Call-in Live: 210-757-0847
While many around the league have pretty much written off the Spurs in this series, we decided to let our staff take a crack at the crystal ball. Then we also asked some local media and other NBA bloggers for their take.
Michael De Leon, Founder/Spurscast host
The Spurs have given me hope after a squad of mostly D-Leaguers gave a completely healthy Mavs team a run for their money last week. DeJuan Blair also looked unstoppable and if the Spurs use him wisely and Parker and Hill are close to 100 percent, I've got to give it to the Spurs. It'll be a hard-fought, long, but fun to watch series. Spurs in 7.
Jeff Garcia, Co-founder, Spurscast co-host
Mavericks trade for Haywood, Butler not only boosted the Mavericks already loaded with Kidd, Terry, Nowitzki,and Marion, it pushed them over the top against the Spurs. The Mavs are too strong for this Spurs team and hold the home court advantage. Spurs will make it competitive but in the end will lose out. Mavericks in 6.
Robby Lim, Lead Writer
Spurs will be seeking redemption against the Mavs. Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan will be the main catalyst for the Spurs. DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner and Roger Mason Jr. could be the X-factors and their team defense will make the difference in this series. Against all odds, Spurs in 6!
Lance Fell, Staff Writer
Spurs versus Mavericks. Is there a better rivalry NBA? Some might say the Lakers and the Celtics, but the fact that the Mavs and the Spurs play in the same conference, better yet the same division, and are connected by I-35, makes this, in my eyes, the best rivalry in professional basketball. What more could a diehard basketball fan ask for? The Mavericks will no doubt come out confident and look to finish the Spurs off quick. But with Tim Duncan in playoff mode, Mavs fans can forget about bringing out their brooms. Expect a tough, emotional series, with some bad officiating just to add some spice to this already tasty series. Duncan will do what he always does against the Mavs, and wreck the paint against all people who challenge him, and Manu will do his Manu thing. We’ve already seen him own Shawn Marion more than once. But with Tony Parker not at full strength, and Caron Butler being the physical, aggressive player the Mavs have always needed, I don’t see the Spurs pulling this out. As much as breaks my heart to say this, sorry fellow Spurs fans, Mavericks in six.
Emily Allen, Staff Writer
If my crystal ball is right, then Mark Cuban should put his championship dreams away for another year. On the other hand, San Antonio should get ready to go all seven games with Dallas, because I don't see either team going down easily.
This isn't a matter of whether or not the Spurs can complete with the Mavericks. Anyone who watched Wednesday night's game knows that San Antonio actually began to show some life from the old school Spurs, who played some of their best ball in the clutch near playoffs. Even second-seed Dallas knows the seventh-seed Spurs have the athleticism and firepower to come in and take the first round - I think they will, but as any game or series is in the IH-35 rivalry, it will be a knock-down dragout fight to the very end. Spurs in 7.
Jordan Rivas, Contributor
A healthy Ginobili, Parker, and Duncan means the Spurs are one of the most dangerous seventh seeds in league history. The Spurs have championship pedigree, coupled with a full roster of healthy veterans, and a momentum swing that saved the last stretch of an otherwise lackluster season. The Spurs are as healthy as they've been all year, but the pieces will all have to come together the way we hoped they would when this squad was pieced together. If they don't the Spurs will see a first round exit, but based on the last twenty or so games of the regular season, I think the Spurs are hitting a momentum push at the right time. Spurs win in seven games.
Jeff Cerda, Contributor
They say “everything is BIGGER in Texas” and the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks rivalry is no exception. These two teams have some history to say the least and the Mavs got the best of the Spurs the last time these two teams met in the playoffs. Things will be different this time around however, because the Spurs will have a healthy team this year to go along with that sour taste they have in their mouths after an early exit from last years’ playoffs thanks to the Mavs. The Spurs have been there and know what it takes to win a championship, something that the Mavs have yet to do since joining the NBA in the 1980-81 season. I believe the Spurs will pull out a “upset” series win over the Mavs, 4 games to 2, winning game 6 back in San Antonio to have the Alamo City celebrating fiesta style. GO SPURS GO!
Chris Duel, ESPN 1250 The Zone
Spurs in Six. Bad news for the Mavericks: Gregg Popovich has the Spurs peaking at just the right time. The Spurs record against playoff teams in March and April proves they are ready make noise against the Mavs. Add the intangible of having lost to the Mavs in the first round last season plus the health of Manu Ginobili. The Spurs will get a split up in Dallas, bring it home and take care of business at the AT&T Center and later close it out back home in Game 6. We say it all the time - the Spurs are built for the playoffs. If they can remain healthy, they can go to the Western Conference Finals.
