In my first post I’m gonna take a look at the Western Conference Playoff picture, dissecting the Spurs Mavericks series first.
Five years ago we may have expected a Spurs vs. Mavericks opening round series to be an instant classic, but I don’t think that will be the case this year. This time of year the last few years the Spurs are usually playing like a well-oiled machine, and that’s really no different this year. They entered the playoffs after a 4-4 April, and an undefeated (!) March. I wouldn’t worry too much about that last stretch, as everyone knows Coach Popovich is the best in the game at maintaining his players’ minutes and health.
The Mavericks, coming into the playoffs having won 7 of their last 10, aren’t the Mavericks of old. They were perennial contenders, led by an all time great in Dirk Nowitzki, but gutted their team after their 2011 championship with dreams of landing Dwight Howard and/or Deron Williams. They haven’t recovered since failing to land those guys and signing Chris Kaman and Elton Brand as consolation prizes. This past offseason the team signed Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, and while not flashy moves, they both had solid seasons for the Mavs. I don’t think this current group will succeed much long term, but they’ve done enough to make the playoffs in the Western Conference, an achievement nonetheless.
I think this is just a bad match up for the Mavs. I have utmost respect for Dirk, who is still a 20 point scorer into his mid thirties, and I think it’s amazing how Vince Carter has reinvented himself to be a solid role player at 37 when it looked like he was totally done with the Magic. To me this is just more about the Spurs. They have six players who averaged double figures in scoring this season, with no one averaging 30 minutes per game. They led the NBA as a team in assists per game, despite not having a player averaging even 6. This is the type of balance that the Spurs have trademarked the last few years, allowing the great Tim Duncan to age gracefully and still average nearly a double double at age 37. Players like Danny Green and Patty Mills are given up on by other teams, only to thrive with the Spurs. I think they’ve gotten the hang of this winning thing, and that should continue against the Mavs.