Mavericks - Rockets Playoff Series Preview

IT'S A BATTLE OF THE "GENIUS" FRONT OFFICES WHEN DALLAS VISITS HOUSTON IN FIRST ROUND

Every year, the field of sports analytics holds a conference at MIT. It's hosted by the General Manager of the Houston Rockets...and always features the owner of the Dallas Mavericks as one of the showcase guests. The two franchises have been at the cutting edge of analytics for years...but don't always see eye-to-eye on everything.

That's set up a fascinating first round battle in the 2015 NBA Playoffs as the two teams square off in the softer half of the Western conference brackets. Houston is a #2 seed, despite not getting serious media or market run as a potential champion. Dallas is a #7 seed, but one that's won a World Championship in relatively recent memory. The winner of this series gets the winner of Memphis/Portland in the second round...while Western favorites Golden State, San Antonio, and the LA Clippers are all clustered in the other half. Who knows...maybe this Dallas/Houston series is going to launch an overlooked team to surprising heights.

Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about teams who are either cutting edge...or could be cutting out early!

Offensive Efficiency
Dallas: 107.2 per 100 possessions (ranked #5 in the NBA)
Houston: 104.2 per 100 possessions (ranked #12 in the NBA)

It's amazing how far off public perceptions are from this year's reality in the NBA. Houston is seen as a great offense because James Harden is an unstoppable scoring machine. Yet, they only rank #12 in the league on a per-possession basis as a unit. Dallas is seen as a shadow of its former self because Dirk Nowitzki is showing his age. Yet, they were top five in the whole NBA in offensive efficiency. Dallas has the better offense.

Defensive Efficiency
Dallas: 103.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #18 in the NBA)
Houston: 100.5 per 100 possessions (ranked #6 in the NBA)

On the other side of the floor, Houston has actually played stellar defense this year. Harden picked up his intensity...and the team as a whole guarded with a passion even though Dwight Howard missed so much time with an injury. Harden is the "face" of the team...but his strengths and weaknesses mislead about how the team has succeeded. Dallas managed league average defense despite a reputation as an aging team who didn't guard people. Edge to Houston...and both teams are a bit better than is realized.

Pace Ranking
Dallas: #9
Houston: #2

The illusions go further...as Houston is seen as a halfcourt team that stands around and watches Harden draw fouls. Yet, they grade out as the second fastest team in pro hoops behind lightning quick Golden State. This could be a very entertaining series for fans because of the fast pace, and the "strategic" battle between franchises who are starting to get on each other's nerves.

Against the Spread
Dallas: 36-44-2
Houston: 48-34

Wow...great stuff from Houston! The market never took them seriously...so the Rockets kept right on covering spreads. Dallas has been overrated all season, with some very ugly stretches counteracted by occasional flashes of form. Houston has clearly been the better value this season. Will that be true through the series?

Vegas Line: Houston by 5.5, total of 210

The market usually allots about 3 points for home court in the NBA Playoffs (sometimes it's as high as 4 or 5). Houston is seen as the superior team given that Game One price. That's in line with the seeding...and consistent with the "lost respect" from the Dallas perspective in the final weeks of the season. Frankly, Dallas down the stretch wasn't even a playoff caliber team in this tough conference. They'll need to lift their games to pull off a series upset. That is possible...as Cuban has pointed out...it's easier to deal with Houston's approach if you see it several games in a row. And, we saw last season that Harden is less likely to get borderline calls late in close playoff games.

JIM HURLEY is planning a big opening salvo to the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Be sure you lock in early Saturday before the day games tip off. You can always purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 Saturday morning before the first tip. Be sure to ask about extended packages that take you through the NBA Championships and/or the MLB All-Star Break.

Our series previews continue tomorrow and through the week. Here's what's coming up in the NOTEBOOK:

Sunday: San Antonio at the Los Angeles Clippers
Monday: Milwaukee at Chicago (series notes and a review of Game One)
Tuesday: Boston at Cleveland (series notes and a review of Game One)
Wednesday: Portland at Memphis (series notes and a review of Game One)
Thursday: Checking in on either Golden State/NO or Cleveland/Boston
Friday: Toronto at Washington (series notes and a review of Games One)
Saturday: Atlanta at Brooklyn (series notes and a review of Games One and Two)

From that point forward, we'll focus on the most exciting or most important matchup through the end of the first round. Then, we'll pick up in Round Two with the same format. Thanks to all of you who have been reading these through the years. The NETWORK NOTEBOOK is your online home for serious handicapping. And, JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is your online home for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

24
Sep

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