Is this finally Dirk's time to lead his team to the promised land?
You would have been laughed out the conversation. An eight-seed versus a team that in the past had no heart, and choked away their previous opportunities to win in the playoffs.
Both teams are as of now winning their series by out working their opponent, and showing their toughness in the paint. If this happens, this would probably be the biggest story of the season, with all due respect to Derrick Rose, LeBron and the Heat, and Carmelo and the Knicks.
No one gave these two teams a chance to get to the conference finals. Dallas is one win away from punching their ticket, and Memphis is two wins away.
How do they match up against each other, and who would have the edge? Let's take a look.
Mike Conley vs. Jason Kidd
Kidd has been rejuvenated in these playoffs and has turned back the clock. He is not turning the ball over, and facilitating beautifully.
There is no substitution for his playoff savvy. Conley has played well, even though his shooting has been spotty, and he does what other young point guards do at times, which is turn the ball over at inopportune times.
He has good chemistry with his teammates, and is a great complement to them. Kidd will not hurt him with his scoring as much as Westbrook will, so this is a more favorable matchup for him in that respect.
You have to go with Kidd here. Experience over youth.
Edge: Jason Kidd
DeShawn Stevenson vs. Sam Young
Young's confidence is growing as he gets deeper in the playoffs. He has the size and offensive ability to hurt you with his mid-range game, and he can get to the rack and posterize you.
He is also an excellent defender. Young is perfect for Memphis. He is hard-nosed and can mix it up with anyone. I liked him at Pitt, and he has not disappointed at the pro level.
Stevenson is a good glue player for Dallas, and one of the more athletic guys on their team. He brings toughness and energy to their club, and has hit big shots in big situations before.
He will not shrink in these situations. He doesn't play scared, and that is huge once you get on the big stage.
Edge: Sam Young
Tony Allen vs. Shawn Marion
Tony Allen is normally given the toughest assignment on defense. He won't have to worry about The Matrix scoring a lot, but he will have to keep him off the boards and from getting second shots.
Allen would see time on Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry if necessary. Allen is a lock-down defender that will wear you down, and he is the heart and soul of this team.
Marion does a lot of the dirty work, and along with Tyson Chandler have added toughness to the Mavericks that they haven't had before. Just ask the Lakers. Marion plays good low-post defense and gets to a lot of loose balls.
He is past his prime, but he is still a factor and gives Dallas some important intangibles.
I am going to give Allen the edge here. His ability to take away a weapon on the wing makes him very valuable.
Edge: Tony Allen
Dirk Nowitzki vs. Zach Randolph
These two players get it done in totally different ways, and couldn't be more different. Randolph is a load in the post and can't be stopped for a whole game.
He is relentless on the boards and creates key second-chance opportunities. He can get 20 rebounds in a game, as we saw against the Thunder.
Dirk is not equipped to bang with Zebo. On the other hand, Zebo will not be able to deal with what Dirk does offensively. Dirk can beat you with an array of off-balance jumpers, as well as three-pointers.
He can also operate out of the post, as well as take you off the dribble. Offensively he has the total package. In the past he has shied away from the physical play in the playoffs, but not this year.
This would be his big moment. Putting his team on his back and taking them to the championship. That would be a career-defining opportunity.
These two guys are the heavy lifters offensively for their teams. They are not that good on defense, but their team mates make up for that. They probably won't guard each other, but how they perform will decide the series.
I give the slight edge to Dirk because it looks like it is his time.
Edge: Dirk Nowitzki
Marc Gasol vs. Tyson Chandler
Tyson is quicker off his feet, runs the floor better, and is a better shot-blocker. He tends to get into foul trouble though, which limits his minutes.
He is a good finisher around the basket, and is a good receiver of alley-opps. Gasol cannot be moved off the post, or the lane, once he sets himself up. He is that strong.
He has a few good moves in the post when given the ball, and is a pretty good passer. Gasol wears you down over the course of the game, while he becomes more effective.
He and Randolph are a perfect complement for each other. They will give Dallas all they want and then some. I like Gasol to be a factor on the inside and make his presence felt.
It will be difficult for Chandler to have his way in the half court as long as Gasol is there.
Edge: Marc Gasol
Here is where the Mavericks have an advantage. Jose Berea and Jason Terry come in and keep the pace at a feverish level, which the Grizzlies would not want.
Berea is a pest that seems to get into the paint at will. Terry is a former Sixth Man of the Year award winner that still has the game and the jump shot that can destroy you.
Brendon Haywood is good big man off the bench and provides depth. He has played well against the Lakers. We haven't even mentioned Stojakovic, and we all know he is a three-pointer waiting to happen.
He can't guard anyone, but he can still shoot.
Memphis counters with O.J. Mayo, who is explosive offensively and has quick hands on defense. Nobody on the Dallas bench can guard him. They will need Shane Battier's defense and rebounding for sure in this series.
It will be invaluable against Dallas' sharp-shooters. Darrell Arthur will provide energy and defense off the bench as well. He is confident operating in the low post against anyone as well.
His thunderous dunks have gotten his team fired up and filled with energy. He has a good future ahead of him.
The matchups say that Memphis would win this, on the strength of their defense. Their ability on that side of the ball makes up for their lack of fire power.
This would be a great matchup, and we are well on the way to it happening. Who would have figured?
If it does, it would signal the end of the Lakers era as we know it, and the beginning of the new guard in the West, minus the Spurs also.
Improbable, but it gets closer to reality with each game.