New faces dot Mavericks-Spurs rivalry
The Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night will renew one of the NBA's greatest in-state rivalries that includes titanic playoff clashes over the last two decades with entirely new casts on both squads.
Gone from the Spurs are Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to retirement. Tony Parker, honored in an emotional ceremony Monday back in San Antonio, suits up for the Charlotte Hornets. Even rivalry late-comer Kawhi Leonard now resides in Toronto.
For Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki is a low-minute bench player in his 21st NBA season. Rivalry veteran J.J. Barea was recently lost to an Achilles injury that ended his season.
Moving this rivalry forward are LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan for the Spurs, and rookie of the year frontrunner Luka Doncic and emerging forward Harrison Barnes for the Mavericks.
While the names have changed, it doesn't mean that this second of four meetings this season is of any less importance. San Antonio and Dallas, which played an intense overtime game won by the Spurs on Oct. 29, could ultimately battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Four games separate the Spurs, clinging to playoff position, and the Mavs, who continue to be extremely competitive even if they don't always get the preferred result.
The Mavs, 16-5 on their home court, are coming off a heartbreaking 119-114 home loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night, but came out of it with a measure of momentum. Doncic scored 26 points even though he was just 8 of 18 from the floor against the Warriors' stout defense.
Still, the performance for the 19-year-old, who despite being listed as a frontcourt player on the NBA All-Star ballot, is Dallas' de facto point guard, only added to his recent head-turning run in which he's averaged 28.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists over the last four games.
"He's trying to break the defense down and have the chances to score and get teammates involved," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Some nights you don't make every shot and that's one of things about the NBA. He's going to learn a lot from (the Golden State) game and he still generates a lot of things out there."
The Spurs enter Wednesday's contest having lost three of four games on the heels of a season-best five-game win streak, with the lone win being a double-overtime thriller over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Injuries contributed to a sluggish offense in Monday's home loss to the Hornets. Bench spark Marco Belinelli missed just his second game of the season with a hyperextended left knee sustained on Saturday. His availability against the Mavs has yet to be determined. Over his last three games, Belinelli averaged 19.0 points while shooting 70.6 percent from 3-point range (12 of 17). He's averaging 10.5 points for the season while shooting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Spurs veteran forward Rudy Gay has missed the last five games with a sprained left wrist. He said he hopes to be able to play at Dallas.
"As soon as we get him back," DeRozan said, "I'm pretty sure we will get back to where we left off."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 15, 2019