NBA Playoffs 2011: Are the Dallas Mavericks Really Title Contenders?
NBA Playoffs 2011 See Dallas Mavericks Sweep Los Angeles Lakers Out of Postseason, but Are They Legitimate Playoff Contenders?
If someone had told you at the start of the NBA playoffs 2011 series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers that someone was going to get swept, you would have bet it would be Dallas. Be honest; few thought the one-man show in Dallas was actually capable of beating the mighty Lakers in seven games, and if the Lakers figured out how to slow Dirk, a sweep was very much a possibility.
Instead, we saw the Mavs put on a clinic through four games, stymieing the Lakers' offensive firepower, while using their own balance to put an end to L.A.'s two-time title defense. Things came to a head in Game 4, when Dallas put the clamps on the Lakers, while using an aerial bombardment from three-point range seldom seen in the postseason to slam the door on any hope L.A. had of mounting a rally.
Many pundits now see Dallas as a legitimate title contender, but are they really?
After all, don't forget that this Mavs squad was picked as one of the most likely top seeds to be upset in Round 1, and looked likely to be knocked off by the Lakers in the second round. Now that they're in the Western Conference Finals again, surely they're cruising for a loss, right?
Wrong. The fact is, these Mavs look like legitimate title contenders, thanks in large part to a balanced attack and one of the stingier defenses in the NBA. Led by megastar forward Dirk Nowitzki, who has been sublime this postseason, Dallas has one of the best scorers and toughest matchups in the NBA right now.
But, he's far from the only weapon the Mavs have at their disposal. They've surrounded Dirk with plenty of streaky shooters, from Shawn Marion to Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic and J.J. Barea. With so many shooters, one would figure that at least two of them will be hitting in any given game, making this team extremely dangerous.
Even if they're not, the Mavs don't need to be a high scoring team, thanks to their suddenly stingy defense.
Dallas' defense is the reason they're here, plain and simple. Their 2-3 zone has looked excellent this postseason, holding the Lakers offense in check, and is capable of slowing most attacks. They have shot blocker extraordinaire Tyson Chandler in the middle, and good length on the wings in Dirk, Deshawn Stevenson and Shawn Marion.
The fact is, the Mavs are deep, talented and versatile, with the defensive skill to grind out a low-scoring win, and the athleticism to run with the faster teams in the NBA.
On top of that, the remaining Western Conference squads, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, are both lower seeds than Dallas, giving the Mavs' title contender status even more credence.
In the end, given the way they dismantled the Lakers in the second round, it's hard to argue the Mavs aren't title contenders at this point. They're surprisingly deep (although, other than Nowitzki, they lack another true star) and versatile, and have shown great toughness in this postseason, something they've lacked in years past.
Given the way they've played, they're definitely title contenders moving forward.
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