San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter was not about to take full credit for holding Dirk Nowitzki to just 11 points Sunday on 4-of-14 shooting in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.
But Splitter did say after Monday’s practice that the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise player didn’t appear “comfortable” during the game.
Splitter started the game defending Nowitzki, but Boris Diaw also guarded the Mavs’ 12-time All-Star. The result: They stymied Nowitzki enough that the Spurs were able to construct a game-ending 19-4 rally for a 90-85 victory in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
“[Nowitzki] has a quick release, a high release, so you just try to be close to him, not foul,” Splitter said. “It’s not easy.
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“He’s going to fade away and do the jumper, but he wasn’t comfortable the first game.”
Diaw admits it was challenging trying to defend Nowitzki, the NBA’s 10th all-time leading scorer.
“Of course we were focused on him, being the great player that he is,” Diaw said. “But that opens stuff up for other players, and made the game difficult for us.
“We’ve got to be aware of everybody, too, on the court, and maybe a little less focused on him.”
The Spurs are expecting Nowitzki to bounce back when the series resumes Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
“I think he’s definitely going to be more aggressive and try more and maybe get the ball more than he did in the last game,” Diaw said.
Splitter isn’t counting on Nowitzki having another flat night.
“He’s one of those players that can shoot with really good defense on him, so even some days when we do a good defense on him he’s still going to make his shots,” Splitter said. “If he has that kind of day, it’s hard, really hard.
“All you can do is pray the ball does not go in.”
Manu Ginobili’s wife, Marianela, gave birth to a son Monday at 7:22 a.m. Luca, the couple’s third child, weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces.
“I woke up at 4:45, get ready, pack, go to the clinic and wait for a couple hours and witness a C-section,” said Ginobili, who went to practice after his son’s arrival. “I held that baby as long as I could, and then down here [to practice].”
So why was Ginobili at practice mere hours after such a blessed event?
“I just came to see what Pop [coach Gregg Popovich] had to say and watch video,” he said. “I was ready to go and they said I’ve got to come say hi to you [media] guys.”
Ginobili and his wife also have twin sons Dante and Nico who are almost 4 years old.
“He went in there [Monday] morning and a half-an-hour later he was back at practice,” Popovich said. “He’s a pretty efficient guy.
“I told him, ‘Manu, you didn’t do anything. Your wife was efficient.’ ”
Spurs eye Harris
Regardless of whether the Mavs start Devin Harris at point guard or Jose Calderon in Game 2, the Spurs know they must do a better job containing Harris.
In 32 minutes off the bench Sunday, Harris had a team-high 19 points, a team-high five assists, and his 3 of 7 3-point shooting was part of an 8 of 16 effort from the field.
“He played well, he was very aggressive, he made three 3s,” Spurs point guard Tony Parker said. “We didn’t plan on that, so we’re going to have to definitely pay some attention to him.”
Calderon finished with just seven points — all in the second half — and was 3-of-9 from the floor with two assists in 16 minutes.
“Jose is a shooter,” Parker said. “He can shoot a lot of 3s, he makes big shots.
“Devin can do a little bit of both, but he’s more like a penetrator. He’s going to create stuff and put pressure on your defense.”