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April 13, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan
  (1:00 PM)

Welcome to today's Mavericks/NBA chat, playoff style. What a crazy last few days it has been with weird upsets and figuring out playoff pairings being more complicated than calculus.The Mavs can clinch the 2-seed tonight if Denver wins at Phoenix or Utah loses at Golden State. I'm not betting on either happening, which means I'm expecting the Mavs to have to beat a surging Spurs club to nail down the No. 2 seed on the final day of the season tomorrow. OK, lots of questions in the Q, so let's go...

derrik (nacogdoches, texas)

People are starting to look at this team and say they might be closing the gap between them and the lakers. Do you think that the mavs will crack under those expectations? I sure hope not i dont want a repeat of 2007.

Jeff Caplan
  (1:02 PM)

Crack? We'll see. But, if they lose in the first round, it won't be a repeat of 2007. This year firs-round matchups are like second-rounders, there's really no true favorite, everyone is so equal. The Spurs have been coming on since March and if you they didn't put up strange losses at New Jersey and the other night at home to Memphis, they're just a couple games behind the Mavs. The Spurs are a tough group right now. Yes, I think the Spurs and Mavs are headed for a first-round showdown.

DeWayne (cedar Hill, Texas)

Who do you want the mavs to see in the first round okc, portland, or the spurs? Who is the biggest threat and who is the weakest?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:04 PM)

Right now you would have to say the Blazers are the best matchup. They just lost Brandon Roy, their best player, and after a season of all kinds of injuries and fighting the way they have to win 50 games and get in the playoffs, I just can't imagine they have much left emotionally, let alone the depth to handle the Mavs in a 7-game series. OKC is out of the mix, they're locked into 8th and face the Lakers. The Spurs are a tough club to figure out. They look great some nights, awful others. But, they are dangerous and as healthy as they've been. A three-guard lineup of Tony Parker, Manu and George Hill would be interesting. Problem for Spurs continues to be who guards Dirk?

Neal (Dallas, Texas)

Caron has played so much better now that hes at the 3. Do you see him falling back once marion is back in the lineup?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:06 PM)

Ah, very interesting question Neal. Is it coincidence that Butler's numbers spiked once he started playing small forward when Marion went out? I was hoping to get a glimpse of that last night, but Butler sat out with a hip flexor that I'm told is not serious. Still, that is a bit worrisome that he's dinged. Hopefully, we'll get a good look at Marion and Butler in the lineup together on Wednesday, the last look before Game 1 this weekend.

Christian Childress (Dallas)

Jeff to me I think the Spurs would be a great matchup for the Mavs right now especially with HC if we lock up #2. Kidd vs. A banged up Parker, Marion vs Ginobli, Dirk vs. Duncan. What are your thoughts?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:08 PM)

I know we've covered this ground, but I just want to make a comment about Parker. From what I've heard out of S.A., the month off has helped Parker overcome plantar fasciitis in his left foot and a hip injury that slowed him earlier in the year. He says he's feeling great. The interesting thing is that he's come off the bench 5 straight games because Popovich wants to keep Manu in the starting lineup. Pop has to decide if his starting backcourt will be George Hill/Manu, Parker/Manu or Parker/Hill. Interesting dilemma. Hill could be team MVP if not Manu.

Richard (West Virginia)

does the Brandon Roy injury throw some strategy into what the mavs are gonna do in these last games i think that is the matchup every top teas wants

Jeff Caplan
  (1:10 PM)

Richard, I'll take this question since you're from West Virginia. My folks are both Mountaineers. As stated at the top, Mavs could clinch 2-seed tonight. In that case, it will be interesting to see how they play things Wednesday, because a win or loss would help determine if they see S.A. or Portland in the first round. Portland and S.A. are currently tied and Portland finishes tomorrow at home against Golden State, and Portland holds the tiebreak over S.A.

Austin (Dallas)

How much playing time do you see Roddie B getting come playoff time? His quickness could be used defensively to slow Tony Parker (which Jason Kidd does have trouble with sometimes) if the Mavs do face the Spurs in the first round.

Jeff Caplan
  (1:12 PM)

Austin, judging by the way Rick Carlisle has used Roddy down the stretch, I don't hold high hopes that the rookie will see much playoff time. Now, having said that, Rick can be unorthodox with the rotation as we all know and he could find niche-type roles for him to, as you point out, utilize his speed. But, I think Rick likes the veteran presence of DeShawn Stevenson for his defense and there's only so many minutes to play guys. The Mavs are deep and Carlisle will use guys situationally.

