Forecasting the West's dual Game 7s, Eastern finals
Posted: Monday May 22, 2006 3:28PM; Updated: Monday May 22, 2006 5:09PM
Will it be bombs away for Dirk on Monday?
Which of these Spurs will star in Game 7?
A pair of Game 7s await on Monday night, as does this week's Eastern Conference final that's been 12 months (and four coaches) in the making. Who'll prevail? Who'll spend the rest of spring second-guessing?
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs
First off, don't expect Mavs coach Avery Johnson to run the first play of the game for a nervous Devin Harris. That probably wasn't the best choice in a Game 6 loss in which Harris and Jerry Stackhouse combined to shoot 7 of 29 (24 percent), had as many turnovers as assists and only got to the line four times in a tightly officiated contest.
Tonight's close game will be decided by the usual suspects. Will Tim Duncan hit his free throws? Can Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki pick-and-roll their way into the Conference finals?
Duncan will be the best player on the floor -- again -- but the Mavs' good-enough interior defense will keep him from the 40-point performance he's yet to have in the postseason. Pencil him in for 38 and 13.
The Mavs will be looking to crash the offensive boards more, but if the Spurs leak out and score in transition, look for Dallas to be satisfied with one-and-done. That said, the Mavs need to get more out of Josh Howard, who hasn't made a difference since pouring in 27 during a Game 2 blowout. He shot (and made) 11 free throws in that game but has gotten to the line only 11 times since. If Dallas' "X factor" (if we're allowed to revel in lazy labeling) is going to be on the court for 42 minutes, as he was in Game 6, he'll have to offer more than 17 points and six rebounds. He has to crash the offensive glass, get to the line and steal some extra possessions for his team.
As for the Spurs, as good as Duncan has been (averaging nearly 25 points and 10 boards in just under 37 minutes of play), San Antonio would be nothin' (nothing!) without the recent play of Manu Ginobili. Over San Antonio's first eight playoff games, the Argentinean wingman averaged just 14.8 points a game on 45 percent shooting, hitting only five of 25 three-pointers, getting to the line five times a game and registering only seven steals. Over the last four games he's upped his scoring average by 10 points, shooting 66 percent from the field and making half of his threes -- while recalling that sticky-fingered extra-possession machine (more than two steals a game) that drove the Nuggets, Sonics, Suns and Pistons batty last year.
One man's prediction
The defending champs, at home? Seems like an easy pick. Then again, Dallas' two losses in San Antonio have come by a combined three points, while they won Game 2 on the road by 22. Then again, the Spurs seem to have the momentum, Duncan can't be stopped, and Ginobili's head is back in the game. Then again, Terry can light it up in any arena. Again, why can't the league make this a best of nine? Spurs 101, Mavs 100.