Game Time: 6:00 p.m. TV: Comcast
Goodbye Houston, hello Dallas. Wheee. This is fun.
At 30-16 the Mavericks sit atop the Southwest Division and qualify as one of the elite teams in the league. They've lost, but the majority of those losses have been to good teams. They don't give games away. They lost their last game to Phoenix. They've lost twice in a row only twice this year: to Memphis and Atlanta, to Utah and the L*kers. Could the Suns and Blazers become the third duo to accomplish this feat? Probably not.
For one thing the Mavs are still led by Dirk Nowitzki. 20 points is an off night for him. And the Blazers never, ever in the history of forever have been able to contain him. He shoots over shorter and quicker defenders and goes around taller, slower ones. He's not the best defender in the world himself but he doesn't have to be when he's putting in 36 against you.
Second, even though one-time Dallas superforward Josh Howard isn't having a great season their current superforward Shawn Marion is doing pretty well. Both have burned us in the past and either will occupy the attention of Nicolas Batum or Martell Webster.
Third, Jason Terry has topped 20 in four out of his last five games and we have trouble with short, scoring guards.
Fourth, Drew Gooden and Erick Dampier have been having up-and-down seasons but both can rebound and Gooden can sometimes score. Only one of them has to be on to cause the Blazers interior trouble.
Fifth, in addition to the scoring the Mavericks can do when not defended well they're also 9th in the league in defensive efficiency and play pretty decent percentage defense too. This isn't the old Mavericks where you could score alongside them and hope to pull it out at the end.
Sixth, they don't lose close games. You have to really beat them to win.
Seventh, they're rested and Portland is on a back-to-back, their third game in four days.
Here are the good things to balance all of that:
1. Despite the record, the Mavs are a pedestrian 14-7 at home. They've lost here before.
2. Dallas doesn't score much in the paint (24th in the league, to be exact...the Blazers are 30th), which is a huge Portland weak spot right now.
3. The Blazers have been hustling and hustle always gives you a chance. If Portland can get hot for the game and Dallas takes it for granted...Fernandez and Batum and Bayless and Miller are more than capable of smacking them over the head given the chance. It's a faint hope, but it's hope, right?
There's hope, right?
Plans to Win the Game:
Plan A: The Trek IV
Get in team bus. Tell driver to press gas pedal hard. When you have achieved Warp 8.5 loop around sun and let slingshot effect take you back in time. Grab pre-injury Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, and Travis Outlaw. Also collect 2 whales and leave anonymous post-it note on Oden's nightstand reading "Do NOT hit send!!!" Warp back just in time to save team from imminent destruction.
Plan B: The Junior High
Show up for game at American Airlines Center. Sneak out into hall and pull fire alarm. Run very, very fast back to locker room. Repeat until game is called off. If accused, blame the foreign kid. (Dallas has a couple to choose from.)
Plan C: The Filibuster
Sneak up behind National Anthem singer. Club them in the head. Steal their clothing and have Rudy go out to perform the tribute in extended gospel/blues style, adding interpretive dance, translating word-for-word into Esperanto with the aid of an English-to-Spanish-to-Esperanto dictionary. Start over every time something goes wrong. When crowd falls asleep, sneak out.
Pray. Hope to get very lucky. Then pray and hope to get very lucky. Repeat for 48 minutes.
Check out the Dallas point of view at MavsMoneyball.
Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.