It’s a frying pan or fire choice — would you rather face the relentless precision of the San Antonio Spurs or Kevin Durant and the athleticism of the Thunder in the first round?
Memphis and Dallas would both rather have the Thunder, if you don’t mind. Both teams were swept by the Spurs this season. Not just swept, crushed.
The winner of the Mavericks at Dallas gets the Thunder, the loser gets San Antonio — so both teams are very motivated to win. Jeff Caplan broke down the numbers for us over at NBA.com’s Hang Time blog.
Dallas’ four losses (to San Antonio) came by an average margin of 11.5 points; Memphis by 11.3. At least the Grizzlies can claim they were without big man Marc Gasol for essentially two of those games… However, fully loaded on April 6, Memphis got trounced in San Antonio, 112-92.
For offensive-minded Dallas, San Antonio simply presents an awful matchup. The Spurs’ excellent close-out defense limits the Mavs’ 3-point attempts while their precision offense dissects Dallas’ porous defense. In the four meetings, the Spurs have attempted 31 more 3s and outscored the Mavs from beyond the arc by 54 points. In their final meeting on April 10, Tony Parker didn’t play and Patty Mills did the honors, lighting up Dallas for six 3-pointers and 26 points.
I’m not a big believer in regular season meetings as great indicators of a postseason series, just because teams evolve over the course of the season (not to mention health issues, back-to-backs and other variables). However, when one team routinely crushes another one, it’s a pretty good sign of things to come.
The Spurs would likely prefer the less physical Mavericks. San Antonio will win either series, but they’ll need fewer icepacks after a game against Dallas.
There could well be first round upsets in the West, just don’t expect the Spurs to be the victims. No matter who they play.