The Blazers get exactly zero days to enjoy their come-from-behind win last night. The Dallas Mavericks come to town tonight. This is something like a kung-fu movie where the protagonist gets beat up but then comes back and defeats his opponent with a series of thrilling, fancy flips and kicks. He stands over the supine body of his fallen foe and breathes a sigh of relief, not knowing that an 6`8", 280 pound muscle freak is now standing behind him with his arms folded. Will our weary hero prevail? It's probably safer to cut to black and just imagine the battle. Unfortunately that's not an option for the Blazers.
The Mavericks are looking every bit the elite team they are supposed to be this season. They have a 4-1 record off of a +9.2 point differential. Stats can be misleading early in the season but Dallas' stats pretty much confirm what we've known for the last couple of years. Josh Howard is for real (24 points, 7 boards, 4 assists per game). Jason Terry makes a great scoring option (23 points, 5 assists, 60% shooting). Dirk Nowitzki is actually having an off year so far. His overall and three-point shooting percentages are down .5 apiece from last year's pace. He's still scoring 22 a game. You may stop one of them on a good night. There's no way you're stopping all three. The Blazers aren't likely to stop any of them. We're still at the stage where one pick or two passes confounds our defense. The Mavs have five guys averaging more than 4 assists a game so far this season. They shoot above 50% as a team while holding their opponents to less than 45%. They shoot almost 39% from the three-point arc while their opponents are at 32.5%. They're shooting 88% from the line as a team. If they have a weakness it might be rebounding (and even that is slight). But then we're not a good rebounding team either. Devin Harris is a scoring-type guard who is capable of giving our guys fits all by himself. And we haven't even touched their bench, the upper part of which is playing pretty much top-notch right now.
In short this is a nightmare for the Blazers. I remember a time, though, when Dallas was coming off being the worst team in the league. They knocked their heads against the Blazers for a couple of years before finally overcoming them and becoming one of the top dogs. Perhaps the process now begins in reverse with Portland being the young, talented team and Dallas being the elite dog. We're going to get a few more bumps and bruises before we're ready to tangle with them for real, but in a couple of seasons...
What I'd Like to See:
I won't even pretend I can come up with a way to actually beat the Mavericks. They could come out with their B or C game and probably still handle us. We won't stand a chance unless they work their way down to P or Q. However we need to do a few things to stay competitive:
--We have to come out aggressive from the opening tap. We can't keep spotting teams leads or even settle for close first quarters. We need to get the jump on these guys early or we'll be down by 15 before we know it. Energy and hustle are our only potential advantages tonight.
--We need to be vigilant on the boards. If Dallas gets second chances they're going to score on 70% of their trips down the court instead of just 50%.
--If we play zone--which we're pretty much going to have to because our guards will get deep fat fried by theirs--we're going to have to cover and recover very quickly. This team will shoot a 20-footer like it was a layup.
--We have to get back in transition.
--We need to drive and draw fouls to create extra points. Much like the Memphis game if we shoot jumpers all night we're dead.
--Just about every player will have to have a big game, especially Lamarcus. The bench will also have to come up big because our starters played long minutes last night. This may be Sergio's game to get some major burnage.
For those who haven't entered yet the Jersey Contest form for this game is here.