The Dallas Mavericks, coming off losses against the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers, will look to get back to their winning ways on Wednesday night when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder. This game will be a matchup of teams with injuries to star players, with Dallas having lost Monta Ellis to a calf injury and the Thunder having lost starting forward and reigning league MVP Kevin Durant to season ending foot surgery.
Never “Too Much Monta.”
Before going down with a calf injury in last Friday’s 94-76 loss against the San Antonio Spurs, Monta Ellis will be the first to tell you he was struggling. It wasn’t but a week ago when Dallas lost a game in Phoenix, a game quite frankly they should have won, when Ellis scored only 2 points in the first half and finished the game an abysmal 4/22 from the floor. Despite his apparent struggles in that game, head coach Rick Carlisle continued to call his number, even at crunch time.
“We had to get shots,” Carlisle said. “He’s the one guy who can get clean shots. And he was getting good looks. I always believe he’s going to make the next one.”
After the disappointing loss to Phoenix, many Mavs fans and beat writers were calling for Ellis’ head, reversing the phrase “Too Much Monta” to have a negative, harsh connotation towards the should have been All-Star guard. Make no mistake about it, without Ellis, the Mavericks will not and cannot make a run in the playoffs.
Go back to December and January. Remember when Ellis drew a foul on the road at Chicago and made three clutch free throws to send the game into overtime, before winning it for Dallas on a step-back 3 in Jimmy Butler’s face? Remember when Ellis won the game in Milwaukee on a night that a young Bucks squad, coached by former Maverick Jason Kidd outplayed the Mavericks?
Ellis is the only guy on the Mavs team that can consistently create his own shot in any given situation. Dirk can’t create off the dribble and neither can Parsons. Ellis is the one guy on this team that can pull up from 20 feet or take it to the hole whenever you need him too. There is never such a thing as “Too Much Monta.”
The Chandler Parson’s Show
There has, and always will be much debate about whether or not an offense can run through Chandler Parsons. The youngster who signed a 3 year/$46 million dollar deal this summer is being paid as though he is a number one option. The fact of the matter is, he isn’t. He isn’t even the second option, at least not when Ellis is on the floor. However, with Ellis sidelined with an injury, Parsons has been given an opportunity to showcase his skills being the focal point of a highly potent offense.
“Like I’ve said all year long, I’m very comfortable to have the ball in my hands, get to the basket and make shots and make plays,” Parsons said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m going to average 27 and 10 and be MVP, but I believe in myself.”
These are the facts. When Dallas was without Parsons due to his ankle sprain, the team went 3-4 and averaged a humbling 91.1 points per game. Parsons, much like Ellis, brings a versatility that the Mavericks offense desperately needs. His ability to drive to the basket or be a spot up shooter is vital. However, the argument remains that with Nowitzki and Ellis around, Parsons will never live up to his potential. Much to the chagrin of others, I believe in a world where Nowitzki, Ellis and Parsons can co-exist in harmony. Nevertheless, I believe it will take some adaptation from Parsons. Carlisle’s offense requires floor spacing, and one thing Parsons needs to improve on anyway is his consistency shooting the basketball. If Parsons could evolve into a taller, more athletic Kyle Korver, I believe the fit would be to a tee. For now, Parsons must continue to take over games when he is asked and more importantly, be as consistent as possible if the Mavs want to make a run this summer.
“I’m all about the team,” Parsons said. “Whenever Monta comes back, he’s been the guy all year long. I’ll continue to stay aggressive, but while he’s out, I’ve got to pick up the slack.
Matchup at hand
Rajon Rondo v Russell Westbrook
The Mavericks pulled the trigger on the Rajon Rondo trade for games like this. Against elite point guards in the Western Conference. So far this season with Rondo, Dallas is 8-9 against the top eight teams in the West. Sufficed it to say, when Rondo plays well, Dallas wins. Take two weeks ago when Dallas hosted this very Thunder team and a smoking hot Russell Westbrook who, at the time, was coming off four straight triple doubles. The Mavericks didn’t exactly stifle him, but they held the All-Star point guard in check and in doing so, were able to win the game.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face. The Mavericks traded for Rondo for his defensive ability. If he is able to lock down the likes of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul, the Mavericks will be able to win games against elite teams. If not, the Mavs could be golfing this summer.
Projected Starting Lineups
The Thunder own a slight lead over the Mavs in the All-Time series due to their days of playing in Seattle as the SuperSonics. OKC leads the series 73-69.
Dallas is 2-1 against the Thunder this year and will look to win the series on Wednesday night.
Monta Ellis went through practice yesterday, and is hopeful to play.
Reserve point guard J.J. Barea is questionable after missing the last four games with a sprained ankle.
The Thunder will be without starting forward and reigning MVP Kevin Durant after he underwent bone graft surgery in his foot last week. OKC will also be without starting center Serge Ibaka, who underwent knee surgery. The team is hopeful Ibaka could return should the Thunder make the playoffs.
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