MavsMoneyBall (Please stop by and read something, they have some of the best writers in SBNation over there)
The Dallas Mavericks went through a well documented overhaul of players last offseason so they could free up the capspace to entice Deron Williams to come home. For those who don't know how the story ends, Deron Williams
betrayed his hometown and chose to sign with Brooklyn instead, leaving Dallas with a depleted roster and a very unhappy Mark Cuban (Patrick and AK smile somewhere). Departing in this overhaul were the likes of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry (Again Patrick and AK are smiling somewhere), Brendan Haywood, and Delonte West. In their places Mark Cuban brought in many 1 year rentals players consisting of Darren Collison, OJ Mayo, Elton Brand, Dahntay Jones, and Chris Kaman.
This new influx of players along with Dirk Nowitzki's knee injury have made for the worst start in the last decade for the Mavs. For the first time in the last 10 years, Dallas is outside the playoff picture, and most likely going to enter their names into the lottery. The Mavericks however are trying to prove they belong in the playoffs, they are on a 3 game winning streak, including convincing wins over the Grizzlies and Timberwolves. For the Rockets this means they are going against a team who is definitely better than their 16-23 record.
Tip Off at 7PM Central Time
Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Darren Collison
Jeremy Lin has
SUCKED not played well lately (I have to be careful in how I describe Lin's bad play). Yes, I said something negative about Jeremy Lin, shoot me. We all expect a lot from Jeremy, he has the talent to be a damn good player, we saw his potential when he was with New York, and certain games this season like the one in New York. You have to take the goods along with the bads with Jeremy, he has turnover problems, seems to have lost his shot this season, and at times has been plain reckless on the court. Other times, he's the best player on the court and nothing can stop him from getting to the paint and finishing or dishing off to another player, running the fast break beautifully, and playing great defense.
Coincidentally enough, Darren Collison is very similar to Jeremy Lin in the same way where you can get the good side one day and the bad side the next day. Darren is a small quick guard who can get into the paint at will, make plays by himself, and outrun almost anybody on the fastbreak. Just like Jeremy he has turnover problems, lacks decision making, and my personal issue is that he can't make the easy post entry pass that the Mavericks rely on. That's alright with a young team trying to grow together like the Rockets, but a team who wants to contend for the Playoffs led by a perfectionist coach in Rick Carlisle? Not alright. Darren has driven Rick so crazy this year, that he had benched him for DEREK FISHER at one point this season. However, lately Darren has been playing great basketball, and has been the point guard Carlisle wants him to be, when Darren is that guy the Mavericks are a tough team to beat.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. OJ Mayo
James Harden is good at basketball. Damn good. Better than damn good. He's damn damn good. Even when he's having a bad shooting day, he still will end up with a respectable amount of points and assists. There are very few players out there like him. He has to work on the turnovers, he's currently leading the league in turnovers for shooting guards, and his defense is unwatchable at times. This game he has to attack the paint of the Mavericks. HAS TO. The Mavericks front court consist of Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Jae Crowder, and Brandan Wright. Tell me that doesn't scream field day for Harden.
For the other team, manning #32 is OJ Mayo. Earlier this year you could find me hailing OJ Mayo and how he was a top 5 shooting guard in the league. He's no longer playing at that level, but he is still a good player, averaging 18 points a game and 2 threes a game. Luckily for him, he won't be asked to guard Harden, that will be Marion's job, but guarding a bigger Chandler Parsons still isn't an easy job. OJ this game will have to take advantage of Harden's atrocious off ball defense and make him pay by getting open and hitting 3s, he will easily rack up points in bunches if he can find and make the open 3.
Okay, 1 more time go look at the Mavericks front court. Seriously, It's laughable on defense.
Advantage: The Beard
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Shawn Marion
Do I have an undeniable man crush on Chandler Parsons? Yes. Is he the dreamiest of dreamboats in the league? Yes. Is he a very good basketball player? Yes.
I have to address something about Parsons, even though he seems like a veteran on this team, and has been in the league forever, he's only a sophomore. For all of y'all who are worried about his slump and how his rookie year might be an outlier. DONT WORRY. He's still young, give him time to work through his kinks. He has worked to improve his 3 point shooting and free throw shooting. He's still the same guy who Kobe praised for stellar defense, the same guy who is second on our team in rebounds per game, and the same guy who can make plays with his passing. So what if he's not scoring like he usually does, just give him time, plus it seems he is getting his stroke back anyway.
