When the Dallas Mavericks strolled into Chicago on Sunday night to face the Bulls they were slotted in the sixth position in the Western Conference. At the time the defending NBA champions were a half of a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets in the standings and then something weird happened—the Mavericks weren’t really that interested in playing.
Prior to the Mavericks/Bulls game Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle met the media and casually stated that Jason Kidd and Jason Terry were not going to play.
“He asked me if he could sit tonight,” Carlisle said of Jason Terry. “He’s going to be on the bench dressed but he’s not going to play.”
“We’re trying to win,” Carlisle added.
Jason Kidd joked with the media that he was on vacation for the night while Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, and Shawn Marion all played around 30 minutes in the contest. How could this be? Yes, the Mavericks are an older team that needs rest but they’re also a team with something to play for.
The Mavericks went on to lose to Chicago 93-83 while the Nuggets won in Phoenix to tie Dallas in the standings. Denver also won their following game against the Orlando Magic and now they’ve taken over Dallas in the number six slot.
If the playoffs began today the Nuggets would face off with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Mavericks would face the Oklahoma City Thunder. Was this a strategic move by Dallas to avoid the Lakers in the first round? I’d say so.
Game recognizes game and the Mavericks know what Kobe Bryant is capable of doing in the playoffs. Who really wants to see Kobe Bryant in the first round? The virtually inexperienced Thunder have flirted with having the league’s best record all season long. They’re nothing to sneeze at but when it comes to big game experience I’d rather play the Thunder than the Lakers any day, and the Dallas Mavericks feel the same way.
The Thunder while explosive are primarily a jump shooting team. If Westbrook, Durant, and Harden go cold the Mavericks have the experience and know-how to pull off an upset. This is a crafty move by a proud team that has a championship to defend. Simply put, Dallas believes that they can beat Oklahoma City just like they did in the Western Conference Finals last year.
Dallas only has one game remaining on their schedule Thursday night in Atlanta. I fully expect all of the veteran Mavericks players to be resting and gearing up for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company.