Posted by Neil Paine on April 17, 2009
Coach: Rick Carlisle
Last NBA Title: None
5-Year Playoff Record: Won 6 Series, Lost 3, 1 Final, 0 Titles
Championship Odds: 0.2%
Key Question: Will there be more playoff disappointment in Dallas?
Regular Season: Dallas opened the season ugly (2-7), immediately righted the ship by winning 9 of their next 10 games, hit their stride in December (11-4 on the month), and have been an above-average team ever since, besting Phoenix for the final seed in the West last week and even moving up to the 6th seed on the final night of the regular season. Other than that, it was actually a season typical of the early Don Nelson Mavs -- good offense, bad defense, inconsistency, etc. Not sure if that was what Mark Cuban was aiming for when he hired Rick Carlisle, but that's what he got.
Prime-Time Players: 1. Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk has a checkered postseason past (sometimes he looks like an inner-circle guy, like in 2006 up to and including Game 3 of the Finals, and sometimes he just doesn't bring it), but he's still Dallas' top player and their best hope to escape the first round for the first time since '06. He slipped a bit this year, but for the most part he's vintage Dirk, so you know you're going to get nice efficiency and some crazy fadeaways that have no business swishing through the net. But you're also going to get subpar defense and an overly jumper-centric approach to crunch-time scoring. So you take the good with the bad at this point.
2. Jason Kidd. Like many people, I criticized the Kidd trade last season, and it's true that Devin Harris blossomed in Jersey this year. But at the same time, you couldn't ask for more out of Kidd than what he gave them this year. He's a great leader, a great defender, he makes the offense work smoothly, and he's even become an expert 3-point marksman, which I never thought I'd hear myself say. A veteran of 2 NBA Finals, Kidd is going to play a major role in Dallas' playoff quest this season.
3. Jason Terry. The Jet is sort of a forgotten man around the NBA these days, though you wouldn't know it to look at his numbers: a 115 ORtg on 24 %Poss? 21.0 P/36? A 57.1 TS%? A 10.1% turnover rate? That's just pure efficiency. And don't forget his somewhat well-deserved reputation for making big shots in big moments. Having averaged 21.7 PPG on 52.1% shooting against them during the regular season, Terry is going to make San Antonio's life difficult in Round 1 of the playoffs.
But don't count on... Josh Howard. Howard was a great fit with the Avery Johnson iso-till-you-drop offense in Dallas a few years back, but he hasn't really meshed with Jason Kidd and had another down season in '09. Combine that with his much-maligned personality quirks and his disappearing act in last year's playoffs, and you can see why Dallas fans aren't expecting much out of Howard this year, either.
Why they can win: They can score on anybody, with Dirk in particular possessing the ability to just go off at any time. They have a somewhat favorable matchup in the quarterfinals against the Spurs, who will really be missing Manu Ginobili.
Why they can't win: No defense, not very much depth, and the general sense that the Nowitzki era peaked 3 years ago and the team (as currently constructed) is basically a 2-and-out at best in the stacked West.
X-Factor: Josh Howard. If he plays like he did in the '06 & '07 playoffs, Dallas will have a significantly better shot at advancing than if he plays like he has ever since the Kidd trade.
|Mavs vs.||Off.||Def.||Reb.||Coach||Exp.||The Skinny||Prediction|
|Denver||X||X||X||Denver swept 4-game season series||Nuggets in 5|
|Houston||X||X||Houston's D shuts 'em down||Rockets in 5|
|Los Angeles||Mavs neither deep nor talented enough to tackle Lake Show||Lakers in 5|
|New Orleans||X||X||Push||X||Too much Chris Paul||Hornets in 7|
|Portland||X||Closer IRL than on paper; Dallas swept season series||Blazers in 6|
|San Antonio||X||X||Wishing they still had same team from last playoff bout w/ Spurs||Spurs in 7|
|Utah||X||X||X||Home court can't save them from better Jazz team||Jazz in 6|
(Key: "X" = Advantage; blank = disadvantage)