By Brad Young
**No. 3 San Antonio vs. No. 6 Dallas**
Series Price: San Antonio -200 Dallas +160
Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Skinny: Familiarity will be the name of the game in the first-round playoff series between Dallas and San Antonio. These two Southwest Division rivals have met three times in the playoffs this decade. The Spurs have won this series twice, while the Mavericks lone victory in this postseason series occurred in 2006 that resulted in their lone trip to the NBA Finals.
The 3-6 playoff seedings means the winner of this series will not have to worry about a potential matchup with top-seeded Los Angeles until the Western Conference Finals. The Dallas-San Antonio winner will face the Denver-New Orleans winner in the second round.
The Western Conference standings were so tightly contested that second-seeded Denver, third-seeded San Antonio and fourth-seeded Portland finished the regular season with identical 54-28 records. Tiebreakers were then used to properly seed the teams. Fifth-seed Houston (53-29) finished just a game off the pace set by the Nuggets, Spurs and Blazers, while Dallas (50-32) was four games behind. What that means is the Western Conference playoffs involving the 2-7, 3-6 and 4-5 matchups should be very evenly matched.
San Antonio has the longest current playoff streak in the NBA by appearing in its 12th straight postseason. The Spurs won the first of their four league titles during the 1999 campaign. Tim Duncan has never dropped a first-round series in his decorated career, and is presently tied with Phoenix center Shaquille O’Neal for most titles by an active player (four).
Dallas has the second longest consecutive postseason streak at nine years. Point guard Jason Kidd has appeared in the playoffs the previous 13 years (tied for the longest current streak), advancing to the postseason with Phoenix and New Jersey.
Gambling Notes: Dallas and San Antonio split their four-game series this year straight up and against the spread, with the ‘over/under’ also going 2-2. Both teams had a hard time covering the number on their home court, with the Mavericks going 32-9 SU and 19-22 ATS at home while the Spurs were 28-13 SU and 15-23 ATS.
Ironically, both squads were better ATS when playing on the road. Dallas was just 18-23 SU away from home, but 21-20 ATS. The ‘under’ went 26-15 in those 41 games. San Antonio went a solid 26-15 SU and 22-18 ATS on the road, with the ‘under’ going 23-17.
Outlook: Dallas and San Antonio know each other very well, playing each other four times during the regular season. These two teams also have a playoff history against one another, facing each other three times the past decade. There is plenty of bad blood in this rivalry.
One of the best head-to-head matchups in this series figures to be the point-guard battle between the Mavs’ Jason Kidd and the Spurs’ Tony Parker. Kidd struggled last season against New Orleans and point guard Chris Paul, and faces another tough task in this matchup. Even though Kidd is getting older, he did finish the regular season with a triple-double.
Parker has really picked up the slack for the Spurs, and they will need him to continue his high-level of play if San Antonio is going to reach the second round of the playoffs. San Antonio has really missed the services of backcourt-mate Manu Ginobili, while power forward/center Tim Duncan continues to be hampered by knee problems.
Dallas enters the postseason as one of the leagues’ hottest teams, moving from the eighth and last seed to sixth after winning seven of its last nine outings. The Mavericks were ousted from the NBA Playoffs in the opening round the last two seasons, but expect them to prevail in a memorable six-game series against the Spurs.
Future Bets: The series price has remained constant since being released. San Antonio remains a $2.00 ‘chalk’ to advance to the next round, while Dallas has been deemed the $1.60 underdog.
Both teams have seen their future odds for winning the NBA Championship plummet since the start of the season. San Antonio opened as a 7/1 selection to capture its fifth title, but has since slipped to 18/1. Dallas opened as a 15/1 selection to win its first championship, but has since dropped to 30/1.
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