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Who do the Mavs want in the first round?

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The NBA playoffs are right around the corner. Now, most people are probably more excited about the NCAA Final Four, but basketball fans should get excited about the playoffs too, especially since the Western Conference is shaping up to be one of the best we’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, our Dallas Mavericks aren’t one of the hottest teams at the moment.

Coming into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavericks are placed at seventh in the West. That would have them playing the second seed Memphis Grizzles in the first round if things stay the way they are. However, things staying the way they are is probably the most unlikely thing in this ridiculous conference. So the question arises, Who do the Mavs have the best shot at beating in the first round?

My answer: The Houston Rockets. The Mavs in-state rivals do have the season series lead at 2-1. However, as we saw from last year’s first round between the Mavs and Spurs, a season series doesn’t mean everything going into the playoffs where the intensity and competitiveness is raised to a whole new level. Also, each time Dallas has played Houston this season, they have been on the second night of a back-to-back, a trend that will continue Thursday when the Mavs and Rockets meet for the final time this regular season in Dallas.

But here’s why Houston will be the best match up for Dallas in the first round. Firstly, there are probably only three options right now as to who the Mavs will play in the first round. Those three are the Warriors, Rockets, and Grizzles. With the way the Mavs have been playing now, it doesn’t look like the Mavs will get higher than the sixth seed, if even that.

The current sixth seed Spurs don’t look like they’re slowing down any time soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they somehow get home-court advantage in the first round. I say the Mavs don’t collapse too hard and stick with the seventh seed, but their schedule is just too tough to move up at this point. In fact, tonight starts a brutal four game stretch against the Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, and Suns, who the Mavs have yet to beat this season.

Let’s start with the Golden State first as a team the Mavs would NOT want to play in the first round because no one wants to play the Warriors in the playoffs. To put it bluntly, the Warriors are the hottest team in the NBA and have to be considered the favorites in the West at this time as they boast the best record in the league and have clinched the top spot in the West. The Mavs have lost all three meetings against the Warriors this season.

Now granted, one of those losses was without Rajon Rondo, which is the game in which Stephen Curry had a breathtaking 51 points and 10 threes while leading a huge comeback against Dallas. That kind of performance is not likely to happen again, but the Warriors still blew the Mavs out of the water in the other two meetings, even when Rondo was playing against Steph. However, I don’t see the Mavericks slipping down to eight, especially with a win tonight against the Thunder who are chasing them.

Next is the Memphis Grizzles. The Mavs just don’t have anyone to guard the twin towers, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Memphis beat the Mavs 3-1 in the season series, and each loss for the Mavs was in blowout fashion. Zach Randolph proves to be too much for Tyson Chandler or Dirk, and the Grizzles’ pesky defense proves to be too much for the Mavs (not without some help from the refs though). While the Grizzles would definitely be more favorable than the Warriors, I still wouldn’t want the Mavs to match up against them.

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Now compare that to the Houston Rockets. While the Mavericks have lost two meetings against the Rockets this season, both losses cam down to the wire. The first loss was with a Jameer Nelson-led team, and while many people have doubted that the Mavs won the trade, I do believe Dallas has gotten better because of their defensive improvements. And now with Amare Stoudemire, whom the Rockets have not played against when on the Mavs this season, the Mavs have a more legitimate shot to beat Houston in a series.

Harden will score his points, but Rondo has been exceptional both times he has been matched up on him. Without Harden, the Rockets aren’t going anywhere. This is the biggest reason why the Rockets are the best match-up for the Mavs. They rely on Harden too much. The rest of the team, including a banged up Dwight Howard and no Patrick Beverley, won’t be able to be consistent enough to lead the Rockets to a series win. The Mavs. on the other hand, have multiple weapons on the offensive end that can lead them to a victory.

The Mavs won’t have the luxury of home-court advantage, but it doesn’t seem like home-court has been much of a factor when these two teams play one another. Health is also a big issue with both teams which could play a big role. If Monta Ellis can’t preform like the Monta we need, then a first round exit is likely. However, signs are pointing to him returning to the court tonight along with J.J. Barea.

Any team the Mavs play will be a tough match-up in this historically competitive Western Conference, but from what I have seen, the Mavs would be better off playing Houston than any other team. I don’t see them moving up to maybe play the Blazers or Clippers, but I would still want the Rockets over both of those teams. And it will be so fun to watch the two teams that were rivals in the off season meet up in the playoffs. Parsons against his former team, and even Jet against the team he won a championship with. That would be amazing. I can’t wait.

Next: Rumors: Jeremy Lin to the Mavericks Next Year

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