Austin (Austin)

This might be unrelated to Mavs news... but do Durantula and the Thunder have any chance of taking down the Lakers in the first round? HOOK EM HORNS!

Jeff Caplan
  (1:14 PM)

Austin in Austin...are you sure you're not Austin in Dallas? Hmmm...anyway, do I give Thunder a chance against the Lakers. Not really. Not after what I saw of them the last two nights in awful losses to Golden State and Portland. The Thunder led 31-13 and 42-25 over GS and lost to a team with a bunch of D-League guys (no offense D-Leaguers, keep plugging)...and they allowed Portland to go on a 10-0 run to start the 3rd quarter in losing that one. Their youth finally seemed to catch up to them, so the Thunder's future is bright, but I suspect the Lakers will take care of them rather handily.

Jeff (Lewisville)

If the Mavs can make it out of the 1st round and they face the Jazz, what kind of series would that be? How do the Mavs stack up?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:15 PM)

A physical, hard-nosed, edgy, exciting and extremely fun series. I am looking forward to this matchup if that's how things fall. The critical thing for the Mavs is to nail down the No. 2 seed. They don't want four games in that madhouse in Salt Lake City. Things just seem to go bad for the Mavs there. But, give the Mavs four at home and I like their chances. I think they have the edge inside and if the Mavs can give Kidd help on Deron Williams I think they have a great shot to win that series -- with homecourt advantage.

Erik (Frederick, MD)

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but based on all tiebreaking scenarios, won't the Mavs clinch the No. 2 seed if Denver beats Phoenix tonight?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:16 PM)

To review, yes, if Denver wins tonight at Phoenix, Mavs secure the No. 2 seed. Also, if Denver wins, but Jazz somehow loses at Golden State, the Mavs nail down No. 2.

James (Dallas)

Hello Jeff, what do you think about Nowitzki being aggresivw lately, look at this you will may be call me John Hollinger. 31.5PPG, 8.5RPG, 7-8 3pt, 57% FG, and a perfect 37-37 from the free throw line. I think that the most important stats are FT and 3pt so this tells me, that if Nowitzki continues to play like that, will the Mavs have a big chance to win the championship?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:18 PM)

Hi James, wow are you actually trying to give Dirk credit? Excellent, he deserves it. He is on fire lately and name me one team that matches up well with him right now, at least in the first round? I don't see one. For a couple years now Dirk has been more aggressive going to the whole. And for as awkward as he looks driving, he's successful and we all know he makes his free throws so it's a win-win situation. I don't know the stat, but I bet the Mavs' record is pretty good when gets to the line 10 or more times a game. I love his game right now.

Jason F. (Montana)

Jeff, do you think that Dallas' pair of 7 footers in Haywood and Damp would be able to match up with the Lakers wall, assuming Bynum is healthy in time?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:20 PM)

Jason, thanks for the question all the way from Big Sky country. Are you offseason neighbors with Phil Jackson? Getting Haywood certainly helps the Mavs in this matchup. Damp is too plodding to defend Bynum in the low post. Haywood matched up well with him shortly after the trade when the Mavs beat the Lakers at home. The two big guys pretty much canceled each other out. I do have some concern though with Haywood as far as having his head in the game at all times. I find it interesting that Rick Carlisle feels more comfortable with Erick Dampier starting. My understanding is there's some frustration with Haywood on the defensive end, so that should be interesting to watch in the playoffs.

Adam (Los Angeles)

I think the key to stopping the Spurs is containing Manu. Do you like the bodies that the Mavs can throw at him (Marion, Butler, Beabouis, Kidd, etc...)?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:22 PM)

Manu has been magnificient in the final two months of the season. He's why the Spurs have a chance to claim the No. 6 seed and why they're suddenly a real threat. Yes, Marion has been good this season guarding high-scoring opponents and Butler is another option. DeShawn Stevenson is probably ahead of Beaubois. They problem with the Spurs now is that Kidd has trouble guarding Tony Parker, so someone's got stick with him. Then there's George Hill, a pretty good-sized guard who can play the point or the 2, plus Manu. Now, again, will all three be on the floor at once? I don't know. That would cause some crazy matchup issues for both teams.