Larry Ramirez, KSAT 12
The Spurs will beat the Mavs in 6 games. The big 3 are healthy and looking good. Manu will probably be the difference in this series. I think George Hill be a big factor too if he’s 100 percent. Home court is important, but I don’t think it secures a series win this year in the West with the conference being so strong.
Richard Oliver, San Antonio Express-News
Manu, pain-free at last, will bring pain to Dallas. Mavs favorites, but Spurs team playing w nothing to lose will have last word. Spurs in 6
Humberto Cervera, WOAI
I'm thinking that this is a pretty easy call. The way the Spurs look, they can't hang with the Mavs bigs and Caron Butler will be able to slow Manu down enough to knock the Spurs out of the first round for the second straight year. Sorry to say Mavs in 6.
Rey Moralde, The No Look Pass
really hate betting against the Spurs, even this year. I've said over and over that as long as Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich are there, the Spurs will not die. Even though the Mavericks were scorching hot after the trading deadline, they have slowed down towards the end of the season. Still, I feel this has been the best Mavericks team since the Finals team of 2006... and Mark Cuban isn't too far off when he said that this is the most talented team he's ever had. Plus, the Mavs eliminated the Spurs (yes, without Manu but...) in a cinch last year.
I'll say Mavericks in 6 but I hate betting against the Spurs and I won't be surprised if San Antonio does take it. Take my money now.
John Karalis, Reds Army
My heart is telling me Spurs, but my head is telling me Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki is too good. Take over the game when he wants good. And it's not like Richard Jefferson is going to stop him.
The only hang up I have is that Spurs front court. Dampier and Haywood are slightly more than serviceable, but they're not Tim Duncan, and they're not DeJuan Blair. And I know that in the playoffs, the ability to dump it into the post and bang on the boards is huge. Besides, Manu has spent April pretty much treating opponents like fresh fish at Shawshank prison. He's hot at the right time, and that's gonna help.
But, ultimately, I think the Mavs are too good all around. They've got the best player on the floor. They've got Jason Kidd... who can still get it done. And topping that off with Caron Butler and Shawn Marion on the wings and Jason Terry off the bench is just a little too much. I want to pick the Spurs here, but I can only pick them to make this a hell of series. Dallas in 7.
Mookie, A Stern Warning
Last season I said these exact words "Never underestimate the heart of a champion. Any team that includes Tim Duncan and Tony Parker can not be discounted when it comes to playoff time." I then went on to predict a 4-1 Spurs victory in the series. How wrong I was.
And yet, once again, I stick by that same edict. The Spurs have some incredible players with a remarkable history of success. Few players in the NBA have the level of success that they have in recent years. However, this time the emphasis is squarely on the shoulders of Manu Ginobili. He has been in sizzling form of late and coupled with George Hill's spark-plug ability, represents the chance of clinching the series for the Spurs.
All of that said, the Dallas Mavericks have a phenomenal squad this season -- one which I've been eyeing since the all-star break as the only potential team to knock off the Los Angeles Lakers in the West. The addition of Caron Butler (and to a lesser extent Brendan Haywood) means a great deal. This Mavs machine will be good enough to send the Spurs off into the sunset without a second round berth. But it won't come easily. Final prediction: Mavs in 7. And what a great series it will be -- saddle up, we're in for some entertainment in Texas.
Jackie Taylor aka That Sports Babe
Experience is going to play a part but only a small one in this series. Jason Kidd has been there done that many times but with different teams. Timmy’s been there done that 15x with the Spurs. Cohesiveness of team play is going to be the most integral thing and although the Mavs haven’t had much time to get to know one another’s post-season styles, I still think it’s going to cause problems for the Spurs.
Personally, if I were Pop I would consider benching Richard Jefferson entirely and going with a defensive powerhouse of Timmy at center, DeJuan Blair at small forward & Matt Bonner (“The Southern Ginger”) at power forward. I’m not sure if that’s an OPTION but I see that as a major key in San Antonio getting out of this alive let alone carving out a few wins. Typically this would not be the time for San Antonio to “test the waters” with a new lineup but I don’t think there is much choice considering what the Mavericks are working with.
I foresee Carlisle going with Dirk-a-licious at center & Haywood at power fwd and anything after that is just gravy. The Spurs biggest problem is not that their old….they just don’t have ENOUGH good players. With the Mavericks bench housing people like JJ Barea, Roddy Boo-boo & The Jet, they are always going to have some fresh legs to go out there and tear it up whereas San Antonio is going to have to rely on the same ol squad to carve them out a W. Their young guys are not that good in comparison and although I love Antonio McDyess, the fact of the matter is that San Antonio had better be out to a horrendously large lead before they throw him in and rely on him to keep the peace while Timmy takes a breather.
