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Mavericks and Spurs renew rivalry for Southwest showdown

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks travel down I-35 to face their longtime rivals from San Antonio as they look to bolster their playoff chances
Credit: AP
Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic (77) looks for room against San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, in Dallas. Dallas won 102-98. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks (35-23) are heading south to San Antonio but are looking to keep going north in the Western Conference after a 139-123 win over cellar-dweller Minnesota on Monday. Dallas has won two of their three games since the All-Star break, with the only blemish being the controversial ending of a 111-107 loss to Atlanta that’s still up in the air.

The San Antonio Spurs (24-32) will be playing for the first time since Sunday, where they got routed in Oklahoma City 131-103 and saw their entire lineup have their plus/minus in the negatives. 

The Spurs can’t return home fast enough after losing six of eight games on their annual rodeo road trip, and look to give a big South Texas howdy to their longtime rival.

The Mavericks come into the Alamo City looking to add to their impressive division record, winning at a 78% clip against the Southwest division. The Mavs are 7th in the standings in the stacked West, with 19 of their 35 wins coming on the road.

This new era of Dallas vs. San Antonio continues to be a changing of the guard in the historic rivalry. For a generation, and regardless of each team’s respective record, Texans were treated to Hall of Famers on both ends trading shots and providing joy and heartbreak for Dallas and San Antonio alike. 

After years of trying to find help for Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks now have two cornerstones under the age of 24, with Rick Carlisle maneuvering through a deep bench of players who know their roles. 

During the Minnesota ravaging, Luka Doncic (20 yrs, 361 days) became the second-youngest player in league history to surpass more than 2,500 points, more than 1,000 rebounds and more than 750 assists. The first? LeBron James.

Kristaps Porzingis and Doncic are finding their groove with each other as the playoff stretch gets underway, and Tim Hardaway (15.3 PPG, 40% 3P) is playing so well he will probably opt out of his contract after the season, an unthinkable thought for someone considered a “trade tax” just one year ago.

While Doncic, Porzingis and Hardaway may be reminding fans of the Nash, Nowitzki and Finley days, the Spurs are currently in new territory unheard of during the Gregg Popovich years as they teeter on the brink of mediocrity. 

While they are only 3.5 games out of the 8th seed, a run against any of the West’s elite teams doesn’t appear to be in the cards for a retooling San Antonio team. 

The Spurs have young talent on the roster, notably second-year defensive anchor Dejounte Murray and rookie shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV.

Not one to tank, San Antonio is continuing to give minutes to veterans in what is developing to be a lost season.

Demar Derozan (22.7 PPG) is the leading scorer for San Antonio in 2020 but is basically absent from the three-point line. Derozan attempts 16 shots a game, with 15 of those being inside the arc. Shooting from deep has never been Derozan’s game, owning a career line of 28.3%. 

Dallas kid LaMarcus Aldridge (18.8 PPG), master of the mid-range, used to run from treys like the arc had rabies. The Spurs knew this when they signed him as a free agent in 2015 and lived with it. 

With the swap out of Kawhi Leonard for Derozan in the lineup, having your two leading scorers being one-dimensional in a game that has changed to become very three-point heavy has been troubling for San Antonio’s floor spacing. 

Aldridge has altered his game to help offset this weakness. Entering the league in 2006, the 14-year vet has doubled his three-point attempts from his career average and is hitting them at a respectable 39%. However, the Spurs announced that Aldridge will miss the game on Wednesday which will limit San Antonio from beyond the arc even more against the sharp-shooting Mavs.

Look for the deep duties to be anchored by the towel-waving Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes. If Willie Cauley-Stein can’t go, former Spur Boban Marjanovic may see increased minutes to pressure Derozan inside. 

The Mavericks enter the game second in the league in three-point attempts and sixth in completions. Seth Curry basically can’t miss as he overtook his brother Stephen as the active leader in 3-point field goal percentage, with J.J Barea and Hardaway not far behind.

The Mavericks of Dirk and the Spurs of Tim Duncan are memories now. But for Luka and Dallas, the road to the playoffs means going through San Antonio and proving that they’re on the right side of the revival.

Do you think the Mavericks will be able to maintain their pace in the West? Share your predictions with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.

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