As it currently stands, the seventh seed Dallas Mavericks will play the second seed Houston Rockets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Mavs are pretty well locked into the seventh seed, but the second is totally up for grabs. And while there are a number of us who prefer the Dallas-Houston matchup to one of the other possibilities (i.e., facing the Grizzlies or the Clippers), the way the game last night played out was still pretty frustrating.
And fun. With the way it ended, we forget that part, but it's important. So what did we learn?
Dallas-Houston should make for a fun first round series
Like I said, disregarding the ending, this game was actually really enjoyable. Houston won the regular season series 3-1, but all of the games tended to be close, exciting and relatively high-scoring affairs. Not to mention the fact that Dallas played each of them on the second night of a back-to-back (thanks NBA).
Not only would this series be fun for basketball reasons, but it is chock full of storylines as well. We've got "turncoats" on both sides (Chandler Parsons and Jason Terry), two rival cities who pretty much hate each other (suck it Houston), and a former MVP against a legitimate MVP candidate. Plus, think of how many more times we would get to hear about Corey Brewer's six minutes of playoff basketball as a Maverick.
This offense needs Chandler Parsons
Dirk Nowitzki is one of the greatest scorers of all time. Monta Ellis is Dallas's leading scorer this year, and gave us a lot of heroics earlier this season. But if this game showed us anything, it is that the current iteration of the Dallas Mavericks absolutely cannot find consistent offense without Chandler Parsons on the floor. All due respect to D and M, but the Mavs need to hitch their wagon to the C part of Run DMC (are we still rolling with this nickname or nah?) going forward.
Without Chandler Parsons, Dallas was outscored 30-18 in the fourth quarter. As Houston narrowed the lead and then took control, it absolutely looked like the Mavs simply couldn't find ways to get scorers open, and even when they did no one seemed particularly inclined to hit the open shots. Some of this is Houston playing good defense, but spacing is a serious issue without Parsons. He is the most versatile offensive weapon Dallas has, and he has been damn good lately.
Some of this may be recency bias. But after seeing Parsons absolutely take over the end of the Thunder game two nights ago, then having to watch Monta tossing up brick after brick as Dallas gave this one away, it's hard not to jump to some conclusions about who ought to be the go-to guy. Parsons is not a more reliable scorer lately, he is also much more willing to keep his teammates involved at the end of games. It isn't fun watching Monta force shots instead of getting the ball to an open Dirk or finding Tyson for a finish around the basket.
With Parsons's knee clearly having some minor issues, I would honestly be fine if Dallas shut him down till the playoffs. If Dallas wants any shot at making the second round, Parsons is going to have to play a big role.
Amar'e and Aminu ARE the Dallas bench
Amar'e Stoudemire and Al-Farouq Aminu were the first subs in the game for Dallas, coming off the bench together in relief of Dirk and Tyson Chandler. I am really hoping to see more of them together, especially in a matchup against Houston.
Amar'e came off the bench last night to hit 5 of 7 shots for 11 points. There were stretches in the game where it felt like he was the only Maverick scoring the ball. And (as was discussed by the Fox Sports Southwest crew during the game) he adds another dimension to the offense it simply didn't have: a true post scorer. Amar'e looked really comfortable getting into his spots, backing down his opponent, and then using a nifty move to get a layup or a nice hook shot around the basket. The only problem is he gives you very little on the other end.
Fortunately, Aminu is doing stuff like this:
Aminu had four blocks last night. He also grabbed eight rebounds, four of them on the offensive end. He is really the only guy on the bench (and other than Tyson Chandler, on the entire roster) who consistently gives the team defensive energy and rebounding that it so desperately needs.
The rest of the bench, including fan favorites Devin Harris and J.J. Barea, were really pretty lackluster last night. And it isn't the first time. Amar'e is the only guy who you just know is going come off the bench and put up double digit points. And Aminu has long been the Mavs' overall best bench guy. All the best lineups feature him.
Unfortunately, they're both big(ish) men. This is all the more reason you want a matchup with Houston, whose guard depth is just as shaky as the Mavs after losing Pat Beverley for the rest of the season. Because while Carlisle is a wizard, I'm not sure he's busting out point Aminu any time soon.