Who will the Spurs face in the first round?

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With just two days left in the 2009-10 regular season, only the first and eighth spots in the Western Conference have been decided. After the Oklahoma City Thunder slipped up against a Brandon Roy-less Portland Trailblazers last night, the Thunder have booked themselves a first round date with the Los Angeles Lakers. As has been the case the last few seasons in the Western Conference, the race for the remaining six spots remains tight and messy.

Of all the teams in the conference yet to be seeded, the formula for the Spurs may be the simplest. If the Spurs lose, they’re the 7th seed. If Portland wins, the Spurs are the 7th seed. The only way San Antonio can earn the sixth spot is if Portland loses and the Spurs win. It’s as simple as that.

(It’s worth noting that Portland’s last game is against the Warriors and San Antonio’s is against the Mavs. The odds are stacked in their favor.)

Where things get tricky is when you try and figure out who the Spurs will face in the first round. It will be either the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, or Phoenix Suns.

It’s most likely that the Spurs will face the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round. I say that because there are more scenarios in which the Spurs and Mavs land in the seventh and second spots, respectively, than any other. If the Mavs or the Nuggets win, or if Utah loses one of its remaining two games, the Mavericks are locked into the two seed.

The Spurs could also run into the Mavericks if they fall into the third seed and San Antonio moves up into the sixth. In order for that to happen, both the Mavericks and the Nuggets would have to lose and Utah would have to win both of its games.

Denver cannot earn the two seed; the highest spot they can fill is the three seed (they are also in danger of falling all the way down into fifth). We are not concerned with Denver if they move down into the fourth or fifth spot. All we care about is if Denver wins or Utah loses to the Warriors and the Suns lose to the Jazz. If either of those scenarios occurs, and the Spurs slide up into the sixth spot, San Antonio will face Denver in the first round.

The Spurs could also face the Utah Jazz in the first round. With two games left to play, the Jazz could land anywhere between the second and fifth positions. Like the Denver, we’re only concerned with how they might meet the Spurs in the first round so lets focus on the second and third seed.

The situation that would push the Mavericks down into the third seed (Mavs and Nuggets Lose, Utah wins twice) is the same scenario that would bump Utah up into the second seed. But even if Utah wins both games, they will only earn the three seed if the Mavericks win and the Denver loses. If the Nuggets win, the Spurs will not face the Jazz in the first round.

Lastly, the Spurs will have a date with our old friends the Phoenix Suns if the Nuggets lose, Phoenix wins its remaining two games, and San Antonio climbs up into the sixth seed. The Suns could also end up in fourth or fifth but, as with Utah and Denver, we don’t care.

Got it? Good.

  • SpurredOn

    Can’t we still face Phoenix as well? If the Suns win their final two they will be one game ahead of the winner of the NW division (since they will have defeated both Denver and Utah, the Nuggets will win the division). That means a #3 seed PHX team would play a #6 seed Spurs, provided we beat Dallas and Portland losses to GSW (which they may want to, thus earning their best match up against Dallas).

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Graydon Gordian

    Yes, we can. Damn it, I always screw these playoff scenarios up somehow. I’ll fix that right now.

  • grego

    Phoenix will not win both. Look at their closing schedule.

    They play Denver @ Phoenix tonight and then have a tough back to back at Utah.

    Utah tonight has GSW. That shouldn’t be tough.

    Spurs are playing Dallas, unless Dallas tanks (if the right teams lose tonight) and tries to fall to 3rd to face Portland (probably the easiest match up in the west).

  • micah

    All these scenarios are too confusing to keep track of, and the objective bores me anyways. I want one of you fine Bloggers to write a piece on who we want to face and why. Its finals (school not NBA) time and I really want to read something thats subjective and intriguing and not objective, conjectural, and drab :)

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Graydon Gordian

    Fixed.

  • Tyler

    there’s no way I want to play the Jazz. they look too good right now.

    Best case would be playing Denver or Dallas, with Utah & Phoenix in the 4 & 5 seed. That way, the Spurs avoid Lakers, Utah, and Phoenix until the Western Conference Finals and only have to face one of them.

