NBA Playoffs Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs


I love a good stat and my first one has some juice to it. The San Antonio Spurs have won at least 50 regular season games in 16 of their last 17 seasons. Pretty good, right? Here’s the juice though: the only season in that span where they failed to reach 50 regular season wins, they went 15-2 in the postseason en route to the franchise’s first ever NBA championship. Yes, it was a strike shortened season (1998-99) but it still does a good job of hammering home just how dominant these guys are. There is nothing Showtime Lakers about this 2014 Spurs team, but rest assured, they are on a mission this postseason to cement themselves as one of the best franchises in NBA History. Step one was their 62-win regular season. Step two? An NBA championship.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves making it out of the Western Conference’s Southwest Division by the skin of their teeth. By no means is this a slam, though, as the Southwest Division produced half of the Western Conference’s NBA playoffs teams. The Mavs have been battle tested all year long. But the Spurs will demand the best out of you each and every game. Fundamentally, the Mavs are nowhere near the same arena as the Spurs. Talent wise? They measure up. Dirk put in another Dirk-like season, hinting that the 15-year veteran might be going to the same witch doctor the Spurs use to maintain elite physical play. Throw in an uber-talented Monta Ellis with a few role-players-with-cool-nicknames like Vinsanity and The Matrix, and you find a very solid roster.


Key to the Series


  • Be the Spurs, that’s it. This sounds like a copout answer with no more insightful analysis than my 3-year-old chocolate lab can provide, but it rings truer and truer each playoffs. If they play the fundamental type game they can play, no one can keep up with the Spurs. Every mistake you make is magnified and capitalized on when you play these guys. They aren’t superbly flashly (except when Tony Parker decides to take last second, game-winning barrel-roll shots) and they take pride in that. The Spurs will let you have your tomahawk dunks and no-look passes, because their game plan of 15-foot bank shots and an abundance of pass deflections usually leads to a 15 point halftime lead. Their play is as direct and simple minded as a Popovich 3rd quarter interview. And it works.


  • Limit turnovers. Dallas did a great job avoiding turnovers all season, finishing in the top five for fewest turnovers per game. With the Spurs lurking around every corner for careless passes and ill-advised lobs, you can guarantee they will make you pay for giving up the ball so easily. If Dallas is able to keep possession, that will go a long way toward staying in the series.
  • Shot selection. Another category where Dallas excelled was field goal percentage. The Clippers, Spurs, and Heat were the only teams that shot better from the field than the Mavs, and of those, only the Spurs were more accurate from beyond the arc. The Spurs will bait you into taking poor shots. If the Mavs can make the Spurs work a full 15-20 seconds each possession instead of letting them off the hook with a contested fadeaway, then they have a shot at putting a dent in the Spurs’ game plan. It may not be a big enough dent to alter the Spurs’ title, but it’s the only hope.



Patty Mills – The main unknown for the Spurs at this point is on those rare series of possessions where Parker, Duncan, and Ginobli are not producing, who’s going to step up? It seems the Spurs keep a stable full of potential ready and call on a name every so often to join their Elite three, and this series, the 4th-year man out of Saint Mary’s will provide a very welcomed lift from the bench.



{The doctor walks into the waiting room and addresses Mrs. Popovich}

DOCTOR: It doesn’t look good. He can’t stop winning games. If we can’t get him to lose this playoff series, he may NEVER stop making deep playoff runs.

MRS. POPOVICH: What! How can this be? His star players have been in the league since the ’90s and surely have to show signs of slowing down? Or perhaps he could play the bench players more?? That HAS to help doctor!

DOCTOR: You don’t get it. He could take the Miami Heat to 6 games with my 8-year-old daughter’s rec team. He’s become an institution that purely produces wins. My nurse tried to give him an IV and 10 minutes later she got a call from the league front office saying she made the NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team. I’d prepare for the worst…

{Mrs. Popovich throws her head into her lap crying}

End Scene

Spurs in 4. The Institution formerly known as Gregg Popovich grows stronger.

About the author: Riley Young