May 4, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) and Dallas Mavericks forward Jae Crowder (9) battle for a rebound in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 119-96. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Several NBA games will mean something to the San Antonio Spurs this season, but which ones deserve their utmost attention?
Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James and his new Big Three
This is probably the game everybody wants to see as quickly as possible. San Antonio was able to master the first version of the Big Three with LeBron James. When they meet the Cleveland Cavaliers they will have to measure up with a new one featuring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The defensive challenges will be extensive and something the Spurs must take every opportunity to learn.
Vs. Chicago Bulls – Derrick Rose returns with deep roster
More than a few NBA experts don’t see the Cavaliers as the best team in the East. That distinction goes to the Chicago Bulls. Not only do they feature more playoff experience, a more proven head coach in Tom Thibodeau and a league-defining defense, they also got a lot better during the off-season. Star point guard Derrick Rose is back and appears on track to regaining his old form after two lost seasons with knee injuries. Joining the fun is veteran forward Pau Gasol as well as a host of shooting help off the bench. It is a deep and versatile team that is built very similar to the Spurs.
Vs. Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowitzki has more help
No team gave the San Antonio Spurs more problems in the playoffs last season than the Dallas Mavericks. Led by the always-dangerous Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs pushed their first round series to a full seven games. San Antonio eventually prevailed, but it was a reminder of how well Dallas has traditionally played them. Good thing too because the Mavericks have spent the off-season getting better. In addition to retaining Nowitzki, they also added former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler and young scoring forward Chandler Parsons. The Spurs may find this opponent even tougher than the scrappy one they escaped in May.
This list doesn’t even count the obvious road blocks like the Thunder, Clippers or Warriors. All pose their own challenges, but for San Antonio, the three games above feature opponents they have never seen before and must learn how to play quickly given the likelihood of seeing them come playoff time.