  • http://spursunderground.blogspot.com/ b.diddy

    Okay so Spurs are 0-4 against Jazz, 1-2 against Suns, 2-2 against Nuggets, and 1-2 against Mavs with one to play.
    That makes me think we should stay away from Utah, but those 4 games were a long time ago, so they might not mean anything.
    The other three match-ups are more of a wash, but pressed I’d rtaher the Spurs play Dallas or Denver.

  • http://www.operaforthemasses.com David G
  • http://espn.com Jacob

    can we face the clippers??

  • Nadeem

    As of today, Hollinger’s odds give Spurs the best shot of winning the championship from the WC.

    http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/playoffodds/_/sort/champsOdds

  • SA_Ray

    I hope we get the Nuggets. I still think the Mavs are the toughest matchup for the Spurs. Always have been since we have no one to guard Dirk.

  • SpurredOn

    Thanks Graydon, for the fix and the post. This is confusing stuff.

    @micah – I won’t write a long piece but first, I don’t think it matters. Spurs are healthy, confident and experienced. They can beat any of these teams in a best of seven. They know it as does any opponent. Two, all these teams have a fair shot to beat each other so there are only degrees of easier based on match ups.

    I do think that some matchups have some noteable advantages: Mavs means short travel, familiar opponent and revenge from last year with Manu back. It could also mean Phoenix or Denver awaiting in round 2, both of which is favorable to the Spurs. When Dallas doesn’t shoot well they tend to get rolled by double digits, which is how the Spurs often beat top teams when they play well.

    - Denver would mean a team missing their head coach that is known for poorly timed brain cramps. They’ve also been skunked in their arena by SA the last two times they played. Spurs have done quite well winning in Denver, both regular and post-season. This is a team that if they find themselves trailing a series 0-2 or 1-3 will likely mentally give in to the situation.

    - Phoenix may not have Lopez and all of our big-3 historically put up big numbers vs this team. If you take away their 3pt shot they are very vulnerable. And though we no longer have Bowen, we have Hill to annoy Nash. Plus the whole mental thing of losing to the Spurs. We win game one (again) in PHX and it becomes “here we go again.

    - Utah is the toughest. Not that the Spurs can’t or won’t beat them, just that they will leave the most bruises and they force you to beat them as they are so disciplined. It would be a competitive & physical series and would have to be won in six games; they have the most advantagous home court and a game 7 there would be most difficult.

  • BlaseE
  • Shaun

    Why don’t we just grant Portland the 6 seed, rest Timmy and Manu, and play Parker for limited minutes since so much is out of our hands? Especially if we just end up turning around and seeing Dallas again now that they have had a chance to see some of our defensive looks? I suppose that works both ways though.

  • BlaseE

    I agree with you Shaun. Since Portland tips after our game, we just need to play our game. Pop should play the minutes he wants and if we lose, oh well.

    I don’t know about the word “grant” though. I want us to compete. The game isn’t worth fighting for though.

  • texano03

    I concur with Hollinger’s odds. Our Spurs are one of the hottest — if not THE hottest — teams headed into the playoffs. I really like our chances this year. Our back court has more than enough depth. My only concern is that Timmy is our only 7-footer who can defend well (I know he’s only 6’11″).

  • SAJKinBigD

    Never give anything up to another team, for any sort of playoff matchup positioning – it WILL bite you in the buttox.
    It’s best to play your game how you want without tanking for position as it can disturb your mentality.
    Personally, I want the Mavs for multiple reasons:
    1) Vengeance for last season.
    2) I live in Dallas, so I can make it to a couple of games!
    3) Beating the Mavs means Cuban suffers! I may respect and even like a couple of Mavs players, but I cannot stand the juvenile behavior of their owner.

    Also, if it is Spurs-Mavs in the First round, then I think we’ll have to watch out for their speedy French point more than the steady Puerto Rican point. Roddy is scary for both sides as he can be brilliant one play and completely clueless the next, but he’s in the same class as Devin Harris whom many may remember as an issue for our boys in the past before he went to Jersey (Brooklyn?).

