What he said. Just kidding. Let’s jump.
Who will the Mavs play in the first round? Hm. Well. Right now, the Mavs are just ahead of the Lakers for the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference, so as of this very second, they would be playing the Memphis Grizzlies. But Dallas could drop a slot — they could even drop two, but let’s just assume they only go as low as the No. 3 seed — or another team could move up or fall down. I suppose my central thesis here is it’s still up in the air. If not the Grizzlies, the Mavs could also face the Portland Trailblazers or the New Orleans Hornets in Round One. I guess I could have saved everyone some trouble and just posted a photo of me comically shrugging my shoulders like a wacky neighbor from a sitcom you pretend to like based on nostalgia but actually couldn’t sit through two minutes if it was on your TV right now. In this photo, I may or may not be wearing a fishing cap of some sort.
Who do we want the Mavs to play in the first round? Probably Memphis. If everyone on the team were healthy, Memphis would scare me a lot more, but Rudy Gay is out, and Memphis is better equipped to give the Lakers trouble (a lockdown defender in Tony Allen, couple of big guys to make the front line work) anyway. New Orleans would not be the worst choice, either. No one on the Mavs can defend a healthy Chris Paul but 1) Chris Paul isn’t that healthy and 2) now that David West is injured they don’t really have much else. THAT SAID, Dallas seems constitutionally incapable of winning in NOLA so — you know what? All these choices kind of make my stomach try to lock eyes with the waiter so it can get the check and leave. But gun to my head, okay, fine, Memphis.
Biggest problem facing the Mavs as they head into the playoffs? Jeez, take your pick: Roddy Beaubois has shown flashes of his tantalizing skill set, but still looks like he could use another 50 games of “figuring it out”; Jason Kidd is showing his mileage and also appears as though he is involved in some Brewster’s Millions-style bet that requires him never to score; Rick Carlisle still has not settled on a rotation; no one has really replaced Caron Butler; Jason Terry may be going crazy.
Of these, the most troublesome in my mind is JET. For one thing, he doesn’t have a spotless history when it comes to keeping his cool in the playoffs (for example: the time during a scuffle for a loose ball against the Spurs that I guess he got confused as to what ball he was going after and popped Mike Finley in the bathing suit area and ended up suspended). And what he’s been doing lately — getting into it with the Lakers’ Steve Blake; going after tiny J.J. Barea during a timeout; whatever was going on at the end of last night’s game — does not bode well. He is only the team’s most trusted scoring option after Dirk Nowitzki and their fourth-quarter closer. NO BIG DEAL.
Biggest advantage? They have two, actually. They are an old bunch, which for these purposes I will count as “extremely playoff-tested.” And also: despite the long-held opinion that The Big German buckles like a belt during the playoffs, Nowitzki’s averages are higher across the board in the postseason. He’s had some stinkers, but so has every great player. I promise you. Look it up. And since Golden State managed to shut him down in the 2007 playoffs, Dirk has been a krazy-eyed killa. The rest of the team could pitch in a little more.
But everyone talks about how they’re falling apart heading into the playoffs. What gives? Boston was something like 27-27 heading into the postseason last year; they made the NBA Finals. The Mavs were streaking heading into the playoffs last year; they lost in the first round. They’re veterans. If JET can keep his head together — at this point, an “IF” the size of a really big IF — I think they figure it out.
Will they make it out of the first round? I’m going to say: yes. And here’s something else: I think they’re going to make it out of the second round, too. Apologies or elaborations on that next week.