Another series that can end in a sweep despite early expectations is the #2 vs #7 in the West, as the Houston Rockets approach game 4 knowing they can wrap things up against an injured, almost falling apart Dallas Mavericks.
You wouldn’t have guessed so many things were going wrong for the Mavericks according to their game 3 performance, pushing the Rockets to the limit but eventually losing 130-128, now standing on the edge, trying to avoid elimination. Without Rajon Rondo who has turned into the player everyone loves to hate, and without Chandler Parsons, out for the rest of the preseason.
There’s plenty of talk about Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, but Tyson Chandler might be the most worthwhile player talking about. He’s been completely outplayed by Dwight Howard and Josh Smith. Amare Stoudemire and Charlie Villanueva aren’t bringing in the support Chandler needs, who for another postseason seems a bit too old and too weak to handle the best centers in the league.
Dwight Howard seems like he’s back to his old self, without any back or shoulder problems weighing on him. Howard is averaging 17.3 points in this series with 14.3 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. Smith, next to or instead of Howard, has been doing a fantastic job, scoring 14.7 points per game. His contribution from the bench along with Corey Brewer has been a huge difference maker in this postseason.
Above all stands James Harden. Not just because of his game 3 performance (playoff career high of 42 points), but because of his evolution, from a ball hog into a player who seems to know and sense when to turn things up and when to defer to his teammates. He’s averaging 30 points and 8.7 assists in this series, and the Mavericks have no answer whatsoever to his ability, especially when he gets hot.
The Mavs can still score points. Devin Harris and J.J. Barea help the team play in a much faster tempo, and Ellis is getting the number of touches he’s used to again. But even with Nowitzki and Ellis scoring astronomical numbers, the Mavericks always seem a bit short on one end. Even before the Rondo debacle and the Parsons injury, they went into this series inferior at almost every aspect.
But there has to be a better, less humiliating way to go out. Losing 4-0, swept, with the finishing touch coming in front of the home fans, not to mention at the hands of a division and state rival, will leave a very bitter taste going into the offseason. Mark Cuban knows he made some mistakes, but it’s better to ponder them without a big zero resonating in your mind.