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Popovich vs. D’Antoni: Chess vs. Checkers

Project Spurs continues its 2013 Spurs Playoff preview as the Spurs face the Lakers in the first round. Next is Trevor Zickgraf on Gregg Popovich and Mike D'Antoni.

There's a lot of storylines heading in to the first round match up between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers.  Since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls, either the Lakers or Spurs have represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals 11 out of 14 years.  There's Tim Duncan facing Dwight Howard for the first time their careers, memories of .4, etc. 

One storyline that's been overlooked by most is the fact that this will be the fourth time Gregg Popovich and Mike D'Antoni will square off in the last nine years, the fourth time D'Antoni meets the man who has caused him so much pain in spring's past.

Interesting fact about Mike D'Antoni, he has a losing record in the playoffs (26-29).  12 of those losses, just over 40 percent of D'Antoni's playoff losses have come at the hands of Popovich's Spurs.  On top of that, D'Antoni teams only have four victories total against the Spurs in three series.  In short, whether it's by roster talent, coaching guile, dumb luck or all of the above, Popovich owns D'Antoni in the postseason.

There's an argument to be made that each time the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns have met, the Suns had a more talented team.  Steve Nash in his prime, Shawn Marion in his prime, Amar'e Stoudemire in his prime (still not giving a damn about defense) and a slew of shooters for Nash to dish it to.  It was Pop's game plan to, for the most part, stay home on all of the shooters and let Tony Parker or Bruce Bowen chase Nash around while trying to prevent him from creating open looks for others.  The Spurs were also able to go small when they needed to, able to push the ball when they needed to.

This coaching mismatch is the main reason I'm optimistic about the Spurs in this series is this coaching mismatch.  Popovich is able to make adjustments, usually in a short amount of time, when things aren't going well.  D'Antoni has never shown an ability or interest to alter his offensive strategy when teams make adjustments. 

This season was probably the best job D'Antoni has done figuring out how to incoporate two big men in to his system and it was still anything but a seamless transition.  Pop and Co. have had a couple days now to figure out how to attack the Laker bigs. 

Will Mike D'Antoni figure out an adjustment if the Spurs cause problems for Howard and Gasol?  Don't count on it.

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