I've been waiting for this game for a while now. Not to waste precious time during class to write this preview, but to watch two of my favorite teams to meet head to head on the hardwood and start off their season series.
The NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks travel from San Antonio to Houston on a 30 minute flight after a hard loss to The Spurs yesterday which puts them in 6th place in The West, and only .5 games ahead of Houston.
The Mavericks have had an interesting season so far, starting off with the blowing up of their championship roster to enter the
Dwight Howard and Deron Williams sweepstakes, to the trade for Lamar Odom (who has been a complete distraction and let down so far), and Dirk Nowitzki having to take a week off to get into basketball shape. This was all at the start of the season though. Recently, The Mavericks have battled injuries to their 3 best defensive players in Shawn Marion (second game back tonight), Brendan Haywood (out), and Delonte West (out) which has resulted in a streaky Mavs team where the French duo of Rodrigue Beaubois and Ian Mahimi have been thrown into the starting lineup.
The Rockets also have been streaky lately while battling injuries to their backcourt with Kevin Martin questionable for the game and Kyle Lowry out indefinitely. However, Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee have been filling in nicely lately in their place and have helped The Rockets put together a 2 game winning streak which they plan to keep alive tonight.
For the video, this is always a classic.
Tracy McGrady Dunks on Shawn Bradley (via yosief2004)
Tip-off is at 7pm CST.
Matchups and other good stuff after the jump
Point Guard: Goran Dragic vs. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd has his birthday on Friday, turning
58 39 years old. Unfortunately, just because he's another year older doesn't make him a worse basketball player. He's had an up and down season this year battling injuries and tiredness due to the condensed schedule, and should see limited minutes to keep him fresh for the playoffs because The Mavericks are on the back end of their B2B (Yes, a team is on the back end of their B2B while The Rockets had a day off). This shouldn't affect his game though, he'll still be the floor general for The Mavericks giving pin point passes, shooting the open 3, and hacking away on defense for steals.
Goran Dragic though has been playing magical lately, averaging 16/9.6/3.5 and almost 2 steals while playing 36MPG during the 10 games he's been the starter, and doing it efficiently too (.520 FG% and .415 3pt%). He's been playing the up tempo style that we're all used to when he's on the court and doing it great. He's hitting big shots, slashing to the hole, and making the right passes to his teammates. I can go on and on, but we all know what we've seen from him, so let's look how he's going to match up against Kidd.
On offense, I think Roddy will be guarding Dragic not Kidd. Nevertheless, they will see each other on the court for parts of the game. When Dragic is guarded by Kidd, he'll need to take care of the ball and keep Kidd's pesky hands away from hacking at the ball while keeping his up tempo style and attacking the basket.
On defense, Dragic will need to be able to guard the Pick and Roll well which the Mavericks love to run and keep Kidd from getting his open looks from outside the arc. Other than that, he'll need to try to force Kidd to turn the ball over and get on the break and get easy points, but you can say that for any point guard in the league.
Goran Dragic has just been playing flat out better lately, and will be as good as he has been even during this game.
Advantage: Goran Dragic
Shooting Guard: Courtney Lee vs. Rodrigue Beaubois
Rodrigue Beaubois, remember him? His name appeared in a lot of trades over the past 2 years and has been labeled as a high ceiling up and coming player. Whether you wanted this kid or not, he's a very good player. Kidd many times has praised him on how developed he is as a youngster. That has to mean something right? Well, if it doesn't, he's been playing great lately averaging 12.5 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1.6 steals to go along with it.
Courtney Lee, filling in for Kevin Martin has also been a much appreciated surprise. He's been streaky, scoring single digits every other game for the past 9. Check the box scores though, against GS he only had 7 points, so tonight we're in for a good double digit scoring game right? Right. What hasn't been on and off every other game for Courtney has been his defense. He has proven game after game he can guard whoever he comes across. Don't expect that to stop here against Roddy.
