I thought that Indiana game was a bit closer than it seemed; the Pacers hit every single crucial shot they had, and still only won by 5. You have to figure if Amir caught one of the two passes in the key that he missed (either would have finished in a dunk), the Raptors made a stop down the stretch, or the Pacers missed on of the many shots they shouldn’t have hit, the Raps could be 2-0 right now. That’s my glass is half-full moment, down to business.

The defending champs host the Raptors for what will be their 4th game in 6 nights; on the second night of a back-to-back having played the Thunder in Oklahoma. That’s a lot of wear and tear for an aging team who is 0-3 to start the season. That said, these are the defending champs with a war-tested lineup; can’t take them lightly.

I had a chance to talk with Ian Levy and Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game about the Mavs:

True or False: Cuban and Nelson don’t get enough credit for the teams they’ve been fielding for the last decade.

Ian I think they get the right amount of credit. Cuban is known for be willing to spend and for letting the basketball people make the decisions. Nelson has shown a great understanding of timing, not just buying low and selling high, but knowing when the structure of the team needs to go in a different direction.

Rob True. I don’t want to instill the Mavericks with more of a victim complex than they already have (sorry, Shawn Marion — I meant to say “World Champion Mavericks,”), but building and maintaining a contender for more than a decade is no small feat. Dallas may only have one title to show for all of Cuban and Nelson’s hard work, but they played some incredible basketball for 11 straight seasons. That’s damn impressive.

The Mavs retooled in the off-season, replacing Chandler w/ Odom, signing VC and Delonte; without jeopardizing their 2012 cap situation I must add. I look up and down this roster and feel this team is better than the one that won the championship last year; thoughts?

Ian The team that won the championship last season was not the same team they had on paper, it was a beautiful origami construction, using that paper as a raw material. These first two losses for the Mavericks are a reminder that they need to take what they have and make it into something much greater.

Rob I’d give Lamar Odom a slight edge over Tyson Chandler in whatever universal comparison of basketball players I can muster, Vince Carter is fairly comparable to Caron Butler (if you count him in your estimations of the championship team), and Delonte West is better than J.J. Barea. But as a team? I’d say this roster is a bit inferior; Chandler, Barea, and even DeShawn Stevenson were perfect fits for this particular team, while the new pieces contribute to a less complete overall product.

This season could finally be the one that Jason Kidd’s body says “enough’s enough”? With Dirk potentially having a couple more elite seasons in him in the front court, wouldn’t the priority heading into the summer be signing Deron Williams as a free agent target?

Ian Absolutely, but it sounds a lot like one of those “hometown loyalty” pipe-dreams. The Mavericks need to be proactive in building a roster for the future. Adding a player of Williams’ caliber would be tremendous, but the possibility seems too tenuous to be the centerpiece of a plan.

Rob Both are possibilities; Kidd’s drop-off could come without warning, and Dallas has very real interest in acquiring Williams. But it’s one strategy, not the strategy. The Mavs aren’t banking on age-old ties to a high school to bring in Williams, just as they won’t be banking on an age-old point guard to guide them into the next era. Nelson and Cuban are staying flexible, being mindful of their spending, and playing it by ear. They obviously have some tentative plans in place, but overall their outlook is more of a flow chart than an agenda.

Call the game

Ian My apologies to the Raptors fans but I think the Mavericks get on track with a win tonight.

Rob I’ll say Dallas wins a tight one. The Mavs looked much improved against the Thunder on Thursday night, and while they’re sure to be weary after their down-to-the-wire loss, I see them building on their performance in Friday’s game. They’ll have their hands full with a more active Raptors team, but I think the Mavs get it done for their first win of the season.

Match-Ups

Point Guard
I know we’re just two games into the season, but the Raptors are 8th in defense. Don’t rip me a new one, I realize it’s ony two games, but when the hell have we ever been top 10 in defense? Some of that starts with Calderon on the perimeter not doing his clapping hands routine. The one thing that has me concerned about Kidd after watching Paul George have all the time in the world the other night from beyond the arc, is Kidd being put in the same spot; otherwise, keeping him under control shouldn’t be  a mission for Calderon (and Bayless who is my 2nd least favourite Raptor after Magloire).
Edge: Raptors

Shooting Guard
DeRozan played ball all summer, is young, in great shape, a gym rat…yet still has been having a tough time with catching a rhythm early in games. Had it not been for an epic 2nd half against the Pacers, everyone would be pretty ‘meh’ on the kid right now. That said, his shot has looked really good this year. Barbosa has given us exactly what we’ve expected from the get-go (stayed fresh in Brazil while the rest of the league played XBOX and such). The Mavs have two guys over 34 (Terry/Carter) and a head case (West). So while Carter’s best days are behind him, Terry still has some gas in the tank, and has been playing well so far. West is the only one of the lot who plays any defense, but I have a suspicion the Mavs will give the Raptors just enough wiggle room that they will find their offensive stride.
Edge: Mavericks

Small Forward
James Johnson can play defense, rebound, and dunk in transition, and…that’s about it. He should never be allowed to shoot another jumper or put the ball on the floor, again. That said, he’s loads better than Weems. Marion on the other hand hasn’t been to the free throw line yet this season. This troubles me, especially considering he still insists on shooting 3s. Regardless, he’s still got enough to completely nullify anything (Rasual Butler, seriously?) the Raptors can throw at him at the 3, and give Bargnani some fits if Dallas ever goes small ball. The 3-spot quickly falls off after Marion, but they are deep enough to trot out some interesting lineup combinations.
Edge: Mavericks

Power Forward
Nowitzki > Bargnani. Bargs is making strides, nice ones, but there’s nothing else to talk about here.
Edge: Mavericks

Center
One day I’m actually going to put together my list of players I loathe; Brendan Haywood will be on that list, close to the top. I hate how the Raptors single handedly made him look like a star when he played for the Wizards. I did enjoy how after the Mavs handed him that retarded contract of his, they realized they wouldn’t be able to win anything with him as their starting center, then went and got themselves Chandler; that must have been fairly emasculating. So he will have a couple dunks, miss everything from the line and be pretty invisible for the night. Odom may or may not finally wake up and actually choose to contribute, and knowing the Raptors luck it could be tonight, but I like the center-by-committee the Raptors can field against this lot.
Edge: Raptors

The Line

The gamblers have the Mavs as 9.5 point favourites with an over/under of 196. I’m really torn on this one, on the one-hand it’s hard to imagine the Mavs losing their 4th game in a row to start the season at home to the Raptors, but on the other hand they are giving up 110 points a game.  Mavs by 3, bet against the line.

Arsenalist has a Breaking It Down post dropping after lunch; check it out.

facebooktwittergoogle_plustumblrmail

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,