Mavs Live From Houston Game 1 Feel
Welcome to Day 1, Game 1 of the Mount Everest climb for the Dallas Mavericks. The last time the Mavs won 50-plus games, they were able to scale the NBA playoff mountain, and as the play-by-play voice of the Mavs (and DB.com contributor) Chuck Cooperstein put it, they were able to "plant their flag'' as the NBA champs. Tonight, the journey to the top of that mountain begins at 8:30 in Houston.
We’ve already delved into what you might expect for the series here and here, so let’s take a look at what we should expect for just Game 1.
The first order of business, as always, is injuries. The Mavs addressed the media following practice yesterday afternoon, and coach Rick Carlisle declared Chandler Parsons (knee) and Devin Harris (toe) available and ready to go for Game 1. (See Fish's piece on the injury update from practice here.) In what could possibly be series-saving news for the Mavs, the addition of Parsons (15.7 points and 4.9 rebounds) back in the lineup after missing the final six regular-season games will provide a significant boost for the Mavs on the offensive end.
Parsons has all the motivation in the world to come out with a big game in his Mavs playoff debut, after spurning the Rockets this past summer to collect a $46-million deal and then subsequently being ripped by his former teammates as just another "role player.'' Parsons' basketball activities have been limited for the past couple weeks, so it’s going to take a game or two for him to get back into basketball shape, but hopefully not to the same degree that he had to begin the 2014 preseason that had Carlisle publicly criticizing CP's fitness in what DB.com termed an "Abspocalypse.''
For the Rockets, they’ll be without starting point guard Patrick Beverly, who has been out since late March with torn ligaments in his left wrist. His replacement, old pal Jason Terry, has been a formidable option in his absence providing worthy offense, but obviously he’s not the the same player that helped lead the Mavs to the promised land in 2011.
Starting center Dwight Howard, who has been ailing all season, appears to be rounding into playoff form and is expected to see close to 30 minutes per game in this series, according to Rockets head coach Kevin McHale.
Tonight also brings the Dallas debut of the man known as "Playoff Rondo.'' It will be the first playoff appearance for Rondo since the 2011-12 season, where he averaged 17.3 points and 11.9 assists. In his stint with the Celtics, Rondo created a reputation as a player that completely took his game to unforeseen levels when his team needed it most. It's where his career averages in points (+3.7) and assists (+0.9) increase (something also true of "Playoff Dirk'') and the Mavs hope to see a good glimpse of that tonight.
We will get a good sense tonight of just how that Mavs hope to contain James Harden (27.4 points, 7.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds) and limit the league leader in trips to the free-throw line. Harden garners nearly 30 percent of all his points from trips to the line. Finding a way to limit those opportunities will certainly help tip the scales in the Mavs favor, but they’ll have to be smart and creative in their approach, while making every effort to remain aggressive defensively.
With Harris and Parsons coming back from injury, Monta showing recent pep and other positive Dallas developments, tonight will be just as much about feeling out the matchup ... for awhile ... as much as it is about winning it ... eventually.
And there will be some Sports Hate in there, too.
"When I was there (in Dallas, helping win that 2011 title), they didn’t like Houston,'' Corey Brewer says. "Now I’m here (with the Rockets), we don’t like Dallas. It’s a good thing in sports.”
The Mavs will make every effort towards another "good thing,'' to steal Game 1 in Houston and slide some early momentum in their favor. ... and they'll cross their fingers with Joe Crawford, Tony Brown and Ron Garretson as the refs.
Strap yourselves up. It’s going to be one competitive first-round series.
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