The Dallas Mavericks are the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference side of this year's postseason bracket. That means they're the wild West's worst playoff team and should have no shot against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
At least that might be the case in another year.
The 2013-14 Mavericks are not your typical No. 8. They tied their first-round series against the Spurs at 1-1 with a 113-92 win Wednesday. The dominant performance in Game 2 was just more evidence that Dallas is better than most eighth seeds.
The Mavs finished the regular season with a 49-33 record, one game better than the Toronto Raptors, who finished third in the Eastern Conference. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers—all on the road. Their 109 points per 100 possessions gave them the league's third-best offensive rating this season. And they have the 10th-leading scorer in NBA history in Dirk Nowitzki.
Now back to Wednesday's evidence.
The Mavericks didn't just beat the Spurs in Game 2. They completely dominated them, winning all four quarters on the way to a 21-point victory. They topped 30 in both the second and third quarters. And they did it against a Spurs defense that ranked fourth in the NBA, giving up just 100.1 points per 100 possessions.
All game long, the Mavs moved the ball with a purpose on offense, causing the always-prepared Spurs to scramble way more than they're used to. The home team's rotations broke down several times. Mavs Outsiders' Bryan Gutierrez commented on it late in the game:
The scary thing is that San Antonio knows that Dallas is deadly and haven't shown anything in terms of slowing them down schematically.— Bryan Gutierrez (@BallinWithBryan) April 24, 2014
He added something that should really make Spurs fans nervous:
Dallas got solid looks in Game 1 and the shots didn’t drop. You can only hold that down for so long.— Bryan Gutierrez (@BallinWithBryan) April 24, 2014
The Mavericks' high-powered offense has looked crisp in two games this series, and the Spurs will have to make some adjustments with their backs to the wall.
For one, they need to identify someone from the second unit who can defend the suddenly revived Devin Harris.
After failing to average double figures in each of his last two regular seasons, Harris has scored 37 points on 15-of-25 shooting in two first-round games. He's the Mavericks' leading scorer in the series, and this burst shows how deep Dallas is.
In the regular season, the Mavericks bench averaged 35.6 points. And in these two games, we've seen that the reserves are capable of carrying the load when Nowitzki and the starters struggle.
Another adjustment for the Spurs has to be taking care of the ball. Wednesday, they coughed up 15 turnovers in the first half alone:
The Spurs already have 15 turnovers tonight. That's their most in the first half of a game in the last 5 seasons, including playoffs.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 24, 2014
The Spurs had more TOs in the first half (15) than 45 of their 82 games this season.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) April 24, 2014
They finished the game with 22:
Everyone struggled, but Manu Ginobili was the main culprit. He committed six turnovers himself, giving the Mavericks extra possessions they didn't even need.
Several of the turnovers were forced, as Dallas was flying around on defense, playing with an energy on that end they didn't display a lot of in the regular season.
Again, it was the kind of defensive effort you might not expect from an eighth seed.
Now, after stealing home-court advantage, these eighth-seeded Mavericks will look to protect its own floor with the next two games taking place in Dallas.
And they should be confident in their ability to do so.
The Mavericks are actually better offensively at home, posting an offensive rating of 111.4 in 41 games. And Dirk Nowitzki has yet to get going in this series. He's 11-of-33 from the field so far, and it's hard to imagine him posting three straight bad games, especially when the third is at home.
If he returns to his old playoff form—25.8 points and 10.2 rebounds in 130 games—Nowitzki could put Dallas in position to pull off a huge upset.
Carlisle: "We're in this thing to win. We're not in it to get a split and feel happy."— Earl K. Sneed (@EarlKSneed) April 24, 2014
Is it likely? Maybe not. The Spurs finished the season with the NBA's best record and went 4-0 against the Mavericks in the regular season.
Is it possible? Absolutely. After all, Dallas has proven it is anything but your typical No. 8.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.