Texas' sibling rivalry showdown
No. 7 San Antonio Spurs (50-31) at No. 2 Dallas Mavericks (54-27)
The race to the hardware begins Sunday night, when the Mavs host the Spurs at the American Airlines Center in Game 1 of the opening round series.
"This is what you play for all season long and it's a familiar opponent," sixth man Jason Terry said of the matchup. "For us, it's all about us. San Antonio is a great team. They're big brother, we're little brother. They have the rings, we don't. Our focus is on 16 wins, regardless of who we have to face."
Despite Terry's humbleness, Dallas is not intimidated by San Antonio's four championship rings. The Mavs have a 3-1 season series edge and last year's 4-1 first-round series win over the Spurs to reassure the ball club from Big D. Recent history and a comfort level against a team the Mavs see four times a season definitely gives Dallas an extra sense of confidence.
"We're looking forward to a fun playoff run, so we'll see how it goes," forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "We know (the Spurs) are tough...They're going to be a tough matchup for us, but we're going to be prepared."
As with anytime you match up against the Spurs, being prepared translates into being ready to contain the "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. It is a challenge the Mavs are ready to face head on.
"We want to try to make it as tough as we can on all of them," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's difficult, though, it's challenging. We've got coverages for each one of their main guys. The thing is, we don't want to allow any of their big three to get going. But when they have three great players like that, and great balance, it's very challenging."
"They've got a Hall of Famer in Tim Duncan and two All-Stars that can take over the game at any time. We know the threat that they pose. For us, it's all about coming out consistent, offensively and defensively, and executing our game plan...It's always a hard challenge with the weapons they have over there," Terry added.
But next to the three potent players are two other threats that are sure to grab the Mavs' attention during the series.
Spurs guard George Hill stepped in and produced when Parker missed time with nagging injuries during the regular season. Now, it's Hill that is battling an ankle injury, though the cat-quick guard is still expected to play.
"George Hill has had a phenomenal season. He's played well. He's had to step up, and they wouldn't be in the position they're in without the play of George Hill," Terry said. "Him being out there gives them an added weapon that we have to pay attention to."
The Mavs will also pay close attention to the "walking double-double," DeJuan Blair, when he enters the game. In the regular season finale, Dallas' 96-89 win on Wednesday night, Blair's 27 points and 23 rebounds caused great concern for Carlisle's crew.
"Blair made a case that he should be playing a lot in this series...I would like to see us do a better job on him, but these are numbers he is capable of," the coach said.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks will look to return to the offensive explosiveness that was on display during the team's five-game win streak to end the regular season. If the Mavs can duplicate that success, they believe it will be a long postseason run.
"We want to have fun and take (the regular season) experience and use it for our run in the playoffs," Shawn Marion said in anticipation for Game 1. "I am excited for what will happen with our team."
In a two-versus-seven matchup, the Mavericks will look to take a quick advantage in the series by winning on their home court in the first two games. Game 1 of the opening round series will air nationally Sunday night on TNT and locally on KTXA and KTXA HD at 7 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
"This is a big battle in Texas. Two big Texas teams going head to head...The regular season is over with and the second season is about to start. That's what it's about," Marion said.
Note: The Mavs-Spurs First Round series schedule is as follows:
Game 1 – Sun April 18 San Antonio at Dallas 7:00PM TXA21/ TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 21 San Antonio at Dallas 8:30PM TXA21/ TNT
Game 3 – Fri April 23 Dallas at San Antonio 8:30PM TXA21/ ESPN
Game 4 – Sun April 25 Dallas at San Antonio 6:00PM TXA21/ TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 27 San Antonio at Dallas TBD TXA21/ TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 29 Dallas at San Antonio TBD TXA21/ TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 1 San Antonio at Dallas TBD TXA21/ TNT
Mavs.com has introduces a new, interactive webcast entitled "Technical Foul," hosted by Mavs television broadcasters Mark Followill and Bob Ortegel. The second live-streamed broadcast will be Tuesday, April 20 at 12:30 p.m. CT, recapping Game 1 and previewing Game 2 of the series. Earl K. Sneed will also talk with fans and answer questions via a live chat during the show. Tune in for exclusive Mavs talk with the people that know the team the best.