NBA Playoff Preview: Can Dallas Mavericks Make a Push?

By Ryan Heckman
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

2012 has not gone the way Dallas Mavericks fans thought it would. After an off season of signing a few new faces, who looked like they would do the team a lot of good, they have failed to exceed expectations.

Currently two spots behind the Utah Jazz for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs have been looking to make something out of their season.

At times, it has still looked like their new faces Elton Brand, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman still haven’t been able to find their groove and mesh together as a team. Not necessarily knowing who their second offensive option is sometimes has been tough on them. Luckily, Vince Carter has stepped up this season and played very well.

Going into the end of the season, Dallas has a fairly doable schedule with two games against the New Orleans Hornets, and games against the Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings. Tonight they also face off against the team they’re trying to leapfrog in the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dallas will need to win all of those games if they want to have a chance at making it into the postseason. Not only that, but they’re going to need to win another game or two against their tougher opponents remaining like the Denver Nuggets, whom they play twice.

When and if they get in, the Mavericks will need excellent production not only from Nowitzki and Carter, but from Mayo. Mayo could end up being their X-Factor in the postseason; he is shooting 46% on the year with an average of 13 shot attempts. If I am Collison, I look for Mayo as much as I can along with Nowitzki and Carter. Those three will be huge for the Mavs offensively.

Where they may struggle is on the defensive end. They’re not going to consistently hold teams to 95 points. It just simply won’t happen. In order to win, they will need to score in bunches and keep their field goal percentage in the high 40’s as much as possible.

The first round matchup for the Mavericks will surely be the San Antonio Spurs. While the Spurs have been dominant through the likes of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker this year, they have also had much help off their bench. Gregg Popovich has done a stellar job of coaching his squad up to understand his scheme.

While it’s not an impossible task, the Mavericks will have a tough time competing with the Spurs. In order to win the series, they will have to play defense at a much higher level than they have this season. I am not sure though that they are capable of doing so. Head coach Rick Carlisle may beg to differ, but he would be kidding himself.

In any event, right now the Mavs need to focus on what they can control and that is winning their remaining regular season games in order to get in the best position for making the playoffs. If they can do that, then it will be all about San Antonio from there.

Ryan Heckman is a Minnesota Timberwolves writer and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google

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