Dallas has come on like a house on fire this year. With the addition of Caron Butler for scoring and Haywood for blocking, the Mavericks are staring the Western Conference Playoffs in the face, in my opinion. This is just a small hurdle in their post-season. I say Mavs in 6.
Matt Scheelar, Bust-a-Bucket
Last year the Mavericks took it to a Spurs team that seemed to be in decline. With the two teams matching up again in the first round, both teams look very different. The Mavs have shown flexed their muscles by beating San Antonio 3 times during the regular season, but things will be different in the playoffs. Manu Ginobili has been playing incredible basketball while Parker and Duncan have limped to the finish line. I think the Spurs are that snake waiting in the grass, they hate how Dallas rolled them last year and will want revenge. I think Timmy and Tony are going to show up like they did during their championship runs. I like the Spurs in 7, this will be a great series.
With game one vs. the Mavericks just hours away, let's take a closer look at the series.
Point Guard: Tony Parker vs. Jason Kidd
Parker and Kidd have some history going back to the summer of 2003, when the Spurs almost lured Kidd over to San Antonio. Since then, Parker has made a point to make San Antonio forgot all about Kidd. In last year's playoff series, Parker torched Kidd. But I'll give credit where it's deserved. Kidd has played very well for Dallas lately, but will his 37-year-old body be able to stand up to a much quicker Parker, even if he isn't back to 100 percent after his injury. Kidd's production has suffered a drop off in the playoffs the last two years. His minutes have also been up this season, so if Parker is having his way against the Mavs, I wouldn't be surprised to see Carlisle throw out Barea or Beaubois if Kidd struggles early. Edge: Spurs.
Shooting Guard: Manu Ginobili vs. Caron Butler
Can anyone really stop Manu? Manu has been phenomenal for more than a month and he's causing a lot of critics to give the Spurs a second look. Butler doesn't have much of a chance defending Manu, so we'll likely see a lot of Shawn Marion matched up on him and possibly even some spot minutes for DeShawn Stevenson, but that's not likely to change much of anything, especially considering Ron Artest had his hands full when the Spurs went through Los Angeles earlier this month and Manu put up 32 on him. Now Caron Butler is not chopped liver. He's averaged 15 points and five boards since coming to Dallas, but if the Spurs force him out of his comfort zone, they can make him pretty ineffective. Butler makes his living about 18 feet away from the basket, where he shoots at about a 45 to 50 percent clip constantly. If the Spurs can keep him on the outside, he makes only about 29 percent of his shots. Butler also seems to know that this is his weakness, which is the reason he's only put up 11 three-point attempts in the last six games. Edge: Spurs.
Small Forward: Richard Jefferson vs. Shawn Marion
If you put both players side-by-side, stats-wise, Marion and Jefferson look to be pretty even. But Marion's defense is the difference-maker. He's still got the speed to defend smaller players on the perimeter and he's got the length to be a nuisance on the inside. If Marion stays on Jefferson, I can see him giving Jefferson his space while he sags off to double on Tim Duncan or try to swipe at the ball. If he does, Jefferson's got to make him pay, either by hitting open jumpers or by faking to draw Marion back in so he can then drive past him for a layup or dunk. The trouble is, Jefferson hasn't played as aggressive as he should be all season long. Jefferson hasn't used his athleticism to his advantage all season long. By now, Spurs fans are used to thinking about anything Jefferson does as a bonus, but it's not expected. His production varies from game to game, whereas Marion is usually a consistent contributor in scoring, boards and defense. Edge: Mavericks.
Power Forward: Tim Duncan vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Can you ask for a better matchup in a first round series than pitting two of the best power forwards in the game against each other? Tim Duncan has quietly had a noter great season when many expected that this would be the year Parker would take the reins. Dirk is Dirk. As a Spurs fan it's frustrating to see him seemingly knock down every shot, even when very well defended. Fpr the past couple of years though, it seems like the Mavs have been successful running one play for Dirk that the Spurs can't seem to solve, the high screen. This usually leaves Dirk with a shorter player on him that he can either back down or shoot over. When Duncan is at his best down low, there's no player that can stop him, so the Mavs will likely throw a bunch of different players at him and try to frustrate him early by having players swipe at the ball and try to force it out of his hands. Luckily for the Spurs, Duncan is one of the better passing big men in the post and when his wings are hitting, the Mavs won't no where to turn. Edge: Even.
Center: Antonio McDyess vs. Erick Dampier
It would be very beneficial to the Spurs if Dampier stays on Dyess. Dyess has range up to about 16-18. Bringing Dampier out to leave Duncan room to work would take Dallas' best shot blockers out of the post. This also spaces the floor for the Spurs, but McDyess has to be able to hit his shot in order to keep Dampier from doubling. Edge: Even.
