SAN ANTONIO — After San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich received his third NBA Coach of the Year trophy on Tuesday, his counterpart with the Dallas Mavericks, Rick Carlisle, suggested that the award hardly seemed sufficient.
“Why don’t we just give him Coach of the Century?” Carlisle said Wednesday. “He’s the greatest.”
Carlisle was pretty good himself on Wednesday. His team’s defense thwarted San Antonio at every turn, inducing 24 turnovers by the Spurs en route to a 113-92 victory that evened their Western Conference first-round series at one victory apiece.
Dallas also snapped a 10-game losing streak against San Antonio.
Guard Monte Ellis led the Mavericks with 21 points, one more than forward Shawn Marion. Guard Devin Harris scored 18 and forward Dirk Nowitzki added 16.
The Mavericks were much more efficient with the ball than San Antonio, committing just eight turnovers.
But Dallas really won the game on defense. The 24 turnovers were the most by San Antonio this season. Dallas turned them into 33 points.
“Dallas, they played a great game,” Popovich said. “Turnovers have been a weak link for us throughout the year.”
Only reserve guard Manu Ginobili prevented the night from turning out even worse for the Spurs. He scored 27 points, converting 5-of-6 3-point shots. But the two other members of the Spurs’ Big Three — Tony Parker and Tim Duncan — scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Duncan, who scored 27 in Game 1 of the series, attempted only five shots, hitting four, on Wednesday.
Other Spurs had rougher nights, most conspicuously forward Kawhi Leonard, who was 1-for-5 and scored six points. He was also in foul trouble early in the game.
It was a night of futility for San Antonio’s role players, guys who had made shots all season. Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Danny Green and Boris Diaw combined for 22 points; Mills missed six of seven shots.
“We were locked in, playing team defense,” Ellis said. “We were locked into the system we came into the series with.”
San Antonio trailed 56-51 at halftime, but the deficit could have been much larger. The Spurs committed 15 turnovers in the half, one more than they average per game. They lost the ball 13 times in the first 17 minutes. Dallas turned the 15 turnovers into 19 points.
San Antonio didn’t help itself by missing six of 14 free throws in the half.
“In every category you can look at, we shot ourselves in the foot,” Duncan said.
One thing the Spurs did well in the half was limit Nowitzki to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. On one of the rare times that he shook loose from Spurs center Tiago Splitter, Nowitzki made a short jump shot to give the Mavs their biggest lead of the half, 15 points, with 2:31 remaining.
But the Spurs countered by finishing the half with a 10-0 push. Ginobili scored eight of the 10 points, including an acrobatic putback after Mills missed a driving layup.
“The run at the end of the first half could have derailed us,” Carlisle said. “But at halftime we regrouped, got it back together, and had a really strong second half.”
Ginboli said the Spurs wasted a nice comeback.
“We made a great run,” Ginobili said. “We thought we were in a good situation. We thought if we cut down the turnovers and played a little better ‘D’ we’d be in a good situation.”
NOTES: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is always generous with his praise for San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, who was named NBA Coach of the Year for the third time on Tuesday. “Why don’t we just give him Coach of the Century?” Carlisle said Wednesday. “He’s the greatest.” Carlisle said the Spurs’ long run of success — four NBA titles since 1999 — can be attributed to factors beyond the continuity on a team that has kept F Tim Duncan, G Manu Ginobili and G Tony Parker together for 12 seasons. “He’s one of the guys responsible for a lot of changes (in the league),” Carlisle said. “Those guys were playing faster and shooting more 3s before most other teams. He’s always been ahead of the curve, and the results do speak for themselves.” Popovich is famously careful about managing playing time; no Spur averaged 30 minutes per game this season, a first for any team since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976. But the coach said he does not have restrictions during the playoffs. Indeed, Duncan played nearly 38 minutes against Dallas in Game 1. “It’s one of the reasons we manage minutes, so if we need somebody to extend now, they’ve got the energy to do it,” Popovich said. “You want your best players on the court as much as you can have them there.” … Carlisle left G Devin Harris in his role as a reserve on Wednesday. Harris led the Mavs with 19 points in Game 1. … Popovich said Duncan had no lingering problem with the left knee that forced him to leave Game 1 late in the third quarter. Duncan came back to play nine minutes in the fourth quarter, scoring nine points. He said he merely suffered a charley horse. “He’s fine,” Popovich said.
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