Mavericks must realize the season may end in another first round exit


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As good as the 2014-15 season has been on paper — close to 50 wins, Dirk Nowitzki moving up the NBA all-time scoring list and acquiring two former all-stars in Rajon Rondo and Amar’e Stoudemire — the Dallas Mavericks must realize the season may end in another first round exit.

Unlike last season when they pushed the eventual 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs to the brink of elimination in a seven-game series, this year’s playoff scenarios — including a potential rematch with the Spurs — all seem to end with many hoping that the Mavs are fortunate enough to win one game.

The high hopes that kicked off the season have been dashed by multiple player injuries, questionable decision making from head coach Rick Carlisle and numerous off-court issues involving coaches vs. players and even journalist vs. players. Maybe those regular season storms prepared the team to deal with nightly battles that come from facing the same opponent for four times in the post-season.

The greatest battles are won when you can exploit the weaknesses of your opponent… in order to do that though, the Mavs must first know who they will be facing.

Dallas is locked in as the No. 7 seed but three teams: Memphis, Houston and San Antonio are only separated by a half-game in the battle for the No. 2 seed. Each team presents its own unique obstacle for Dallas to overcome if it wants to be in a competitive series… let alone pull of an upset.

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Memphis Grizzlies:

The Grizzlies are currently hold the No. 2 seed in the West and because of the tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph present a major issue in the post for a Dallas team who has been struggling to find rebounding and defensive help up front since the trade of Branden Wright for Rondo. Dallas lost the season series 3-1 and it was in part to the all-star duo as Randolph (19.5ppg) and Gasol (20.0ppg) proved to be too much to handle for an aging Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. Stoudemire was only in a Mavericks uniform for one of those games, so maybe his presence brings some balance up front.

Houston Rockets:

Despite winning the season series over Dallas 3-1, each of the victories for the Rockets were in close games — the average margin of victory was only 4.3 points. Because of that many fans that this could be the most favorable match-up for Dalls, but with league MVP candidate James Harden playing at a high level and Monta Ellis struggles offensively, will Eillis be focused enough to stop “The beard” defensively — yes we know his shot selection is questionable but his ability to get to the foul line at a high rate could be a lot to deal with.

While he still struggles to live up to the expectations of other great big men of the NBA, Dwight Howard’s return to the Rockets line-up gives them an force inside that could be difficult for a Maverick team that doesn’t rebound well.

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San Antonio Spurs:

In the three of the four match-ups Ellis scored 26, 38 and 38 — as a result the Mavericks won two and lost the season opener by one. In the lone game he struggled the Spurs easily handled the Mavs, so to say this match-up could come down to the success… or failure of Ellis is an understatement.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Ellis has been in a shooting funk and has only hit 17% of his three-point attempts since the all-star break. For a team that is already starting two offensive liabilities in Rondo and Tyson Chandler, the lack of consistent shooting from its leading scorer is not what you want heading into the playoffs.

Regardless of who its opponent if the inconsistent play continues for Dallas, an early summer vacation will be inevitable for team owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson. If that happens the organization will be forced to answer some serious questions about the roster — and maybe even the coaching staff.

Next: Key Bench Players for Dallas Mavericks Playoff Run