Series Analysis: Dallas Mavericks (4) vs. Houston Rockets (5)


Bzdelik
Coach Jeff Bzdelik has more than 25 years of NBA coaching and scouting experience. From 1995-01, Bzdelik was an assistant coach under Pat Riley in Miami, holding the title of Assistant Coach/Director of Scouting during the final two years. With the Heat, he was responsible for the preparation of all game plans, video coordination and statistical data as well as player development. In 2000, he was recognized by USA Today as one of the NBA’s top five assistant coaches. When he was coach of the Denver Nuggets last season, Bzdelik led the franchise to its first playoff appearence since 1994-95.

By Jeff Bzdelik (as told to Rob Peterson)

T-Mac and Dirk: Two of the league's premier players will square off in this series.
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images
What to expect from the Mavericks:

"The Mavericks are the healthiest team entering the playoffs. They're in a groove and playing extremely hard and with confidence. This is a very dangerous basketball team as we enter the Playoffs. Their defense and rebounding is much better than it's been in the past.

"They're what we call an "Attack Team." Their defense leads to offense. They're forcing turnovers and getting to the free throw line. Their defense is much more aggressive now as they're eighth in the league in forcing turnovers. They're really getting up into people and pressuring out on the wings. They're even trapping pick-and-rolls.

"This is a very deep team, particularly with Jerry Stackhouse and Keith Van Horn coming off the bench. They can bring some serious firepower off the bench. They also have, who I consider the X-factor in this series: Shawn Bradley. Even if it's only for a few minutes in defending Yao Ming. In the 43 minutes he's played against Yao, he's forced Yao into six turnovers. As a matter of fact, in the last 17 games, when Shawn Bradley has played, the Mavs have held opponents to 37 percent shooting compared to 44 percent shooting when he's not on the floor. So, even if it's for a couple of minutes and it could swing one game in the Mavs favor, Shawn Bradley could have an impact.

Dirk Nowitzki will be guarded by a combination of Clarence Weatherspoon, Scott Padgett and Ryan Bowen. Obviously, a Jeff Van Gundy coached team will provide plenty of help. In Dallas' two losses to Houston, the Mavericks didn't have their full team. Consequently, Tracy McGrady had 30 points in each of those games and the Rockets are 15-2 when T-Mac scores 30 or more points. So, I wouldn't read into the fact that the Mavericks lost those two games.

"As a matter of fact, T-Mac will probably be guarded by Josh Howard, who is long and physical.

"The Mavs could really hurt the Rockets in the pick-and-roll game because that'll be tough for the Rockets' fives to guard. Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutmobo are not mobile, especially when Nowitzki plays the five and Van Horn plays the four, guarding Nowitzki will be tough for the Rockets."

What to expect from the Rockets:

"Houston will need to do a great job of getting back in transition. Players like Nowitzki, Van Horn, Howard and Marquis Daniels will contest shots and then leak out. It's imperative that the Rockets get back when these players leak out. It's not enough to get back with one or two guys. You may be able to stop the ball, where you get hurt is where the wings fill the space on the secondary break. Houston will need at least three players back to stop the Mavs from scoring easily.

"On offense, the Rockets do a good job of moving the ball around. They trust one another. Others will need to step up and they can't just rely on T-Mac. Of course, they're most successful when T-Mac has good games."

Bzdelik's series prediction:

"When it's all said and done, it'll be the Mavs in six."