Mavs Want Rockets? 5 Reasons Why
Are the Mavs hoping For Houston in the first round of the NBA Playoffs?
“I like our chances in that series. I feel like tonight was a very winnable game.”
Those are the words of Tyson Chandler after Thursday night’s 108-101 loss to the Houston Rockets. (Our All-Access coverage is here). He is referring to a potential first-round matchup between the Mavericks and the Rockets. By losing to the Rockets that night, the Mavs slightly increased their chances of that matchup with Houston as the second seed and Dallas as the seventh seed.
Is that a good sign? Here are a few observations based on Thursday night’s game -- oh, and Saturday's 123-110 ball-twisting loss to the Warriors, too -- that make up 'The Five Reasons Why The Mavs Should Want The Rockets In Round 1 Of The Playoffs':
Jason Terry did not start for 95 percent of his career with the Dallas Mavericks.
He was also considerably more capable of a basketball player in his time with Dallas. At 37 years old he doesn’t have the skillset to back up his (previously) lovable swagger. The injury to Patrick Beverly has left Houston quite thin at point guard. Terry is neither a creator nor a threat to score off the dribble. This puts even more of a burden for Harden to initiate the offense at all times, which takes a considerable amount of energy that he might need for his already shaky defensive efforts.
Terry was competent Thursday night with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists, and he made a big 3 late, but over the course of a seven-game series it is a huge weakness to have Terry playing a role as big as the 29 minutes he played Thursday suggested they need from him.
None of this is an insult to Jet. Nor is any of this an insult to the Rockets as a whole, who area heckuva story as they contend for such a lofty spot. But these are Mavs realities ... lesser of evils, if you will. As a matter of comparison, consider the backcourt of Golden State, Steph Curry (11 points on a cruising night) and Klay Thompson (21 points), who lead the 63-win Warriors. Lesser of evils, indeed.
Monta Ellis struggled Thursday in that 108-101 loss to Houston. Shot-hunting seemed to catch up to him as he went 7-of-21 for 19 points. It wasn’t pretty. But let us not forget that Ellis had been playing quite well as of late and was shooting the ball at an impressive clip. He was the leading scorer in the Mavericks’ offensive onslaught against the Thunder. (Our All-Access coverage is here). He was also on the second night of a back-to-back only a few days removed from a calf injury. Thursday’s poor shooting performance likely had more to do with fatigue and an off-night shooting than anything the Rockets did to stop him.
Without Beverly, the Rockets do not have much of an answer to contain Ellis when he is successfully attacking the rim. Trevor Ariza started the game guarding Ellis. Ariza has long arms and is a decent defender, so he can do a good job of keep Ellis from getting open three-point looks, but he has little chance of keeping Ellis in front of him.
Critics like to accuse Ellis of "Hero-Ball,'' but the reality is that when he successfully gets to the rim it is the most consistently efficient form of offense for the Mavericks. In fact, we can make a case for, when appropriate, MORE of "Hero-Ball'' from Monta ... and our Mike Marshall is even more specific when he notes how effective Dallas is when Ellis is allowed the freedom to take over third quarters ... But he shot 6-of-16 against the Warriors and this doesn't represent Monta as the playoff gauge; it represents Monta as the playoff lid., as we analyze in Mavs Premium.
Dallas can also hide his defensive efficiencies assuming Rondo can do a somewhat adequate job guarding Harden. Sticking Ellis on 29-year old Jason Terry would have been a nightmare considering Ellis struggles getting through screens to find three-point shooters, but 37-year old Terry? That’s another story. Ellis is not a net-negative on defense when guarding the likes of Terry or Pablo Prigioni.
Dwight is not healthy. Hate Howard all you want, but when healthy he is a big problem for opponents.
He is by no means healthy, though. He is still feel the affects of knee surgery and is on a strict minutes restriction. That restriction may lessen over the following weeks, but the playoffs are fast approaching and it is hard to expect him to reach 100 percent by the first round.
He can still make an impact on the defensive end of the floor, but the Rockets are not in the position to try to incorporate a rusty Howard into the offense and disrupt what James Harden is already accomplishing. From an advantage standpoint, though, the clear fact is that it is much easier to drive to a basket being protected by Joey Dorsey than it is Dwight Howard. If his minutes continue to be restricted it is a huge advantage for the Mavericks’ guards.
Howard played 18 minutes on Thursday and at one point limped off the court favoring his knee. Meanwhile, it's worth noting that Dallas continues to nurse its own injuries. Chandler Parsons sat out the Warriors loss with a knee. Rajon Rondo left Saturday with a hyperextended left knee. Mavs vs. Rockets is almost a race to see who can get the healthiest the fastest in the next two weeks.
Dallas has struggled with transition defense. This is partly an effort problem and partly a personnel problem. If Rondo and Ellis are penetrating the paint and Nowitzki is hanging around the perimeter ready for a kick-out pass, that’s all well and good assuming they convert a basket. But if they miss the shot then Nowitzki is stuck as the last line of defense against a transition attack. He doesn’t stand a chance stopping a Houston fast break.
Houston likes to push the ball. It isn’t as pretty as the "Showtime'' Lakers or the "Seven-Seconds-or-Less Suns,'' but they attack you in semi-transition opportunities with a lot of success. Most of this is initiated by Harden, who finds the middle of the floor and forces a scrambling defender, who is merely trying to stop the ball, to foul him. Corey Brewer is also deadly in transition, outrunning entire defenses like a wide receiver who got a jump on his defender. Heck, even Terry had two breakaway layups on Thursday night.
The Rockets had 26 fast-break points against Dallas on Thursday. The Dallas Mavericks can't trust "personnel'' to solve the problem. But playoff-level effort makes us see it as solveable. And Carlisle matching wits with McHale in this and other areas? Solutions exist there, too.
In fact, Carlisle as a playoff coach -- and Rondo as a playoff performer, and TY as a guy who cranks it up a notch, and full health for CP's knee and Monta's calf, and Dirk Nowitzki playing with longer rests between games -- these are all advantages Dallas hopes it is ready to exploit.
The Mavs loss to the visiting Warriors on Saturday. But the "failure'' isn't enough to slide Dallas to No. 8, though, where they'd have No. 1 Golden State as their playoff opener. Carlisle's management of his guys' minutes suggests he's aware Dallas simply isn't ready for that sort of postseason onslaught ... and may never be.
The Mavs do not have a measurable confidence level against Golden State. The Mavs do have one against the Rockets, despite their 3-1 season-series disadvantage.
“They’ve been a difficult matchup for everybody this season, clearly with the best record in the NBA. ... They shoot the ball very well and they’re very sound defensively. ... They play to their strengths.”'' said Tyson, and you wouldn't hear the Mavs admit such a thing about most any other foe. They have a measurable confidence level against Houston ... which might not be enough. But it's one of their five "somethings.''
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