Mavs/Blazers Series Preview
Upset City? I think not.
by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport
There’s no need to dance around the obvious: when it comes to the Dallas Mavericks, the big effin’ elephant in the room is that they choke in the Playoffs every year like they swallowed a bucket of dried chicken bones. It’s no wonder, then, that basketball fans outside of the DFW area have flat out given up on the “post-season” version of the Mavs. So here we are again. Mark Cuban’s band of ballers enter the 2011 NBA Playoffs with the No. 3 seed, 57 wins, Dirk Nowitzki ballin’ like an MVP, chip on their shoulders, blah blah blah. The Mavs, sad to say, have entered the Playoffs for the last decade perched high in the Western Conference standings with 50-plus W’s and each year, they’ve gone down like Frazier. It’s almost friggin’ Darwinian at this point. That being said, after interviewing Tyson Chandler for SLAM issue 148, it’s clear that this is a different Dallas team. The legitimate 7-footer has been like a defibrillator to the Mavs’ defensive mentality. We all know they could light up the scoreboard, but their defense was as soft as a wet paper bag. Now they have an anchor on D and that could mean all the difference as they battle to overcome their penchant for catching “The Yips” during the postseason.
Now, you may recall that I predicted Dallas would beat the San Antonio Spurs in the first round this time last year. Yeah…about that. The Mavs were felled in six games by the veteran Spurs and I had mud on my face ’til June. The “I told you so’s” came at me like torrential raindrops in a thunderstorm. “WTH was he thinking?” you must have asked yourself or anyone within earshot. OK, I’ll be dat as Redman would say.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m not the ultimate arbiter in these matters. Basketball is my life, but it’s almost impossible to predict with certainty how Playoff matchups will go down. Last year, it was the Spurs. This year, Dallas takes on the Portland Trail Blazers and I gotta tell ya, outside of OKC, no one wanted to draw this team in the first round and that’s because they have somehow fought through all of the injuries, adversity and heartache to play with passion, pride and, with Coach Nate McMillan at the helm, precision. They come into the Playoffs with 48 wins under their belt (two less than last year) and nothing to lose, which can be very dangerous if your on the other side of this match-up. LaMarcus Aldridge is playing MVP-caliber ball and I’m still salty he didn’t get his All-Star nod, but that’s in the rear view. What has me excited about this team, though, is the addition of Gerald Wallace. Crash cried like a kid who dropped his ice cream on the asphalt when he first got shipped out West, but once he accepted it, it was like the Blazers got a much-needed shot in the arm and since then, Western Conference foes have been shook ones.
So here we go with my prediction. Don’t rush off to Vegas and place your bets with your bookie, though, who may or may not have a nickname like “The Weasel,” because as I said earlier, anything can, and will, happen and I’m not paying your markers.
So who takes it? Dallas. In six games. OK, I’ll pause while you fling expletives my way or wonder what I’m smoking… Got it out of your system? Good.
The reason I’m riding with the Mavs yet again is because I see a different team and they really understand now that they have been written off. They have something to prove. Dirk will be Dirk and Jet will be Jet, but this series all falls on Chandler. It’s Chandler who will have to police the lane and keep Aldridge and Crash from dominating inside. It’s Chandler who will have to shoo Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez away from driving the lane like flies. And it’s Chandler who will have to negate veteran Marcus Camby from, well, being Marcus Camby. And I believe he’s up for the challenge. Tyson is vocal, he’s determined and he’s ready. Dallas has all the weapons, so they’re covered on O. What they need to get over the hump is embodied in Chandler.
And Blazers’ fans, it’s not that I don’t respect your team. I think Portland will give Dallas all kinds of hell and Aldridge is one of the best low block players in the West and if Brandon Roy plays anything like Brandon Roy, the Blazers are scary good. But Portland will only take two Ws home in this series.
The Breakdown: No shots, but this matchup reminds me of the old school players at the Y. Kidd and Miller are flashbacks to the old days at the point. Kidd distributes the rock better than UPS and Miller is that tough floor general that will use angles and space and body to get the job done. Kidd is a first ballot Hall of Famer, but I think this is an even matchup. The only difference is what each PG brings to his respective team.
Advantage: Kidd. This comes down to facilitation and Kidd will shine here.
The Breakdown: Roddy Buckets can be flat out dangerous if he gets it going. Love to watch him do his thing…if he’s playing well. Roddy is still prone to mistakes, which makes Coach Carlisle motion quickly for The Jet to come in and rain down J’s. Wesley Matthews has been more consistent since entering the starting lineup and can toast you from deep. If he gets it going, watch out.
Advantage: Matthews by an inch.
The Breakdown: It used to be that the Phoenix Suns had the drop on The Fountain of Youth, but looks like Dallas has a timeshare in it, too. Shawn Marion is back to his old Matrix self, sticking that unbelievably ugly J of his on a consistent basis and doing all the intangibles his known for. Then there’s Gerald Wallace, who is playing like a man possessed. He’s pissed to the highest of pisstivity that he was jettisoned out of Charlotte and the Blazers have been the beneficiary. This is a tough one to call only because of Marion’s resurgence.
Advantage: Crash. The Matrix is ballin’ but Crash is killin’ it right now.
The Breakdown: We’ve heard and seen what Dirk can do. Yawn. He’s a beast. End of story. The revelation here is LaMarcus Aldridge’s vast improvement. He has been the soul of this team since Roy’s injury problems and he hasn’t looked back. I like this guy’s game and I love the way he attacks the rim. If this were anybody but Dirk, we wouldn’t need to even discuss it.
The Breakdown: Somehow, this seems like the main event at fight night. It all comes down to who can protect the rim; who can defend. Tyson Chandler has taken this opportunity at a second chance and did a Usain Bolt with it. His numbers aren’t gaudy, but what he brings to the center position is undeniable. Marcus Camby has always been dependable for rebounds, blocks, and defense. But his age is tick, tock, clocking and he’s not on Chandler’s level anymore.
The Breakdown: In one corner, you have The Jet, JJ Barea, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. In the other corner, you have Brandon Roy? Rudy, Rudy, Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum. I’d love to B.S. you and tell you this is a close call, but I’m not yanking your chain for giggles here.
Series Prediction: Like I said, Mavs in six. Now, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.