This 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, the athletic, very 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.  As we all know the Sixers are getting better on defense, but remain a defensively challenged unit.  We’ll be especially interested to see how the Sixers bigs handle the Mavs 7-footers – Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood.  On the perimeter, we can only pray that someone in a Sixers uniform can keep a lid on Jason Terry.  “J.E.T.” has scored 20+ points in 3 of his last 4 games and is hitting 3’s at a 50% clip right now.  This game – the third in a five game road trip – could get ugly quickly for the Sixers if Collins doesn’t keep a tight grip on this one.

The Sixers only chance in this game comes with the idea that the Mavs could be looking ahead to their matchup with the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night.  There’s an outside chance the thoughts of playing the Hornets cause Dirk & Co. to fall asleep at the wheel just long enough for the improving Sixers to slip out of “Big D” with a very unexpected W.     

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 :  We loved the addition of Tyson Chandler by the Mavs.  Talk about what you have seen from him so far and what elements you think he will bring to the table for the Mavs this season?

Rob Mahoney @ :  The acquisition of Chandler was originally viewed as a disappointment by a lot of Mavs fans because of what it represented; because Tyson ended up a Maverick, that meant that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, and even Al Jefferson and Andre Iguodala did not. Many within and around the organization had high hopes for the potential return on Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract, but Chandler was the best prize that trade chip could fetch this summer.

He’s still not as productive as any of those players, but Chandler has been anything but a disappointment. Chandler is tremendously active on both ends, and Dallas is really benefiting from his ability to defend in the post and protect the rim. The Mavericks boast the 4th best defensive rating in the NBA, and while that’s a testament to a team-wide commitment to crisper rotations and more active shot-challenging, it’s also to Chandler’s credit that he’s the center to anchor it all. Brendan Haywood has been a bit inconsistent in his effort level this season, but Chandler is all-out at all times, and the Mavs have benefited from that.

Plus, throw in the ability to finish a few alley oops a night, and the Mavs finally have a roll man worthy of Jason Kidd’s lobbing ability.

Philadunkia :  Is this Mavs team good enough to challenge the heavily favored Lakers for the West title? 

 Rob Mahoney @  No. The defense has played well, but is still relatively unproven. If the Mavs’ defensive numbers hold up through more intense trials (read: top 10 offenses), Dallas will take a step toward the Lakers’ tier, but this team still has a lot to prove. Additionally, if the Mavs can reduce their startlingly high turnover rate (historically, Dallas has always been among the league leaders in ball protection), then maybe this could someday be a conversation worth having. But L.A. is playing so, so well right now, and the Dallas still has plenty of kinks to work out before they’re ready to go head-to-head with that kind of talent.

 Point of Analysis from Rob Mahoney @ :

1) Caron Butler will miss the game for Dallas tonight, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Butler still has a reputation as something of an All-Star caliber player, but he’s been far too inefficient for the Mavs to be considered anything of that ilk. Butler is averaging 14.7 points per game for Dallas this season, but takes 14.5 shot attempts a game to reach that mark. He’s making just 39.1% of his field goals, and he commits 2.3 turnovers a night. Butler has a bad habit of stopping the ball on offense, and in his absence, the Mavs totaled 30 assists against Memphis on Wednesday night. I wouldn’t necessarily say the Mavs are a better team without Butler on the floor, but…well, yes I will. Thus far this season, Dallas has been a better team when Caron Butler is watching from the sidelines rather than hijacking possessions.

2) DeShawn Stevenson has recently taken over the starting job at shooting guard, and thrived as a result. Stevenson was buried deep on the bench prior to Rick Carlisle’s rotation shakeup, and so far the change — which puts Stevenson as a shooter alongside Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, while moving the far more prolific and versatile Jason Terry into a super-sub role — has been a boon for Dallas. Stevenson has averaged 8.5 points over his last two games in almost 18 minutes a night, but the real gem in his stat line has been his efficiency. Stevenson has hit 50% of his threes since stepping into the starting lineup, and he figures to get plenty of open corner threes as long as he plays with such dynamic offensive talent.

Our thanks to Rob Mahoney for his insights.

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