Posted on January 14, 2011 at 11:03 AM
Friday, Jan 14 at 1:02 PM
Few things stir the emotions of sports fans like a good rivalry.
While it doesn’t have the long history and national appeal of such feuds as the Red Sox-Yankees, Celtics-Lakers or Cowboys-Redskins, the rivalry between the Spurs and Dallas Mavericks is every bit as intense for players and fans alike.
That both teams are from Texas certainly adds flavor to the Interstate 35 rivalry.
Then there’s the pro basketball history San Antonio and Dallas share. It’s sometimes forgotten that the Spurs’ franchise started as the Dallas Chaparrals before it moved to San Antonio in 1973 because, it’s hard to believe now, the team had feeble support in Dallas.
Throw in some trash talk from Mavs owner Mark Cuban, whose unflattering remarks about San Antonio’s famed River Walk made national headlines a few years ago, and you’ve got a Texas-sized NBA rivalry.
The Spurs and Mavs clash for the third time this season Friday night at the AT&T Center, where Dallas snapped San Antonio’s 12-game winning streak Nov. 26.
The Spurs evened the series with a 99-93 victory in Dallas on Dec. 30, three days after 7-foot Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki was sidelined with a sprained right knee. Dallas has gone 2-6 without its leading scorer, falling to 26-11.
The Mavs also are without small forward Caron Butler, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 2.
While Dallas has struggled, the Spurs (33-6) have raced to their best start in franchise history and own the best record in the NBA. You know the Spurs can’t continue their torrid pace, but it will be interesting to see how far into the season they can go with single-digit losses.
Nowitzki’s injury is listed as day-to-day, but he isn't expected to play Friday night. That’s unfortunate.
You always want to see both teams’ stars play when rivals meet. But even without Nowitzki, look for the Mavs to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Silver and Black. And if the Spurs go into the game feeling a little too good about themselves, don’t be surprised if Dallas leaves the building with a “W.”
That’s what rivalries are all about. It’s never just another game in a long season when the Spurs and Mavs play.
As usual, the Mavs will have a large contingent of fans in the stands at the AT&T Center on Friday night. Dallas loyalists revel in any victory against the Spurs, which should flatter the Silver and Black.
Yes, Dallas is a corporate giant and has more pro sports franchises than San Antonio ever will have. But you know that it grates Mavs fans to no end that the Spurs, a franchise that started in Dallas, have won four NBA championships since entering the league in 1976.
The Mavs beat the Spurs in a memorable playoff series in 2006 and went on to play in the NBA Finals for the first time. They took a 2-0 lead against Miami, but lost four straight to the Heat and haven’t come close to the big show since.
San Antonio rebounded from its disappointing 2006 finish to sweep the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 finals.
Dallas beat the Spurs in a first-round series two years ago, but San Antonio eliminated the Mavs in the opening round last season. It was the third time in four seasons the Mavs failed to get past the first round since advancing to the finals.
And this season?
Anything could still happen.