Bart Herridge
@BartTBF

Dallas was flat, lifeless, and after the 1st quarter, largely uninterested in getting back into this game. After Kidd went out, the Mavs’ offense degraded into passes around the perimeter until either Terry or West tried the iso-step-back-jumper. I try to catch Mavs games on TV periodically, but this was my first chance to see them this year. I was hoping to see if they really are fundamentally different than last year’s championship team. But tonight told me nothing.

I do think they are worse defensively, as the talking heads have claimed since Tyson Chandler’s departure, but their zone frustrated the Spurs the entire second half. Hard to say what they will be like toward the end of the season, once Odom has better integrated with the team.

Song of the Game:

One of my favorite bands of the 90s is still going strong and released one of their best albums just three years ago. Collective Soul is as consistent as Pop – you always know what you are getting. It’s not flashy or mind-blowing, but it is always solid. This is “Better Now” from 2008′s Youth, because after two wins without Manu, I think we all feel a little bit better.

Play of the Game:

Hard to isolate one play in this ugly game, but I’ll fondly remember the opening score of this game. Gary Neal had the ball on the right wing and jab-stepped Jason Kidd into backing up. With the space he needed, he rose up and drained a 3. That play set the tone for the entire quarter. Neal finished only 4-10 but hit his first three 3s and provided a spark. I said it 50 times last season and I’m going to say again this season: I love Gary Neal and I’m man enough to admit it.

Horse of the Game:

After being the “goat” last night, Bonner responded with 17 points and 6 boards in 24 minutes. He still hesitated on a few open shots and made a lefty hook in the lane that I thought was about to be a turnover. But on a night when he had open shots, he took most of them and made them. Honorable mention for last night’s “horse”: RJ played another very good game.

Goat of the Game:

There were a few Spur candidates, but I’ll take a Mav tonight. I realize Jason Kidd was hurting – he left with a stiff back – but his defense was awful in the 1st quarter. Aside from Neal’s first three, he gave up a number of other looks to Neal and pretended to be a turnstile for Parker later in the quarter. He was also scoreless and -14 in 11 minutes. Kidd was always one of my favorite PGs, just because he’s such a smooth player and has great court vision. But tonight, he looked like a guy playing on literally his last legs.

Stat of the Game:

48 of San Antonio’s 93 points came from behind the 3-point line. That’s 52% for those scoring at home. I know it’s a win and I know that’s what the Mavs were going to give defensively, but I’m positive that’s not the game plan Pop drew up.

Random Thought:

A few random thoughts, bullet-style:

- T.J. Ford was a smart signing and he is going to win some games for us this year. Every game he looks more comfortable and he will help limit Tony’s minutes all season.

- Lamar Odom’s strength in LA was always as the mop-up guy. Kobe, Pau, and Bynum got shots and Odom just found his way into 18-10 every night through rebounds, steals, and passes from double teams. In Dallas, he’s trying to play the same role, but there’s no double team and no passing. He looks completely lost and unused in this offense.

- Pop made Neal the starter at SG tonight over James Anderson. Anderson played poorly against the Warriors last night. Anderson is a better defender than Neal, but Neal is aggressive and belongs on the floor.

- Danny Green got 24 minutes tonight and has earned every one of them. Count me in on the Danny Green bandwagon. He’s not afraid, he’s a scrappy defender, and he can hit a corner 3 once in a while.

- Pop is doing a great job with Leonard’s minutes. He looks lost on the floor right now and Pop is playing him just enough to keep him interested and involved and not enough to hurt the team.

- Wayne predicted that Pop was going to punt the upcoming game in OKC on Sunday. I wasn’t sure at the time, but I think tonight’s win dramatically increases the odds that Duncan or Parker (or both) sits either that game or the Denver game on Saturday.

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