This Friday afternoon edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent, annual Western Conference title contender, the deep and talented Dallas Mavericks.

This is going to be a nearly impossible game for the 76ers to win.  The Mavs are a very good offensive team with an arsenal of weapons and as we all know the Sixers are defensively challenged, which is putting it kindly.  The Mavs are also better on defense then most casual NBA fans seem to know, which doesn’t hold well for a Sixers team that often struggles to shoot the ball accurately  The Sixers only chance in this game comes with the idea that for the Mavs this is their fourth contest in a five-game road trip and fatigue may have set in.  Going back to Sunday January 17th, the Mavs lost at Toronto, won at Boston on Monday and then won at Washington on Wednesday night, so there is an outside possibility that Dallas is road weary and the Sixers could steal one tonight.  However we see it as a remote chance at best.     

For a little more insight into the Mavs team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Rob Mahoney from to answer two questions on the Mavs from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this Dallas squad from an insider’s perspective.

Philadunkia :  The Mavs are 28-14, but in the last month they have experienced a roller-coaster ride vs. top competition.  The Mavs have lost to Portland, the Lakers (2x), Utah and Houston, but defeated Denver, San Antonio, Cleveland and Boston.  So where do you stand on just how good the 2009-10 Mavs are / can be?

Rob Mahoney @ : At present, the Mavs are, like you described, in a state of flux. But based on this team’s defensive accomplishments and offensive potential, these Mavs are either the second or third best team in the West.  Dallas and Denver are remarkably close in my mind, and it’s a virtual toss-up between the two.  But I see Dallas as superior to every other playoff team in the West…and yes, that includes San Antonio.

Supposing the Mavs can stay in either the 2nd or 3rd seed, they stand a pretty good chance of making it all the way to the conference finals.  But because the 4th seed would meet the Lakers in the West semis, the Mavs need to avoid it at all costs.  The Nuggets would surely be a tough out in their own right, but are still a much more preferable match-up than the Lakeshow. Los Angeles may be struggling a bit right now, but would anyone want their team around when Phil and Kobe right the ship?

Philadunkia :  Let’s talk about Dirk. Overall he’s had a great season and outside of the Toronto game (19 points) he’s been particularly stellar of late.  He seems to have elevated his game to yet another level.  Do you agree and if so what is the difference in Dirk this season?

Rob Mahoney @ Dirk is having an absolutely tremendous season. It’s tough to say whether or not he’s truly elevated his game; Nowitzki has always dwelled in the pantheon of offensive efficiency.  But he’s among the league leaders in most of the relevant offensive stats (including the ever-important points per possession), as he’s been as efficient and effective as ever.  Plus, Dirk has evolved into a pretty startling team defender, and is actually sitting at seventh in the league in defensive rating.  That’s quite a bit higher than every other MVP candidate at this point, and it’s a testament to how hard Dirk is working on that end of the court. Defense doesn’t come naturally to him, but he’s put in the work and the practice to become a decent all-around defender.

 Two Points of Analysis from Rob Mahoney @ :

1) Jason Terry has a League wide rep as a great three point shooter and he still is, but so far his 3-point FG % is on the decline again this year.  In 2008-09 JET hit 36% of his 3’s.  This season he’s popping from deep at a 34% clip.  Both numbers are below his 38% career 3PA average.

2) The offensive minded Mavs don’t do such a bad job on the other end of the floor either.  The Mavs are holding opponents to 97.8 ppg., a stat that places Dallas 13th in the League on team D. 

 Our thanks to Rob Mahoney for his insights.

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