In a year where nearly every NBA playoff series went down to the wire in the first round, it only made sense for the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs to duel in a Game 7.
The only problem? San Antonio ran away with the game early and never looked back in a 119-96 rout of Dallas to advance to the conference semifinals.
Coming in as the No. 1 seed, the Spurs were seen as favorites to emerge from the Western Conference and potentially meet up again with the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
While the Heat were able to pull off the sweep against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Spurs were battered and bruised in a hard-fought series with the Mavericks. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich shared his thoughts on playing a Game 7 in the opening series, per Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman:
San Antonio was paced by Tony Parker, who put together a huge performance with 32 points, four rebounds and four assists. Along with Parker, Manu Ginobili tallied 20 points, five assists and six steals off the bench, while Tim Duncan added another 15 points and eight rebounds.
On the Dallas side, Dirk Nowitzki finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, but couldn't do enough to get his team back in the game. He shot just 8-of-21 from the field. Devin Harris also registered an additional 17 points in the losing effort.
From the opening tip, the Mavericks looked underwhelming, while the Spurs put on an offensive clinic. Parker was explosive inside the arc and found open looks for his teammates on nearly every possession.
One of those players Parker found quite frequently was Danny Green. The former UNC star finished with 16 points as his series-long hot streak continued in this game, according to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:
The first quarter quickly got away from the Mavs as the Spurs exploded offensively. Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram suggested that the Mavericks were in serious trouble after just 10 minutes of play:
During the first quarter, the players and coaches were so tightly wound that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was hit with a technical foul, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
The Spurs ended the first quarter up 35-23, and only furthered that lead in the next 12 minutes. San Antonio entered halftime with a 22-point advantage, 68-46.
Price didn't mince words about the Mavs' uninspired first-half performance:
The second half was just as brutal for Mavericks fans as the first, with San Antonio continuing to suffocate Dallas on offense and getting nearly every look it wanted on the other end.
Each time the Mavs chipped away at the Spurs' lead, one of San Antonio's stars helped stifle that momentum. Like a prize fighter, the Spurs knew the game was in hand and went for the knockout blow.
San Antonio never allowed the Mavericks to get within 20 points in the fourth quarter, eventually pulling out the 23-point win to advance.
While the Mavericks were sent packing, the Spurs now have to prepare for the second round against a tough Portland Trail Blazers team. Equipped with stars like LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, the Blazers are a young squad with plenty of energy on the offensive end.
Then there's the fact that the Blazers appear to have the Spurs' number over the last few seasons, as McDonald points out:
The two teams split the regular-season series, 2-2, with each picking up a victory on the other's home floor. After earning a convincing win against Dallas and getting a chance to rest their starters for much of the fourth quarter, the Spurs will be more than ready for upstart Portland.
With a Western Conference Finals berth on the line, San Antonio will once again be tested in the second round. But thanks to experience and depth, the team might still be on a collision course with the Heat in the NBA Finals.
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