Many people will be piling on the Dallas Mavericks for yet another early playoffs exit but I don’t want you falling into that same pattern. They’ll point to Dallas winning at least 50 games every season in the decade and having nothing to show for it. I say they came damn close in ’06 and the legacy of Shaq and Dwyane Wade wouldn’t be what it is had Dallas held on. They’ll remind you the Mavs have made first-round playoff exits in three of the past four years. I have a more logical explanation for each situation that doesn’t involve the lazy shortcuts most media members take. Most importantly, they’ll remind you that the Mavericks are the first two seed to lose to a seven seed in the first round since the format was expanded to best of seven. Anyone who recites this fact should keep in mind that the Spurs could have just as easily been the two seed.
Three years ago, the Mavericks had the best record in the NBA, the MVP award winner, and they drew a first-round matchup against an eight seed that had beaten them every game during the regular season. The Warriors beat the Mavs in six games pulling off the upset. Two years ago, the Mavs’ window of opportunity seemed to be closing as they squeaked into the playoffs as a seven seed and got bounced by a superior Hornets team. Guys like Josh Howard were more concerned with partying than playing and the result was Avery Johnson getting fired for “losing his team.” The Mavericks still managed to win 50 games last season but they seemed to have faded to become a borderline playoff team in the West.