Shawn as I mentioned earlier will be on James Harden. He's one of the best wing defenders in the league, he will give Harden a hard time with his length, strength, and quick feet. He's a crafty offensive player as well, he has a couple different moves in the post with his unorthodox releases, he's a very smart off ball cutter, and he'll run and finish on the fast break. Where Marion is best though is on the boards, he is averaging 8 rebounds a game, a damn good number for any small forward. Parsons will have to keep Marion off the offensive glass as well as pull down an offensive rebound or two tonight to counteract Marion's rebounding.
Power Forward: Marcus Morris vs. Dirk Nowitzki
It has been said before many times how bad Marcus and Patrick have been playing this year. Their rebounding has been MIA, defense Shawn Bradley-esque, and 3 point shooting Bynum-like. Okay, maybe not that bad, but still you get the point. Tonight we'll need 2 of those things to be there, and I'll give you a hint: It's not the 3 point shooting. If there's a game for them to bounce back, why not make it against Dirk? Dirk isn't the most intimidating defender to step on the hardwood, so hopefully Marcus and Patrick seize the opportunity against a recovering Dirk.
Every once in a while during a person's life, a player will come around who you will remember and love forever. Dirk is that guy for me, I own a couple jerseys, my computer background is Dirk, and I have a framed signed picture of him. He has gone through so much over his career, and that moment when he won the championship kind of brought it all home for me emotionally. At that point, he proved that he was one of the greatest players ever, that he could take over a game single handedly, and that no matter what was against him he would overcome it. That's a good way to describe Dirk this game, he is coming off knee surgery, and even though he hasn't ben the same Dirk as years past, he still can get it done, just hope he doesn't this game.
Advantage: Dirk Nowitzki
Center: Omer Asik vs. Chris Kaman
Omer Asik this year has been our Co-MVP of the team along with Harden. The difference he makes when he's on the court is tremendous. He is the best defensive center we've had since (dare I say it) The Dream. He is a tremendous rebounder and a "genius" (Zach Lowe) on defense. He transforms the Rockets into a whole new team when he's on the court, how nobody else went out and tried to get him this offseason is beyond me. He goes against his complete opposite in Chris Kaman tonight.
How is Chris Kaman Omer's complete opposite you ask? Well, he's offensively focused and defensively absent. All those ugly mind-boggling lay ups Omer attempts, Chris makes look pretty. Omer's ugly mid range and free throw shooting he makes look hard? Chris makes look fluid. Chris Kaman is arguably the best offensive center the Mavericks have ever had. Defensively, apart from Shawn Bradley, he might be the worst. Omer needs to get the better of Kaman's offense, and HAS to dominate him on the boards.
Advantage: Big O
OJ's 3 Questions to the Game:
1) What happens when you pair two 7-foot foreign white guys in the same front court?
Answer: Bad defense and rebounding
Stat 1: The Mavericks have given up the most rebounds to the opposing team in the league.
Stat 2: The Mavericks are dead last in the league in rebounding differential with -4.3.
Point: Attack the paint and dominate the boards.
2) What moves at a faster speed, a Rocket or a Horse?
Answer: A Rocket
Houston needs to push the pace of this game, they lead the league in points scored and fast break points. The Rockets struggle in slower games, and oddly enough, the Mavericks get worse as they push the pace, even though they play one of the fastest paces in the league. Read Ziller's article on SbNation if you want to learn more.
Point: Push the pace of the game and run.
3) What happens when a rocket malfunctions during liftoff?
Answer: It falls and comes back to Earth.
Houston can't afford to play behind this game, the Mavericks have a good enough offense and a very good defense, so it will be tough to come back if they're behind early.
Point: Don't get behind early (or at all).
Prediction: Mavericks 98 - Rockets 92
If you make it this far, thank you so much for reading everything or just scrolling down. It means a ton, and I would love some feedback both good and bad, everything helps. Also, thank you to AK for letting me write this preview (even though he should be thanking me for giving him a day off).