Updated: May 22, 2006, 2:54 PM ET
DAILY DIME: SPECIAL EDITION
Mavs at Spurs, Game 7
We asked a handful of ESPN's NBA writers, editors and commentators to forecast Game 7 between the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs:
Ric Bucher, ESPN The Magazine: It will come down to the wire, as it has in five of the series' first six games. As long as Manu Ginobili is healthy and available at the end, the Spurs complete their epic comeback. If he isn't, the Mavs win for the third time in four visits to that muddy thing they call the Riverwalk.
Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com: Although the Spurs have found a way to win the last two games, I see the spirit of Avery Johnson coming through his team and making his players believe they are supposed to win this game. Dallas with the upset.
Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Can the Spurs get the Big Three to show up on the same day? If yes, it's back to the conference finals. But the Mavs will push it early and often and Jason Terry will drill an 18-footer at the buzzer to win it. Mark Cuban will storm the court. Mavs by 1.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN Insider: Well, we've learned how Tim Duncan really hasn't lost a thing, and we've learned how valuable Terry is to the Mavs' offense. What we're about to learn is how the Mavs perform under pressure in the final two minutes of a be-all, end-all game because I can't see any way this one does not come down to endgame execution. I think the Spurs will have the edge there, and I expect them to win.
Greg Anthony, ESPN: The Spurs have played like champions the last two games and should advance. However, the matchups that have caused so many problems throughout the series return for Game 7, and Dallas, I believe, can pull the upset.
John Hollinger, ESPN Insider: San Antonio has the home-court advantage and the championship know-how, but through six games of this series, Dallas has been the better team. I'm guessing this one will go down to the wire just like the last four, but with Terry back in the lineup, Dallas looks poised for the upset.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I'll go out on a limb and say this one's going to be close. The Spurs simply haven't shown any spurtability against the Mavs, so I doubt they can win comfortably even though we're obviously due for a runaway. What I don't doubt is San Antonio's ability to squeak through. A comeback from 3-1 down in a playoff series is one of the few things we haven't seen from the Spurs in the Duncan Era, but that changes now. Reason being: Dallas might be better-equipped than the Cavs or Clips talentwise to win a Game 7 on the road, but the Mavs also faced the toughest emotional recovery from Game 6 of those three teams.
Eric Neel, ESPN.com: Dallas shouldn't be worried about losing Game 6, the Mavs should be worried about the way they lost it. They were handing out offensive boards like candy at the end, and Dirk Nowitzki, great as he has been this year, simply did not assert himself. And that was at home, in front of a crowd that loved them. Spurs by single digits.
Ken Shouler, ESPN.com: Low scores don't favor the Mavs, as their three losses in the series show. I expect the Spurs to win because of the defensive tilt of the series now and because it will take a monumental effort for Dallas to upset the Spurs on their home court.
Tim Legler, ESPN: The Mavericks will be relying on the return of Terry to provide the leadership and floor spacing they lacked in Game 6. They will need a big game out of Nowitzki. The Spurs should get Duncan 8 to 10 touches on the low block every quarter. I expect Ginobili to be the difference maker as the Spurs move on.
Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine: Although Duncan will bring his "A game," this is Dallas' year and the Mavs' quickness at the guard spots with Devin Harris and Terry will break down the Spurs defense. Dirk will match Duncan -- although he'll do his damage from the perimeter -- and the Mavs wil prevail. Yeah, I said it!
B.J. Armstrong, ESPN: Continue to watch the Spurs focus on the effort and not the results. Spurs advance.
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The Spurs' home-court advantage is nice. But their experience and focus is even better for a Game 7 showdown.
Jason Terry is quite lucky. He gets an immediate shot at redemption this time.
Surely you haven't forgotten Game 6 of last spring's second round. Terry inexplicably backs off Steve Nash with the Mavs up by three. Nash seizes upon the invitation to hit an OT-forcing triple. Dirk Nowitzki berates Terry, and Dallas is eliminated on its own floor.
