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Mavericks Enter Playoffs With Chip on Shoulder

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Mar 24, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons (25), forward Al-Farouq Aminu (7), and forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) celebrate during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks won 101-94. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Cuban traded for Tyson Chandler last summer, signed Chandler Parsons and a load of key role players. He got rid of Brandan Wright and got Rajon Rondo and Amar’e Stoudemire.

This would be an incredible team if this were NBA 2k15.

Enter April 2015, the regular season over and the Dallas Mavericks had a rather inconsistent journey. However, they join 15 other teams back at square one and head to the Western Conference playoffs as the seventh seed.

“It’s 0-0 now and it’s the first team to 16 wins,” Rick Carlisle said.

Parsons and Devin Harris are banged up as the Mavericks (50-32) seek a deep playoff run. If not, it would be a very unsuccessful season.

Their first-round matchup, no other than the Houston Rockets. This marks just the third time the two teams will meet in the playoffs, first since that memorable seven-game first round back in 2005. The Mavericks won that 4-3 and also won 3-1 in 1988. Dallas defeated Houston in Game 7 in 2005 by 40 points (116-76).

Dallas took the Spurs to seven games last year with the likes of Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair so one has to figure that with this year’s lineup, the Mavericks should fare much better.

But the Rockets (56-26) enter the playoffs hot as any other team. It’s the most even series according to ESPN, Houston projected to win at 54 percent.

Houston won the season series 3-1. All its wins have been by seven points or less while Dallas’ win was 111-100. In their last meeting, the Mavericks had a lead after three quarters, but dropped it 108-101.

“They like to go small and extremely quick and they got a lineup with a lot of length. They like to switch a lot and Harden has been incredible all year long,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “All four games have been fun to be a part of, they were all close.”

The Mavericks will have to play consistent, not like a team that scores 144 one night then 76 the next. Defense will play a bigger role and Tyson Chandler holds the key if Dallas expects to move on past the first round.

Of note, Houston is just 1-10 in its last 11 playoff series. The Rockets won in the 1997 conference semifinals, but didn’t win again until the 2009 first round.

They will be without Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas. Dwight Howard isn’t 100 percent either. Other stories in this series: Jason Terry vs Dallas, Cuban vs Daryl Morey.

One thing everyone is rumbling about is the fact that they’re excited to see playoff Dirk and playoff Rondo. Nowitzki has averaged 25.6 points on 46 percent in his playoff career (135 games). In his last two trips, he’s sitting at 21.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in 11 playoff games.

Rondo has played 92 playoff games, but hasn’t made it since going with Boston in 2012 when he averaged 17.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and nearly 12 assists in 19 games. In his career, he’s at 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 9.2 dimes.

So if the Mavericks expect to “upset” Houston, they’ll need Chandler to be at his best on defense, the bench to contribute when they need to and an offense that will keep up with one of the best.

“They’re a really good team and we got our hands full,” Nowitzki said. “It’s about which team comes out in the end. We would love to go down there and steal one or the first one, but it will be tough – tough environment and they play well at home.”

“They are going to be a tough opponent and we have a tough task ahead of us,” Chandler added.

PLAYOFF PREDICTION: Mavericks 4, Rockets 3 (Game 1- Saturday 8:30)

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