There Are Other People on the Planet

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 16, 2009 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

And some of them even happen to watch the Mavs.  That’s why I went through the trouble of reaching out to Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com and Zac Crain of D Magazine’s sports blog, Inside Corner, to get their opinions on a variety of topics anchored around the upcoming Mavs-Spurs throwdown.  Without further ado:
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Rob Mahoney: The Mavs draw San Antonio in the first round.  Good thing or a bad thing?  Would you have preferred the Mavs get a shot at Denver or Houston?  Or was San Antonio the team at the center of your dartboard down the final stretch of games?

Zac Crain, Inside Corner: The two teams I targeted about a month ago were Portland and San Antonio. Portland: partially (and we’re talking, like, 5 percent) because they weren’t playoff-tested, but mostly because the Mavs had played them extremely well all season. San Antonio: because they’re the Spurs and the Mavs are the Mavs. Dallas isn’t the same team that beat ‘em in 7 in 2006, but the ghost of that squad is still there, and for that reason, you throw out the regular season records and expect them to fight it out all the way. SA is the one team in the league that still thinks of the Mavs in pre-2007 terms. (For the most part.)

I didn’t want Denver (the Mavs just don’t match up that well) and Houston, well, I think it would have been an interesting series, but I would have given Dallas less of puncher’s chance than they have against the Spurs. All that said, I am a bit worried about the fan base’s overly enthusiastic reception to the Spurs series. Not saying don’t be optimistic. I’m saying: cautiously optimistic.

Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: I agree with Popovich (generally a wise move with it comes to basketball if not hirsute styling) on this one. And I’ll quote Jason Garrett circa mid-1990’s, too: “I do not concern myself with those things that are beyond my control.’’

I did consider Houston to be the most wobbly of those three teams. But. … combine the big brains of Pop and Redball and, basically, it’s a waste of time to worry about such things – unless, I guess, you are Avery Johnson’s 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks skipping blindly off the side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

RM: Which match-up, besides Dirk v. Bonner, presents the greatest advantage for the Mavs?  And likewise, which match-up is the most advantageous for the Spurs?

Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: “Dirk vs. Bonner’’! I loved that episode of “Growing Pains’’!

I’m not sure the Mavs really have a singular mano-a-mano matchup that deserves to be ranked anywhere near the aforementioned. Sorry. As I noted in an analysis piece on Wednesday, Josh Howard is so frequently touted as an “X-Factor’’ that now even J-Ho himself is calling himself that. But an “X-Factor’’ seems to be, by definition, something of an “unknown,’’ a “surprise,’’ a “what-if.’’

And “what-if’s’’ don’t qualify as advantages I’m willing to bet on.

Zac Crain, Inside Corner: I’ll start with the second question: Tony Parker vs. anyone they throw at him. I just don’t see them really shutting him down in the slightest. An Antoine-then J.J.-then Kidd rotation might work against Deron Williams or Chris Paul, because those guys can pass and are willing to. Parker just wants to get to the hoop. As for the Mavs: I think Josh could go off against Finley. And they don’t really have a stopper coming off the bench. Big IF here: IF Josh’s ankle doesn’t give out.

RM: Which non-JET Mavs bench player has the biggest impact on this series?

Zac Crain, Inside Corner: J.J. Barea, for the same reasons the Spurs had so much trouble with Devin Harris: he’s quick, an aggressive penetrator, and a creative finisher. I think there is at least one game where he is the next day’s headline. Dark horse: Brandon Bass, because he’s the most athletic big man on both sides, and the Spurs are a bit creaky up front.

Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: I say it’s whichever Mav big man Carlisle decides to pull out of his “Be-Ready’’ Bag. Erick Dampier will get the first (and second, and third) crack at Duncan. But somebody else is going to get 20 minutes at center. Will Bass and Hollins tag-team him like they did Yao on Wednesday? Isn’t Singleton long, athletic, frustrating and just enough of a perimeter threat to trouble Timmy? Is it time to pull the Dirk-as-center idea out of year-long mothballs?

Whatever the Mavs do here will be a fateful decision – one way or the other.

RM: What will give the Mavs the most trouble in this series?  (You can go with players, strategies, a certain element that the Spurs excel at, etc.)

Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: Enduring the pain of employing a “Let-Parker-Do-His-Damage’’ philosophy.

It kinda worked against CP3, who is the same sort of uncontrollable waterbug as Parker is. And heck, Kidd, Wright, JJB, whomever. … they aren’t going to actually stop offensive-minded rabbit PGs. So keep Parker from creating inside, keep a lid on his more controllable teammates, and grimace as Parker goes for 30-plus in three or four or five of the upcoming games.

And hope it ain’t enough.

Zac Crain, Inside Corner: Two things, one of which I mentioned before. They can’t stop Parker. And I’m not positive a “let TP get his” game plan helps much, because they don’t really rely on his setting up his teammates. Two: the corner three, which the Spurs have turned into an art form, and which the Mavs have never especially defended well.

RM: Describe this series in one word.

Zac Crain, Inside Corner: Familiar

Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: Can “9X50’’ be one word?

“9X50’’ is the little T-shirt-worthy equation we coined at DB.com to celebrate what the Mavs have done with playoff appearances and 50-win seasons. The only team in Dallas’ class in those two categories? The Spurs, of course.

9X50. A celebration. For both franchises. For a couple more weeks, anyway.

RM: And the big one: prediction time.  Who ya got?

Zac Crain, Inside Corner: Mavs in six.

Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: The Mavs’ logic? “As good as we are at home, all we have to do is steal one in San Antonio!’’

The Spurs’ logic? “As good as WE are, period, we don’t have to STEAL anything!’’

I’m a journalist — I’ve got the Press Pass in the band of my fedora and everything — but I’m also a fan. (I’d also like to note that I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint). The fan satisfaction I’d get from Dallas winning would be matched by the journalist satisfaction I’d get from correctly predicting the upset.

Mavs in seven.

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A big thanks to Zac and Fish for playing along, and be sure to check out their other work at DallasBasketball.com and Inside Corner.  And don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of my thoughts on the series soon enough.