SUNDAY APRIL 18, 2010 – San Antonio Spurs vs Dallas Mavericks
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Dallas: 55-27 SU – (36-44-2 ATS)
San Antonio: 50-32 SU – (44-37-1 ATS)
This isn’t Gregg Popovich’s first rodeo. He has enough championship rings to weigh down one hand, and as he takes his Spurs into the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, he knows that he has some work to do.
Matchup: SPURS vs. MAVERICKS
Time: Sunday 8:00 ET
Venue: American Airlines Center, Dallas
Spread: Mavericks -4.5
Popovich long since stopped caring about home court advantage in any playoff round, and the Spurs’ mediocre 2-3 finish to the regular season meant that they would enter the post-season tied with Oklahoma City for the fewest victories of any team in the Western Conference.
What concerns the 4-time champions are re-integrating point guard Tony Parker into the lineup and keeping Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan healthy enough to play 35-40 effective minutes a night. Home-court edge, in Popovich’s view, can take a hike.
The Spurs were admittedly not at their best last season in the opening-round series against the Mavs when the bench sucked eggs in Games 1 and 4, Duncan was held to 4 points in a loss in Game 3, and Parker was the only effective player on the court.
The Mavericks got better balance and laughed their way to a 4-1 series win, leaving Popovich to stew in his juices and snap at the media.
Dallas’ front-liners are getting a little long in the tooth themselves, but the mid-season trade that brought Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood has relieved much of the pressure from Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, and created more options for PG Jason Kidd.
Spurs vs. Mavs Free NBA Prediction
Spurs the play here at +4.5.
Last season Game 1 in this series easily went over, the teams combining for 202 points off a 187 O/U. This year the number is significantly higher, and with two veteran teams it doesn’t seem to make sense for either to push the ball and expend a lot of energy. (Dallas went balls to the wall in the first round last year but had no petrol left for the Denver series. Kidd was wasted and was dominated by Chauncey Billups.)
With several days to prepare, Popovich gets the coaching edge over Rick Carlisle.
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Lawrence Paul is a regular contributor to the Cappers Picks Blog, and is a free-lance gambling and travel expert from Massachusetts.