Blazers, Mavericks Pre-Thoughts


Let’s start this off by saying that the Dallas Mavericks have gotten a bit of a bad rap ever since the Jason Kidd trade. By that I mean that once people decided/realized that the Mavs weren’t taking any great leaps with a veteran PG instead of Devin Harris, they quickly became an afterthought, one of those second-tier playoff teams that nobody is really all that frightened of and thus doesn’t get much attention. Sort of like the P.J. Carlesimo era Blazers.

That doesn’t make them any less dangerous, or a win over the Mavs any less valuable. This is veteran team that is not to be ignored. And this is where I confess my hypocrisy — I’ve been ignoring the Mavs.

The reason is that they just haven’t been very interesting this season. Other than Mark Cuban stirring the pot every so often and Josh Howard serving up some sound/video bytes, they’ve just been steadily chugging along. The Mavs aren’t on the level of San Antonio or L.A. or Denver or even a healthy New Orleans. They are much closer to the banged up Jazz and Phoenix, though neither as bad as the Suns on the Suns’ terrible nights, nor quite as good as them when Nash finds some of the old magic.

It’s well documented that Dallas has some pieces that don’t fit well together, which is why Jason Kidd could very well be traded again. Kidd still can’t shoot and he’s been torched, like plenty of other people, by the quicker guard in the league — say hello, Jay Bay Baylicious Rex — but he is one of the best at picking defenses apart. I won’t get into the specifics of the pick-and-roll defense (Blazer fans have had enough of that lately) but I’ll just point out that if Oden keeps switching on picks, Kidd is going to take advantage of the size matchup that creates on Sergio/Bayless. The same goes for defensive rotations off the Dirk double teams. There aren’t any elite spot-up shooters, but there are still guys you can’t leave open.

The biggest cause for concern for Portland is the Dallas bench. While Oden could have a field day if he can stay in the game long enough to see who backs up Dampier tonight, Brandon Bass could hurt them on the boards if Travis plays at the four a lot, while Jason Terry is one of the best sixth men in the game. Terry cannot find a groove.

Here’s where I go off course a little. When the Blazers play teams like Cleveland or L.A., we often say that you have to stop the role players and you can live with Kobe or LeBron beating you if they go off. This is not true with Dallas. Stopping Dirk stops their offense, and a lot of that has to do with stopping their only true post-up option that is not based on matchups (as in, Kidd might post a smaller guard). The Mavs are 2-8 when Dirk scores less than 20, so chances are, if you throw the kitchen sink at him — Batum could be effective here with his length as a helpside, double-team guy — you’ll find yourself with a win to be proud of.

I’ll do brief keys to the game, in summary:

-Whatever you need to do to stop Dirk, stop him. The Mavs need him to score 20 to win.

-Annoy Terry enough so that he doesn’t get into a groove.

-Make them regret not having Diop’s big body off the bench anymore. Greg, please don’t foul so you can go to work. LMA and Roy, the paint is yours.

-Don’t laugh when you realize Devean George and Gerald Green play a combined 29 minutes a night for the Mavs.

By the way, I’m not mentioning Christmas Day because I was out of the country for the holidays and didn’t see the game until five days later. And even then, the DVR only got the second half because a few people were recording things that day, so I’d prefer to refrain from making observations about something I didn’t see in full.