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 important upcoming 76ers games — features tonight’s opponent, the banged up, but red hot Dallas Mavericks.
This is going to be a very difficult game for the 76ers to win tonight. Forget for a second that Dallas has won five straight games and that Dirk has returned to his all-world form. Also forget for a second that to be honest, that the Sixers have not played that well in four of their last five contests. All things being even, the Sixers will have the same issues with Mavs that they had with the Spurs and Magic in recent losses.
In Jason Kidd the Mavs have a point guard that can run the high pick game as well as penetrate the lane for a bucket or to drop a dime. They also have a few bigs who can bang down low and pound the offensive glass. Lastly, Rick Carlisle’s bunch can stroke the 3-ball. Yeah, we know long distance assassin Jason Terry will not play tonight, but Dirk, Kidd, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter (at times) all will not hesitate to take and make 3PAs.
As we saw again on Wednesday in Orlando, this unique combination of offensive threats is the kryptonite for the Sixers usually super hero level defense. If the Sixers defend and rebound like they did on Wednesday night, Dallas will run us right out of the gym.
Still there is a significant chance the Sixers can win this game tonight. That chance comes in the fact that the Mavs are beat up and let’s face it, old. Jason Terry, Delonte West and Rodrigue Beaubois will not play tonight. Kidd is still not 100%. Lamar Odom has looked slow this year. Vince Carter…well he has played like an old man for years now. So if the Sixers can relocate their lockdown defense, get turnovers or force the Mavs into bad shots, then hopefully Collins & Co. can push the pace of this game and run Dallas into the ground. Specifically, we’ll be looking for the “Night Shift” to take advantage of the Mavs depleted bench and simply demolish Rick Carlisle’s second unit by getting out on the break for easy scores.
Ohh yeah…and Jrue Holiday better come back and play like a man possessed tonight in order to erase that debacle in O-Town from our memories.
For a little more insight into the Mavs team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Rob Mahoney from thetwomangame.com to answer four questions on the Mavs from us here at Philadunkia from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : The Mavs are obviously rolling right now. What has been one or two of the keys to their 5 game win streak?
Rob Mahoney @ thetwomangame.com : Not to oversimplify things, but Dirk Nowitzki is looking a lot more like Dirk Nowitzki. A little time “off” to prepare for the rest of the season has done wonders for Dirk, who has slowly built his way back toward his trademark production and efficiency.
The defense has wavered a bit of late, but Dallas’ stronger defensive performances have come — in part — due to the versatility of Shawn Marion. Rick Carlisle hasn’t been shy about using Marion in all kinds of unusual matchups, with three of his most recent assignments being point guards (Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul, and Ty Lawson). Marion has done a terrific job of locking up opposing offenses at the point of initiation, but the defensive intensity team-wide has been really impressive.
Philadunkia : Sixer killer Jason Kidd has been back for 4 games now. How has he looked so far?
Rob Mahoney @ thetwomangame.com: Kidd’s a bit all over the place. Sometimes the shot is falling, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes he looks like an All-NBA defender, and sometimes he looks his age. Sometimes the playmaking is on point, and sometimes he makes some truly horrendous decisions with the ball. It’s impossible to say with any certainty which Kidd might show up on Friday.
Philadunkia : What’s the one thing you are worried about from the Mavs standpoint for this game vs. the Sixers?
Rob Mahoney @ thetwomangame.com: Whether the active Maverick guards can get the Dallas offense into a good rhythm. Philadelphia is a tremendous defensive team, and the Mavs would have their hands full contending with the Sixers’ fluid rotations even under optimal circumstances. These, needless to say, are not optimal circumstances; both Jason Terry (quad strain) and Rodrigue Beaubois (personal reasons) missed Wednesday’s game against Denver, and Delonte West left the game in the second quarter with a gruesome finger injury.
That leaves Kidd, Vince Carter, and Dominique Jones as the only remaining guards guaranteed to be active on Friday — a pretty thin core of ball handlers to initiate against Philly’s staunch D.
Philadunkia : We’re big fans of Saint Joe’s product Delonte West. We’ve seen the Mavs play on a number of occasions this year and we follow Delonte closely as well, but it’s hard to tell from the outside if he has found a role with the Mavs. What are your thoughts on West?
Rob Mahoney @ thetwomangame.com: West has been one of the best value signings of the 2011 free agent class, and has absolutely found a role with this team. Rick Carlisle has brought West in and out of the starting lineup as he’s toggled with various lineup configurations, but West is a crucial component of this Maverick team regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench. It’s not particularly common to find a capable shot creator, a willing slasher, a good shooter, and a fantastic perimeter defender wrapped up in a single, convenient package, and that versatility grants Carlisle the flexibility to mix and match his backcourt at will.
Our thanks to Rob Mahoney for his insights.