With 8 games remaining on the schedule, The Smoking Cuban’s staff looks at some questions regarding the Dallas Mavericks playoff hopes.
1. At 44-30, the Mavericks are currently tied for the 8th seed. How many wins you see them finishing with?
Rami Michail (@RamiMichail): I’m going to be a little optimistic and say they actually get to that 50 win mark. I see them losing to the Spurs and the Clippers. I’m probably being hopeful in thinking that they’ll take out the Warriors, Grizzlies, and Suns.
Brian Gosset (@Gosset41): With eight games left, five against current playoff teams, I see the Mavs winning five or six. I think they’ll get their act together against “lesser” teams, and beat LAL, UTA and SAC. I also see them beating PHX and MEM to end the season.
Marc Cashion (@MarkWithaC03): Being perfectly unbiased there are 3 games that could go either way with the Warriors, Suns and Grizzlies. I see us winning two out of three of the games either losing to the Suns and Warriors. We should take care of business against the teams out of the picture and I can’t see us beating either the Spurs or the Clippers so I’m going to say we win 5 games.
Ace Feltman (@MFFeLtman): Sadly I think the Minnesota game was the one where they squandered a 50-win season away. While it’s only one game I think 49 with 33 losses will be the final total. Anything less probably means you’re finishing 9th, especially with the direct matchups remaining against the teams right next to you (GSW, PHX, MEM).
2. Like the Mavericks, the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies are currently fighting for the final two spots. Which two will make it?
RM: I got the Mavericks and Grizzlies in. I expect the young Suns to fall off and that loss to the Lakers may come back to bite them.
BG: Being based out in Flagstaff, Ariz., I would like to see the Suns in it, but out of the three they have the most road games remaining. If they can win on the road, they deserve a spot, but in the end I think Memphis’ bigs and defense will prevail them into the playoffs.
MC: I have the Mavs and the Grizzlies making the playoffs. Each teams schedules are pretty similar but as Brian said the Suns are on the road more. I strictly leave the Suns out not only because of their inexperience but the fact that the Grizzlies and Mavs have so many years of playoff experience.
AF: The Grizzlies are currently 9th by ½ game but they’re as healthy as they’ve been and they have Nick Calathes. The Suns 6 game win streak just ended, but accompanied by the return of Eric Bledsoe and the returned emphasis at the defensive end, Phoenix is knee-deep in-house money. However, I think of the Mavericks/Grizzlies/Suns I think inexperience and enormity of the late games in the season will put the Suns on the short end of the 2014 NBA Playoffs stick. (With LMA back the Blazers look like they’ll stay in but Golden State is really banged up at the wrong time)
3. The Mavericks are currently winless against the San Antonio Spurs, how important is it that they avoid them in the first round?
RM: If the Mavericks hope to win a single playoff game, then they better hope that they aren’t matched up against the Spurs. Even when moments of the games seemed close, the Mavericks looked like the inferior team. Not saying the Mavericks would fare better against the Thunder or Clippers, but the Spurs would most likely embarrass the Mavericks.
BG: Very important. I know the playoffs are a “different season,” and I don’t really like to choose a team because anyone can beat anyone (like the “depressing” years of 2007-10), but if I had to choose, I wouldn’t want to match up with the Spurs until the WCF. They’re just too good. Just when you think the window is closed, it’s more open than ever, and when they sit their stars and still win, that spells trouble. I would like to match up with anyone else because the Mavs have shown this season they can beat any of the other teams, yes, even the Clippers. Even though they’re 0-3 vs LAC, they very well could AND should be 3-0 or at least 2-1.
MC: The team I believe that we have the best chance to upset in the first round is the Thunder. That being said the absolute worst team for the Mavs to match up against are the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have proven to be an absolute nightmare matchup for the Mavs. We have no one that can guard Tony Parker and the length of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green gives Monta Ellis absolute fits. Not to mention the amount of hate I have for the Spurs I really don’t want to watch my Mavs get embarrassed by them.
