The third seed San Antonio Spurs (54-28) meet the sixth seed Dallas Mavericks (50-32) in the initial round of the Western Conference playoffs. This year, the Spurs and Mavs split their four-game season series with San Antonio winning a wild 133-126 overtime contest.
In their last 10 games, the Spurs went six-and-four, winning four straight. San Antonio held opponents to 93.3 PPG, making them the top defensive club in the West and the second best defensive team in the NBA. The Spurs were good for an average of 97.0 PPG, making their PF/PA average plus-3.7. The Mavs won their final two games and went seven-and-three over 10. Dallas continues to be a run and gun club, allowing opponents to score 99.8 PPG. The Mavericks scored an average of 101.7 PPG, giving them a PF/PA average of plus-2.0.
Taking the top spot in the Southwest, the Spurs were one game better than Houston, four better than Dallas and five better than New Orleans—all of which are in the post-season. The two top players on the Spurs are point guard Tony Parker and center Tim Duncan. Parker averaged 22.0 PPG and Duncan 19.3. The point man was good for 6.9 APG and upfront Duncan grabbed 10.7 RPG. Shooting guard Manu Ginobili is good from the field 45% of the time and from downtown 33%. He’s an 88% foul shooter who averages a total of 15.5 PPG. Ginobili has quick hands, stealing an average of 1.45 balls per game. Power forward Drew Gooden, who was acquired in a trade this season, has averaged 11.9 PPG and 7.1 RPG. He hit 47% of his shots from the field and 84% of his frees. Shooting guard Roger Mason, who has appeared in all 82 games, is a 42% three-point and an 89% free throw shooter who’s good for 11.8 PPG.
The Mavericks live and die through the performance of power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki has developed a reputation as a go-to guy in the regular-season and a choke artist in the post-season. A 48% shooter from the field and 89% shooter from the charity stripe, Nowwitzki, who averaged 25.9 PPG this season, is a powerful offensive force. His 8.4 RPG are also best on the team. Three Dallas players have quick hands that aid in stealing the ball. Point guards Jason Terry and Jason Kidd are good for 1.31 and 1.98 SPG respectively. Upfront, Josh Howard, who scored an average of 18.0 PPG, grabbed 5.1 RPG and stole 1.06 balls per game. Terry averages 19.6 PPG, making him second only to Nowitzki.
Truth be told—the Dallas Mavericks possess some very able sharpshooters, but the team has developed a reputation for not being able to seal the deal and win the big game. The club certainly has a veteran presence but that also means that players are more likely to break down. This is an interesting match-up. The Spurs should win this series but I expect the Mavericks to take this first round and go into the second. Dallas will win in seven.