Jeremy (Fort Worth)

Why do you think the Mavs are finally beating up on some teams now and weren't doing this during most of the year. Three of their four wins on this streak have been by more than 15 points. They've hardly had any of those prior to this streak.

Jeff Caplan
  (1:24 PM)

Jeremy, good question and one colleague John Hollinger would be proud of. A couple of things on that. I think the Mavs have played well, definitely. But, let's look at the situation, too. It's the end of the season. The Kings have suffered through an awful year and showed no inclination to compete. The Clippers mailed it in after about four minutes last night and were without Baron Davis and Drew Gooden. So, yes, give the Mavs credit, but recognize the competition and the situation. The win at Portland is far more indicative of what the strides the Mavs have made since their most recent slumber that had all of us wondering if they had enough to get out of the first round.

Bryan (Springdale,AR) [via mobile]

Is this the healthiest, most complete Mavs team that is heading into the playoffs in the Dirk era?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:26 PM)

Well, I suppose the Mavs are healthy. Shawn Marion certainly looked good last night coming off the oblique strain. Frankly, I didn't think we'd see him until Wednesday or the start of the playoffs. It was a bit worrisome to see Caron Butler sit out, but they say it was only precautionary. And for all the minutes Kidd and Dirk have logged, they both look fresh and ready to go. Jason Terry even plans to ditch his mask for the playoffs, so I'd say you might be onto something.

Jason F. (Montana)

After doing a great job this past week of defending/pestering superb wing players, has Deshawn Stevenson earned himself a spot somewhere in the Mavs rotation come playoff time?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:27 PM)

I'd say he has. DeShawn's an interesting guy. He certainly leads the team and possibly the league with facial tattoes, but he's been extremely professional since arriving, working hard, cheering the team on and biding his time until he got a shot. As they say, one man's injury is another man's opportunity, and DeShawn might have parlayed his time filling in for Marion into playoff minutes. We'll see. At least we know he's a good option in a defensive sequence.

Adam (Los Angeles)

Portland minus Brandon Roy looks much more attractive than the Spurs to me...thoughts?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:28 PM)

Um, yes.

SUPAKOOLGREGS (BADNEWS Va)

Jeff how goes it? How far do you see the Mavs going in the playoffs? Hopefully all the way! What do you think the Mavs will do or get with Damps expiring contract and would they need to package Beaubois with it to bring back top tier talent? Summer of DUST or bust!!!

Jeff Caplan
  (1:29 PM)

Mavs could package Butler with Dampier. I wouldn't expect the Mavs have any intentions of shipping Roddy B. The decision they have to make in the offseason is if Roddy B is going to be their starting 2-guard. if so they can package Butler's attractive contract with Dampier.

Frank (Dallas)

Being a Mavs fan, I am usually getting ticked off at the refs. I guess Cuban has beat that into my head. However, the game against Portland was a little sketchy at times, and I found myself thinking there was a mild bias toward the Mavs.

Jeff Caplan
  (1:31 PM)

A mild bias toward the Mavs? well that's a rare, but refreshing take. Mavs fans are usually so quick to finger the refs against them. In that Portland game I think it was a horribly officiated game both ways. Maybe the Mavs got the better end of more bad calls, not sure. I am sure that they handled the bad calls better than Portland and got four free points of technicals, huge in winning that game. The standings would look different if they had dropped that one.

Casey (Austin)

I know that the Mavs definitely have the talent and the depth to get it done, but do you think that Mavs have a legitimate shot at winning it all or do you think the West Conference finals would be their ceiling?

Jeff Caplan
  (1:33 PM)

Casey, right now I would say six of the eight teams have a legitimate shot at playing in the West finals. I exclude Portland for injury reasons and OKC for inexperience reasons. Otherwise, I think everyone is very equal. Phoenix could use Lopez back and the Jazz always seem to be with or without Kirilenko or Okur. I think Kirilenko is an X-factor. If the Mavs play with defensive intensity and Kidd continues to lead the charge and defy his age, you have to like their chances, especially if they nail down the No. 2 seed.

Jeff Caplan
  (1:35 PM)

OK, folks, that looks like all the questions that aren't repeats. I hope I got to everyone and answered your questions. Stay tuned to espndallas.com for all your Mavs coverage. We'll be all over it and no one can deliver it faster. Please let others know that we're out here.Check back often this week for chats leading into the playoffs. Have a good week, everyone and enjoy the basketball.