The Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs are meeting once again in the postseason, and while it’s certainly not on the level of those Celtics-Lakers match-ups of the '80s, it’s always indicative of some pretty good basketball.
All the ingredients are there: two dueling superstars (and, in all likelihood, future Hall of Famers), deft play off the bench and a just a little bit of malice between the two.
Again, it’s not Boston-L.A., but in the context of Texas, it might as well be.
Dallas comes in as winners of seven of their last nine, and arguably (probably) playing the best basketball they’ve played all season. The team weathered injuries and inconsistency with this late run, locking up the sixth seed in their final game.
San Antonio will enter the postseason under similar circumstances. Manu Ginobli has been on the bench since the All-Star break with something. It didn’t slow them down much, though. If not for Ginobli’s absence, this might be the best Spurs team Dallas has seen since the days of the twin towers. Some say they’re old, and that’s (at least kind of) true, but so are their neighbors up I-35.
Given the history behind the teams, this should be a barnburner of a series; no surprise there. A Dallas win will hinge on…
- Erick Dampier. Tim Duncan is getting a bit long in the tooth, but he hasn’t slowed down in any obvious manner, whatsoever (Read: The dude averaged 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds a game). Pair him, in the front court, with Drew Gooden, who has played increasingly well this season, and Kurt Thomas, and Dampier will have his hands full as long as the series lasts.
- Jason Terry. The probable Sixth Man of the Year will be crucial to Dallas’ scoring attack, especially considering that Tony Parker becomes somewhat of a juggernaut perennially around this time. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Jason Terry is the probable Sixth Man of the Year recipient for a reason.
- Dirk Nowitzki. The clichéd knock on Dirk--that he can’t play the big game--is patently false; everyone in Dallas and, presumably, most people in San Antonio already know this. But at 31 (the same age as Duncan), the window for Nowitzki is closing; he must prove he can still lead a team when the pressure is on. The smart money says that he can.
The Mavericks and Spurs will open up the series on Saturday in San Antonio at 7 p.m.