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Game 52 Preview: Blazers vs. Mavericks

A Look at the Mavericks

The bad news:  Dallas is 34-17 so far this year, not quite their regular season world-beating accomplishment from last season but still nothing to be trifled with.

The worse news:  They're angry, having lost two straight on the road to so-so teams and now returning home.

The better news (at least for us):  They're a walking hospital unit.  Erick Dampier missed Monday's game because of his ankle.  Devin Harris hasn't played for the last eight games straight, also because of an ankle injury.  Josh Howard is questionable for this game because of his back.  Jerry Stackhouse sat out their last game with a hamstring injury.  One more ailment and they can get their own group rate for their health insurance policy.  That's 49.9 points, 19 rebounds, and 10.7 assists potentially out of their lineup.

Nevertheless any team with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry still presents an offensive threat.  If some of those other guys are out maybe we can gang-tackle Dirk.  Lamarcus should be able to stay with him a little on his own even.

The Mavericks don't overwhelm you with offense anymore as much as they just get smart shots.  (Note that getting smart shots is easier when you have people who can make them from a variety of areas--thus making "smart" a multi-purpose definition--which they do.)  They're a veteran team. They're unselfish.  They will probe until they find a weakness and then exploit it.  They rebound well (missing Dampier and Howard would cut into that though) and they defend reasonably.  The days when you can just run them around are long gone.  Basically they want the contest to be a chess game between your offense and theirs, which they figure they will win.

The Mavs get into trouble against teams with superior athleticism.  Unfortunately that's not us, but we might use Lamarcus and Travis to some advantage.  Other than that you either have to defend them superbly or just score so much that even they can't keep pace.  Anything in the middle favors them.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  For the love of all that's good and holy, exploit whatever holes their lineup offers tonight!  If they're playing Devean George, Eddie Jones, and DeSagana Diop big minutes do everything you can to make THOSE guys carry the offensive load.  The Mavs are a better defensive team than they used to be but for the most part if they're not near 100 they don't win.
  2.  Another possible consequence of a fractured lineup would be less cohesion and more turnovers.  Take advantage of that!  I'm thinking particularly of running the ball here.  Will they get back consistently?  The guys they have left are not necessarily their best athletes.  Test them every chance you get.
  3.   Force everybody but Jason Terry to shoot outside.
  4.  Must...rebound...ball.  Don't bail them out with second chances.
  5.  If they're shuffling bench players into the starting rotation then this is the night for our bench to go to town!  Travis, Jarrett, whoever...push, fight, score!
  6.  They're not going to want to lose three straight.  They're also going to smell blood in the water with our recent losing streak.  That means they're likely to come with energy.  We better match it.
I know we're not looking great right now but this may turn out to be the most winnable game on the trip.  I don't give us great odds to actually win it but it may just turn out better than you'd think on paper.  I have a hunch we're going to see the good Blazers tonight.  A lift going into the All-Star break would be much appreciated.

Be sure to check out the always-glorious MavsMoneyball for the other side of the story.

--Dave (