The time has come Mavs Nation! Last night, the Dallas Mavericks (50-32) snagged their 50th win in an impressive showing against the 4th seed, Portland Trailblazers (51-31). The San Antonio Spurs needed a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans last night to claim the 2nd seed, but failed to do so, allowing James Harden and the Houston Rockets to come in and claim that spot. So there you have it. It will be our Mavericks taking on the Rockets in round one of the NBA Playoffs.
I love playoff time. It allows you to focus on one particular opponent and really break them down and see how your team matches up against that squad. While I would love to jump in and discuss the drama between Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey, we will try to keep it on the court for now. So let’s dive in and take a look at a few of the categories, and see who has the upper hand in each.
Houston: Kevin McHale
Dallas: Rick Carlisle
While most fans will consider this a landslide victory for Carlisle, McHale managed to win the very tough Southwest division title, claim the 2nd seed, all while doing it with plenty of injuries (180 games combined) throughout the season. As we all know, Carlisle is no slouch. He’s already claimed one NBA Championship, and has shown that he can adapt to new player additions on the fly multiple times in his stint with the Mavericks. This year has been no different. The Mavericks threw in Rajon Rondo, and later added Amar’e Stoudemire into the fold. Carlisle is more decorated in terms of accomplishments and success as a coach, and in a seven game series, I think Carlisle finds a way to outsmart McHale.
Houston: James Harden
Dallas: Dirk Nowitzki
With last night’s victory, the Rockets managed to find a way to claim the 2nd seed in the Western Conference, and that may not be all that was claimed. There is a very good chance that the NBA MVP will go to either Stephen Curry or Harden, and anyone who knows me understands how hard this is for me to say. So here it goes. James Harden is the MVP of the 2014-2015 season. While it’s been impressive to see what Curry and the Warriors (who won their 67th game last night) have accomplished this year, it’s been Harden who has served as the constant in Houston. With Dwight Howard on the shelf for half the season (missed 41 games), and a plethora of other injuries to Rockets throughout the season, Harden has played in all but one game, while averaging 27.4 ppg, 7.0 apg, and 5.7 rpg.
Some will argue that Dirk Nowitzki is no longer the Mavericks go to guy, but in terms of superstar status, he is the true definition. Come playoff time, Nowitzki can turn it on with the best of them, and with the lack of back-to-backs, he should get the rest he requires to be in top notch form throughout a series. In his postseason career, Nowitzki has averaged 25.6 ppg and 10.0 rpg.
When it comes down to advantage, it’s clear that the Rockets have the younger, quicker, more of a threat superstar, but never doubt Nowitzki and his will to win. Should make for a fun duel between two of the NBA’s elite.
Houston: Dwight Howard, Terence Jones, Trevor Ariza
Dallas: Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons (optimistic)
The Mavericks are obviously hoping that Chandler Parsons will be available for Game 1 on Saturday, but if not, they may lean heavily on the services of Al-Farouq Aminu or Richard Jefferson. The battle between Tyson and Dwight should be fascinating to watch, but the real issue here is the lack of rebounding for the Mavericks. Tyson can’t grab every rebound, so they will need guys like Amar’e Stoudemire and Nowitzki to step it up on that statistic and really start hauling in some rebounds. Terence Jones has done just fine as a starter, but in these two lineups of front court players, it’s obvious he fails in comparison to matching up against Nowitzki.
Houston: James Harden, Jason Terry
Dallas: Monta Ellis, Rajon Rondo
You have our high scorer (Ellis) squaring off against theirs (Harden). Two guys who can really get it going when it matters most. Then we have Rondo, who at this point in time seems to be just a one-year Maverick battling against Jason Terry, a ‘Maverick for Life’ by all accounts. We already discussed how great of a season Harden has had, but we haven’t touched on Ellis or Rondo yet. Monta Ellis had a fantastic playoff debut for the Mavericks last season as they pushed the Spurs to the full seven games. Rondo has had some ups and downs during his stint with Dallas, but one thing is for sure. The guy can play when it comes to playoff time. He is a whole different animal when it comes to playoffs, and the Mavericks will need that version if they are going to make any type of noise this postseason. Terry hasn’t been himself since leaving the Mavericks a couple seasons ago, but he will be drooling at the opportunity to deliver some blows to his old squad. This one is a toss up that can’t be decided until we hit the floor.
Houston: Corey Brewer
Dallas: Devin Harris
When in top form, Devin Harris is a beautiful thing to watch. He has always been one of the more entertaining players for me personally, as his ability to get to the basket at any costs, coupled with his determination always makes him a threat in any series. Harris has really improved from long distance this season, shooting 35% from behind the arc, but at the moment is dealing with an injured toe, which he suffered on Monday. The Mavericks hope to have him as close to 100 percent when they tip-off Saturday night.
Corey Brewer is a player who can make an immediate impact any type he steps onto the floor. In games against Dallas, he has had no problem putting up points and getting the fast break points he craves.
It’s going to be a good one Mavs fans. Cuban vs Morey. Parsons going against his former squad. Mavs Nation vs whatever the Rockets fan base is called. It’s a rivalry that has been continuing to grow over the last couple of seasons, and it appears to be coming full steam ahead as Saturday approaches. Keep a look out for our staff predictions for the Round 1 series tomorrow. As always, Let’s Go Mavs!