Saturday, May 5, 2012
W2W4: Have Mavs reached blow-it-up phase?
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- For years prior to winning the title last season, the debate has raged: Should Mark Cuban blow up the Mavericks?
Well, that point might actually be upon the Mavs' owner as his club faces the prospects of being swept out of the first round of the playoffs on the heels of winning it all. Not exactly the way a defending champion wants to go out, but it's a path that Cuban can't claim will have come as a total shock.
The owner decided to dismantle the title team and play the free-agent game in the summer. And once this season comes to a close, whether it melts away tonight or in Game 5 in Oklahoma City on Monday or somewhere stays alive beyond the that, the names on the jerseys are going to change.
Check out the list of names that could be making their final appearances tonight:
The only player guaranteed to be back is Dirk Nowitzki. A few guys would seem likely to be back, such as Vince Carter, who has two more years left on his deal, Brandan Wright, who the Mavs would figure to pick up the team option, and Kelenna Azubuike, who they acquired late in the season and have under contract for next season.
Otherwise it's wide open, and much will depend on where super free-agent-to-be Deron Williams lands. It will be a busy July around here. The Mavs would like to at least keep things going a bit longer in May.
What to watch: Level of play. Coach Rick Carlisle continued to emphasize Saturday morning that the Mavs' effort was up to snuff in Game 3 and that it was their level of play that let them down. In that case, the Mavs' season must hinge on whether they can make baskets, hold onto the basketball and keep the Thunder from making more baskets. If they do that, then they should win and extend the series.
Key matchup:Kevin Durant vs. Shawn Marion As terrific as Marion's defense was on Durant in the first two games, Durant got off early in Game 3 and scored 21 of his 31 points in the first half. Needless to say, that can't happen again. Marion will turn 34 on Monday. Depending on how well he can defend Durant tonight will determine if he's celebrating another year in Oklahoma City before a Game 5 or while on vacation.
Injuries: Thunder -- G Eric Maynor (torn right ACL) is out. Mavs -- None.
Up next: Game 5 -- Mavs at Thunder, 7 p.m. Monday (if necessary)