Point guard: Tony Parker vs. Jason Kidd
As a Nets fan I always enjoy watching Kidd on the court. But I also know that Kidd isn’t a kid anymore, and lost some of his quickness on D. And “quickness” is exactly what Parker does have. A lot. A whole lot. Advantage: Spurs
Shooting guard: Roger Mason jr. vs. Antoine Wright
When Wright was with the Nets, I didn’t envision him being a starting shooting guard for a playoff team, but that shows you what I know. He’s a good defender and will have to stay close to Roger Mason jr.. With Ginobili out, Mason jr. is expected to score more, and being the deadly 3-point shooter that he is, he has to take the burden off Parker and Duncan’s shoulders and become that efficient third scorer which he showed during the regular season he can be. Advantage: Spurs
Small forward: Michael Finley vs. Josh Howard
Finley turned 35 last month, played in 81 games this season, and started 77 of ‘em. He hit some buzzer-beaters too, so you couldn’t ask anything more of him. And now he has to go up against Josh Howard, who showed his importance when he came back from injury at the end of the season. Howard’s versatility gave Dallas the boost it so desperately needed. Advantage: Mavericks.
Power forward: Tim Duncan vs. Dirk Nowitzki
You have to wonder how much trouble Duncan’s knees are causing him. San Antonio needs him to be able to play at his usual high level, especially dealing with such a great scorer like Nowitzki. Duncan is one of the best power forwards the League has ever seen, but Dirk will always get his points, even though he’s shooting less 3’s this season. Interesting match-up. Advantage: Spurs.
Center: Matt Bonner vs. Erick Dampier
Who could’ve guessed that The Red Rocket would be starting center of the Spurs this season? Bonner can shoot, Damp can rebound. Advantage: none.
No Manu, but certainly enough big men on the bench of San Antonio, with Kurt Thomas, Drew Gooden and Fabricio Oberto all capable of putting up some quality minutes. It also opened up some playing time for Bruce Bowen, who’s probably in his fifties by now, but still wouldn’t complain if he has to run after Josh Howard all night. Expect to see Ime Udoka getting some minutes too. The Mavs have some firepower in J.J. Barea and even more important, Jason Terry. James Singleton and Brandon Bass both bring some extra energy off the bench, whether it’s by a dunk or by a hustle play. Advantage: Mavericks.
Coaching: Gregg Popovich vs. Rick Carlisle
Pop has won four championships, and still makes sure his team stays competitive. He’s been doing that for the last dozen years, so expect no difference in that. Carlisle had a pretty decent season with Dallas, and throughout his career he always got the most out of teams who you might not expect to go really far. But this time he has to do it against the Spurs. Advantage: Spurs.
What I’d say:
Spurs in seven. The loss of Ginobili is a big one, and like I already wrote: how is Duncan feeling? But you can never count the Spurs out. This will be a long series, with the San Antonio winning it in the deciding game.