Playoffs Underway: Spurs/Mavs First Round Match Up
The playoffs are underway, and the Spurs have locked themselves into the third seed in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for San Antonio, they will have to do battle for the rest of the year without Manu Ginobili. The Argentine star injured his ankle again, relegating him to the bench for the course of the playoffs, and perhaps longer. The Spurs will take on a familiar foe in the first round as they are matched up against the Dallas Mavs. The Spurs will have home court advantage for the series, and will likely need it against their in-state, division rival.
The Spurs almost dropped to the fifth seed, but a last second shot by Michal Finley against the Hornets, preserved their third seed slot. Had that shot not gone down, San Antonio would have had to start the playoffs on the road against Denver.
San Antonio was without Ginobili's services for the last couple of weeks of the regular season, but still managed to put together a four game winning streak to top off a good overall regular season, and a 54-28 record. In what was a tight, year-long division battle, the Spurs managed to win the Southwest by one game over the Houston Rockets. The Dallas Mavericks were only four games out of first, finishing in third.
The first seed in the West went to the LA Lakers, who finished the season with a 65-17 record. The Nuggets got the second seed in the West, even though they matched the Spurs' record.
The Spurs and Mavs are old rivals, and there shouldn't be any surprises for either team in this series. In 2006, both teams were 60 win clubs, and played a 7 game series in the semifinals. The Mavs won, and ended up losing to Miami in the finals. Since then, the Mavs haven't made it out of the first round, while the Spurs won the title in 2007.
Many sportswriters and commentators are writing off the Spurs due to Ginobili's injury, but if astrology and time have anything to do with it, this season could be the Spurs'. San Antonio has won each of its championships in odd-numbered years, and fans hope that luck and chance are on their side again this time.
Even without Ginobili, the Spurs are a tough out for any team, but it goes without saying that the Argentine superstar will be missed. The Spurs were 32-12 with him, and 22-16 without him in the lineup. However, San Antonio's defense is as good as anyone's in the league, and Duncan and Parker are as good a tandem as anyone has.
Duncan has slowed a bit from his peak, but he's still capable of scoring as many points as needed and grabbing double digit rebounds. Parker is in his prime, or possibly has yet to reach it, and can score 30 a night, and dish out double digit rebounds. The Spurs have added more depth this year than they have had in past seasons with Drew Gooden able to give quality minutes. Kurt Thomas is a big body with lots of playoff savvy.
In short, the Spurs certainly have their work cut out for them in this year's post-season, and it will certainly be an uphill climb without Ginobili. His scoring, energy, and defensive prowess will sorely be missed. Still, the team has played through adversity many times before, and should almost be used to playing without one of their stars. For large stretches during the last two seasons, either Ginobili, Duncan, or Parker missed a good amount of time, forcing other players to step up and pick up the slack. During these times, the team didn't fold, and managed to come up with several big wins.
In order to make a similar run in this year's post-season, the team will have to find the same kind of inner strength, and some role players will need to perform at a high level.