5 Keys for Winning the First Round


As Dallas Mavericks fans know the Mavs have not been able to make it out of the first round of the playoffs since the 2011 NBA Championship win. They have made the playoffs six times in eleven years and have come up short every time. It has been a point of contention within the franchise among fans, especially with how close they have come to making the second round. Last year in the 2021 season the series with the Los Angeles Clippers went to seven games but ultimately they could not get the win. This year the Mavs will be facing the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, a nice change from the past two years. That being said, the Jazz are a lofty opponent – so what are the keys for the Mavs to make it out of the second round?

Players to Step Up Besides Luka Doncic

This first one is obvious, if the Mavs want to make it to the second round then it is crucial for the team to step up and help in all areas of the court but especially offensively. This is even more true now that Doncic suffered a calf strain in the Mavs’ final game of the regular season against the San Antonio Spurs. As of now the Mavs have said, “there is no timetable for his return” but there is still a chance he is available to play at some point during the series. Regardless, players such as Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith will have to have a significant impact on the game as Doncic has scored 33.5 points per game in the playoffs between the last two years and came up short both times. The addition of Spencer Dinwiddie earlier in the season will help this series as well.

Maintaining an Emphasis on Defense

This year the biggest difference as everyone can see is the emphasis Jason Kidd has put on defense, and it has clearly paid off. The Mavs can not lose this focus on defense if they want to proceed to the second round especially against a team like the Jazz who’s leading scorers are Donovan Mitchell (25.9 ppg) and Bojan Bogdanovic (18.1 ppg). Right now the Mavs have allowed the second least amount of points per game in the NBA (104.7ppg) behind the Boston Celtics. It will be important to hover around this number or less as the Jazz currently score an average of 113.6 ppg. 

Timely Coaching Adjustments, Play Calling, and Timeouts

Going into this first round series it is vital that Jason Kidd is able to read and react to what is happening on the court and make adjustments accordingly. During the regular season, although the Mavs started off slow initially, he did a stellar job at making adjustments not only in the season but in games as well to help them turn the season around. Kidd has utilized timeouts well and the team has done an even better job executing the plays he has drawn up. (Fighting the urge to make a joke about Kidd using his ‘sweaty palms’ to get an extra timeout.) Seven games seems like a long time but as this franchise knows all too well it’s much shorter than one might think so continued quick changes are essential.

Ensuring Gobert’s Defensive Presence is Limited

Rudy Gobert is notorious for being one of the best defenders in the NBA recently. He has won Defensive Player of the Year three times since the 2018 season. The Mavs are going to have to help Dwight Powell especially to make sure Gobert does not hinder the Mavs’ inside game. Gobert does have the third most blocks per game this year with 2.1 bpg. To make the situation more complicated, Maxi Kleber has been out for several games with ankle soreness and he would be extremely helpful in the rotation against Gobert. As of now he is expected to return for the playoffs. 

Utilizing Home Court Advantage

Finally, if the Mavs want to make it out of the first round they need to utilize their home court advantage. Last year both the Clippers and the Mavs lost every game at home until the very last game when the Clippers took the series. This year the Mavs have home court advantage and this will definitely help as they won’t have to travel for the first two games while dealing with several injuries on the team. The Mavs and the Jazz have the same record at home this year (23-18) but the Mavs do have a better record on the road than the Jazz. Overall last year’s series was a crazy outlier but playing in front of your fans at your home court is something that must be taken advantage of.

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