Corporate Knowledge: Spurs meet old rival Mavs

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Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express News: “Duncan’s reanimation began the following season, when he helped the Spurs reach the conference finals against Oklahoma City and continued during last season’s run to the NBA Finals against Miami. Set to turn 38 next week, Duncan averaged 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks this season, fifth-best in the NBA. He did it while logging 29.2 minutes per game, close to a career low. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, like Popovich, senses the similarity between Nowitzki and the Spurs’ veteran warhorse.”

Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated: “True to that form, the Spurs and Mavs both exude an air of capability. These are veteran teams, after all, built to capitalize on the small, consequential moments of hurried execution that inevitably come in the postseason. But any rivalry they once had is gone — withered not just with time but with unmistakable change. Nine of the 15 players on the Mavs’ roster were elsewhere last season. Only four Spurs (Duncan, Tony ParkerManu Ginobili and Matt Bonner) remain from the last time these teams met in the playoffs. Any connection between these two franchises has been flipped several times over, between Dallas’ multiple reboots and San Antonio’s gradual evolution. This series is something new entirely, which is a pleasure all its own.”

Jesus Gomez, Pounding the Rock: “As a team, the Spurs are ready for the postseason. They are deeper and more well-rounded than even last season’s team. The few remaining unanswered questions center around the performance of specific players, with Parker’s down year at the heart of them. But if his performance in the sparse moments in which the team has truly needed him is any indication, there’s nothing to worry about. It looks like 2013-14 Tony is not as far off from 2012-13 Tony as a quick glance to his simple stats would suggest.”

Tim McMahon, ESPN Dallas: “The Mavs might not fear the Spurs, but it feels like forever since Dallas defeated its Interstate 35 rival. Heck, Jason Kidd, the Brooklyn Nets’ head coach with a streak of gray in his beard, had a double-double for Dallas the last time the Mavs beat the Spurs. That was way back on St. Patrick’s Day of 2012. There’s nothing lucky about the Mavs being matched up in the first round with a foe that has nine straight wins over Dallas.”

Brad Townsend, Dallas Morning News: “The last time Harris faced San Antonio in the playoffs was as a 23-year-old, second-year Mavericks guard who’d started only four regular-season games. After playing 15 minutes in a Game 1 loss to the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals, Harris was inserted as a starter by coach Avery Johnson. Harris became an X-factor, knifing through the Spurs’ defense — often past Tony Parker — to average 19 points in Game 2-5. Dallas toppled San Antonio in seven games en route to the NBA finals.”

John Diaz, Project Spurs: “So what does all this mean for the playoffs? If Popovich’s word holds true, Leonard’s numbers will only continue to steadily increase with his minutes. The shortened rotations, plus the Spurs reliance on Kawhi to anchor their defense for 40 minutes a night, will only help him fill the stat sheet. Barring foul trouble and/or injury, it’s well within the realm of possibility that Leonard ends up averaging a double-double during this playoff run. After all, Leonard’s 14.5 points and 11.1 rebounds averaged during seven games on the NBA’s biggest stage last season, was just a glimpse of his dominance.”

Tom Ziller, SB Nation: “For what it’s worth, last season the Heat had a better scoring margin than the Spurs and home court advantage in the Finals. And they barely beat San Antonio. So there you have it. Math says the Spurs will win the title. Now we find out what the ball says. And that’s what matters, because the ball don’t lie.”