The Spurs have had the luxury of having on of the deepest benches they've ever had, but coming into Dallas, they may have some competition. When George Hill enters the game and Parker goes to the bench, there's almost no drop off. Hill likes to shoot the corner three, but he's just as comfortable driving to the basket or pulling up for a mid-range jumper. He's also excelled on defense and uses his long arms to deflect or alter shots. DeJuan Blair showed last week that he may play a bigger part in this series than originally thought. He put on a clinic against the Mavericks and the Spurs will hope he'll be able to make the Mavs bigs look just as bad throughout this series. Matt Bonner and Roger Mason are hired guns and when they're hitting, the Spurs are rolling. Also look for Keith Bogans to provide some defensive e relief on Nowitzki. And just when you thought the bench was done comes Garrett Temple, who averaged over 11 points per game starting for the Spurs in Hill's absence. For the Mavs, it all starts with the sharp-shooting Jason Terry. But beyond that they also have Barea, Brendan Haywood, Beaubois and DeShawn Stevenson. If Blair is the Blair of Wednesday's game, then it's edge Spurs, but I'm not expecting to see a repeat performance. Edge: Even.
Marion Photo Courtesy CH/ProjectSpurs.com
We already spoke to Brian Cuban to get his opinions on the Spurs-Mavericks series, but to get a Mavs blogger's perspective, I talked to Rob Mahoney of the excellent Two Man Game Mavs blog. Make sure to also check out Rob's work on Hardwood Paroxysm and Pro Basketball Talk.
1. Mark Cuban recently said that the Spurs-Mavericks rivalry has been underappreciated and underhyped. I don't know how anything Mark is a part of can be underhyped, but do you share that sentiment with him?
Absolutely. The Spurs and Mavs have more mutual respect than some of the other contemporary rivalries (Celtics-anyone, for example), but the two teams have been so evenly matched for so long. In terms of producing consistently competitive games, I'm not sure there's a better match-up in the league. This is what NBA fans are getting in the first round of the playoffs, and to have this kind of competitive basketball this early is a gift. Seriously. Then once you factor in the intra-division competition, the geography (and the frequency with which fans of both teams interact as a result), and the playoff history between the two teams, I fail to see how this is anything less than one of the more compelling rivalries in the league.
2. Josh Howard was always a Spurs-killer, especially on the defensive end. Who does Dallas turn to for perimeter defense?
Shawn Marion. He's done a spectacular job of holding the league's elite wings below their scoring averages this season, and I'd expect him to be on Ginobili duty. A few morsels to consider:
Kevin Durant in the '09-'10 season: 30.1 PPG, 3.3 TOPG, .476 FG% Durant against the Mavs this season: 22.5 PPG, 4.5 TOPG, .317 FG%
Kobe Bryant in the '09-'10 season: 27.0 PPG, 3.2 TOPG, .456 FG% Bryant against the Mavs this season: 16.3 PPG, 2.3 TOPG, .400 FG%
LeBron James in the '09-'10 season: 29.7 PPG, 3.4 TOPG, .503 FG% James against the Mavs this season: 25.0 PPG, 1.5 TOPG, .442 FG%
Dwyane Wade in the '09-'10 season: 26.6 PPG, 3.3 TOPG, .476 FG% Wade against the Mavs this season: 28.0 PPG, 4.0 TOPG, .333 FG%
Most of that is due to Marion, but the Mavs are also significantly improved at scheming to stop highly productive wing players. Caron Butler is also a good on-ball defender, and he'll surely have his shot at Manu as well. DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Kidd are alternatives as well, should Carlisle look to mix up his coverages (count on it).
In terms of stopping point guards though...well, that's a different story. Kidd is too slow, Jason Terry is meh, J.J. Barea is too small, and Rodrigue Beaubois tries but isn't too strong in his defensive fundamentals just yet. Tony Parker could do some serious damage if he can figure out how to tap into last season's magic. George Hill too, to a lesser extent, but he's obviously not the threat that a rolling TP is.
3. Manu Ginobili has been pretty much unstoppable since the All-Star break. For the Mavs, is it wiser to just let him get his and try to limit everyone else or do you see a gameplan in place for trying to stop Manu?
I kind of touched on this already (and in my own series preview), but I'd expect the Mavs to try to stop Manu specifically. Carlisle seems to prefer keying on the guys who trigger the offense, and there's no doubt that Ginobili has played that role late in the season. Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier are both solid post defenders, so the Mavs will let them try to hold down Tim Duncan. Meanwhile, Ginobili will face some tough man defense from Marion, Butler, and co., and surely a number of double teams and traps in various situations (particularly on pick-and-rolls).