This time, Terry gets more than five minutes to redeem himself for the unpardonable punch he jabbed at Michael Finley's groin in the closing seconds of Game 5. Making up for the gaffe in the Phoenix series was Terry's fuel all season. A Game 7 in San Antonio isn't the ideal setting for a comeback, but it beats waiting for October after another offseason of self-loathing.
So Game 7 is Terry's opportunity to avoid another long summer. After sitting out this Game 6 through suspension, an undeniable drag on Dallas' offense in a 91-86 defeat that helped cost the Mavs their chance to close out the mighty Spurs at home, will Terry atone?
• Read Marc Stein's entire column on whom to watch tonight
Editor's note: ESPN.com's NBA Intelligence Report is a daily collection of stories from around the Web. It is available each weekday to ESPN Insider subscribers.
Mavs Standing At Crossroads
The Mavericks have pulled even with San Antonio, but they haven't pulled ahead. Until they do, they will be the annoying little brother the Spurs pat on the head, praise occasionally then dismiss as they go about their business. "There is some kind of rivalry because of the Texas thing. And this year, the race was amazing to No. 1, so that created a little rivalry," Ginobili said. "Besides that, we're just two good teams playing each other." Right now, the Mavericks are nothing more than a good team that challenges the Spurs from time to time. Tonight will show if that has changed. -- Dallas Morning News
Mavs Counting On Each Other In Series Finale
So even if he's upset with Jason Terry or disappointed with Devin Harris or unsure how his team will respond, trust doesn't waver. Avery Johnson had it when the Mavs were leading the Spurs 3-1. He had it when Terry took himself out of Game 6 with a punch. He's not going to let trust waver at 3-3. "I'm not flawless as a coach," Johnson said. "The biggest key for me is not X's and O's or some cute drill in practice. It's my relationship with my players. That's the thing I'm banking on. I don't have anything else." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Dirk's Shot At Superstardom
Nowitzki has advanced his reputation around the league, moving in the direction of two-time MVP Tim Duncan. It's not there yet. And if his team loses and Duncan outplays him, then skeptics again will have their day questioning whether the Mavericks can win building a team around Nowitzki. Nowitzki knows that with a Game 7 looming, it's all or nothing for his team, for himself, for everyone. "It doesn't matter what's been said, what's been written," he said after the Mavericks' practice Sunday. "What's happened in this series doesn't matter. The pressure is equal on both teams. It's going to be an awesome game." Nowitzki needs to have an awesome game from start to finish. The key for him in this series is the finish. -- Dallas Morning News
Spurs, Mavs Have To Win Game 7 Or Go Home
For one more night, at least. Their reign having lasted from one Game 7 to another, the Spurs return to the AT&T Center to finish their Western Conference semifinals series against the Mavericks. No one will be discussing the mud level of the San Antonio River or who's drinking margaritas with whom. The bearhugs and jab to the jewels, if not forgiven, will be forgotten. After six months of battling for the conference's best record and another two weeks of high-stakes drama, the Spurs and Mavericks will settle their differences with one game. -- San Antonio Express-News
Bowen Adds To Dallas' Frustration
As Bruce Bowen walked off the court moments after Friday's 91-86 victory over Dallas in Game 6, his path took him right past Mark Cuban. When he got within earshot of the Mavericks' feisty owner, Bowen was startled when Cuban swore at him, a coarse, two-word curse whose meaning was unmistakable. Bowen said he was too startled to respond. On reflection, he considers it something of a backhanded compliment but also believes the harsh words help define Cuban. "It's him," Bowen said. "I was caught off guard by it, but it speaks a lot to me about who he is." Bowen's goal for tonight's Game 7, to be played at the AT&T Center: Keep Cuban's curses coming, as long as they come out of frustration. -- San Antonio Express-News
Finley Moves Past Incident Of Game 5
Michael Finley hasn't received an apology from Jason Terry since Terry punched him in the groin near the end of Game 5. And he's not going to waste time waiting for one. The Spurs forward said he enjoyed a good relationship with Terry when the two were teammates in Dallas. "We talked on and off the court (last season)," Finley said. "At the time, he was going through some tough things within the team, and I told him to just keep his head up. There's no bad blood there." -- San Antonio Express-News
• Read the entire Intelligence Report
The Mavs have the better team, say Paul Silas and Ric Bucher. But do they have what it takes to beat the champs in a Game 7?
