The Mavericks are set to play the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-finals today. In recent days, the fan base has been vocal about the perceived lack of respect for the team and its chances of not only advancing but keeping it competitive.
In truth, I get it. First, the Suns have owned the Mavericks since CP3’s arrival. Games between the two teams have been competitive but the Mavericks have been unable to execute in crunch time. What about the past two weeks would indicate things are likely to change?
The Suns, led by CP3, out-executed the Pelicans down the stretch of their 4 wins. The Mavericks, on the other hand, were lucky to escape with a victory in game 6 against the Jazz. The Dallas offense looks stagnant in crunch time. The opposing defense knows exactly what’s coming and can game plan for those situations.
Additionally, the difference in the quality of perimeter defense between the Jazz and Suns is drastic, to put it mildly. In particular, Jalen Brunson will have a tough time going against the likes of Miles Bridges, Jae Crowder, and even Devin Booker. Kidd will try to isolate Brunson against CP3 but if the Suns pre-switch certain actions in order to avoid that scenario, the Mavs may find themselves struggling to generate clean looks.
On paper, the only reason to believe the Mavs have a chance is Luka. If Luka can play the way he did against the Clippers in last year’s playoffs, all bets are off. Luka is the type of singular talent that alter a series by himself. X’s and O’s stop mattering when a player is in that kind of zone. The Clippers, with Paul George and Kawhi, had no answers for him. It will take that kind of performance to get the Mavs anywhere near the Western Conference Finals. So the question is, do you feel lucky?
Spread: Mavs +5.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Mavs +195
Can the Mavericks lose Game 1 and still win the series? It’s possible but highly unlikely. Chris Paul, in particular, poses a specific type of problem in the playoffs. He’s been around forever and has seen, and found a solution for, every type of Pick and Roll defense you can think of. The best chance to outsmart him is in Game 1. By games 3 and 4, he knows exactly what you’re doing and will slow the game down to a crawl and systematically break you down. In a series where the difference in talent is minimal, simply winning one of the first two games would be considered a victory. Against this particular Suns team, game 1 takes on a do or die level of importance. Despite what you may have seen and/or read from Mavs fans, Dallas is a huge underdog and deserves to be.
ADVICE: Take the points. The Mavs have been competitive with Phoenix and keep things close. Taking the 5.5 points is a nice hedge in case the Suns win but fail to cover.
Advice: Take the under. Both teams are half-court teams and points could come at a premium in Game 1.
Two-Team Moneyline Parlay
Advice: Can James Harden pull a rabbit out of a hat? I’d gladly take 10 to 1 odds to find out.
Here’s this morning’s Moneyball Minute. We’ve had a number of podcasts the last week, if you missed any, go check out the Mavs Moneyball Podcast feed. If you can’t see the embed below, click here to go to the podcast.