The table is set. While there were a lot of scenarios in play last night, the inevitable seemed to be right in front of our Dallas Mavericks. At the end of a historic night for the NBA, the Mavericks find themselves taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Round One of the NBA Playoffs. To kick off our playoff coverage, we got some of your favorite Mavs Fanatics together to discuss the upcoming series. With that being said, here we gooo….
Who will need to step up for Mavericks to have a shot against OKC?
Ryan Wilson: It has to be Wesley Matthews. He will be crucial not only on the offensive end, but he will be depended on to help guard Russell Westbrook. If they can’t find a way to limit Westbrook’s ability, the Mavericks are in big trouble. Matthews has seemed to round into form as of late, and has hit some big shots late down the stretches of recent games, so if he can continue to stretch the floor with his outside jumper, that will open up the lane for the Mavericks to attack.
Dylan Duell: Wesley Matthews. The Mavericks cannot afford for him to play on one end of the floor. The max contract guy needs to play up to his price tag and average somewhere between 15-20 points per game with Chandler Parsons not in the picture.
Reece Waddell: Wesley Matthews. He will likely be given the gargantuan task of defending Russell Westbrook, who has become better known as Mr. Triple-Double. Matthews ended the year strong and seemed to emerge as a leader in the Mavericks locker room, but this will most likely be his toughest assignment of the year. Westbrook is versatile, can create off the dribble and create not only for himself, but for teammates as well. Matthews will have to slow him down if Dallas hopes to have any shot.
Asher Feltman: Chandler Parsons. We’ve needed him to step up all year, but I hear he’s hurt. The guy that needs to step up is the guy that has stepped up the most the last month of the season, J.J. Barea. To beat Oklahoma City, Dallas has to do two main things: score and rebound. That’s why Zaza Pachulia would have been my second pick, or even David Lee or heck, Dirk grabbing 8 rebounds a game. We dodged the Spurs and Warriors, both completely unwinnable series, and we got the Thunder, a completely….maybe win a game or two series. It’s simply the realistic outlook for the 2016 Dallas Mavericks. 42-40 isn’t usually a record that gets you into the Western Conference Playoffs. This year it wasn’t even 8th or 7th. Barea and Zaza, simply have to score and rebound.
What match-up are you most excited to see?
Ryan Wilson: Russell Westbrook vs the Dallas Mavericks defensive committee, and I’m not sure they have anyone that can truly stop him. The Mavericks recent success is because of their ability to slow the game down, while committing few turnovers in the process. The Thunder thrive on creating turnovers, which in turn, allows them to run a high tempo offense. If the Mavericks can find someone players to limit Westbrook as much as possible, it will give them their best chance to succeed.
Dylan Duell: Russell Westbrook vs. Whoever the Mavs throw his way. For the Mavs to stand any chance in this series, they cannot allow Westbrook to be a borderline MVP. For them to prevent that, Rick Carlisle will have to think way outside the box. None of Dallas’ regular point guards should ever guard him. Only Wes Matthews or Justin Anderson. You can hide Deron Williams on Dion Waiters or Andre Roberson.
Reece Waddell: Dirk v Durant. Five years ago (wow, it’s been THAT long?) when Dallas made its run to the Finals, Durant was still relatively young and Dirk took him to school. We all know the Big German still has plenty left in the tank, but when healthy, Durant is one of the best scorers in the league with tremendous size that is almost as indefensible as Dirk’s one-legged fade.
Asher Feltman: J.J. Barea vs. Russell Westbrook. Back in January they tussled and that was before J.J.’s explosion and Westbrook’s, um, continued dominance. Continuing with the theme for the series of outscoring the Thunder, J.J. Barea (and Deron Williams) are going to be tasked with trying to hang with Russ’ output in the all-important points column. To me, J.J. is the best bet and while Westbrook will still make the point guard matchup an unfair one, Dallas has to make it respectable to have a chance.
X-Factor for the series?
Ryan Wilson: While I would love to say Justin Anderson, because he has been so impressive as of late, the bottom line is that come playoff time, rotations get a whole lot smaller. With that being said, it’s safe to assume that the x-factor of this series will be J.J. Barea. He has been on a whole different level as of late, but his recent groin injury could cause a setback. If so, the Mavericks will have a difficult time finding that spark off of the bench that they will desperately need throughout this series.
