2014 NBA Playoffs: Tiago Splitter An Unlikely Hero In Spurs-Mavericks Series

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Apr 30, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter (22) reacts against the Dallas Mavericks in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. San Antonio beat Dallas 109-103. Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter is a key player in the team’s quest for yet another NBA title. Still, before the opening round playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks, few could have imagined the impact he’d have.

If the Spurs are going to reach another Finals, the general thought is that it will be Tim Duncan and Tony Parker leading the way with a dose of Manu Ginobili added in for good measure. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Splitter is contributing more than his fair share, too — and that’s causing headaches for Mark Cuban and company.

The center’s latest display came in the team’s 109-103 win in the pivotal Game 5 on Wednesday. San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter is a key player in the team’s quest for yet another NBA title. Still, before the opening round playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks, few could have imagined the impact he’d have. Splitter didn’t just play well, but he was flat out dominant. In 32 minutes, he  scored 17 points and tied Duncan for the team high in rebounds with 12. He was 7-10 from the field and his five assists led all of the Spurs starters.

In addition, it’s when Splitter contributed that turned heads. In Wednesday’s big game, the center scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, including one stretch where he scored seven in a row for San Antonio. In that final period, he also grabbed six rebounds, including three offensive ones.

It was Spilitter’s best game in the Series, but hardly the first time he contributed.

In the last two games, he produced two double doubles while shooting an incredible 71 percent from the field. Splitter has also been an absolute monster on the glass lately with nearly 13 rebounds per game over the past three contests. Overall, in the five games, the center is averaging 11.0 points and 10.6 rebounds.

Those stats are impressive, but even more so when you consider Splitter’s regular season.

The big man was solid this year, but hardly dominant. With his minutes cut to 21.5 minutes this season, he averaged a modest 8.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Instead of improving in his fourth NBA season, he was regressing. However, in the series with Dallas, Splitter is contributing significantly more despite the increased intensity in the postseason.

The veteran Spurs still have work to do in their series with the Mavericks to even escape the first round, but if they continue to get this kind of production from Splitter, they could be punching their ticket to another Finals.

Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events.