The Big Mac Blog

How the Mavericks can actually beat the Rockets

This may be the creepiest picutre in Mark Cuban’s tenure as Mavs owner - here with former Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, whom he signed last offseason.
This may be the creepiest picutre in Mark Cuban’s tenure as Mavs owner - here with former Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, whom he signed last offseason.

Stats I can’t believe: the Houston Rockets have won but one playoff series since 1997. The Rockets are 1-9 in their last 10 playoff series. They beat the Blazers in the 2009 playoffs, and that is it.

Now they are the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and yet it is the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks feeling good about a 2-7 matchup. Not sure why.

On closer inspection here you go: The Mavs can maybe rebound with the Rockets.

The Mavericks ranked 23rd in the NBA in rebounding, whereas Houston was 14th. But the Mavs rebound differential was minus-3.8, worst in the NBA. A stat like that is a quick ticket out of the playoffs. Against the Rockets, however, it’s not that bad.

In the season series between the two teams, the Rockets won three out of the four games. The Mavs out-rebounded the Rockets in three of those four games. If the Mavs can rebound with the Rockets, they can beat the Rockets. If they are routinely crushed on the boards the way they were during the regular season against many other teams, forget it.

Two of the games between the Mavs and Rockets from this season you can throw out - one was in November and the other in late January. The one that should be a giant red flag is April 2, when the Mavs had a healthy starting lineup of Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo. Conversely, Dwight Howard was in the starting lineup for the Rockets, too.

The game was in Dallas, and the Rockets hammered the Mavs 55-41 on the glass. The Rockets won 108-101.

I asked Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle how he feels his team matches up with the Rockets rebounding wise.

“Rebounding has been a big challenge for us all year. We are going to have to do a better job than we have done, top to bottom,” he said. “We are going to have to get our perimeter guys as involved as possible. A team like Houston that shoots that many three pointers also generates long rebounds. They do a good job of scooping up long rebounds and re-generating them for more 3s. So, limiting them to one shot will be a critical part of the series, no question.”

The Mavs are not a short team, but besides center Tyson Chandler, who averages 11.5 rebounds per game, no one on this team hits the boards hard. The Mavs second-leading rebounder, Dirk Nowitzki, averages 5.9 rebounds per game, and he is more than two off his career average.

I asked Carlisle why his team struggled in this category during the season.

“Well, in many cases we have (not),” he said.

The Mavs out-rebounded opponents 29 times during the regular season, and were 20-9 in those games. They were out-rebounded 50 times, and were 27-23.

“Houston has the ability to go big and small,” he said. “We are going to be dealing with big, bruising lineups and dealing with a lot of quickness at times. Whoever is out there has to be tuned in to pursuit of the ball. These missels get launched so fast, some times you just have to turn and go get the ball, you don’t have time to check somebody out. The pursuit of the ball is one of the big keys to this series because that is possession of the ball.”

As a seven seed, the Mavs should be and are the decisive underdog. If they are to have a shot at the upset, they have to rebound with the Rockets.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof