If Friday's game against the Warriors had been a playoff preview, the Mavericks had to be happy. They lost, of course, as would be the case with whoever they face in a first round series, but the game was fun. The Mavericks pushed Golden State until the final minutes before finally falling 130-112, a score not indicative of the closeness. Had the Warriors had an off night -- instead of nailing 22 threes, like they did -- you could have seen Dallas stealing the game. And they even did it without Chandler Parsons, who left in the third quarter with hamstring tightness.
It turns out the hamstring tightness was caused by a torn meniscus, meaning Parsons will likely undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season. Suddenly, that innocuous injury that was only supposed to cost him a game or two becomes much more grim. The potential that Friday's game was any sort of preview for the playoffs seems unlikely.
What's the Mavericks' immediate plan without Parsons?
The road to a playoff spot was already difficult. It still is, even more so. Dallas can win without Parsons, but take Sunday's victory over Portland: Dirk Nowitzki dropped 40 points, Deron Williams became the second Maverick to ever record 30-plus points and 15-plus assists, and it still took overtime.
On the other hand, a late tank doesn't make sense, either. Dallas owes Boston a top-seven lottery protected pick. The Mavericks are currently 35-35, with 13 teams worse than them. If Dallas lost every game, finishing 35-47, they would still need Sacramento to win eight of their last 12 games to reach the bottom seven. Neither of those things will happen, even if you could convince Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews or Deron Williams to sit out the rest of the year. (You couldn't.)
You could still lose games and pray the lottery gods shine in your favor, but the odds are never in your favor. No, the plan is still making the playoffs at all costs.
Can they sneak into an eighth seed?
Without Parsons, it looks unlikely -- but it's not worth ruling out. Dallas already beat Portland on Sunday without Parsons, albeit with those huge performances. If they could grind out another win against the Blazers on Wednesday, they really only need to manage a .500 record the rest of the way. Portland, Utah and Houston has been everything but reliable this season, so while all three now should be favored over Dallas, perhaps one falls off enough to allow Dallas to slip in.
Again, it's not like the Mavericks have any other real options but to go for it.
What is Parsons' injury?
The "season ending" part of Parsons' injury sounds scary, but it's mostly because we're at the season's end already. A meniscus tear is a very treatable, very well-known injury. Meniscus is cartilage inside your knee that, when torn, can either be repaired over time, which can take a few months to fully recover, or the damage part can be removed, which could have the recipient back in less than two weeks. Usually, though, that process takes in the four to six weeks range. There's no reason for Dallas to rush Parsons back, so the longer option should be preferred. Either way, as ESPN reported, Parsons will be fully recovered in time for summer workouts.
Should we be concerned about his knee?
You can be. Parsons, who had never had surgery when he signed with Dallas, will now have two on the same right knee within a 12-month period. That's definitely not ideal.
Personally, I'm not. We saw Parsons get back to nearly 100 percent over the past month or two, and the meniscus is a very treatable injury with known results. Parsons hasn't been an injury-prone player on any previous team. If anything, the biggest concern is still Parsons' first surgery, a shrouded, mysterious microfracture surgery that wasn't as serious as the full procedure but still limited him for more than six months. As for the meniscus tear itself, dozens of players have come back from it without any problems.
Will Parsons still opt out?
Yes. His play over the past two months proved his worth as a player, averaging 19 points, six rebounds and three assists on 52 percent shooting from the floor and 48 percent shooting from deep since Jan. 18. The salary cap is still jumping at an unprecedented level. Parsons will get a max contract, whether it's from Dallas or another team.
Are the Mavericks more likely to keep him now?
Yes -- in my estimations, anyhow. The biggest concern to Parsons' return to Dallas would have been the Mavericks falling out of the playoffs with several games to go despite Parsons playing his best basketball. If he felt there was nothing more he could do for this team and they still missed a seventh or eighth seed, what incentive would there be for him to stay? Without him in the lineup, though, Dallas has a perfectly justifiable reason for missing out. They most likely scenario still is that they retain him this summer, given his strong relationships with Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban.
Will it impact the Mavericks' plans at all?
Unless there are major concerns about the knee beyond the meniscus tear, no. Harrison Barnes won't become a better option just because Parsons will be rehabbing for another two months this summer.