A Dallas Mavericks' season that had more than its share of ups and downs and ups and downs enters the playoffs on a peak.
Thank you - of all people - Michael Finley.
The former Maverick's overtime-forcing 3-pointer allowed the San Antonio Spurs to beat the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night and allowed the Mavs to not face the younger, athletically superior Denver Nuggets, but instead a familiar foe - the Spurs.
Give the Mavs credit. In a season in which they're still stinging from 2006 and still uncertain about 2010, they managed to claw out a ninth consecutive season of 50 wins and and a playoff berth. Not bad for a group that started 2-7.
The finale to a frustrating season worked out perfectly. The Mavs rallied from 14 points down to beat the Houston Rockets, and landed a first-round foe they can actually beat.
Now - as I said earlier - we can resume one of the best current rivalries in sports. Mavs vs. Spurs, meeting in the playoffs for the fourth time this decade. The two teams have, by far, the NBA's most regular-season victories since 2000 and own the first- and second-longest playoff streaks in the league.
And they have a history - both past and present.
Game 1 in Saturday night in San Antonio. What can we expect?
I'll break down the positions and offer a prediction tomorrow morning.
Just know for now that the Spurs are without Manu Ginobli, the Mavericks have a gimpy Josh Howard and Dallas must win at least one game away from American Airlines Center despite not winning a key road game in more than a month.
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Says Mavs' guard Jason Terry: "We're going to ride in on our dark horse and shock the world."
Let the trash-talking commence.
SAN ANTONIO VS. DALLAS
Game 1 - Sat April 18 at San Antonio 7:00PM ESPN/21
Game 2 - Mon April 20 at San Antonio 8:30PM TNT/21
Game 3 - Thu April 23 at Dallas 7:30PM NBATV/21
Game 4 - Sat April 25 at Dallas 3:00PM TNT/21
Game 5 * Tue April 28 at San Antonio TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 at Dallas TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 at San Antonio TBD TBD