NBA Playoffs: Be They Horsemen Or Mere Messengers?

First off: ROTFLMAO.

Okay, now that we’ve got late 90’s AIM chat words out of the way, let’s talk Dallas.

Did you know the Mavs are 14-11 against the top ten teams in Net Points? That’s a pretty good number. Of course, Utah and Blazer fans are pointing to their individual records against the Mavs (a combined 1-5), saying they BEG for a seven game series with Dallas. You know what I say? Be careful what you wish for.

There are three types of Western playoff teams this year. One team with considerable confidence that they will be playing in the Finals, because they are the best of their conference, and arguably the best in the league. You know them. There are teams just trying to find answers to some things. This includes Utah, who looked terrific in 2007, horrible in 08 and 09, and amazing this year, but still need to be able to knock off a big time opponent in the playoffs. It includes OKC obviously, trying to get a feel of their ceiling, since they haven’t hit it yet. It includes Portland, who, geez, what are they trying to do? Validate KP’s moves? Just not have the injuries render this a complete disaster? Make some sort of Kamikaze run to the Finals? I have no idea. And honestly, I don’t think they do either. And the Suns fall into this group, simply from a “Who knows?” perspective. The Suns are fascinating in that they know they’re a good team, know they can be a great team, but know full well the odds are not with them to win a championship.

Then there’s the last group, obviously San Antonio, Denver, and Dallas. Each have expectations. Denver legitimately expects to be in a Game Seven with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. They think they are that good. They’re in coast mode right now, and you can tell, they’re just not tuned like they have been. It’s a theme common to this category of teams, but one which the Spurs cannot afford the luxury of. They have to try and make a run, to catch fire at the right time and salvage this configuration. They’re like a rocket which keeps having its booster go out.

And then, of course, there’s Dallas. Not thought to be a contender in preseason. Generally speaking, this team has been considered out of it since the Warriors loss in 07. That series fractured the franchise’s legitimacy for a lot of people. But take a moment and recognize the talent on this team. Jason Kidd is shooting well from the arc, for God’s sake. Shawn Marion is arguably their fourth best player, and he’s been fantastic at both ends! They have two huge, veteran centers they can throw at people! They have worlds and worlds of playoff experience, a cool and steady point guard, a former MVP, a sixth man of the year award winner, and a rookie who dropped 40 points the other night! You say they can’t play defense? That’s a myth. They play a style which creates opportunities for the opponent, agreed. But in the west, only LA, San Antonio, Utah, and OKC have been better defensively. But then, those same statistics also say several teams have been better than Dallas offensively.

Every contender looks at its shortcomings and plays the “we’ll be ready for the playoffs” card. And I’m certainly there with the Mavs. I’ve seen Nowitzki step up too many times, see the roster which is more diverse and has higher central points, and recognize that this team was pretty damn good last year. That Denver series was closer than it appeared to the naked eye.

A Utah-Dallas series I think will probably say a lot, and in all honesty, I think it’s a toss-up. I like Dallas’ centers versus Okur and Millsap, but I like Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews and Price versus Kidd, Butler, and Jub-Jub/Roddy Buckets. I like AK versus Shawn Marion in all sorts of ways for both sides. So then it’ll come down to Carlos Boozer versus Dirk Nowitzki.

That should be entertaining as all get out. Now if only no one comes in and crashes the party…

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.