Spurs' 'Dogs' Getting Ready for Game 2

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    DALLAS - APRIL 23: Guard Jose Juan Barea #11 of the Dallas Mavericks looks to pass the ball against Roger Mason Jr. #8, Tim Duncan #21 and Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 23, 2009 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    The 12 guys on the San Antonio Spurs beyond Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have a new identity. Just call them "the dogs."

    The nickname stems from something Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said following Game 1 of their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks -- and it certainly wasn't a compliment.

    "I think we've got to have a few more people step up and play worth a damn," Popovich said following a 100-94 loss. "I thought we had a lot of guys that played like dogs."

    Popovich might've been letting off some steam. Or maybe he was trying to motivate them. Regardless, how they respond is a major storyline going into Game 2 on Wednesday night in Dallas.

    "They're pros," Popovich said Tuesday. "I'm sure we'll be a lot sharper tomorrow."

    Matt Bonner, a backup big man in San Antonio's supporting cast, said he understands Popovich's message.

    "Just come out and be sharper," Bonner said. "Not necessarily playing harder physically, but being more mentally sharp and making less careless mistakes."

    Popovich was most irate about the turnovers (17) and fouls (28). Then there were all the small numbers in the box score.

    Richard Jefferson scored just four points in 32 minutes. George Hill, Keith Bogans and Roger Mason were all scoreless in a combined 43 minutes. As a foursome, they made 1 of 9 shots.

    "It's hard sometimes for them to produce a lot unless we put them in that position to score more," Ginobili said. "So I don't think it was only their fault. I think it was our fault, too, for not finding them in the right positions."

    San Antonio's trio of stars had good reasons for not sharing more.

    Ginobili started 8 of 10. Duncan was on his way to scoring 27 points, his most in two months. And Parker logged 34 minutes, his most in nearly two months, even though he's still getting over a broken bone in his right hand that sidelined him for one of those months.

    "It was just one of those games," Parker said. "Sometimes it's going to happen. ... I'll definitely try to do a better job to get everyone involved in the next game."

    Hill started at point guard in the opener, as he's done since Parker was hurt. It remains to be seen whether he keeps that job in Game 2.

    Hill played less than 18 minutes in the opener, but lingering soreness in his right ankle might not have been all that kept him on the bench. He was pulled for good early in the second half, right after Jason Kidd stole one of his passes in the backcourt.

    Popovich said Tuesday that Hill would be a game-time decision. If he sits, Parker wouldn't necessarily take his place. Rookie Garrett Temple could get the start because Popovich likes having Parker come in with his second unit.

    Another likely change is how San Antonio handles Dirk Nowitzki.

    Popovich gambled that he could get away with only one defender in the opener, then went through four guys before deciding to send help. By then, Nowitzki had most of his 36 points.

    Dallas is expecting Popovich to use at least two and maybe three defenders on Nowitzki. So his supporting cast is on alert.

    "If they're going to double-team him, it's up to us to penalize them for doing it," Kidd said. "Hopefully we're up to the challenge."

    As well as the Mavericks played in Game 1 -- they trailed for less than one of the final 40 minutes -- coach Rick Carlisle has a list of things that must improve for Dallas to sweep its first two home games.

    For instance, he doesn't want to see the Spurs turn seven offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points, or shoot 50 percent from the field. The Mavericks also can't wait until the middle of the fourth quarter for Jason Terry, their second-leading scorer, to make his first basket, especially since they can't expect Nowitzki to go 12 of 14 again.

    "We are going to have to play better," Carlisle said. "We competed well during most parts of the game, but we had some breakdowns, some situations where we weren't engaged as we needed to be."