Dylan Duell: J.J. Barea finished the season strong and should be a huge spark off the bench for Dallas. He also got under Westbrook’s skin in a game back in January between these two teams.
Reece Waddell: Dallas’ backcourt. They’re all banged up. Deron Williams has a sports hernia, Raymond Felton has a sore groin/hamstring, J.J. Barea has a strained groin and Devin Harris has a sprained thumb. The Mavericks need guys that can dribble and move the ball for their offense to flow. It will be interesting to see if Dallas has the manpower to make it work.
Asher Feltman: I have a theme here, and it mostly revolves around J.J. Barea and scoring. I’ll go to the opponent for my X-Factor. It’s not a player, or players, but a number.
If the Thunder shoot past 45% in a game against Dallas, they’ll probably win. OKC shot 47.6% this year and averaged 110.2 points per game. As I said above, Dallas isn’t good enough defensively to stop Kevin Durant, Westbrook and co., but they’ll try to hang around. So the biggest X-Factor in the series, in my opinion, is that the Thunder miss shots. I just don’t think this Mavericks team is good enough to control its own fate.
Which superstar will have the biggest impact?
Ryan Wilson: I would love to be a homer and say Dirk Nowitzki, but that isn’t what this is about. If I’m being honest, I think that it would have to be Russell Westbrook. While some may think that Durant is one of the top 3 or 4 players in the game, Westbrook is without a doubt their best player. He has become an all around talent who is capable of doing so much on the floor, and if he has his way with the Mavericks in this series, then we should all be ready to start planning the off-season festivities.
Dylan Duell: It’s a theme for me, but it’s Russell Westbrook. I think he’s the best athlete possibly in all of pro sports and the Mavs will have quite the tall task in trying to slow him down. Keeping him out of the paint is next to impossible, but Dallas will need to find a way.
Reece Waddell: Flip a coin between Westbrook and Durant. Both are in the prime of their careers and are All-Stars for a reason. They bring so much to the table in terms of size, athleticism and scoring. If you take away one, the other usually produces. I think both of them will have a big series against the Mavericks.
Asher Feltman: Kevin Durant is gonna get his. Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter will roast a defensively challenged Mavs front court. It’s up to Russell Westbrook to exhibit his bad habits: volume shooting, bad shot selection, ball hogging, turnovers. All of that. We’ll need all of it.
Prediction for the series?
Ryan Wilson: I honestly think this was the best match-up the Mavericks could have asked for. They weren’t going to stand a chance against Golden State or San Antonio, and as cool of a “revenge series” that the Clippers-Mavericks match-up would’ve been, I’d much rather take our chances against the Thunder. OKC has an issue in regards to their third scoring option. If the Mavericks can find a way to limit either Durant or Westbrook, they could surprise some people. With that being said, I got the Thunder in 6.
Dylan Duell: It hurts, but I’ll say OKC in 6. I think Dallas could steal game 1 or 2, but their lack of a killer instinct on their own home court will prevent them from taking this series to 7 games.
Reece Waddell: In regards to this series, I’ll say Oklahoma City in 5. Listen, I’m a Mavs fan, or else I wouldn’t be writing for the site. Nevertheless, Dallas was lucky just to get in to the playoffs. They are banged up, have virtually no depth and drug themselves over the finish line. Despite this, Rick Carlisle is a wizard and Dirk is still Dirk. I think the Mavericks will take a game at home, much like they did against the Rockets last year before meeting their inevitable fate.
Asher Feltman: The rational choice is Oklahoma City in 5, with Dallas winning either game 3 or 4 at home. The Mavericks were awful at home this season, 23-18, sharing a home court record with the rebuilding, non-contending Orlando Magic. But come playoff time, the AAC turns into one hell of an environment and we’ll absolutely need it. I trust Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki with my life. They’re road warriors and though the circumstances were wildly different, the Mavericks won both road games against the Thunder in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. Coach and Dat Dood are still around, so I suppose there’s hope. I’ll go on a limb and say the Mavericks steal a road game and win one at home, losing the series 4-2 and entering yet another off-season full of endless (and hopefully not hopeless) questions.