I think that's the Mavs' best bet, as Dallas can significantly improve their chances by stopping Manu. He's just been too good lately, and removing that element from the series would give Dallas a big advantage. If the Mavs do try that strategy over the first game or so and it backfires, expect Carlisle to change things up. He's shown a willingness to adapt and modify his strategy throughout the course of the season or a playoff series (such as when he opted to start J.J. Barea in game three of last years' playoff series against San Antonio).
4. This series presents a lot of great matchups. Which one would you consider to be the key matchup of the series?
Manu v. Mavs is obviously a big one, but Dirk v. Spurs is just as crucial. I'm expecting Gregg Popovich to employ a similarly varied approach in covering Nowitzki: primary defense from everybody from Antonio McDyess to Matt Bonner to Richard Jefferson to George Hill, double teams galore, and anything and everything San Antonio can muster to get the ball out of Dirk's hands.
I think Nowitzki will still shine. McDyess had some success against Dirk in the regular season, but I don't see him as being a particularly effective long-term matchup. Dirk has become a solid passer out of double teams over the years, and that combined with his ability to shoot over his defenders should keep him very effective.
5. Do the Spurs have enough left in the tank to get past the Mavericks and possibly get Tim Duncan his fifth ring?
Yes and no. This series is pretty much a toss-up between two very competitive teams that know each other incredibly well. San Antonio definitely has what it takes to beat Dallas, they just have to execute a little bit better than Dallas and catch a few breaks. The same goes for Dallas, really; this one is going to be very, very close, with either team capable of taking it.
The ring though is a bit trickier. The Spurs match up well with the Suns, their probably second round opponent, and better than most against the Lakers. Winning a seven-game series against a struggling LA team is far from an impossibility, and if the Spurs can keep their regular season momentum going until the conference finals, they'd have a decent shot at the final boss. That's where the dream ends, though. The Spurs would likely have Cleveland or Orlando waiting on the other side, and those two teams aren't messing around. They're not struggling, they have legitimate superstars, play great defense, and boast incredible depth. Even if the Spurs had a great run all the way to the Finals, I'm afraid they'd probably be coming home without any hardware.
The San Antonio Spurs head into this 2010 NBA playoffs with questions. Are they too old? Will Richard Jefferson pay off in the playoffs after a sub-par regular season? Is the lack of big men in the paint going to haunt them?
All these questions, and probably more, surround the team as they enter the playoffs. However, if there is one question Spurs fans can answer right away with an emphatic "yes," it's whether or not this year's team comes into the playoffs with a strong bench.
And it is the bench that will be the x-factor for the Spurs heading into the playoffs.
With the starters usually made up of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Antonio McDyess, Richard Jefferson, and Keith Bogans, the Spurs bench can arguably be a starting unit for any squad.
DeJuan Blair, Malik Hairston, Manu Ginobili, Ian Mahinmi, Roger Mason, George Hill, Garrett Temple, and Matt Bonner make for a potent second-unit that has proven itself to be the savior for the Spurs during the regular-season and a positive in an otherwise mediocre one. Some might even argue, this is the deepest bench the Spurs have ever had.
This bench has been the highest scoring bench in the NBA this season at 39.2 points per game. Granted it was against the Minnesota Timberwolves but the Spurs' reserves poured in a whopping 79 points in a 133-111 win on April 12th.
Furthermore, it was not uncommon this season to see the bench out-performing the Spurs' starters and outshining the opposing team's bench. Ask the Western Conference number one seed Los Angeles Lakers.
If one digs deeper into the stats, it reveals much more than just offensive production. The Spurs bench against the other 27 NBA team benches show they average:
Insanity! All this makes them the number one bench in the NBA.
Naysayers will point to former Sixth-Man of the Year winner Ginobili coming off the bench as the main reason for these staggering numbers. While that point might have some kernel of truth, overall the reserves are a quality mix of youth and experience.
Blair, Hill, Hairston, Mahinmi and late-comer Temple make up the young Spurs coming off the bench.
In Blair, the Spurs have an absolute brute in the paint. Though small in stature, his wingspan, toughness, strength, knack for grabbing massive rebounds, and ability to finish around the rim more than makes up for the lack of height and ACLs. Might want to ask the Dallas Mavericks in the final regular-season game what Blair is capable of doing. In case you forget Mavericks, Blair pumped in 27 points and 23 rebounds.
Hill, though just in his second season, looks more like he is in his fifth NBA season. What a turnaround for this young Spur. He started his NBA career having a miserable performance in the 2008 Las Vegas summer league to now being Spurs' coach Popovich favorite player.
