The Spurs once again rolled through the regular season and will begin another push to try to secure a 5th title. Dallas slid into the 8th seed and this unfavorable matchup thanks to a loss in the last game of the regular season to the Memphis Grizzlies. Now they have the daunting task of facing a juggernaut that sported the league’s 4th best defense and 6th best offense in the regular season.
San Antonio has basically turned into an unstoppable collective at this point. Not one player on the roster averaged more than 30 minutes per game, and they kept winning even as several key players missed games. Now everyone is healthy and ready to go.
Increased minutes are expected for the starters and Manu Ginobili now that the playoffs are here, but the role players are also well adapted to playing the now-classic Spurs style offense – slash and kick with crisp ball movement and spacing, resulting in a ton of layups and corner threes. They’ve even managed to do this in recent years without having to lean on flawed specialists like Matt Bonner to open up the offense, and everyone contributes on the other end as well. Simply put, these guys are good.
Dallas’s defensive personnel doesn’t match up very well to the Spurs, and the weaknesses are most glaring on the perimeter. Jose Calderon may be an excellent shooter, but he is going to be blistered by Tony Parker if they are matched up across from one another. Rick Carlisle knows this, and will likely try to find some innovative ways to hide Calderon’s weaknesses when he is on the floor. Unfortunately, his backcourt mate, Monta Ellis, isn’t exactly a stopper, so expect to see some strategic zones to try to slow the San Antonio attack. Devin Harris may also see significant time on the floor against Parker.
When Parker hits the bench Ginobili will take the reins of the offense, but Patty Mills will see a lot of time as well, and the Australian speedster is going to give the Dallas defense fits. Shawn Marion has lost a few steps to age, but he may get some spot duty on the point guards if things start getting out of hand.
The Mavs will hope to keep the games close using their powerful offense. As it has for years, it all starts with Dirk Nowitzki. He has a ton of ways to score, and will stretch Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter away from the basket. Pop could avoid this by slotting Kawhi Leonard or Boris Diaw on Nowitzki, but he will get his points either way. Dirk can get a shot off over anyone and his presence in the pick and pop will cause the Spurs to abandon some of their typical principles. He can force the big defender to pay too little attention to Ellis or Calderon, and they will be able to feast on the extra space.
San Antonio will also need to watch Dirk in transition, where teams still lose him as he trails the play. He winds up with a lot of open threes this way, but the Spurs are unlikely to lose him as much as most teams.
When Harris has been on the floor he has unleashed an extra gear to the offense, and there’s a lot of firepower available off the Dallas bench – Vince Carter is an excellent shooter and Brandan Wright offers elite finishing to take advantage of the spacing the shooters provide. The plethora of weapons and Carlisle’s coaching propelled the offense to a tie for 2nd (with the Heat) in offensive efficiency.
The Mavs sport the worst defensive efficiency marks of any team in the postseason, however, and that will be the difference in this series. The Spurs took each of the four regular season meetings between these two, and while Dallas can steal a game or two with its stellar offense, only injuries or ridiculous luck are going to stop the San Antonio Basketball Collective from rolling into the next round.