AF: It means…everything! The Mavericks are going to be a first round underdog anyway you slice it if they make it into the playoffs, but the round 1 matchups I could see them being swept out of are the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers. Especially the Spurs. 8 seed is turrible turrible trouble.
4. Who will be the key player for the Mavericks playoff push?
RM: It comes down to the Big German to me. If Dirk Nowitzki can play at a high level, the Mavericks will be much better off. He has the ability to make everyone else’s job easier on the offense. Also it would be a big plus if Nowitzki is able to hit the glass at a higher rate. The Mavericks will of course need Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, and the bench to continue putting up strong numbers, but there is a reason Nowitzki is the face of the franchise.
BG: I have three in mind. I think Vince Carter, Devin Harris and Monta Ellis are going to have to be key in this playoff push. Dirk will get his and Calderon and Sam are on a good run so far (hope they can keep it up), but I just think if Harris OR Carter aren’t performing down the stretch, they won’t have a spark off the bench and teams will destroy us when Dirk is off the court. I also think Ellis because it’s really tough to pick out a secondary scorer after Dirk if Monta isn’t playing well. He needs to keep facilitating and driving to the basket because Ellis is one of Dallas’ BEST penetrators in a long time, at least starter wise (Barea was good at that). Before him, maybe Nash? Van Exel?
MC: Dirk could definitely be an option at this position, but I’m going to go with Monta Ellis. Ellis has proven to be a late game closer and the team is a completely different team when Monta is scrappy on defense and attacking on offense. Side note I really hope to see Carlisle give Monta at least a chance to attack the basket in the waning seconds of the game instead of standing at the three-point line watching Dirk isolate. I still want Dirk involved but off a pick and roll from Monta, giving him the chance to either drive the lane, pass it to Dirk for an in rhythm jumper or an open Calderon three in the corner. Basically, I want more options at the end of the game not everyone watching Dirk trying to score the game winner.
AF: Samuel Dalembert’s emergence this home stand has been a beautiful revelation, however assuming Dirk can be Dirk and Monta can be mostly reliable *crosses finger toes arms legs and ears* and the bench is playing at a much more Rick Carlisle pace, I’ll go with our goofy Spanish point guard Jose Calderon. Calderon saved the Mavericks in the big win vs. OKC, sending the game to OT with a three, but despite his crips and efficient shooting Jose Calderon is much more than a spot up stand still shooter. He’s shown it in the past but it’s been mostly absent this year. However his assist numbers are coming up recently and yes he doesn’t play defense, but nobody on this team does, so the more offense the merrier. Plus floor spacing for Dirk and floor spacing for all.
5. Which game(s) on the upcoming schedule do you have highlighted and why?
RM: The Phoenix and Memphis games during the end of the season are huge, but I have the Mavericks’ upcoming game as the dictator. If the Mavericks are able to take down the Warriors, they aren’t just in play for the seventh and eighth seed, but would find themselves tied in the win column with the 6th seeded Warriors.
BG: Every Mavs fan has to have vs PHX and at MEM pegged as the two most important games left. Those two will end the regular season and probably will determine the playoff seeds. All eight games left are must wins, but those two will be huge. It will determine whether or not the Mavs will return to the playoffs after a one-year absence (after making it 12 times in a row) or if the Mavs will stay home for a rare two years in a row, something I haven’t experienced in my time as a fan, let alone last season’s hiatus.
MC: I believe the Phoenix game is going to be huge. The reason being if we win against the Suns I am hoping it will clinch a Mavs birth in the playoffs. Then the next game against the Grizzlies being the game to decide who has to play the Spurs. My heart can’t handle waiting for the last game of the season deciding if the Mavs will make the playoffs or not. If everything works out it should be what decides the final seeding.
AF: The Spurs game in the third-to-last game of the year. I pray the Spurs have the top spot clinched and are resting their starters.
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Tags: Dallas Mavericks