Spurs poised to beat Mavs for west crown

May 20, 2003 4:35 AM

There will be a new NBA Champion this season following San Antonio’s elimination of the three time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

Appropriately San Antonio is currently the favorite to win the title after soundly defeating the Lakers. The Spurs were the last team to win the NBA title before the Lakers began their run.

Challenging the Spurs for the right to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals are the Dallas Mavericks. Led by Dirk Nowitzski, Steve Nash and Michael Finley, the Mavs had the best record in the NBA for most of the season before being overtaken by San Antonio in the season’s final week.

During the regular season the teams split four meetings with the favored team winning each game while also covering the pointspread. Note that the spread declined throughout the season from San Antonio being favored by 5 points in the first meeting back in December to Dallas being favored by 1 point on the season”˜s final night.

Although San Antonio is noted for their defense and Dallas for their offense, both of San Antonio’s wins were in games that went over the total while the Mavericks’ wins were in games that went under the total. Three of the four games were decided by 8 points or less with one contest being decided in overtime.

San Antonio is the better team and should win this series in no more than six games. The Spurs are the better defensive club and Duncan’s supporting cast is greatly underrated. As favorite, the Spurs are —380 to win, while Dallas is +260.

Dallas, however, may be the more profitable team against the line. The Mavs received plus seven points in Monday’s game one, and are likely to be similar sized underdogs in game two on Wednesday.

Look for Dallas to make this a competitive series in which they fall a bit short. Dallas should win and cover at least one game if they return home down two games to zero and the strategy would be to play Dallas in game three and again in game four if they lose game three. Should Dallas win game three the Spurs would be an attractive play in game four.

The Eastern Conference Finals feature top seeded Detroit and second seeded New Jersey. New Jersey won Sunday’s opening game 76-74. The game ended in a pointspread push as New Jersey had been favored by a deuce.

In three regular season meetings, Detroit won two of the games but covered in all three. The three regular season games featured total points in the narrow range of 190 to 192 and all three games went over the total. This was in sharp contrast to Sunday’s 150 total points.

This series has a greater chance of going the distance than does the Western Conference Finals, and the odds reflect that. New Jersey is —325 to win it all, while the take-back on Detroit is +275.

Both the Pistons and Nets play solid defense and can succeed in a half court game. There has been a major line shift following game one in which New Jersey was a two-point favorite. For Tuesday’s second game the host Pistons are favored by a point as they seek to avoid falling down 0-2 in the series before going on the road.

The Pistons are in a good position to win game two and tie the series, and should Detroit do that, they then become an attractive play as a modest underdog in game three.

Should Detroit be trailing two games to one they would also be an attractive play in game four. But should New Jersey be up three games to none the Nets then become a solid proposition to complete a four game sweep. The Nets would also be the play in game four if they happen to lose both games two and three and find themselves down two games to one.

Despite the fact that all three regular season games went over the total, the result of game one should be repeated more often during the series — barring a significant adjustment by the lines maker. At totals of 178 or higher the under should be considered for play.