Apr 10, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) and Dallas Mavericks center DeJuan Blair (45) reach for the rebound during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair X-Factors for Beating Spurs

Apr 10, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris (20) passes the ball around San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph (5) during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Call it a longshot. Call it an uphill battle. Call it a pipe dream. But the 8th seeded Mavericks have a chance against the #1 seeded, San Antonio Spurs. It’s only a chance and it is against long odds but the Mavericks aren’t as hapless as their 0-8 record (against the Spurs in last two seasons) may indicate.

Obviously the Mavericks go, as Monte Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki go. Dallas needs both players to offensively perform to stay in a series against the in-state rival Spurs. Marion should also play an all-important role in matching up on Kawhi Leonard. Those things are evident and simply NEED to happen just to compete. But the Mavericks may have an X-Factor or 2.

The Mavericks have a few motivated weapons who have a chance to disrupt the Spurs at their own game: Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair. Both players are aggressive defenders and persistent nuisances when they decide to flip their figurative switch.

Blair, while undersized at 6’7”, has the ability to substantially disrupt Tim Duncan’s game. Blair can’t be expected to control the paint against everyone but when matched up on Duncan, the disgruntled former Spur will be extra motivated to aggravate his old teammate. In much the same way Kawhi Leonard matches up on Dirk Nowitzki, Blair needs to shadow Duncan. Duncan is no longer the Spurs #1 option but he’s the backbone and leader. If Blair can disrupt Duncan, the effects should trickle down.

Devin Harris has always aggravated the Spurs. He’s a solid defender with long arms and a good motor. He is still lightning fast and a threat to drive into the paint. Harris can be exhausting both defensively and offensively. He will need to play major minutes to keep the Spurs honest on both sides of the court.

Jose Calderon is too much of a defensive liability to play heavy minutes. He allows easy penetration and forces the Dallas big men to compensate in a way they rarely can. Ellis and Nowitzki  will be relied on for scoring. Marion and Dalembert will be relied on for defense. But Dallas needs Blair and Harris to be key players if they hope to have any chance against San Antonio.

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Tags: 2014 NBA Playoffs Dallas Mavericks DeJuan Blair Devin Harris

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