in the creative ways we've become accustomed to, dropping just four dimes in an overwhelmingly forgettable effort.
Calderon's matador defense on Parker dropped his grade down even further.
Vince Carter, Sixth Man
Considering he was playing on a gimpy ankle for most of the second half, we'll cut Vince Carter some slack.
Actually one of the more reliable (and that's saying something) Dallas shooters in Game 7, he dropped 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting (2-of-6 from three) and continued to attack the rim despite his limited mobility.
It was tough to watch him struggle after he propelled the Mavericks to a 2-1 series lead, but Dallas' veteran guns simply didn't have enough juice to match the Spurs' unparalleled ball movement and energy.
Shawn Marion, Small Forward
With the Mavericks in desperate need of an infusion of perimeter scoring, Shawn Marion came up empty.
A scoreless first half (0-of-2 shooting) gave way to a diminished role in the second half (five points in 20 minutes total), which was the right call by a Mavericks team that was severely outplayed during an embarrassing first-half showing.
Incapable of playing his role as defensive stopper on the wing, too, Marion will want to erase this Game 7 effort from his memory as soon as possible.
Samuel Dalembert, Center
All the Mavericks have asked of Samuel Dalembert is to be active, and he certainly appeared lively in the series' decisive game.
Dependent on second-chance opportunities and putbacks in order to generate any semblance of offensive production, he made his presence felt early by pulling down four rebounds and scoring two points in the span of five minutes.
Unfortunately, with the Mavericks in dire need of added scoring, Carlisle benched him in favor of Devin Harris to start the second half. Dalembert finished with two points and six rebounds in eight minutes.
With San Antonio grooving on both ends of the floor, the Mavericks were in desperate need of a player who could help breathe life into a seemingly moribund group.
Enter DeJuan Blair, the rebounding machine who wreaked havoc on his former club throughout the first round.
In just his four minutes, he racked up four points, two rebounds and a steal, indicative of his jack-of-all-trades contributions. He went on to finish with eight points, five rebounds and two steals as the Mavericks implemented a smaller spread attack.
But Devin Harris was the real star of the reserve show. With a license to bomb away, he compiled 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting (3-of-3 from three) and scored eight points during the first four minutes of the third quarter, which helped cut the Spurs lead to 14.
Brandan Wright logged nominal minutes after not playing via coach's decision in Game 6.
What's Up Next?
The Spurs will host the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals Tuesday evening. The game will be broadcast on TNT at 9:30 p.m. ET.
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