The Mavericks are officially in the playoffs for the 15th time in 16 years, which we knew. But after tonight, we finally know the opponent: they will travel just a couple hours north to face the Oklahoma City Thunder. Having avoided a first round matchup against the Spurs or the Warriors, they may have a fighting chance? (Probably not, but we can dream!)
We asked the staff: are you excited for Mavericks playoff basketball?
Playoff basketball is always exciting, and for this Dallas Mavericks team, I think basking in the warm glow of relevance that much longer is vitally important. They will have several key free agents heading into next season, so getting into the big dance again checks one box on the franchise resume. Then, of course, there's the simple fact that playoffs means more Dirk Nowitzki, whose hourglass has only so many grains of sand left.
Maybe the biggest cause for excitement -- especially after the letdown of the regular season finale -- is that a team that looked dead in the water three weeks ago somehow managed to not only get back in the postseason, but also avoided the annihilation by banality that is playing either the Warriors or Spurs. Let's not misrepresent things: Dallas is still a heavy underdog against the Thunder, but taking on one of the two historically dominant clubs that sit atop the West this year would have been an exercise in masochism. Relatively speaking, drawing OKC feels like a stroke of luck.
I'm ambivalent. On the one hand I'm happy to watch more basketball from my hometown team. I'm also glad that the Mavs continue their remarkable stretch of playoff appearances. 15 in 16 years is pretty impressive. Further, Dirk deserves this. But on the other hand, I'm not really looking forward to yet another first round exit. I've seen enough of those in my life and I'm frankly tired of it.
I will say, though, that I am looking forward to the match up between Rick Carlisle and Billy Donovan. Carlisle has proven his value as a playoff coach. Since the championship, his crowning achievement has to be the series against the Spurs two seasons ago. If only DeJuan Blair hadn't been suspended... Oh, what might have been.
Donovan is a rookie NBA head coach. I'm not sure what he'll bring to the table other than a team that is younger and in many ways more talented. How he composes himself and calls plays will go a long way in determining the whether the series can be close.
Regardless of the situation, I'm always excited for Mavs playoff basketball. Mostly, because it means more playoff Dirk. Sure, it's going to be a bummer when the Mavs lose in four or five to the Thunder, and we'll want to rip our hair out when Durant and Russ go nuts.
But I just want more Dirk Nowitzki. We don't know how much longer we have, and I'm down for any potential classic playoff performance. Maybe Dallas can nab a win or two with Rick Carlisle's sorcery alone. I have no expectations. I just want to see Dirk play in the playoffs again.
I'm mostly excited for Dirk. He worked unfathomably hard to put this team in position to make the make the playoffs. More importantly, they avoided the Warriors-Spurs death trap, which means Dirk could possibly get loose for a couple vintage playoff performances. OKC doesn't have anyone to matchup with him and he knows how to attack Ibaka and Collison. Dirk lives for the playoff; this is the only thing he plays for now.
On a more insignificant note, I'm ready for the world to meet Salah Mejri. He's played big against OKC this year and if the Mavs want to make this series competitive, he has to play a big role. Zaza works like a repellent when he rolls to the rim. Defenders are more than happy to let him waltz down the lane and catch a tough bounce pass. Dallas needs Salah as a rim runner, but more importantly, they need his rim protection. He has the potential to make game changing plays at the rim and that's the only way this Maverick team can compete with an athletic juggernaut like OKC.
Considering how this roster looked heading into this season, I think Mavericks fans have every right to feel very excited to be here. A postseason berth means not only that we get at least another week of Dirk and Co. but that we had a pretty good regular season. Yes, March was a brutal month but most of this season was pretty fun to watch. And that wasn't something many people expected. I never bought into the naysayers' predictions in the preseason but I thought with the team's health issues that finishing anywhere between 8 and 10 in the West was possible. Instead, the Mavs finished sixth -- something nobody saw coming months ago! -- and avoid a brutal series against Golden State or San Antonio.
Will this team advance to the conference finals or even the second round? No. But I'm excited to see Dirk in the playoffs, where he always ups his game. I'm excited to see Deron Williams continue his comeback after his miserable stint in Brooklyn. J.J. Barea will get to continue what's turned into his best season as a Maverick and Wes Matthews will get to show why this team valued him so much in free agency. Just as important for the future, I'm looking forward to seeing what rookies Justin Anderson and Salah Mejri will do to bother the Thunder's stars and continue their second half breakouts. This team won't be favored in any game in Round 1 but they were counted out all year, so let's enjoy the rest of this run.
I'm very excited for this year's playoffs. The fact this team wasn't even supposed to get in, and were able to steal the sixth seed on the final day is pretty cool. Not only that, Dallas avoided Golden State and San Antonio in the first round, which means the Mavericks have a chance to compete and win a couple of games and even push this to seven games. Plus, there's still that off chance Chandler Parsons makes an improbable playoff return, so there's that caveat to look for.
Also, if people didn't know Salah Mejri before, they're going to know him now once he gets on the floor against OKC. Each time he blocks a shot, it's like he's done it for years. The Mavs' youth movement will be on full display in this playoff run, and I legitimately think Dallas can win at least two games in this series. Plus, more importantly, this is about Dirk in the playoffs once again. We all know how dominant he's been in his postseason career. There aren't going to be many opportunities like this for much longer to see Dirk in the playoffs, so let's enjoy it while we can.