The Dallas Mavericks?? fate lies in their hands as they close out the regular season against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night.
A win over the Grizz and the Mavs lock up the seventh seed and will likely face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round (OKC needs to win Wednesday at home against the Detroit Pistons, or have the Los Angeles Clippers lose one of their last two games, to wrap up the second seed).
A loss against the Grizz would match Dallas up against the best recorded team in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs.
Regardless of a win or loss tonight, the Mavs are in the playoffs and they will likely head north or south on I-35 to face either two of the best teams in the Western Conference.
So which team does Dallas want to avoid in the first round?
The Spurs swept the Mavs in the regular season 4-0. Kawhi Leonard had 16 rebounds and Tim Duncan had 15 rebounds against the Mavs April 10. Spurs were plus seven in offensive rebounds. Their outside shooting, even without Tony Parker, was a nightmare for Dallas.
We??ve seen the Mavericks beat more physical teams, but it was to Rick Carlisle??s coaching advantage. There??s no coaching advantage to be had for Carlisle against Gregg Popovich. Pop plays the matchup game better than anyone.
The Mavs have a 2-1 series lead over the Thunder. Kevin Durant cannot be guarded; he put up 43 points against the Mavs back in late March. But the Mavericks have the rebounding advantage, something they don??t have against San Antonio. If Jose Calderon can step up against the Thunder as he has in previous games, Dallas might pull an upset.
With a healthy team, Dallas is ready to go. Dirk Nowitzki won Western Conference player of the week last week, and Monta Ellis was awarded the honor this week. This is the first time in franchise history that two Mavericks teammates won the award in consecutive weeks.
But the Mavericks are looking for bigger accomplishments, whether it is against the Spurs or Thunder (or the Clippers for those fans holding their breath).