Generally, I try to avoid "picking" opponents to play in the postseason. In 2008, myself and most Mavericks fans badly wanted to play the Hornets, when the alternatives were the Jazz, Lakers, and Spurs.
Well, we got what we wanted, and then were summarily ousted by the Hornets in five games, and we had the luxury of being the punch-line to Chris Paul's emergence as the best point guard in the game.
This season, I played the game a little bit. "Let's avoid the Lakers," "Don't wanna see those Nuggets," "The Jazz are pretty scary," and of course "F#*k those f@%king Spurs."
One of the teams I really wanted to avoid was the Thunder. I had flashbacks to 2008, except this time it would be Kevin Durant taking his team to another level, all at the consequence of my beloved Mavericks.
The Lakers are the team everyone wants to avoid as long as possible, for two reasons. 1) There's always the chance someone could upset them in the first or second round. After all, it is pretty difficult to win the West three times in a row; and 2) With the health of Kobe, Bynum, and others in jeopardy, the more they play, the less effective they could be.
The Nuggets are another team the Mavericks probably would prefer not to play. Terrible officiating in Game 3's series last year aside, I think both the citizens of Denver and Dallas would want to postpone any such series.
Add to that Carmelo's career year, Nene's usual stellar performance, and the added defensive and outside shooting presence of Aaron Afflalo, it would shape up to be another rough series.
And the Jazz, oh those Jazz. Ejections, suspensions and fists always seem to fly when these teams meet. While Mehmet Okur isn't much of a low-post threat, the absolute monster physicality of Boozer is not something I'm looking forward to seeing, and I think Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier would both concur.
The West is always going to be tough, but I think it's safe to say the Mavericks wanted to avoid those teams as long as possible.
After all, the Mavericks could have faced a Thunder-Jazz-Lakers road to the Finals, which is a very tough path for anyone.
As great as the Suns have been this year, I think the Mavs and their size present big problems for them. With Lopez out indefinitely, Channing Frye is the only thing standing between monster games from Dampier and Haywood. Also, Marion and Butler provide two tough defenders for the likes of Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson, and Grant Hill.
Stoudemire presents his own set of problems, but the Mavs can take away the Suns' other options, and Stoudemire isn't going to score 80-90 points a game.
The Trailblazers, even before Roy went down, didn't particularly scare me, despite the struggles the Mavs had. Aldridge provides the biggest threat to them, and once again, he's not going to be winning four games all by himself.
And the Spurs, those f#$king Spurs. Where to begin?
Sure, they've had a rocky road of it this year, and sure, Manu is finally back and healthy, and as much as they worry me, I don't think the Mavericks were desperate to avoid the Spurs.
And wouldn't you know it, but the West shaped up pretty nice for the Mavericks. Of those four teams that the Mavericks tried to avoid, they will only have to face one of them.
Of the three other teams they match up well with, the Mavericks will face two of them.
Now, I know the Spurs are always a tough out, and I'll get into this more later, but if the Mavericks think they can win a championship this year, then they had better beat the Spurs.
The Mavs are clicking very well coming into the playoffs, and with a road ahead that is favorable, they could very well be representing the West in the Finals.
With the Lakers stumbling, Denver without its leader, the Thunder experiencing their first taste of the postseason, the fragility of the Spurs' stars, the lack of firepower on the Jazz, and the Blazers missing key pieces, the Dallas Mavericks couldn't ask for a better chance to make it to the Finals.