With their thrilling 101-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns on April 12 the Dallas Mavericks clinched a playoff berth in the incredibly deep Western Conference. Monta Ellis led the way for Dallas with 37 points in the critical, must-win game and he spoke to the media about the Mavericks achieving one of the goals they set before the season.
“We set a goal for the beginning of the season, we have our ups and downs, but tonight we came together as a team, everyone really wanted to get this win. It was just a total team effort. We are just really happy right now. We are going to the playoffs, so it’s time for us to get this last one, get ready for whoever we get matched up with.”
The team that Dallas will be matched up with will likely be the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs. Like most No. 7 or No. 8 seeds, the Mavericks will be underdogs heading into the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
In order to pull off the improbable upset, the Mavericks will obviously need a big series from Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. As good as the dynamic duo has been for the Mavericks, these two alone will not be able to carry Dallas past the first round.
There are a number of other factors that will need to slide to the Mavericks advantage to pull off the first-round upset. Let’s take a look at three X factors that must go to the Mavericks advantage in round 1.
Dalembert continues to be an enigmatic presence for the Mavericks. At times Dalembert has proven himself to be a strong rebounder and defensive presence that can swing games for Dallas. However there are still moments that cause Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle to go to his bench early in games despite the face the Mavericks have no true backup center.
Dalembert may only average 6.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but when he plays well the Mavericks are vastly improved team. Dallas is 19-4 when Dalembert scores more than 10 points and they are 13-2 when Dalembert is on the court for more than 25 minutes.
These numbers don’t lie when it comes to gauging what Dalembert means to this Dallas team. He may not be a player with a bright spotlight on him, but when he plays well the Mavericks become a difficult team for anyone to beat.
As nice as it would be, Rick Carlisle cannot afford to keep Dirk Nowitzki on the court for all 48 minutes when the playoffs begin. Shooting guard Monta Ellis may very well play the majority of the game, but at some key point in each contest Dallas will have to rely on their second unit.
The Mavericks bench improved drastically once injured players Devin Harris and Brandan Wright rejoined the team. After averaging 40 points per game for a 10-stretch in February, the Dallas bench has fallen off of late. Over the last five games, they are averaging only 29 points per game, six points lower than their season average.
It’s asking a lot of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis to be spectacular each night they hit the court. The Mavericks bench will have to improve their current level of play to contend with teams with championship aspirations. The success of the Mavericks second unit hinges on the play of guards Devin Harris and Vince Carter, along with forward Brandan Wright.
Despite losing three games in overtime during their recent eight-game homestand, the Mavericks are 15-9 in games decided by five points or less in the 2013-14 season. Dallas has proven that they have the ability to contend with the best teams in the Western conference not named the San Antonio Spurs.
If they continue to play at a high level, they will once again find themselves in games that come down to the last two minutes. In order to win close against talented teams, Dallas will have to protect the ball while maximizing each possession. Expect the two-man game with Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki to be employed a great deal as the Mavericks work to score key baskets down the stretch.
Tags: Dallas Mavericks