To continue our Rockets-Mavericks first round playoff series coverage, I sat down with Kirk Henderson, a senior editor at Mavs Moneyball. What ensued was a jam-packed interview full of predictions, opinions and analysis no national reporter could possibly give.
TDS: How will the Mavericks try to slow down Harden?
Kirk Henderson: They have a number of different options, but I really hope they start with some high pick and rolls that resullt in Harden having to guard Dirk Nowitzki. None of the defensive options, from Rajon Rondo to Al-Farouq Aminu, are really going to bother Harden that much, so I'd like to see the Mavericks try to get him in foul trouble early. Past that, I suspect they'll let Rajon Rondo try to pester him. If Harden is the primary ball handler, they may pick him up further and further away from the basket in an attempt to wear him down
TDS: Where do you think the Mavericks can exploit the Rockets and vice versa?
Henderson: The Mavericks are going to have to attack the rim off the dribble with a variety of players. Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons are each solid decision makers off the dribble and Dallas needs to try to keep pace in the free throw catagory. The Rockets are going to exploit a weak defensive rebounding team in the Mavericks, so if Houston can simply do what they've done all season, they're going to cause problems for any Dallas line up.
TDS: How big is the coaching advantage for Dallas and will it come into play in this series?
Henderson: It's big, but it's not the gaping chasm it is perceived to be. McHale is a 1980's player who has embraced pace and space basketball with open arms. Compared to some of his contemporaries, I think that distinction gets lost. However, Carlisle is a master tactician and if he could cause chaos for the eventual champion Spurs, he's going to have a least a trick or two up his sleeve.
TDS: Will we see "Playoff Rondo" in this series and what will he look like?
Henderson: I consider "Playoff Rondo" to be a myth, unless he manages to shake off a year of trends in field goal shooting and free throw shooting. If he can simply make the right passes, play reasonable defense, and connect on just enough shots to keep the defense honest, then he's done his job. There's a lot of work out there that details how much Rondo mucks up the space for the Mavericks, but if he can play 24-28 minutes and not be a net-negative, then he'll have helped Dallas.
TDS: What type of pace do you expect to see and what type of pace would be favorable for Dallas?
Henderson: This is really hard to answer because while Dallas is an excellent team in transition offense, as far as transition defense goes they are horrid. Houston, Corey Brewer in particular, could really hurt Dallas just by getting out and running on makes and misses. Rick Carlisle has his work cut out for him in hoping his team pushes it offensively while also not neglecting getting back on defense.
TDS: What do you expect from Chandler Parsons in this series against his former team?
Henderson: Chandler Parsons really came on after the All-Star break, looking like a number one option at times. If his knee isn't too much of an issue I expect him to play well, but not much more than his season averages. He talks a good game about how going to Houston for a playoff game won't affect him, but he's human and he's young. I wouldn't be shocked to see him have a couple of really bad games. Hopefully for Dallas, he's locked in, because when he gets going offensively, he's really hard to stop.
TDS: What is your prediction?
Henderson: Houston in 7. Dallas has some horses, but they're too bad defensively to stop a top MVP candidate over a series.
Thanks to Kirk Henderson of Mavs MoneyBall for the awesome interview. You can follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace.