Above everything else, the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are driven by hunger to finally succeed in the postseason, something that has eluded them over the last few years.
Despite the James Harden effect and then adding Dwight Howard before last season, the Rockets haven’t made it past the first round of the postseason since 2009. The Mavericks did win the title in 2011 (with Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler), but they haven’t been able to make it out of the first round since that year. They missed the postseason completely in 2013.
The Rockets dominated the regular season series and while Rick Carlisle tends to find creative defensive solutions in the postseason, he might not have the right personnel for it this time. Shawn Marion gave the Spurs a lot of problems last season, not to mention his defense on LeBron James in the 2011 finals. Rajon Rondo isn’t Marion, and his form this season, including on defense, doesn’t scream defensive stopper.
So it this series up to the Rockets? Probably. Although their firepower offensively has more to do with James Harden than anything else, unlike the Mavericks who have more than just one player to carry the team on his back, the additions of Josh Smith and Corey Brewer make them look a lot more complete on both ends of the floor, especially now that Dwight Howard is back, getting time to familiarize himself with 30 minutes a night.
Chandler Parsons has missed the last six games of the season and obviously, with him, the Mavericks are much more dangerous offensively, although it might be difficult for Parsons who will be visiting his former team, where he was part of two failed attempts to make it out of the first round in the postseason.
The Rockets have the best player in the series and probably the better team, although they are inferior when it comes to the coaching position. However, as good of a coach as Carlisle is, it might not be enough to create something out of nothing. The Mavericks are fun to watch when they’re running, but far too flawed to take seriously in a playoff series of this kind.