The Spurs come into Game 5 desperate to find some offensive support for Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, and elimination looms for San Antonio without it. With the Mavericks getting nine or more points from seven players in Game 4 and holding a 3-1 lead in the series, the Spurs seem outnumbered. They have one game to find the answers and stay alive.
" With Parker controlling virtually every offensive possession off the dribble, the Spurs have become much too dependent on his ability to create. Although he put up big scoring numbers, he was gassed by the fourth quarter, and San Antonio is riding its star into the ground.
" In Game 5, although Parker will continue to be aggressive, the Spurs must take him off the ball early and run sets and options for their other perimeter players. This will make Parker the creator near the end of the shot clock and will accomplish a number of objectives.
" First, it will keep him from exhausting himself on every possession. Second, his penetration at the end of the shot clock will require more urgent help by the Mavericks. That sense of defensive urgency should create more open shots for the Spurs' shooters.
" With Parker attacking right from the start, San Antonio's shooters stand and spot up, allowing the Dallas defenders to do likewise. If they can put the the Mavericks defenders in motion and force them to chase early in Game 5, that puts the Mavs in more of a scramble mode when Parker does get the ball, making it harder for them to crowd the shooters.
" Roger Mason is more than capable of running the early offense, as he played in Washington's Princeton-style offense in last year's playoffs and was often the primary ball handler. In Game 5, if Mason can handle some of the ballhandling duties, Parker can rest off the ball until it is time for him to attack. Look for George Hill to play this role, as well.
" Duncan has been effective in the high screen roll action, and look for that to continue, as Dallas has not fully rotated on his rolls to the basket -- preferring to stay close to the perimeter shooters. Duncan also will look to post more and attack sooner, and his passing ability can be best used if the Spurs' shooters are in motion, exchanging or cutting when he gets the ball.
" The Spurs also can look for early 3-point shots in Game 5, as the Mavericks are so concerned with protecting on Parker's drives that they are not getting out on the edges, leaving wing and corner shooters open in transition. Although this does cause San Antonio to shoot early in the clock, it also gives the Spurs' shooters their best looks in the offense. It's a trade-off they will have to accept.
" Defensively, San Antonio has done an excellent job on Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, but it is the Maverick supporting cast who is providing additional scoring. Look for Gregg Popovich to pull out all the personnel stops, to try and find the best matchups to slow down the Mavericks.
" Despite all the talk about the Spurs' offense, San Antonio is a defensive team first and foremost. When the Spurs are defending well, their offense seems to respond.
" The Mavericks' defensive plan in the first four games has been to focus on Parker, but not to the extent that they give up wide open perimeter looks. In their three wins, they have helped on Parker, gone under screens and tried to make him settle for jump shots.
" However, they have committed only one additional defender, choosing to stay with the two closest perimeter shooters. This has essentially forced Parker to drive more and take more shots, and the Mavericks have begun to wear him down.
" This also keeps Mason, Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen and Matt Bonner from getting into any early rhythm offensively. So, when Parker starts to slow down, no one is able to take up the scoring slack. The other Spurs players are rendered spectators and cannot respond when they are needed.
" Expect a similar defensive scheme in Game 5 from Dallas, which will stay with this strategy until San Antonio can crack the code.
" After failing to play with great defensive effort in Game 2, the Mavericks must come out with the intensity necessary to close out this series. This is where they must play their best defensive game of the series. They must get stops and rebounds if they want to run.
" Offensively, look for the Mavericks to continue sharing the wealth, with a fast pace after misses, penetration from J.J. Barea in the half court, and multiple sets for Josh Howard, Nowitzki and Terry. The Spurs can't guard everybody, so Dallas will keep the shots spread out among its scorers.
" Anyone but Parker or Duncan. Scoring and 3-point shooting must come from someone else. It could be anyone in uniform as Popovich will go deep into the bench if necessary.
" Defensive intensity is what Game 5 will be all about for the Mavericks. When they defend, they run. When they run, they win.
The Spurs find themselves on the brink of elimination much earlier than anticipated. With Duncan hobbled, Parker worn out and the rest of the team ineffective, this looks like the perfect time for the Spurs to bow out. However, the Mavericks will have to play their best game of the series to win this game. Expect San Antonio's crowd to provide plenty of energy for the home team, and look for the Spurs' supporting cast to bring more to the party.
Spurs win Game 5
Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves as an NBA analyst for Hoopsworld.
Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.