  • Chris

    No way Portland loses to the Warriors. I think Spurs/Mavs Round 1 is a lock. Bring on Dirk and his fabulous FLOPPING locks! Terry will have sucker punch somebody other than Finley this year. I do like McDyess on Dirk, though. Probably the whole reason the Spurs went after him. I’m stoked…bring ‘em on!

  • ruth bader ginobili

    @Blase: that chart was awesome, thanks for doing it.

    Having LA and Utah on the same side of the bracket (1 and 4/5, respectively) would be ideal, right? Anything is possible this year, but those two teams scare me the most. But I like our chances!

  • junierizzle

    It doesn’t matter who they face. It’s going to be tough.
    Luckily the SPURS have beaten all those teams on the road in the playoffs.

    I know the JAZZ swept the SPURS, but all those games were in the first month in a half of the season. Back when the SPURS didn’t know what they were doing.
    Mavs are the MAVS. I think they helped out the spurs by trading Josh Howard. He was a spur killer. Butler basically replace Howard’s scoring but he’s not the same. Haywood is only that much better than Dampier.
    Psychologically they own the SUNS. EVen the last game they played. They caught the SPurs on a back to back, no G HILL, TP’s second game back, Manu had his worst game since the All-star break, all those missed free throws. The SUNS are playing at their best. All that and the SPURS were only down by 5 in the fourth.
    Nuggets, same as SUNS. SPUrs own them pshycologically.

    I love our chances. The SPURS are going into the playoffs playing close to what we thought they would play like.

  • Zach

    My guess is the Spurs will rest their stars tomorrow night. Count on the Spurs being seventh seed and playing Dallas.

    Just a prediction.

  • Jim Henderson

    I think these are the most likely scenarios. Let me know if you spot any errors!:

    If Blazers win tomorrow against the GSW’s, and Mavs beat us Wednesday, we play the Mavs in round one.

    The only shot we have of playing Denver in round one is if Denver wins tonight, and the Blazers beat the GSW’s tomorrow.

    If Denver loses tonight, and the Jazz win against the GSW’s tonight, and against the Suns in Utah tomorrow, AND the Blazers beat the GSW’s on Wednesday, we play the Jazz in round one.

    If Denver loses tonight, the Jazz beat GSW’s tonight but lose to the Suns tomorrow, Portland beats the GSW’s tomorrow, whether the Mavs win or lose against us Wednesday, we play the Mavs in round one.

  • Jim Henderson

    ***CORRECTION***

    Wrong:

    “The only shot we have of playing Denver in round one is if Denver wins tonight, and the Blazers beat the GSW’s tomorrow. ”

    It should read:

    “The only shot we have of playing Denver in round one is if Denver wins tonight, and the Blazers LOSE to the GSW’s tomorrow. “

  • junierizzle

    @ZACH

    I wouldn’t be surprised if POP rested everyone.

  • pablo

    i too live in Dallas and would love the Spurs to knock out Mavs. however, i would rather face Denver first (with coach out and recent struggles, not as tough first round opponent) and then Dallas in semi’s (assuming Mavs beat Blazers).

    that would require for us to end up as 6th seed, Mavs as #2, Nuggets as #3, Jazz/Suns as 4/5 and Blazers at #7.

    but in reality, it doesn’t matter who we play. if we are going to win, it will not be easy. go Spurs.

  • bduran

    I’m curious as to why people don’t think we match up well with Dallas. I agree that we have no answer for Dirk, but who does really? Do we have more of a problem with Dirk than other teams? I honestly don’t know. If you just look at recent performance (and season as a whole really, I believe Dallas has a point differential of less than 3), then Dallas looks like a favorable matchup compared to Utah, Phoenix, or Denver. Glancing at the roster, the only obvious matchup problem I see is Dirk, and I’m just not sure why he’s worse for us than others.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Dirk is a known quantity (both in what he can do and what we can do TO him – see last year’s First Round series) and I think we match up fairly well with the Mavs – aside from them having home court, though the Spurs have been very good on the road this calendar year.

