|SI's Marty Burns' Breakdown|
|Dallas || ||San Antonio |
| Shawn Bradley won't have to act like a tough guy anymore, now that Karl Malone is out of the way. But he'll have his hands full with the Twin Towers. He won't score inside against them, but at 7-foot-6, he's one of the few players in the league who can make it difficult for them at the other end.
|| CENTER |
| David Robinson was great against the Timberwolves, averaging 17.5 points (on 53.5 percent shooting) and 12.8 rebounds. He also stepped up and hit big shots when it counted. Look for him to work the high post more in this series in an effort to lure Bradley outside. |
| Dirk Nowitzki could be the key for the Mavericks in this series. At 6-foot-11, with perimeter skills, he presents a matchup problem for San Antonio if he gets hot. However, his lack of experience showed at times against Utah, and he can't afford to get in foul trouble. Juwan Howard shot poorly against the Jazz, but he did a solid job defensively on Karl Malone. He'll need to do the same against Tim Duncan, while hitting a few more of his outside shots at the other end.
|| FORWARDS |
| Duncan was splendid against Kevin Garnett in the first round, and he should fare even better against Howard. During the regular season, he ravaged the Mavs for 23.8 points and 12 rebounds, despite a sub-par first game in which he was still rusty from his offseason injury. Danny Ferry spaces the floor with his 3-point shooting, but he could have a tough time guarding Nowitzki. Look for him to get the start at small forward, but split time with Sean Elliott. |
| Michael Finley played like a savvy veteran in his team's upset victory against the Jazz, averaging 23.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3 assists. He was just as effective against the Spurs during the regular season, hitting the game-winning jumper in Dallas' lone victory. He'll take it to Derek Anderson at both ends of the court. Steve Nash is another key for the Mavericks. He must use his advantage in quickness against the slower San Antonio point guards to push the tempo and keep the Spurs from turning it into a half-court game.
|| GUARDS |
| Anderson looked jittery in the first round, but he should play better now that he's had a real taste of the postseason. Still, he shot poorly (33.3 percent) against the Mavs during the regular season and will need to improve his accuracy against Finley. Terry Porter is a smart, solid point guard who knows how to play the game and hit big shots when it counts. He'll use his guile and savvy against the inexperienced Nash, though he might have a hard time staying in front of him. |
| The Mavs didn't use their bench much in the first round, with Howard Eisley, Calvin Booth, Vernon Maxwell and Mark Bryant seeing limited minutes. Look for more of the same here, though the shot-blocking Booth might have earned himself a bigger role with his fine performance in Game 4. His defense on the Twin Towers could be vital in this series, especially if Bradley finds himself in foul trouble.
|| BENCH |
| Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, Malik Rose and Antonio Daniels will play a much bigger role than their Dallas counterparts. With the younger, more athletic Mavs looking to play up-tempo, the Spurs' reserve corps needs to hold its own so the starters can rest. Elliott's defense on Nowitzki could be crucial, while Johnson must pressure Nash at both ends to tire him out. |
| Don Nelson did a terrific job leading his inexperienced team to a win against the Jazz. He also showed he wasn't afraid to take chances, putting Finley on John Stockton and using a half-court trap. Look for more tricks from Nellie in this series.
|| COACH |
| Gregg Popovich was a former assistant to Nelson at Golden State and considers him among his best friends. His familiarity with Nellie's thinking should help him counter any strategic ploys Dallas might attempt. |
| The Mavs are riding high after reaching the second round for the first time since '89. With few picking them to get past the Spurs, they should be able to play free and loose. They also have the outside shooters to score over the Twin Towers.
|| INTANGIBLES |
| The Spurs are well-rested after having dispatched the T'wolves in four games. They also have a big edge in experience and home-court advantage, though Dallas was able to overcome those factors against the Jazz. |
| If Nowitzki gets hot from outside, there's not much the Twin Towers will be able to do about it. Also, he could be a wild card defensively on Robinson. But Nowitzki lacks experience, and he shot only 40 percent against the Jazz in the first round.
|| 'X' FACTOR |
| Anderson needs to play better than he did in the first round. He doesn't have to win the matchup against Finley, but he needs to keep it relatively close. The Twin Towers will take care of the rest. |
|Burns' Prediction: Spurs in 6|