We all need to send thank-you cards to Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers.

Those two grizzled, mature coaches have saved the first round of the NBA playoffs, which were going way too predictably until the last few days.

As part of your periodic playoff update courtesy of mavs.com, we give you a little perspective on what’s happened with the two first-round series that still are being contested.

It may not be particularly surprising that Popovich’s Spurs have pushed Denver to the brink. Game 7 will be Saturday in Denver and the Spurs are trying to become the first No. 7 seed to get out of the first round since …

The Spurs did it in 2010, when they beat the No. 2-seeded Mavericks in six games.

Game 7s are always must-see and this one should be no different. And remember that Popovich is one of the few active coaches that actually has won a Game 7 on the road, having done so at New Orleans in 2008.

The point there is that it doesn’t happen very often.

Meanwhile, nobody expected the Los Angeles Clippers to win two games against Golden State. Most people didn’t even figure they’d win one.

But Rivers has the Clippers on their home floor with a chance Friday night to knot up the series at three wins apiece.

It would shock nobody if the Warriors went into Staples Center and took care of business and ended the series in six games.

But they have already penalized themselves by letting the opening round go to six games. The Rockets went to the Bay Area on Friday to get accustomed to the Pacific time zone. They will have at least three days of rest before the series begins against the Warriors, more if the Clippers force a game 7.

Again, Rivers has done a terrific job of getting the Clippers to overachieve.

As for the East, the conference semifinals have been set for a couple days after the first round went according to form.

Philadelphia and Toronto will no doubt be ultra-competitive. The Raptors have not one, not two but three players (Pascal Siakim, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green) who can give Ben Simmons trouble defensively and they also are big enough to combat Joel Embiid.

That said, nobody’s been able to do much to slow down Embiid this season. Expect a long, bruising series.

And it may not be the best of the two in the East. Boston and Milwaukee is a rematch of last year’s first-round series that Boston needed seven games to win. The home team won every game.

If they hope to advance this season, they’ll have to win at least once in Milwaukee – probably twice because the Bucks were a wonderful road team this season, going 27-14.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a legitimate MVP candidate, if not MVP favorite. But the Celtics have long, athletic defenders in Al Horford and Jayson Tatum, plus a backup from SMU, Semi Ojeleye, who has had some marginal success guarding the Greek Freak in the past.

So buckle up because the second round is going to be great fun for NBA fans.

And, again, we can thank Popovich and Rivers for helping salvage an otherwise blah first round.

Twitter: @ESefko

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