Jose Calderon vs. Tony Parker: This is the biggest mismatch of the series. Calderon, a subpar defender, struggles to guard a lot of point guards. He really gets exploited by Parker, who averaged 23.3 points on 54.2 percent shooting in three games against the Mavs this season. That was Parker's highest scoring average against any team he faced more than once this season. Parker loves pushing the pace and running pick-and-rolls, both of which present major problems for Calderon, whose plus-minus was minus-40 in the Mavs' four losses to the Spurs, including minus-25 in 86 minutes with Parker on the floor. If Calderon isn't lighting it up from long range, coach Rick Carlisle should seriously consider giving Devin Harris a bigger share of the minutes.
Monta Ellis vs. Danny Green: On paper, this is the Mavs' best matchup. It hasn't worked out that way on the floor, however. Green is a lethal 3-point shooter who has especially lit it up against the Mavs, going 12-of-20 from long distance against Dallas this season. The numbers indicate he has also done a good job defending Ellis, who has shot only 38.9 percent from the field when Green is in the game. The Mavs have been outscored by 60 points in the 81 minutes in which Ellis and Green have both been on the court. The Mavs probably wouldn't be in the playoffs without Ellis, a better fit than the Dallas front office believed even when they signed him to a three-year, $25 million deal. They'll need a huge series from Ellis -- who seems to thrive under pressure -- to have a chance to pull off a stunning upset over the Spurs.
Shawn Marion vs. Kawhi Leonard: Leonard looks a lot like a young Marion -- a freakish, 6-foot-7 athlete who is a versatile defender and efficient offensive weapon. That's an awfully tough matchup for the 35-year-old version of "The Matrix." Leonard gets overshadowed by the Spurs' living legends on the roster, but he's a 22-year-old rising star. His all-around skills were on full display during the Spurs' recent trip to Dallas, on which Leonard stuffed the box score for 16 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. By comparison, Marion had a total of 21 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in three games against San Antonio this season.
Dirk Nowitzki vs. Tim Duncan: The two all-time greats don't actually match up with each other much these days, but it will be a treat to watch a pair of surefire Hall of Famers compete in a playoff series for the sixth time in their careers. The 37-year-old Duncan's numbers have dipped in recent seasons, but that's primarily because the priority for him is being as fresh as possible for the playoffs. He's still a dominant defensive presence and capable of putting up a 20-point, 15-rebound line, the way he did in the Spurs' last win over the Mavs. Nowitzki, an All-Star again this season after a one-year, injury-related hiatus, remains one of the most distinct and effective offensive threats in the league. However, Nowitzki has averaged only 15.4 points against the Spurs in the past three seasons, during which San Antonio has won 10 of 12 meetings.
Samuel Dalembert vs. Tiago Splitter: The Mavs need Dalembert to bang with Duncan, but he has trouble keeping up with the fast-paced Spurs. Splitter's traditional stats (8.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG) aren't much more impressive than Dalembert's (6.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG), but Splitter is critical to the Spurs' defensive dominance despite not getting many blocks or steals. His defensive rating of 94.5 points per 100 possession is by far the lowest of any San Antonio rotation player. In fact, it's the lowest of any player in the league who started the majority of his team's games this season. It's 10 points lower than Dalembert's defensive rating.
Vince Carter vs. Manu Ginobili, Devin Harris vs. Patty Mills, Jae Crowder vs. Marco Belinelli, Brandan Wright/DeJuan Blair vs. Boris Diaw/Matt Bonner: The Spurs have the highest-scoring bench in the league at 45.1 points per game. San Antonio's reserves also rank first in assists (11.1 per game). The Mavs bench ranks fifth in scoring (35.4) and third in assists (8.3). Carter and Ginobili are both former All-Stars who are sixth man of the year candidates, but Ginobili is a more efficient scorer and better playmaker. Harris and Mills are among the league's best backup point guards, with Harris' athleticism and Mills' perimeter shooting posing problems. Belinelli and Bonner give the Spurs waves of shooters off the bench. Diaw, for some reason, seems to bother Nowitzki defensively. The Mavs need the Harris/Wright tandem, which has a plus-minus of plus-11.8 per 48 minutes, to make a major impact in this series.
Rick Carlisle vs. Gregg Popovich: The list of coaches who clearly have an advantage over Carlisle isn't very long. It might consist of only three letters: Pop. Without a trace of sarcasm, Carlisle calls Popovich the best coach in the history of sports. For the Mavs to make this series competitive, Carlisle must win the chess match. That's quite a task, but Carlisle did outwit Phil Jackson while sweeping the Zen Master into coaching retirement a few years ago.