Editor's note: The Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs have the chance to win their semifinal series on the road in their respective Game 6s on Thursday. ESPN analyst Fred Carter has three keys for each team as they try to advance to the Western Conference finals.
San Antonio Spurs
1. Strong start. The Spurs must get off to a strong start in the first quarter to close this series out at the Staples Center. The Spurs have outscored the Lakers 80-52 in the first quarter of games at the SBC Center in Games 1, 2 and 5, but at the Staples Center, they only outscored the Lakers 48-47 in the first quarter of Games 3 and 4. Not surprisingly, the Spurs lost those games in Los Angeles.
2. Perimeter play. Tony Parker, Emanuel Ginobili and Stephen Jackson have to step up and have big games. Those three players are averaging a combined 33.6 points per game in the series -- that's almost 40 percent of the Spurs' scoring. There's no doubt that Tim Duncan will see a lot of double teams in Game 6. That will leave these three players with a lot of open looks. They must take them and make them.
3. Full-court press. The Spurs need to full-court press the Lakers as much as possible. The press -- as shown by the Timberwolves -- disrupts the Lakers' triangle offense by taking time off the shot clock. This stops the Lakers from setting up their offense as fluidly as they'd like. Also with less time on the clock, it forces Shaquille O'Neal to have to make quicker decisions when he gets the ball in the post.
1. A sense of urgency. The Mavericks can't play Game 6 as if they have another game in their pocket. It's imperative for Don Nelson to get his guys on the court to play with a sense of urgency. The Orlando Magic proved in Round 1 that no series lead is safe. They must play with a sense of urgency like this is a Game 7 situation.
2. Early touches for Dirk. It's extremely important for Dirk Nowitzki to get touches early in the shot clock. With Chris Webber out, the Mavericks need to take advantage of Webber's absence and flow the offense through Dirk. Too often Steve Nash and Nick Van Exel dominate the ball and it stunts the ball movement in Dallas' offense. Letting Dirk be the point man will create more ball movement and easier baskets.
3. Get physical. The Mavericks aren't a strong defensive team, but they need to fake it in Game 6. They must play physical, play strong defense and dominate the offensive boards. Raef LaFrentz had a big game in Game 5 with 14 points, three offensive rebounds and five blocks. They need him to recreate that magic in Game 6.