Because we feel that no one understands the NBA more like the way we wish we understood the NBA than the gang at Free Darko, we've asked them to write up previews of every playoff series throughout the postseason. It will help us understand what's at stake in each series, what matters, what it means for the individuals involved, their fanbases and their history. And there will also be funny, bizarre, non-linear photographs.

After the jump, the final first-round playoff preview — they will be back for the next round — the series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets. Many consider this the most compelling first-round matchup, and will be nice to see Allen Iverson with something legitimate to play for. And hey, who Joey Crawford is rooting for! If you want to hop in with your predictions in the comments, please do. Because we type about sports, and people expect it, our prediction is Spurs in 6.

And now, Billups, from Free Darko, after the jump. Enjoy.


Attention, Tony Parker, time to turn off the collector's edition DVD of Tango and Cash, hit Eva on the Treo and tell her to grab the black and silver Stella McCartney miniskirt. Yes, yes, you know it, Solaar: A national TV audience is waiting. Get your game-smirk ready.


Attention, Spurs Fans: Time to stop watching those "Two and a Half Men" blooper reels, copy that fan e-mail to Lou Dobbs that you've been slaving over to the "Drafts" folder and get thee to the Alamo Dome!

"Spurs Fans." That doesn't even sound right. Any major dude will tell you: You can't love someone who doesn't love themselves. That's why it's hard for me to believe there are actually, really real Spurs fans. I don't think the guys on the Spurs particularly like the Spurs. These guys exist somewhere on the axis between the session musicians who played for Steely Dan and The Agents in The Matrix. They're the new Utah Jazz. And we all know how we all feel about that, right?

There might be a guy coaching intramural basketball on a penal colony somewhere who gets really amped at the space-time-wormhole-requiring possibility of today's Spurs playing the Jazz of the dot-com and BJ crazy Clinton years; to him, the symphony of stoicism and layups must sound like, um, a symphony. Me? I'd rather be deer hunting.

Maybe it's the trauma of getting Shawshanked by the Lakers so many times, but I feel like the Spurs play the game the "right way" but for all the wrong reasons. They play pleasure-free ball predicated on precision and avoiding failure.

Denver is all about failure. But they are lions.

There's a line in The Philadelphia Story where Cary Grant says to Katie H., "You'll never be a first class human being or a first class woman until you've learned to have some regard for human frailty."

Allen Iverson is the patron saint of Human Frailty. And that's what closet Republicans who think the NBA is all about battle rapping and somersault dunks will never understand.

There was a postgame press conference a few months or so ago, before the Nuggets started their late-season bombing run. Iverson had a bumming shoulder and no Melo to call his own. Reporters were throwing the usual, "What was going through your mind..." that players just looooove. And he just wasn't answering. He wasn't being a dick, he was just quiet. He had the body language of a socially suffocated Virginia Woolf heroine. Or Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.


At some point, there was a sea change. His whole career Iverson had been waiting for someone to come along and help him the hell out. In retrospect, the players he "ran out of Philly" are not exactly Spartans. Van Horn, Stackhouse, Tim Thomas, Larry Hughes. They'd make a dynamite improve comedy troupe, but I dunno about their Capo status. That meant that, despite possessing singular talents and having heart that all of us should envy, he was getting dogged by the beast of burden. And finally Comcast said, "It's not us, it's you."

What happened when AI got to the crisp, refreshing, mountain brewed taste of Denver is this: He was finally able to help someone else. Melo and AI aren't just brothers in Mid-Atlantic socio-economic background. They're bound together by the will to win, even if it means losing. Scared money don't make none, is what I'm saying. It's broadcast in how you play. And in this series, with 'Melo facing Judo chops and Manu flops, I think AI will do for Anthony what nobody was able to really do for him; he will push him. This isn't a multiple choice situation for Carmelo. He has got to son Bruce Bowen. He has got to realize that the hard part is, THERE IS NO SPOON (one point penalty for multiple Matrix refs).

People thought this was gonna be Bad Boys III. No, dudes. This is The Wild Bunch. But even when both are going nuclear they can only put up, what, 70? And then you look down the bench. And that's where Steve Motherfucking Blake comes in. And Kleiza (AIR RAID), and Camby (who has been playing like he's a regular visitor to God's acupuncturist; he's putting up Golden Age Mutombo numbers) and Nene (why is he cosmetically transforming himself into Udonis Haslem? Can you get an extension doing that?) and every other one of those blue and yellow cupcakes. This is a team. It's not an algebra problem. They're gonna fuck up.

I don't know what other way to put it. I think the Nuggets will take it in 6. Web 2.0 will certainly disagree. Maybe I believe in Iverson more than I should (though no less than anyone else from the 215). Maybe I think that, despite a licensed and practicing asshole, if anyone's gonna sneak up and shock Pop it would be Karl. Maybe I just don't want to be condemned to a month of Tim Duncan's footwork and giggling. That's my problem. If you're a Spurs fan...well I don't believe you exist, but okay; clap on, clappers. But if you're a basketball fan, can you really tell me you wouldn't wanna watch these two get next for a few weeks?