It's always special when the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs face off and Friday night should not be any different. It will be the final match-up between the in-state rivals in the regular season. Dallas has won five of the last eight regular season meetings with San Antonio, but the Spurs have won two of the last three. San Antonio is looking to take the season series 3-1 with a win at Dallas on Friday. The Mavericks won the season series 3-1 in 2009-10. The Mavericks are 3-1 in their last four match-ups with the Spurs at American Airlines Center. Dirk Nowitzki shot an impressive 12-of-14 (85.7%) from the floor en route to a team-high 26 points in the win at San Antonio on 11/26/10. That victory for the Mavericks ended the Spurs’ 12-game winning streak. The Spurs are looking to clinch the season series but it should be noted that Dirk Nowitzki did not play in the last two meetings with the Spurs due to a sprained right knee.
"It's a great rivalry, there's history there," Rick Carlisle said. "Right now, they're the best team in basketball, so this is the kind of game you get excited about." Carlisle is speaking the truth as the Spurs still have the NBA's best record at 54-13. San Antonio will not be intimidated by coming in to the American Airlines Center as they have the league's second best road record at 23-10. The Mavericks posses the league's best road record at 24-10.
Health has been the story amongst the two Texas teams. For the most part, San Antonio has maintained its health virtually all season. The Mavericks, however, have had to deal with injury concerns all season long but it appears that things are getting better in that department as the season winds down. "The NBA season is a long endeavor and you go through different stretches of it. Our last two games, even though we weren’t at full strength, were intense games and this will be the same," Carlisle said of the match-up. "We’re healthier than we were, which helps us, obviously. But it doesn’t guarantee anything unless we’re at our best."
Spurs Coach Greg Popovich's questioned Carlisle's comments on the state of the Spurs. "Is he trying to be tricky again," Popovich questioned. "He's by far the biggest exaggerator I've seen." The Spurs are a team that has developed depth over the course of the season. They have built the depth to the point where they can go eight or nine players deep in regards to playing them at least 20 minutes on a given night. San Antonio has also done a solid job in spreading the wealth amongst their big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Their ability to take over games in certain situations makes it difficult to key in on a specific player.
Another weapon the Spurs have implemented this season is a stronger use of the three-point shot. Statistically, the Spurs are the best team in the league as they shoot 39.9% from long range. "The three-point shot is such a big part of the game now, you've got to shoot it well," Carlisle said. "I'm sure they've got a good handle on what's good or not good for them. Every good team you play, you try to take away threes so tonight, the challenge won't be any different for us."
Tyson Chandler is averaging 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds against San Antonio this season. He’s shot 11-of-12 (91.7%) from the field against the Spurs this season. He's only been a member of the Mavericks for a year, but he definitely is familiar with the Spurs and the rivalry that exists between the two Texas teams. "I think everyone on this team has a little bad blood towards the Spurs," said Chandler. The center has experienced heartache against the Spurs. In the 2007-08 Conference Semifinals, the Spurs knocked out Tyson Chandler and the New Orleans Hornets as that series went the full seven games.
The Mavs' big man will likely have the responsibility of trying to keep Tim Duncan in check. "(Tim) Duncan has always been great. He’s probably the greatest power forward of all time.'' Duncan has averaged 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the three games against the Mavericks this season.
Chandler also understands that it is important for the Mavericks to do well in this match-up against the Spurs. "They're No. one," Chandler said. "We know that we'll probably have to go through them in order to get to where we want to go. Before playoff basketball, it makes for a good opener."
The final regular season match-up between the Mavericks and the Spurs will tip off at 7:30 CST.