Hill's production for the Spurs from last year to this year has been astounding. He went from averaging 5.7 points last season to 12.4 this season. Shooting from 40% to 47%. Averaging 1.8 assists to 2.9 assists and shooting 32% to 40% from the three-point line this season.
But more importantly, he displayed poise and maturity when he stepped in admirably for starting point-guard Tony Parker, when Parker suffered a hand injury late in the regular season. He steadied the ship and ran the team like a veteran of 12 years in the NBA.
Hairston, Mahinmi and Temple round out the youngsters. They provide athleticism, energy and the "unknown" for any opposing team. Hairston can give the defense a boost, Mahinmi can contribute on both ends of the floor (if he doesn't foul out in an instant) while Temple has shown he can step in at a moments notice to run the point for the Spurs and make a significant contribution.
The experience off the bench comes from Ginobili, Bonner, Mason.
To say Ginobili has been on a tear of late would be an understatement. Since the All-Star break he has been averaging 22 points a game, shouldering the load for the team, proving his worth to the franchise and has been more vocal on the court with teammates. He has been the Spurs' MVP for the second-half of the regular season and now with a new contract extension making him a Spur for another three years, Ginobili is ready to win.
Bonner and Mason will provide the team with outside shooting but must prove they can contribute when it matters. During the 2008-2009 NBA season, both showed their value to the team during the regular season. Bonner against the Boston Celtics in Boston and Mason showed how clutch he can be against the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. But all this didn't matter as they disappeared in the 2009 NBA Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks.
Fast forward to this season and Bonner has added a running-hook shot to his repitoire and Mason is still deadly from the three-point arch.
Nevertheless, they both are poised to make opposing team defenses pay if they leave them wide open for a shot.
As you can see, this commanding mix of youth and experience is the x-factor for the Spurs in this playoff run. It doesn't matter which team the Spurs face in the first-round. With a bench like this, it should make the opposing coaching staff rethink their approach to the series.
But in the end, if the team wants to advance beyond the first-round, the supporting cast must maintain its level of excellence it displayed throughout the regular-season.
(Photo of Roger Mason/CH/Project Spurs)
At 7PM, central time, on TNT the Spurs will tip off game one of their opening round match up versus the Dallas Mavericks. As a proper Spurs fan we wouldn't expect you to watch any other game in place of this one, if you had to choose only one. Thankfully, the profit minded folks at ABC, ESPN, Turner Broadcasting, and the National Association of Basketball don't want you to choose just one. Playoff games are like Pringles or Ambien – you can't have just one.
So this weekend, and for the duration of the first round, we encourage you to watch basketball, lots of basketball, and not just Spurs basketball. If anything, consider it this way: if the Spurs advance, you will want to know how their next opponent has been playing. Therefore, as something of a PS, PSA, we're bringing you a break down of the other Western Conference first round playoff match ups.
Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (8)
Game One: Sunday, 2PM – ABC
This series is about Kevin Durant. Durant is the best pure scorer I've seen step on a basketball court since the 2001 Allen Iverson, and as such, every time he takes the floor the game becomes about him. Fortunately for the Lakers, they are equipped to slow him down. Ron Artest is a premier defender, so versatile that we've had to shed the “perimeter” from his “defender” title because he can guard anybody at any position. A combination of Artest and Lamar Odom may slow Durant considerably, depending on how well the third-year player, and league leading scorer, rises to the postseason pressure.
The Lakers will capitalize on their superior presence inside with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, and utilize their length to disrupt Durant. This series will be closer than people anticipate; Durant is deadly, and for however much hype he's associated with, he's still underestimated. The Thunder will steal two games, but the Lakers will prevail in a 4-2 series win.
Phoenix Suns (3) vs. Portland Trailblazers (6)
Game One: Sunday, 9:30PM – TNT
Never underestimate the sports media's ability to bluster erudite punditry on matters which they hold no significant expertise. Brandon Roy has a torn meniscus in his right knee and that means he will not play basketball well – period. I laughed when I heard Roy was planning on playing through his injury because the doctor told him, “it can't make it any worse.” That's like gleefully attempting to reach the opposite end of a pitch black room because you can't make your inability to see any worse; you're still going to have a bitch of a time getting where you want to go.
First, a torn meniscus is painful, and it's not the type of pain that you can ignore. It will affect him. Second, a tear of the menisci affects mobility and flexibility in knee. Even if Roy is fine toughing out the pain and discomfort (which I'm sure he is), that knee simply won't do what he wants it to all the time. It will affect his effectiveness.
