PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; Game 1.
The top-seeded Spurs and No. 4 Mavericks meet at the AT&T Center for Game 1 in a matchup of Southwest Division rivals and 60-win teams.
San Antonio went 63-19 to finish three games ahead of Dallas for the conference title, dropping the Mavericks to fourth behind division winners Phoenix and Denver, neither of which had a better record than Dallas.
The Spurs, though, struggled at times in the opening round. After taking a 2-0 series lead, San Antonio lost both games at Sacramento, including an 18-point defeat in Game 4, but rebounded to win the last two.
The Spurs finished off the Kings with a 105-83 rout on Friday night, giving them only one day before facing the Mavericks—who have been off since completing a sweep of Memphis on Monday.
“We’re going to play (Dallas) in about 20 minutes,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’re going to try to get together and do a little scouting we just hope the game doesn’t get moved to 8 a.m.”
The Spurs advanced to the second round for the sixth consecutive season, but fatigue could be a concern, particularly with one of their top players battling injury problems. San Antonio’s Tony Parker scored a playoff career-high 31 points Friday, then left the game in the fourth quarter to give his strained and bruised right leg a break. He returned quickly, though, and helped keep the Kings from getting closer than 14 points.
“You can go into (the next series) too rested or too tired, I’m not sure which one is better,” Popovich said. “I think Dallas has been out longer than (coach) Avery (Johnson) would like.”
Popovich and the Spurs will get the chance to find out, as the Mavericks will have had nearly a week off after completing an impressive sweep of the Grizzlies, the first in a best-of-seven series in Dallas franchise history.
The Mavs, who became one of the league’s better defensive teams this season under current coach and former Spurs guard Johnson, held the Grizzlies to 84.3 points per game. Dallas won three of the four contests by double digits and capped the series victory with a 102-76 rout in the finale Monday.
“We can’t let the first round fool us,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We haven’t really accomplished anything.
“Ultimately, our goal, my goal, is to take this team to a championship level. The first round means nothing if we lose in the second round.”
Nowitzki scored more than 30 points in each of the first three games of the Memphis series. He reached the 30-point mark just once in 13 playoff games last season.
“I felt like my all-around game could’ve been better,” Nowitzki said of the first round. “Hopefully my all-around game can keep getting better and I can carry it over until the next round.”
Nowitzki averaged 25.3 points against the Spurs in the regular season, although he tied a season low with 14 points on 3-of-13 shooting in the Mavericks’ 92-90 loss Dec. 1.
Spurs star Tim Duncan had a solid series against Sacramento, averaging 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds and shooting 61 percent from the field, and will look to improve his performance against the Mavs. Duncan averaged 14.8 points on 40.0 percent shooting against Dallas in the four regular-season meetings, although he pulled down 10.3 rebounds per contest. Duncan averaged 18.6 points and 11.0 boards during the regular season.
The Mavericks have advanced to the second round of the playoffs five of the past six seasons, but have only reached the conference finals twice in their 26-year history. The last time it happened was in 2003, when the Mavs lost to the Spurs in six games.
San Antonio won the only other postseason meeting with Dallas, defeating the Mavs in five games in the second round in 2001.
The Mavericks snapped a four-game losing streak at San Antonio with a 92-86 win April 7. Dallas is 2-4 in the playoffs at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio and the Mavericks split the regular-season series, but the Spurs have won six of the last nine regular-season meetings.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Mavericks - Nowitzki, 31.3 ppg; Erick Dampier, 8.8 rpg; Terry, 5.5 apg. Spurs - Parker, 22.2 ppg and 4.7 apg; Duncan, 9.2 rpg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: 2-2. Each team won once on the road. The Mavericks recorded the most lopsided win in the series with a 103-84 home win Nov. 5. Parker averaged 21.8 points on 53.6 percent shooting for the Spurs.