On offense, I expect Kidd to be on Courtney because he's a bigger body than Roddy, but like I said earlier, they will be seeing each other at points in the game. When Roddy is guarding him though, Courtney will need to use his size and strength to beat the much smaller and weaker Beaubois. Also, he will need to take care of the ball like Dragic will have to, because Roddy has freakishly long arms for his size (When you watch the game, just look at them, they're crazy long).
On defense, the biggest thing that he will have to do is keep Roddy from getting in the paint. You HAVE to keep this kid out of there, once he penetrates, he has the ability to finish at the rim or find the open man with a kick out or bounce pass to a cutter. Make Roddy settle for outside shots which he has been struggling with lately and Courtney will of done his job on defense.
Courtney Lee will keep Roddy in check by keeping him out of the paint and be a force on offense.
Advantage: Courtney Lee
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Shawn Marion
This will be a nice matchup for Parsons against the veteran Marion who is coming off a knee injury. Marion, to me and many other people has solidified himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He has active hands, can block your shot, and also defend on the ball very well. He's played very well against Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant just to drop names throughout the season. Marion can do more than just play defense though, he has a very awkward post game, but it works very well, and is a very good slasher/finisher at the basket. Not only that, he is a freak rebounder, he averages 7 a game, and will get them on both sides of the ball. That's one thing I want Parsons to work on and develop throughout his career is his rebounding, if he can improve to Shawn Marion's level of rebounding, he'll be one of the most complete players in The NBA (Yes, I just said that).
I name dropped up in the Shawn Marion paragraph, but I can drop the same names here in this one for Chandler Parsons. He's guarded Kobe and Kevin to some of their worst shooting nights on the season. Not only has his defense been stellar, he's hitting the 3 consistently and actually making shots from the charity stripe! I can keep on writing about how great he has been, but we've all covered it to death lately. On to offense!
On offense, Parsons will need to keep up the aggressiveness and go to the basket to finish or make the right pass. If he can get by Marion and do that, it should open up his 3 point shot, and if it does he needs to hit the opportunities he gets. Lastly, he'll need to crash the glass and get The Rockets more possessions and chances to score.
On defense, Parsons will be challenged with a very different type of player than he's used to. Most SFs in the league are off the dribble slashers and shooters. Marion is definitely not a shooter (every time I see him take a 3 I want to throw something). He's more of an off the ball cutter and post up player. In my not so great memory, I don't remember Parsons being challenged by a player with the post game that Marion has. It should be interesting to see how he does against Marion's awkward post game. The other thing he'll need to do is keep Marion from getting 2nd and 3rd possessions, I can't tell y'all how many times I've seen Marion miss a shot, get his rebound, miss another, get his rebound, and then make it.
I don't see Parsons being much of a factor, I think Marion will teach him a few things in the post and about rebounding.
Power Forward: Luis Scola vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Everybody's favorite Argentinian faces off against everybody's favorite German. What is there really to say about Dirk, he's one of the best and there's no way to really stop him from putting the ball in the basket. In the past 6 games, he's been on averaging 26 points 3 assists and 6.5 rebounds. Don't you wish The Rockets had a guy that could do that? I do. The probably overlooked number that I just put is probably his assists. He's been dishing out the rock really well, and it's more than the "Dirk learned how to pass out of the double team" which you hear from every commentator every Maverick game.
Luis Scola is going on his own run of good play also. He's averaged 20 points over the past 7 games along with 6 rebounds. He's doing this while shooting very well also, his scoops are falling as well as his mid range jump shot which he strives on. Luis' defense however hasn't been great, but it needs to be tonight if The Rockets want any type of chance of beating Dallas.
On offense, Luis is one of the craftiest players in the post. Dirk isn't a great defensive player, but he's certainly improved on defense and can hold his own. The Mavericks love to play swarming defense on their opponents, so expect a lot of double teams to come quick when Scola gets position in the post. To be able to make the impact that Luis needs to make, he needs to hit his shot and somehow, hopefully, please, get Dirk in foul trouble early.
