Spurs' loss raises specter of 2011

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SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs spent the past 10 months trying to erase the memory of their NBA Finals collapse against the Miami Heat in June.

After Wednesday's blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs suddenly find themselves having to fend off other skeletons in their closet. It was only three years ago that San Antonio became one of just five No. 1-seeded teams in NBA history to be upset by a No. 8 seed in the first round of the playoffs.

With the Mavs thoroughly dominating in a 113-92 Game 2 win to knot the series 1-1 as it shifts back to Dallas, these Spurs sure seem ripe for history to repeat. Only, if you listened to most of the Spurs' players after a game in which they coughed up 24 turnovers leading to 33 points for the Mavericks, were outmuscled on the boards and allowed four Dallas players to hit for 16 points or more, it was nothing to get bent out of shape about.

"We lost one game," Tim Duncan said, flatly, after following up his 27 points in Game 1 with just 11 points in Game 2. "We didn't expect to go 16-0. We didn't expect to win every game."

Danny Green, who was 12 for 20 from 3 in the Spurs' four-game regular season sweep of the Mavs but now finds himself just 2-for-6 against them in the playoffs, was similarly unperturbed by how the series has opened.

"This group has been together for a couple years now so I expect us to bounce back," said Green. "To have that experience helps a lot. I'm pretty positive in the direction that we're going in. I don't think anybody in this locker room is too nervous about anything."

The Spurs have been a model of consistency -- 15 straight 50-plus win seasons, four titles and a third coach of the year trophy coming just this week for Gregg Popovich as a reminder of all that -- largely because of the never-too-high, never-too-low mentality that Duncan and Pop have spread throughout the organization year after year.

But they're going up against a Mavericks team with several of its key players -- Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Samuel Dalembert and even DeJuan Blair -- on their first ride with Dallas. The Mavs haven't had enough time to establish a true identity for their current group, so in the short term they've adopted a go-for-broke mentality.

"We've got to hit this thing with guns blazin'," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said before Game 1. "That's how it's got to be."

They came close, leading by 10 with less than eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter before the Spurs rallied.

Afterward, looking forward to Game 2, Dirk Nowitzki declared the Mavs just had to "let it all rip" their next time out. And they did.

"I like our intensity right now," said Nowitzki, heading home with a split even though he shot just 11-for-33 (33 percent) in the cause.

The Spurs will spend the next three days rationalizing where they stand every which way they can. They'll blame it on their turnovers, but consider them an aberration rather than a glaring weakness that's been exposed, considering it was more than San Antonio has coughed up in any game this season. "We can take care of the ball better," said Duncan. "We just made careless mistakes."

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