Mavs At Houston: Last-Minute Updates
With momentum on their side, the Dallas Mavericks are back to Houston in an attempt to become the 14th team in NBA history to force a Game 6 after being down 3-0 in a seven-game series (7 p.m. tip-off on TNT). Of the 214 teams that have trailed 3-1 in a seven-game series, 206 of them went on to lose. While those odds don’t sound promising, they pop in comparison to the zero-percent chance the Mavs were facing when they were down 3-0.
"We weren't ready to go home," said guard Monta Ellis following the Mavs' surprising 121-109 blowout of the Rockets on Sunday night. The Mavs led by as much as 24 at one point, the most of any team in the series on in front of an energized crowd at the American Airlines Center.
The Mavs' success came with their fourth different starting lineup in four games. With forward Richard Jefferson (calf) and guard Raymond Felton (hamstring) both nursing injuries, Carlisle said his decision to go with J.J. Barea and Al Farouq-Aminu was also somewhat influenced by the two being the most effective of the series. (A terrific look at the JJB/AFA combo here in All-Access Donuts by our Mike Marshall.)
It was the first playoff start of Aminu’s young career, and the first since 2011 for Barea, who proved he could answer the call when given the opportunity, finishing with 17 points and a game-high 13 points.
"We're going to fight," Barea said. "We're not going to quit.”
The Mavs (hustle-and-)flow offense has been a completely different beast since, I don’t know, a certain player was relieved of his duties on account of a mysterious back injury.
With Barea now running the show at point guard, the Mavs offense is now trending in the direction with the sort of efficiency that had them on pace to become one of the most efficient in NBA history when the Mavs began the season 19-8 with Jameer Nelson at the helm. Through four playoff games, the 30-year-old Barea is averaging 13.3 points and 7.0 in 29.0 minutes ... and he’s not the only one who’s seen an upsurge in performance.
In the past two games, the reconstructed Mavs lineup has allowed Monta the opportunity to dominate possession of the ball on offense, while averaging 32.5 points on 28-of-46 shooting (61 percent); including 5-of-11 from deep in his past two games. The steady progression of Monta’s comfort with Rondo out of the lineup has had a contagious effect on the Mavs offense. In the past two games, the Mavs have averaged 124.5 points while shooting 53 percent from the floor after shooting just 41 percent in the first two games.
While the offense finally seems to be clicking on all cylinders, Carlisle continues to stress the importance of rebounding for the Mavs to find continued success.
“The biggest, most decisive factor in this thing is rebounding,” said Carlisle. “It’s just possession of the ball, and so you rebound well and keep turnovers down you’re going to give yourself a lot better chance.”
In Game 4, the Mavs won the rebound battle 52-38, the biggest margin of any team in the series. The Mavs' starting frontcourt alone nearly out-rebound the Rockets entire team alone with a combined 34 rebounds, including 12 from Aminu and 14 from Tyson Chandler and hopefully that trend can continue tonight.
If the Mavs can remain focused on defense and rebounding, bringing the same amount of effort and tenacity that guided them to a Game 4 victory, they have a legitimate shot at sending this series back to Dallas despite what seemed like insurmountable odds just days ago.
With their collective backs still against the wall (and Tyson Chandler's fist clenched), Dallas now faces the next step in their hopes to becoming the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 seven-game series deficit ... and losing just isn’t an option. We'll give you more updates throughout the night on Twitter at Michael Lark and FishSports ... and we'll hope the Mavs positive momentum from Game 5 made its way to Houston and the Mavs can pull off enough big victory and bring this series back to Dallas for Game 6 on Thursday in what we're told is tentatively set for a 7 p.m. tip at the AAC.
But first things first.
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