    I’m not sure how Butler would play against the Spurs, but I’d be more concerned with their Frenchman, if he gets the playing time – we have tape on basically everyone else.

    In fact, the only other team I’d prefer in the first round would be Denver – given all their various issues right now. I’d prefer to avoid Utah’s bruising and I just don’t think we’ll end up playing Phoenix in addition to the fact I don’t think this version of 7-seconds-or-less has the same mental hang-ups versus the Spurs, though that may flip in the Playoffs when it actually MEANS something.

  • Bushka

    Exactly. Which team locks down Dirk Diggler anyway? The Washington Generals? Someone in a Pistons Jersey with a tranq gun?

    The teams as good as it can be right now considering the injuries. Lets just take whoever turns up and see how we go.

  • TradeTP

    Odds are we play Dallas. We want Dallas.

    If TP is going to get 30+ minutes in the playoffs that is who we want in the first round. His confidence from last year is still sky high, and Dallas has arguably the worst PG matchup for Tony. Will be a great way to get the confidence up to last year, and he wont have to get run to death by a extremely better PG.

    We dont want to see Tony against: Nash, Williams, Billups, Westbrook, or even Miller right now. Even though Kidd is a better PG, hes not going to take that much of toll on Parker physically as the other guys. I would even be hesitant to say that Parker is better than Fisher right now.

    *Dallas has the lowest Point Differential for any team in the west playoffs. Worst Rebounding differential.*

    It will be a good matchup to watch. GO SPURS GO!!!!!

  • Justin

    I just don’t want to play Utah. That series would not be pretty, and Sloan knows the Spurs playbook way too well…

  • SpurredOn

    @TradeTP – you’re hesitant to say if Parker is better than Fisher? You don’t want him to matchup with the poor shooting and turnover prone Westbrook that he’s already lit up this season? Come on man.

  • Jim Henderson

    In short, the odds favor that we get the Mavs in the first round. The next likely opponent is the Jazz. The next likely is the Nuggets. And the least likely is the Suns.

    We do not meet the Nuggets if they lose tonight.

    We do not meet the Suns if they lose tonight.

    We could only meet the winner of the Suns/Nugget game if the Blazers also lose tomorrow to the Warriors, and we also beat the Mavs tomorrow.

    As you can see, one of those two teams are ruled out with a loss tonight, and even the winner would require a Blazer loss to the Warriors tomorrow, and a Spur victory over the Mavs to draw us in the first round.

    It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll play the Nuggets or Suns in the first round. The reason the Jazz are in better position than Denver or Phoenix is because they own the tie-breaker over the Mavs, AND we are more likely to end as a 7th seed than a 6th seed.

    Bottom line: prepare for Mavs, unless we want to go out and really try to beat the Mavs tomorrow, and then hope for a Jazz win against the Suns. The opinion on whether we should prefer the Jazz or Mavs seems to be a bit mixed on here, understandably so. If Dallas is healthy, I’d prefer Utah, primarily because of the Mavs length & depth on the front line. But there’s pros & cons to either match-up, so I just hope WE play well. We can of course beat either, although it won’t be easy.

  • Drew

    There’s a great chart of all the odds of each scenario over at PtR.

  • SABookie

    Is that an Audio Two reference at the end there? If so, GG!

  • Bushka

    Parker has massive nights against nash and hammers fisher, but your right about Miller, he is playing fantastically right now.

    Thats one guy that’s raise the bar come the business end of the season.

    Westbrooks done a number on a few pg’s this season as well, I think he is an under the radar defender very much in the dwayne wade mold.

  • SpurredOn

    Spurs won’t open with Denver and still may play Phoenix. Now the chance to play Dallas is as likely as playing Utah. A Spurs win, Jazz (home) win over Phoenix and Blazers (home win) means the Spurs open in Utah. Portland would then open in Dallas. Since I think the Blazers want the Mavs this makes their finale a must win, so long as the Spurs win.

    If Pop answered honestly, I wonder who he’d prefer between Dallas, Utah and Phoenix?