Paul Silas and Ric Bucher break down Game 7.
Bill Baptist/ Getty Images
It sure doesn't hurt the Mavs' chances to have a former Spur coaching the team.
The Spurs forced a Game 7 after trailing 3 games to 1. There have been 13 previous best-of-seven playoff series in which the defending NBA champions faced a 3-1 deficit.
Only two of those teams came off the ropes to win the series:
Washington over San Antonio in the 1979 Eastern Conference finals and Houston over Phoenix in the 1995 Western Conference semifinals.
The Mavs are 3-1 in Game 7s, winning their last three. Both coaches tonight have never lost a Game 7:
May 7, 2005: Mavs defeated Rockets, 116-76, in Western Conference first round
June 23, 2005: Spurs defeated Pistons, 81-74, in NBA Finals
The Spurs have won the two previous playoff series vs. the Mavericks, all-time:
|Spurs vs. Mavs
|2006 Conf. semis
|2003 Conf. finals
|2001 Conf. semis
|*SA won NBA title
-- ESPN Research
Scouts Inc. is previewing every game of the playoffs.
Mavs need a big effort from the center position. DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier need to make Duncan work, keep him out of his favorite locations, and not allow him deep drives and post-ups. If they can limit his effectiveness, it will help their team's ability to get a win.
Someone needs to step up and guard Ginobili. He is averaging 24 points on 54 percent shooting the past four games. In addition, he is getting to the line almost 10 times a game. If the Mavs cannot contain Duncan and Ginobili in Game 7, they will lose.
• See complete Scouts Inc. breakdown
San Antonio's Robert Horry has played in more Game 7s than any other active player.
Chances are, though, that Monday's Game 7 against the Mavericks won't be Horry's last.
Big Shot Rob told me the other day that he plans to play at least one more season, which would be his 15th in the NBA.
I told Horry that I had to ask only because he has made a habit throughout this series of lamenting his advancing age. The 35-year-old, who turns 36 in August, is actually under contract to the Spurs for the next two seasons at a little less than $7 million.
After playing just nine minutes in Game 4, small-balled off the floor by the Mavs' up-tempo game, Horry said: "I feel like a damn dinosaur. I'm extinct now. Back in the day, it was me playing small ball, jetting around people. Now, the roles are reversed. They're getting around me. You just have to deal with it the best you can. It happens. It's part of getting old."
-- Marc Stein in San Antonio
From the Daily Dime mailbag:
Nathan (Dallas): In what should be the West Finals, Duncan goes off for 40+ and Vlade Divac gives Manu a standing O for a flop late in the 4th that goes Manu's way. Cuban sends tape immediately to Stern who reverses the call and the Mavs win in a stunner!
Kevin Rivera (Cincinnati): Me and probably the rest of the world are tired of the Spurs (and Pistons) winning all the time. Yeah they are good ... but c'mon, they are as boring as watching your grandma mop the kitchen floor. Mavs are the more exciting team and maybe even the better team.
Steve (Niceville, Fla.): SPURS IN SEVEN!!! This was all Pop's master plan. He could have swept if he wanted. But he saw what the Suns did to LA and said "that would be fun" and he pulled it off. Another genius move from the best coach in the NBA today.
Jonathan (Oklahoma City): Wow. The Mavs/Spurs tilt has proven to be one for the ages. I can't remember seeing basketball that suspenseful, dramatic, and saturated with great players and top-notch storylines! Both of these squads are heavyweights, and both of them are making great plays right and left. Can we go ahead and dub this series the NBA championships?
Gabriel (Phoenix): I believe the Spurs have figured out the Mavericks. Rudy Tomjanovich said one of the most famous quotes in sports history. "Never underestimate the heart of a Champion." The Spurs are the champs until someone dethrones them. Speed is good (Mavericks), but experience is the key (Spurs).
Brady (Madison, Wis.): I think the Mavericks blew the biggest opportunity they've had for their franchise in a great while. Going up 3-1 on the defending champion Spurs and setting yourself up for three opportunities to seal the series and yet they choke again.
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