Most of the talk today will be about how tonight’s Game 4 between the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks is essentially a “must-win” for the Spurs. However, despite being down 2-1 in the first round of the NBA playoffs, that’s false — technically and figuratively.
Sure, if any team goes down 3-1 in any best-of-seven series, it’s hard to see said team come back to win three straight to win the series. However, there are a few different reasons why the Spurs don’t fall into that category, even if they don’t exactly make sense.
First of all, they’re the Spurs. The same Spurs that finished the season with the best record in the NBA (62-20). They’re also the same Spurs that dominated these same Mavs in that regular season (4-0). Up until the Mavs Game 2 victory, the Spurs had won the nine previous meetings between the two teams.
Second, Game 5 will be in San Antonio. Even though, if they lose tonight, they’ll be in a 3-1 hole and one game away from elimination, Game 5 will be at their house. The NBA playoffs is all about momentum, and who carries it — just look at how much Indiana is struggling in round one. If the Spurs can win Game 5, then all the pressure shifts back to Dallas even if the Mavs are up 3-2. In that situation, I’d trust Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs.
And finally, Gregg Popovich will adjust accordingly. If the Spurs fall into a 3-1 hole, it’s likely that Popovich will come out in Game 5 with an entirely different scheme (probably defensively). So far, in this series, the Spurs’ main concern (on defense) has been Dirk Nowitzki. However, and I expect it to begin to happen tonight, it’s likely that Pop will slowly begin to shift his defensive focus off Dirk once needed. The great thing about the Spurs is that they won’t keep making the same mistakes in a series. Pop is too good of a coach to let that happen.
Nevertheless, Game 4 still isn’t a must-win for the Spurs. It’s probably more of a must-win for the Mavs, if anything.
If the Mavs don’t leave Dallas with a 3-1 series lead, there is no way they win this series. Dallas already stole one in San Antonio, they’re not getting another one. Pop won’t let that happen.
Winning at home in Game 6, on the other hand, is a whole lot easier than winning a Game 5 or 7 in San Antonio, obviously.
But first things first, Game 4. Not a must-win. Just a swing game.