  • lvmainman

    Dallas is probably the worst matchup for the Spurs. Denver is too dumb and hotheaded to handle the Spurs. The Suns are too soft defensively for the Spurs. The Lakers are too old, injured, and slow for the Spurs. Jazz are tough, but too small for the Spurs.

    In my opinion, Dallas is by far the toughest matchup. A post up pg(Kidd) and a quick, athletic pg(Beubois) for Parker. A post up sg(Butler) a 3pt sg(Terry) for Ginobili. A defensive minded sf(Marion) for Jefferson. A versatile pf in Nowitski. 2 defensive minded C’s(Haywood, Dampier) for Duncan.

    The Mavericks are the toughest matchup for the Spurs in my opinion, especially having beaten us last year easily.

  • Hobson13

    @SpurredOn,

    I would think we’d rather have:
    1.Dallas
    2.Phoenix
    3.Utah

    Even though we played Utah early in the season, they are a bruising team. If we are looking to get far this postseason, we don’t want to get banged around by them in the first round. Let’s get them in the second round (assuming Utah and SA make it that far)

    I would put Phoenix first on this list, but they have been playing way too well lately. I just watched the Denver game and the Suns wiped them out. This version of the Suns may be the best one yet. Beware, this is not the same Suns team of the last few years! Even though I could see them getting psyched out if we were to win game 1, I could also see them wanting some revenge for the past few years.

    Although I don’t relish the thought of playing Dallas, they haven’t been all that great over the past month. Their schedule has been charmin soft and their only big win was at Portland. I wonder if they are having some problems incorporating Haywood and Butler into the lineup? At any rate, the current version of the Mavs is not a seasoned team and their margin of victory is razor slim compared to other Western Powers.

    I think it will be tough no matter who we play, but if we can get our mojo going and compete like we did against the Lakers, Magic, Celtics, and Cavs, I can see us beating a lot of teams.

  • SpurredOn

    @Hobson – The Suns do look impressive but then I’m reminded that their recent schedule has been almost all soft. The only good teams they’ve played they either lost to (@OKC, @MILW) or have had the benefit of playing at home rested while the visiting team was on the second night of a back to back (Spurs, Nuggets).

    @lvmainman – there’s nothing about last season’s playoffs that can be compared to this year. Spurs didn’t have Manu. Enough said. That would be like the Spurs beating Dallas with Dirk missing the entire series. But it could be added that Hill barely played and there was no Dyce, no Blair and no Jefferson. They may well be the toughest out of the mentioned three but all the player matchups you listed read to me as advantages for the Spurs.

  • Jazzfan

    It is flattering that some of you don’t want to face the Jazz though, we’d probably rather not face you either. Timmy has had the Jazz number since Traitor Malone ran to the most evil team of the west. As a class act, Tim Pop and the crew get great respect here in the north without the vitriol that other teams generate. From our side we would probably rather have the 3, and face Portland then the Mav/Spur winner but since we don’t fear Dirk as much as Timmy and Manu we’d trade home court advantage for the opportunity. The only downside is that a Jazz WC final against LA won’t even last 4 games but the league rules require the teams be on the court that long. Of all the serious WC contenders, we probably have the worst chance of beating LA anywhere. Maybe LA will pull a Dallas trick out of the bag and loose in the first round to OKC, which will get smoked by DEN/PHX. We needed a bad call to beat OKC in overtime by 1 pt.

    Good luck guys, I’d rather see spurs represent against the King than the lakers. Timmy deserves 1 more ring. Course John and Karl never got one so justice probably has very little bearing on the issue.

  • Bushka

    Imagine getting the suns first up. Too much awesome.

  • therealkman

    It doesn’t matter who the Spurs get in the first round. I’m confident that they will definitely advance. The vision beheld by Spurs fans last summer after several off-season acquisitions has come to fruition in the closing month. Bring them all on, the Spurs are ready to roll!!!

  • Tyler

    Ahhh…..the Suns. They show you just enough to reel you in….

