As the saying goes, "Everything's bigger in Texas." And when the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks get together in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the matchup on the sidelines will be the biggest of the opening round.
Gregg Popovich is widely considered the NBA's best coach, but Rick Carlisle is no slouch himself. Both men have had a ton of success in the league, and while the Spurs have the clear edge on paper, the chess match between the two headmasters should be fascinating.
It's almost impossible to come up with enough words to describe the excellence of Popovich. Year after year, Pop's Spurs are near the top of the league, with 15 straight 50-win seasons. Popovich missed the postseason in his first year as San Antonio's head coach way back in 1996-97, but he hasn't missed since.
Over that span, the Spurs have won four NBA titles and just missed a fifth last season. Popovich could probably be criticized for his decision to have Tim Duncan on the bench when Ray Allen hit his infamous three late in Game 6, but that's just one blip on a long and storied career.
This year has been one of Popovich's best jobs yet. Despite an aging core and numerous injuries to key players, the Spurs won a league-high 62 games and were brilliant on both sides of the ball. Plug in seemingly any player into Popovich's offensive system, and it still often finds a way to produce big outputs. The ball movement can be dizzying, and it makes San Antonio extremely hard to defend.
Carlisle's Mavs missed the playoffs last season, but they rebounded this year and surprised a good amount of people by winning 49 games. Those 49 wins moved Carlisle's career winning percentage to just a shade under 59 percent, and he has won over 51 percent of his playoff games, including one title in 2010-11.
Dallas' resurgence this year can be attributed to the vast improvement on offense, and Carlisle deserves a lot of credit. After a few down years, the Mavs finished tied with the Miami Heat for second-most efficient offense in the entire league. This happened despite Monta Ellis being the most significant offseason addition. Ellis was maligned for his inefficient ways in Milwaukee, but he bought into Carlisle's system and had his best year since 2010-11.
While the Mavs should be able to score, Carlisle will have his hands full against the Spurs' offensive machine. Dallas' defense ranked in the bottom third of the league, so it will be interesting to see what kind of schemes Carlisle comes up with in an attempt to slow down San Antonio.