At crucial moments in the Kings-Mavericks series, look for the "duel of the dual point guards," as Dallas assistant coach Donn Nelson calls it, for his team, like Sacramento, has an effective tandem of smallish quarterbacks. The Mavs' 6'3" Steve Nash, the starter, and 6'1" Nick Van Exel, the sixth man, usually play together for longer stretches than Bibby and Jackson—in Sunday's Game 7 win over the Trail Blazers they shared the court for 29 minutes, including all but 10 seconds of the fourth quarter—but in form and function they resemble the Kings' duo. "All four of us are shotmakers and playmakers," says Nash. "The styles are slightly different, but the productivity is very similar."
If more precise comparisons had to be made, Nash would be Bibby and Van Exel would be Jackson. Nash, like Bibby, is more the pure point, skilled at the pick-and-roll, expert at finding his big scorer, Dirk Nowitzki, on the perimeter. Yet Nash's gallimaufry of improbable floaters and runners calls to mind Jackson. Van Exel, like Jackson, is a bold assassin, slightly more physical than Nash, with an underrated low-post game. At the same time he can be an effortless scorer, like Bibby. Neither Mav, however, can match Bibby as a jump shooter or Jackson as a defensive stopper.
For the second year in a row the four playmakers will meet in the Western Conference semifinals. Including that series they have gone head-to-head-to-head-to-head seven times, with the Kings holding a 5-2 edge. Here's how the point guards' numbers compare in those games.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]