1. What's your prediction if the Mavs meet the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs?
Gutierrez: This is the matchup Dallas would like to see. In addition, if this holds, this is the best opening-round matchup in the playoffs. You don’t think the league would love marketing another duel between Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant? It should be noted that Dallas won the season series over Oklahoma City this season, 2-1. Yes, Russell Westbrook missed one of the games and the Thunder went without key rotational players in a majority of the games, but this is the matchup Dallas can hang in. Shawn Marion makes Durant work for every single point he scores, which is essential if you want to try to steal a series. Also, the Mavericks have the bench and coaching advantage against the Thunder. I think the combination of Durant and Westbrook is too much for Dallas, but I think it goes to six, possibly seven games.
Taylor: The Mavs would lose in five after Oklahoma City took a 3-0 lead. Yes, the Mavs have beaten OKC the last two times they met, but they haven't beaten them when the Thunder was at full strength and they haven't beaten them with something like a playoff series on the line. The Mavs are such a bad defensive team that OKC would eventually have their way with them against them in a seven-game series.
MacMahon: How much value do you put on the Mavs’ two wins in March? It’d been a long time since Dallas defeated OKC before then, but the Mavs did expose one of the Thunder’s biggest flaws in those games. OKC tends to get sloppy with its defensive rotations and close-outs on 3-point shooters. The Mavs move the ball and shoot the 3 with the best of them and lit it up in those two games, going 28-of-52 from 3-point range. That could make this series interesting and entertaining because you know KD and Co. are going to put up a lot of points. Thunder in six.
2. What's your prediction if the Mavs meet the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs?
Gutierrez: The Spurs are just a machine. They are simply just too good. There might be some glimmer of hope with them taking the foot off the gas since they’ve clinched the top seed and home-court advantage, but I wouldn’t count on that for a huge boost towards Dallas. There’s too much pick-and-roll action and ball movement that will carve up the Mavericks’ defense. Dallas might be able to score, but they necessarily can’t rely on monster performances from Nowitzki. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the league and he has a defender in Boris Diaw who has done surprisingly well guarding Nowitzki over recent seasons. This is just flat out trouble for the Mavericks. This is a Gentleman’s sweep, meaning Dallas loses in five games.
Taylor: San Antonio would sweep the Mavs. San Antonio plays good defense and they don't make the kind of mistakes the Mavs do at winning time, which leads to losses. And the way the Mavs play defense they'd have no chance to stop San Antonio.
MacMahon: Maybe the Mavs catch a break and Tony Parker’s back keeps acting up, but that’d probably just mean that former Trail Blazers mascot/Brian Cardinal tackling dummy Patty Mills would light it up. Like we needed any further proof that Pop is a coaching genius, he’s developed Patty Mills into a highly productive member of a potential championship team’s rotation. The Spurs are just too tough and too deep for the Mavs to have any real upset hopes. It’d be an accomplishment if they make a second trip to see that muddy-beep thing they call the Riverwalk in this series. Spurs in five.
3. What's your prediction if the Mavs meet the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs?
Gutierrez: Based on the shenanigans in the previous matchups and the players in the mix, I think this could become a very emotional series. Assuming there’s a skirmish or two, this series won’t be for the faint of heart. In addition, there will likely be an understanding that defense will be optional. I don’t trust Dallas’ chances of shutting Chris Paul down enough to secure a series. That said, I don’t trust Los Angeles, outside of Paul, to handle their business in convincing fashion. I don’t see the Mavericks winning the series, but I think they push the Clippers to possibly six games.
Taylor: The Mavs could take the Clippers to six or seven games before eventually losing. The problem with the Clippers is finding someone to stay in front of Chris Paul. He's so quick and fast that he creates all kinds of problems for the Mavs when he gets into the lane. The Mavs also a problem with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin inside. But the Mavs have led the Clippers in the fourth quarter of each of the four games they played this season, but only won one of them. The Clippers would not want this matchup.
MacMahon: We know the Mavs can play with the Clippers. They’ve built double-digit leads in all four meetings this season. The question is whether they can close against the Clippers. They haven’t done that yet. Yes, they won in L.A. last week, but they had to hang on for dear life after a 12-point lead got slashed to two in an 85-second span late in the fourth quarter. This series would be an absolute treat to watch with the Lob City high-risers putting together a highlight reel and the Mavs’ conducting an offensive symphony. I just don’t think it’d turn out much better for Dallas than the last time they faced CP3 in a playoff series. Clippers in six.