By Art Garcia, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS – On a night largely devoid of stars, an unsung rookie was able to shine.
Bryn Forbes scored 27 points off the bench as the stripped-down San Antonio Spurs rallied past the Dallas Mavericks 102-89 on Friday night at American Airlines Center.
In a game that was otherwise meaningless for the Spurs, coach Gregg Popovich elected to leave most of his big guns home as Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol were given the night off. Manu Ginobili and Danny Green were officially nursing injuries and Tony Parker dressed but didn’t set foot on the floor.
Despite the missing troops, the Spurs (61-18) made up an 11-point halftime deficit by blowing past the Mavericks with a 25-8 advantage in the third quarter. San Antonio’s comeback was aided by coach Rick Carlisle’s decision to sit Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea for the second half.
Forbes was an unlikely star for San Antonio’s skeleton crew, becoming the first Spurs rookie to score 20 points in a half since Tim Duncan in 1998. His 22 points at the break kept San Antonio within striking distance.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Patty Mills, who started but only played 18 minutes. “With the guys that we came with, that was kind of the key, just to go out, have fun, enjoy and play basketball. And I think everyone did enjoy it.”
The undrafted free agent made the team out of Summer League and has logged multiple assignments in the D-League. Forbes knocked down 10 of 19 shots, including 4 of 9 from beyond the 3-point line.
“We all know that he can do that,” Mills said. “We have seen glimpses of that. For him to have that opportunity tonight in a game situation — he’s been down in the D League and he’s been doing his thing down there — but to come out now and have the opportunity to do it here is great.”
Davis Bertans added 19 points for San Antonio, David Lee had a double-double off the bench with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Jonathan Simmons had 12 points. Dewayne Dedmon picked up a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Anderson had nine points and 10 boards.
Dwight Powell led Dallas with 12 points. Yogi Ferrell was the only other Maverick in double figures with 11 points.
Dallas was outscored 52-28 in the second half.
Carlisle isn’t surprised by the Spurs’ continued excellence, even after Tim Duncan’s retirement.
“It’s continuity, they have great leadership there,” Carlisle said. “Pop’s the key to the whole thing, I think that’s pretty clear. They’ve been able to keep great talent there. Leonard is going to be a guy that’s there for a long time. He’s going to be an MVP candidate. Aldridge is an All-Star. They still got really good role players who are really skilled.”
The Mavericks (32-47) gladly took advantage against of facsimile of their instate rivals in the first half. The Spurs had a long scoring drought in the first quarter and fell behind by double digits. San Antonio would make runs, but Dallas remained in control.
Dallas took a 61-50 lead into the locker room behind a well-balanced effort. Nowitzki, Barnes, Barea and Powell each had eight points at the half, as the Mavs shot nearly 57 percent.
Matthews left the game momentarily in the first half after banging a knee but returned. He had six points, five assists and four rebounds in 16 minutes.
He should see action as the Mavs close out the regular season, according to Carlisle.
“Not shutting him down, I think he’s OK,” Carlisle said. “He hits the floor a lot, tends to recover very quickly. I like the way he played tonight.”
The Spurs, locked in as the Western Conference’s No. 2 playoff seed, return home to finish off a back-to-back Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers. San Antonio will face Memphis in the first round.
Dallas finishes its season series with Phoenix on the road Sunday. The Suns have won two of three.