    Until you realize Amare and Frye are their bigs patrolling the paint. With Robin Lopez hampered by injury, that leaves Amundson and Collins off the bench. Defensively, outside of Amundson, they’re atrocious in the paint defensively.

    The Suns are by far our best matchup. They have no one to stop Duncan, TP consistenly torches the Suns defense, and the Suns have no competent perimeter defenders to slow down Manu (unlike in years past with Raja Bell). They have absolutely no answer for our big 3. With our slashers, the Spurs will live in the paint and get their bigs in foul trouble (hello Amare Stoudemire).

    Defensively, we can throw Parker, Hill, Bogans, and Temple on Nash and TD and McDyess at Stoudemire. The key to their offense is the 3pter. If we can run the Suns of the 3 point line, the series will be relatively quick. Advantage Spurs.

    Let’s just hope they land in the 3 slot to ensure at least a 2nd round meeting.

  • BlaseE

    Updated my chart with last nights results and added the Portland game:
    http://www.poundingtherock.com/2010/4/14/1420756/western-conference-playoff

  • idahospur

    At this point, every opponent looks the same and every series will be long (if Spurs are to win). Pop is playing Temple, Mahinmi, Bogans, Mason, Blair, Hairston, etc. Maybe Mavs will send the scrubs out too and luck will play its part. Mavs or Utah is the same to me.

  • Gary

    Hope we get revenge on Dallas
    Manu is in shape now

  • Jim Henderson

    Tyler
    April 14th, 2010 at 6:40 am

    For the most part, I agree with your assessment. I’ve all along said that the Suns were our best match-up. That said, this team cannot be taken lightly. They have been playing very well since the all-star break, and seem to have a pretty good chemistry together. The key to beating them, as you note, is running them off the three point line, control the tempo, and DO NOT allow them to get on major runs. They are very streaky, and feed off their scoring binges, and suddenly you look up and you’re down twenty. You can still come back on them, but not as easily as in the past. Let Amare get his, but DO NOT let their 3-point shooters get off. That is a big mistake, and it cost a flat Dener team last night.

    By the same token we can’t have any 25% 3-point shooting nights ourselves, because the Suns are going to score their share. We can’t have scoring droughts against this team, or we’re in for a tough night.

    If Suns win tonight, and Blazers lose, we get Suns in first round. If Suns win, we get them in round two should we advance.

    Most likely we’ll get Dallas or Utah in round one. Either one represents a tough series, but we have a decent shot.

  • Bentley

    Bring on the Mavs. Let’s get some payback. And one thing..I seriously don’t understand why we’re scared of Utah, its practically the same team we torched in 07. They beat us in 4 games where we were still up and down. We are the ones freaking out over who we’re gonna play. But I’ll tell you, no other team in the Western Conference wants to play right now. We should use it to our advantage

  • TradeTP

    @ Spurred on….

    Comments about Westbrook V Parker are WRONG
    1st game vs OK we lose.

    Westbrook 19pts 11AST 0 TO 7/13
    Parker 17pts 5 AST 4TO 7/18

    Game 2 we win in OT

    Westbrook 25 pts 13 AST 3 TO 9/24
    Parker 28pts 8 ast 4TO 12/24

    Game 3 We win
    Westbrook 17pts 7 AST 4 TO 6/21
    Parker 4pts 0AST 2TO 2/6

    Game 4 We win Parker didnt play

    Hill actually has a better series against the Thunder than Parker. Westbrook has as many assists as tony in one game and less TOS. Tony has never “lit up” Westbrook. You’re right Westbrook shoots worse, but Tony turns it over more, and doesnt create as much offense.

    In regards to Fisher and LA. Tony doesnt want to face Fisher when he is trying to get back into the swing of things. Fisher will hound him and push him around. Kidd will not. Again, since we are planning on playing Tony significant minutes in the playoffs we want to ease him into things. Which means we want the slowest, most unaggressive PG we can match up against. And although Kidd attacks the boards, he doesnt attack the rim, use quick hands, bump, as much as the others.

  • Jim Henderson

    Nice chart, BlaseE!