Not one week ago I was sitting at my computer in my cozy dorm room up here at UNT, writing about how the Mavericks ended the season on a high note, and were going into the playoffs playing their best basketball. Oh how things can change in a week.
Since the regular season finale last Wednesday when the Mavs beat the Trail Blazers at home, the wheels have effectively fallen off. Chandler Parsons, the small forward Dallas took away from Houston this offseason is done for the year after reinjuring his right knee. Despite doctors finding no structural damage, Parsons insists he will require surgery.
“Trying to stay positive with it. Whatever the operation is, I’m going to have to be very disciplined and I’ll get stronger than ever.” – Chandler Parsons
Then there’s the never ending Rajon Rondo saga, an event worthy of People magazine. After playing only nine minutes in the first half of Game 2, Rondo was yanked after committing two fouls and picking up a senseless technical 30 seconds into the 3rd quarter. He never stepped foot on the court again. After ignoring the media after the game, the Mavs released an official statement on Wednesday citing a “back injury” and that Rondo was “out indefinitely.” That same afternoon head coach Rick Carlisle held a press conference, addressing the Parsons and Rondo issue. When a reporter asked him if he though Rondo would ever play a game in a Mavs uniform again, Carlisle dropped a bombshell, saying “No, I don’t.”
So, where does all this leave Dallas? Down 0-2 to a dangerous Houston team, the Mavs will try and salvage Game 3 at the American Airlines Center on Friday evening. Below, I’ll walk through what the Mavs have to do if they want any chance of being competitive again this year.
Put The Rondo Drama Behind Them
For the most part, the Mavericks are made up of savvy veterans that have been there before. And who knows, maybe there will be a sigh of relief now that the Rondo cancer is out of the locker room. But in any case, Dallas loses their starting point guard, and will be forced to adjust.
“That trade was a risk worth taking. We all agreed on that. Now, we’re at a point where, hey, it’s time to move on.” – Rick Carlisle
In many ways, I think the Mavs are better off in this series without Rondo. If you haven’t noticed, Houston respects Rondo about as much as they would respect me if I was on the court. On almost every offensive position, you will see Jason Terry, Pablo Prigioni, or whoever is in at point guard, simply abandoned Rondo and double team Dirk. Rondo’s lack of a jumpshot, or perimeter game at all for that matter, was the biggest cause for concern when Cuban & Co. picked him up back in December. He simply doesn’t possess any ability to beat teams from the outside, and for all intents and purposes, it’s a 4 on 5 when he’s on the floor.
More than that, there are better options off the bench. Devin Harris, when healthy, is a deadly 3 point shooter. He show upwards of 40% from beyond the arc this year and has the ability to create off the dribble. Unfortunately for Dallas, the reserve guard has missed the first two games with turf toe. He’s probable for Game 3, and Dallas will need every bit of him if they want any chance to climb the mountain.
Where In The World Is Monta Ellis?
It seems like all too long ago when Dallas fans were chanting “Too Much Monta,” or “Monta Have It All.” So far in this series, the starting guard that led the Mavs in scoring this season with just over 19 points per game has been MIA. Aside from the two buzzer beaters at the end of the third quarter in Games 1 & 2, there really hasn’t been too much to get excited about.
He has frequently been out of position on defense, and way too often he will settle for an 18 foot jumpshoot with 17-18 seconds left on the shotclock.
I get it. I really do. Houston has Dwight Howard protecting the rim, which really limits Ellis’ ability to finish around the rim. But make no mistake about it, Monta isn’t good enough to simply be a pull up shooter. Dallas has to get him better looks.
Matchup To Watch:
James Harden v Whoever is Guarding Him
Oddly enough, Dallas has done a pretty decent job of defending Harden so far in this series. Ironically, he wasn’t even on the court in Game 2 when Houston went on its 19-2 run in the fourth quarter to blow the game open.
Strangely though, I feel as though Harden could have a breakout game on Friday, especially with Rondo being out of the lineup. Don’t get me wrong, Rondo didn’t make major contributions in this series, but while he was on the court, he did an adequate job of covering the MVP Candidate.
At this point, I would like to revise my series prediction. I think the Mavericks will steal a win at home, but Houston is obviously the better, more fundamentally sound team at this point, and I like the Rockets in 5 games.
“We’re coming home and we’ve got the best fans in the league. We’re excited to be home, so that’s where we are.” – Rick Carlisle
Saddle up Mavs fans. Don’t let Rick down.
Credit: Rajon Rondo (Dallas Morning News/G.J. McCarthy)
Credit: Monta Ellis (David J. Phillip, AP)
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