The NBA has three teams playing in Texas. The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and the San Antonio Spurs. All three teams are looking to be a contender in the 2020 Playoffs, but each team has a strength that makes them each unique. I will be breaking down how these teams have performed with injuries, recent performances, and how I think they are doing overall. I will also feature who I think is the best out of the three.
Dallas so far has had a season that has exceeded expectations. They rank 7th in the Western Conference and are just three games behind the three seed. They were just playing without star Luka Dončić, who was out for seven games. The Mavs went 3-4 in those games. Luka´s first game back showed no signs of weakness, scoring 33 points, along with 12 rebounds and eight assists.
The Mavs have lost three out of their last five games, and the main problem has been inconsistency. On both ends of the floor, they can show glimpses of their ability to score easily, and defend hard. Although they will also allow wide open three pointers and various defensive breakdowns. On Tuesday against the Suns, Dallas entered the half trailing by five points. They could not stop Deandre Ayton from scoring close buckets, and they didn’t find a way to make a stop on defense. Now, the Mavs easily could have overcome the five point deficit, but their lack of finding an easy bucket, and perimeter defense completely let them down. This allowed Phoenix to score 48 in that period. They ended up losing by 29, to a team that is fighting for an eight seed. Ayton finished with 31, going 13-15 from the field.
The Mavs played their first of their six games without Luka Dončić on Friday, heading south to play the Houston Rockets. Dallas had a tremendous amount of help from Kristaps Porzingis, who had 35 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Even though it was a loss, it wasn’t a bad one. Dallas was able to come back from a 14 point deficit entering the 4th quarter. It was mainly the defense that hurt them down the stretch. Houston shot 46.7% from beyond the arc, including a few threes that helped them seal the victory.
San Antonio Spurs
Heading into the All-Star Break, the Spurs are contenders for the eighth seed. They have a 22-year playoff streak, on the line. San Antonio is five games behind the Grizzlies, who currently own the last spot for the playoffs. This year hasn’t been the year the Spurs were hoping for, as the organization was looking at trading two of its best pieces. Both DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have had mediocre years, nothing too special.
San Antonio has lost four of their last five games, two of the losses by more than 20 points. They always manage to have a lead in the game, but then have a five minute letdown where the opposing team takes over. This week, the Spurs have two tough games on the road, going up against the Utah Jazz, and the OKC Thunder. The rest of the year won’t be any easier. San Antonio has the sixth hardest remaining schedule in the NBA.
If the Spurs want to make the playoffs, they are going to need their playmakers to step up. Aldridge and DeRozan have done alright this season, but not enough for a spot in the playoffs. San Antonio has a top 10 bench team, thanks to guard Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray. These two combine for 22 points, which may not be a whole lot, but when you need someone to hit a quick pull-up three, you go to Patty Mills, who will knock it down. Patty may not be the most reliable for San Antonio, but he may be just enough for the Spurs to make a run. The long streak is on the line this year for Pop´s Spurs, but never count them out.
The offensive lead, a short heightened lineup of the Rockets is still finding a way to get it done these days. Houston is currently representing the 5th place spot in the Western Conference, holding a 34-20 record. Ever since trading away Clint Capela (and a little before that), Houston has played with historically short lineups. In some lineups, the tallest man on the floor is six feet six inches. But they still find a way to win. H-Town has won four of their last six, with the loss coming off of a 3-point buzzer beater by the Jazz. Harden and Westbrook are both hitting their peaks this season, with The Beard averaging 30.8 points per game in his last five games, going along with Russ´ 34.6 points in his last five games. When these two are both on the floor, they are uncontrollable. You have one guard who can nail a step-back three in the defender’s face any day, and then turn to the next man up, and you have a freak who has the ability to drive like no other guard, zooming past the defense in no time.
The way these guys are playing right now, I think that they can make their way up to a two seed eventually. Harden and Russ are nearly unstoppable, not to mention the addition of 3 and D specialist Rob Covington. Getting that two seed would mean a lot to Houston. It would avoid having to play the Lakers in the second round, and they would have home court advantage for the first two rounds. Doing all of that would be great, but a question that most Rockets fans would be asking is: Will this finally be our year? Well, no. With the addition of the big two´s in L.A. this year, I just don’t see any possible way of Houston getting past any of the two. Earlier, we mentioned the short lineup that Houston has been playing with lately. How would they put up with Anthony Davis, a constant threat all around the court? He is arguably one of the best power forwards this year, and Houston has always had a problem with defending. How different will they look in the playoffs without Clint Capela? We will have to wait and find out to see what other lineup combinations the Rockets will have for the remainder of the season.
The best team in Texas this year:
For me, the best team in Texas so far this season is the Houston Rockets. They have shown the power of Harden and Westbrook, and how easily they can rip a defense apart with a three or a drive. For now, I can’t see the duo up in Dallas showing that they are a better team than Houston and that they could beat them in a seven game series. As for San Antonio, they have a long way to go to catch up with Houston, and even Dallas. These three teams always find a way to keep the game close when they are playing each other, and that is the main reason these Texas Rivalry games are ones to never miss