With a healthy Roy, I would have given the Blazers a solid chance for an upset, but their offense identity resides with Roy. There aren't a lot of options for the Blazers offensively without Roy to create his own shot. Andre Miller will try to pick up some slack, and so will LaMarcus Aldridge, but a hampered Blazers offense will not be able to keep up with high scoring tempo team like Phoenix. Suns win the series convincingly in five games.
Denver Nuggets (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)
Game One: Saturday, 9:30PM – ESPN
The Nuggets and Jazz have identical regular season records (53-29), separated by a tie-breaker (held by Denver). They're evenly matched. It's possible lingering injuries to Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko may prove more severe than we thought and tilt the series, but right now it looks like this is going to be one of the closer first-round match-ups.
Carmelo Anthony is the best player in the series and I expect him to wreck shop all over Utahover the course of a long series. Anthony can score from all over the court, and exploit multiple types of defenders; there's simply no one for the Jazz who can check him effectively and if he gets off on one-too-many big games it could spell defeat for Utah.
I'm also a big fan of Chauncey Billups in the playoffs. At least once, if not more than that, he will win a game in the closing moments for Denver. If this series comes down to a deciding game, Utah had better make sure the ball is not in his hands with the clock winding down.
With all that love for Denver out of the way – here's the truth: the Nuggets went 8-7 over their last 15 games and endured a stretch where they lost 6 of 7 games, which is largely why they dropped from near the top of the conference to the fourth seed. They are inherently a jump shooting team that forgets about Nene and Camby down low far too often, and at times they're a jump shooting team lacking ball movement, leading to low percentage shots.The unfortunate reality for Utah is that Kirilenko will be out for two weeks with a strained left calf, and Carlos Boozer is a game-time decision for game one with a strained right oblique. That limits their defensive options on the frontline, and against Carmelo (AK typically a guy who would check 'Melo). This was going to be a tight series no matter what, and I hate to see it come down to injuy, but with Kirilenko out and Boozer clearly affected in a significant way by his injury, I think the Nuggets will outlast Utah in a tough seven game series. Denver wins.
Just minutes after it had been confirmed that the Spurs would be playing the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, I got a chance to interview fans of both teams that gathered at a local sports bar.
They talked about their predictions of the series, the x-factor for both teams and they also had a little back and forth of their own.
Representing Spurs fans were Project Spurs' own Lance Fell and Jeff Cerda.
With the San Antonio Spurs facing the Dallas Mavericks in the first-round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, who better to turn to than Brian Cuban, brother of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, to discuss the upcoming series between these two old rivals.
Aside from talking Spurs vs. Mavericks, Brian also runs The Cuban Revolution. A site where you can enjoy many topics and opinions on what's in the news around the world. I'm proud to say I've been interviewed for The Cuban Revolution. The site is a MUST visit!
Brian is also coming out with a new book titled "You Don't Say" The First Amendment and Hate Speech in Social Media. Keep checking his site for details on the release date.
And now for the nitty-gritty.
It's the Spurs versus the Mavericks once again! This rivalry is intense. From pushing-and-shoving, to heartbreaking losses for both teams, Spurs and Mavericks fans know to expect the unexpected anytime these two teams tangle in the playoffs.
So without further adieu, here is the Q&A with Brian Cuban:
JG: Another post-season begins in the NBA and another Spurs vs. Mavericks match-up. The Mavericks come into the match-up with the Spurs riding a win against them in the final game of the regular-season and thus taking the season series 3-1. How much of a factor is that for Dallas?
BC: I don't think its a factor at all. The playoffs are a different style of win or go home basketball, all bets are off.
JG: Spurs rookie, DeJuan Blair put up some impressive numbers in the final regular-season game against Dallas. In case you forgot, he finished with 27 points and 23 rebounds. How will Dallas adjust in game one?
BC: Being a graduate of Pitt I am a huge fan of DeJuan Blair. Obviously we are going have to deal with him but it remains to be seen how many minutes he actually gets in the playoffs.
JG: Sure Dallas beat San Antonio in the final game but it was a win without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and George Hill sat for the rest of the game after tweaking his ankle. What can Dallas take away from that heading into the playoffs?
BC: I don't think we take anything away from it. Even if we had beat them at full strength the playoffs are a different animal.
JG: What are your keys to the game for Dallas to beat San Antonio in this series and can the Mavericks make it to the NBA Finals?
BC: Tim is going to get his double-double. I think the key will be putting pressure on Parker and not letting Ginobili get to many easy 3's. We need to slow him down. We also can not let the Spurs bench eat us alive. The West is so balanced this year the Mavs have a good a chance as anyone to make it to the finals.
JG: This will be yet another chapter in the long history of this rivalry between Dallas and San Antonio. What are some of your fondest memories of this rivalry?
BC: There are so many great match-ups. From a Mavs fan standpoint it would have to be Game 7 of the 2006 playoffs against the Spurs. 119-111 OT win sending us to the WC finals for the 1st time.
Thanks to Brian for taking time to do this Q&A. Oh and Project Spurs has a bet with Brian on this series. Whichever team advances, the loser has to put up a banner of the winners site on our respective blog. Yeah . . . uhhhhh . . . go Spurs go!
Expectations. Never before had the expectations for the San Antonio Spurs been so high. The feeling around the Alamo city was championship or bust, and rightfully so. The Spurs had one of their best offseason in recent memory, and it seemed like nothing, except the Los Angeles Lakers, could derail the Silver and Black train from returning to the NBA Finals. All of these expectations, of course, started on June 23, 2009, when the Spurs acquired Richard Jefferson from the Milwaukee Bucks for Fabricio Oberto, Kurt Thomas and Spurs favorite Bruce Bowen.
To say we Spurs fans were excited when the Jefferson deal went through is an understatement. Spurs G.M. R.C. Buford had done it again, bringing in a career 17 points, 5 rebounds a game guy, with the ability to work off the dribble and defend. Taking on his huge contract showed the entire league, we can still contend for a ring, no matter how old the media says we are. Christmas came early to the City of San Antonio.
However, the "Jefferson Experiment" didn’t turn out like we all had hoped. This season, Jefferson had his lowest points per game average since his rookie season in New Jersey with 12.3 points per contest. It seemed at times Jefferson was just unwilling to take over when we needed him to. He would shy away from wide open shots, and never appeared to be comfortable when he was on the court. And the season, much like the Jefferson trade, didn’t turn out like we Spurs fans had anticipated.
This season had more ups and downs then a drive through the Texas Hill Country. The Spurs had three-three game losing streaks. Unheard of in the Tim Duncan era. They also lost back-to-back games four times this season. And even when the Spurs play great basketball and beat the Thunder, Lakers, Cavaliers, Celtics and Magic in a two week span, they lose to the one of the worst NBA teams of all-time, the New Jersey Nets. But the Spurs did have their share of winning streaks. They had two-five game winning streaks, as well as three-four game winning streaks.
Injuries played a huge role in the Spurs inconsistencies throughout the season. It seemed like every Spurs player dealt with some kind of injury or sickness, and because of the injuries, the Spurs second unit ended up being a revolving door for D-League players. Malik Hairston and Garrett Temple are just two of what seemed like hundreds of D-League players that played for the Spurs this season. However, one bright spot shined through all the injuries, and his name is George Hill.
The second year guard from Indiana University-Purdue University Indiana had a breakout season averaging 12.4 points a game. His commitment to both ends of the court made him coach Gregg Popovich’s new favorite player, and he has quickly become a fan favorite in San Antonio. Hill played extremely well starting for the injured Tony Parker, leaving some to think the Spurs should continue to start him in the playoffs. But Hill’s not the only young gun make a name for himself in a Silver and Black jersey.
Enter the rookie straight out of Pittsburg, DeJuan Blair. Once projected as a lottery pick, Blair fell out of the first round and into the lap of Buford who was salivating at the thought of landing such a physical player. Blair fit into Pop’s system right away, showing a natural ability for crashing the glass. Blair averaged 7.8 points and 6.4 rebound per contest this season, including 2.4 offensive boards a game. On January 13, he was the first rookie since, wait for it, Tim Duncan to have a 20/20 game with 28 points and 21 rebounds. He was the only player to suit for all 82 games this season.
One question, that seemed to plague the Spurs all season long, was about the future of Manu Ginobili with the San Antonio Spurs. Well that question was answered with a three year, nearly 38.9 million dollar contract extension. Ginobili is averaging 16.5 points and nearly five assist a game this season. His body appears to be at full strength and he is back to playing "Manu" basketball. He recently dropped 43 points on one of the better defensive teams in the league, the Orlando Magic.
Scoring, for once, is not the problem with this Spurs roster. Last season, there were stretches where it seemed like the Spurs couldn’t buy a bucket. But this season the Spurs are putting up points, and lots of them. They are averaging over 100 points a game for the first time since the ’95-’96 season under coach Bob Hill. But it’s their defense, the thing they take their most pride in, that has been in question all season long. For the first time since the disastrous ’96-’97 season, the Spurs aren’t ranked in the top five in defense.
This article, however, is only a recap of the first season. We Spurs purist know that the first season is just a warm up to get ready for the second season; the Playoffs. This might be the first time we are on the bottom half of the playoff bracket since Timmy joined, but believe this, the Spurs, like the City of San Antonio, will never give in without a fight. They will continue to give us, the Spurs fans, everything they have. And maybe, just maybe, they can pull off the unthinkable.