Edit: Manu Ginobli will be playing in tonight's game after a decision today from Spurs staff.
What have the Spurs done lately?
In the last two weeks, the Spurs have done two really important things: first, they proved that they are, as of right now, the best team in the league, and then, they packed it in for the playoffs.
After proving that they are out for nothing less than the blood of every single player from every single team that matters, they decided that it's just about time to rest up before the bloodshed begins in earnest. This is a good sign for the Mavs.
Both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli have already been declared out against the Mavericks to rest the old bones, and Old Man Mavericks Killer Tim Duncan could follow, though the game isn't a part of a back to back or 4th game in 5 nights.
Of course, the Spurs' bench lineup is almost as scary as the starting lineup, though it does win far less often than the Spurs' starters, for what it may be worth.
Which team stat might determine the game?
This could have been a playoff clinching game for the Mavericks: if Memphis had lost to the Heat, then Dallas would have clinched a playoff berth with a win.
But the Suns and Grizz both won last night; such is life in the Western Conference playoff race. The Mavericks will be motivated, hopefully, by the knowledge that they still have no room for error if they want to get into the postseason, while the Spurs will be Spurs-ing their way to the end of the season. That should be a recipe for, at least, a very competitive game.
What are the Spurs' biggest strengths and weaknesses?
The Spurs biggest strength right now is that they're good at everything, which is a problem. They're a top five defense and offense, and the Spurs schemes on both sides of the ball are built around solid principles that are internalized with military exactitude. They have a plan for every possible contingency.
The Spurs do have two real weaknesses, luckily: athleticism -- which is something that the Mavericks don't really have and cannot reproduce for this game -- and Dirk Werner Nowitzki: top 10 all-time scorer.
Dirk always presents a major problem for teams like San Antonio who have rigorous defensive schemes, because he's such a unique offensive player that teams have to completely abandon their schemes to account for him.
The Spurs' veteran players don't have a problem with these defensive adjustments because they're so familiar with Dirk, but, hopefully, those veterans won't be playing much in this game.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against San Antonio?
The Mavericks need to take advantage of Dirk's scheme-bending offense and San Antonio's rest and go to Dirk and early and often as the center of their offense.
Patience will also be key, since any team has to take lots of time on every possession to find and exploit the tiny cracks that may occur in San Antonio's defense.
Dallas could easily grab this game if they take advantage of the situation they've been given, but to do so, they have to approach the match with the kind of gravity that San Antonio always, always, always deserves.
For San Antonio's side of things, be sure to head to Pounding The Rock.