Playoffs: Scouting Mavs-Spurs

You again?: Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki have met on the court 78 times in their careers. Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

Insider offers a breakdown of every playoff series using an expert combination of scouting from Amin Elhassan and advanced metrics from Bradford Doolittle to answer three crucial questions. Also included are predictions from the writers and the classic Log5 formula for determining matchup probabilities.

No one really expected the San Antonio Spurs to collapse in the wake of falling 5.2 seconds short of winning their fifth NBA championship. Still, for an aged team (a label we've been hanging on the Spurs for years now) to bounce back from such a profound Finals disappointment to coast into the playoffs with the league's best record -- that's awfully impressive. That Gregg Popovich must be a pretty good coach. The Spurs' 62 wins fell just one shy of their franchise record and gave them a clear path to that elusive fifth title. No more Game 7s on the road. Still, in the West there is no easy path.

San Antonio's first-round opponent, the Dallas Mavericks, won 49 games after undergoing one the league's biggest makeovers last summer. Franchise stalwart Dirk Nowitzki, coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban are constants, but virtually everything else in Dallas this season was a variable. This transitional season could hardly have gone better for the Mavericks, who hope to make some postseason noise after missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2000. To do so, they'll have to get through the Spurs, who beat Dallas in all four of their regular-season encounters this season. San Antonio will be hoping for a drama-free opening round, because its potential opponents the next two rounds -- Houston and Oklahoma City -- went a combined 8-0 against the Spurs in the regular season. That's how it is out West.

Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs

Western Conference playoffs

First-round preview