On defense, sorry Luis, there's nothing that you can do on your own to stop Dirk. Mchale better have a game plan for him, because Luis won't be able stop him. All I have to say is, make it hard for him, don't let him shoot normally, force him to shoot off the dribble and fade away.
Luis won't be able to stop Dirk.
Advantage: Dirk Nowitzki
Center: Samuel Dalembert vs Ian Mahimi
The big man in the French duo Ian Mahimi has been filling in well in place for Haywood. What he misses on defense, he makes up on offense and with his hustle. Over the past 8 games, he's averaged 9 points and 7 rebounds. Not great, but it will do for stepping in the starting role. He can hit a mid range, and he has a high basketball IQ for a young player. He doesn't have a polished post game, but with The Mavericks offense the way it is, he'll get passes from Kidd and Roddy that will put him right under the basket with nobody around.
Dalembert's role on the team has decreased some with the addition of another useful 7-footer in Marcus Camby. He's only played 20 minutes per game over the past 3, but is averaging 7 rebounds and 12 points in those 20 minutes. He should have another solid game against Yawn.
On offense, Dalembert doesn't really do much other than his couple post up opportunities and open mid range shots. He should be able to get a couple open looks from mid range with The Mavericks doubling everybody like they love to do. More importantly than Dalembert's scoring is his rebounding, he needs to create more possessions and chances for the offense to get points.
On defense, there's no problem with Ian Mahimi, he won't touch the ball very often and won't have set pieces ran for him. What Dalembert needs to focus on is rotating to cutters, when Roddy, Marion, and Dirk all drive to the basket he needs to be there to step in and force a changed shot or block it. Also, just like on offense, he needs to clean up the boards on defense and stop The Mavs from getting their second chance opportunities.
Dalembert is just too good for Yawn and will show it tonight.
Advantage: Samuel Dalembert
Rockets: Courtney Fortson, Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Camby, and Marcus Morris
Mavericks: Rocket Killer Jason Terry, Vince Carter, Brendan Wright, Brian Cardinal, Lamar Odom, Domonique Jones, and Yi Jianlian
Mavericks bench has been playing terribly lately even with Jason Terry coming off of it
Rockets: Kevin Martin (questionable), Kyle Lowry (out)
Mavericks: Brendan Haywood (out), Delonte West (out)
Three Keys to Victory:
1. Score the ball, score the ball more, and score the ball even more.
The Mavericks have averaged a little under 95 PPG this season and given up 93 PPG. They've been one of the best defensive teams in The NBA, and have The NBA's best defensive lineup of Kidd, Carter, Marion, Dirk, and Haywood. Even though The Mavericks are one of the best defensive teams in The NBA, when opponents score over 100 points on The Mavericks, they've only won 1 game the whole season. Just for death by weird stats, The Mavericks are 2-16 when opponents build a lead of 10 or more and are 0-11 when trailing on the road after the 3rd quarter.
2. Stop the Europeans.
Ian won't be that big of a problem for The Mavericks, but Roddy can be, and Dirk will be. As said earlier, Courtney Lee and Goran Dragic need to keep Roddy from penetrating and breaking down The Rocket defense. Dirk however will be a different story. If I'm Mchale, I'm sending everything at Dirk. I'm putting Dalembert, Camby, Luis, Patterson, and Parsons all on him at some points in the game and bringing double teams the whole game. You can't let Dirk shoot and hope he misses, you have to make it hard for him and force him to go off the dribble and try his crazy fade aways.
3. Take care of the ball like it's your baby
The Mavericks even being a somewhat old team loves to run, if you let them get hands in the passing lanes and allow them to steal the ball, they'll be off an running. All the guards on that team love to run, and have done it effectively throughout their careers. This also ties into the scoring, if The Rockets don't turn the ball over they have more chances to score.
Prediction (finally): Rockets 103 - Mavericks 97
Make sure to check out TCWIR's inter-blog contest, just post your predicted score and you'll be entered.
Pay a visit to MavsMoneyball they have a nice group of people over there.
Hope you enjoyed!