Bulls vs. Mavericks: Talking Saturday's matchup, last year's finals, and the Mavs hangover with SBNation Dallas

Apr 20, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) shoots the ball over Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the fourth quarter at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Warriors 104-94. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

In preparation for Saturday night's game against the Mavericks, I corresponded with SBNation Dallas editor Jonathan Tjarks. His answers are in bold.

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With a playoff berth locked up for Dallas, will you still be going all-out in Saturday's game? Are there injury concerns that may require rest instead before the playoffs?

I don't think the Mavericks are all that concerned with their playoff positioning, but this is the healthiest they've been since the season began and their rotation still isn't totally set yet so I expect they'll take the game seriously. The one player who might have his minutes cut back is Jason Kidd, but I don't think he's really all that much of a loss to the team at this point. [Update: Kidd will be sitting out -yfbb]

Is there a particular opponent route you're preferring this season? Matchups you want to avoid? Can Dallas control that aspect of their repeat run or are you figuring that any road will be a tough one?

The Mavericks are a much better team with Brandan Wright at the 5; he's finally showing why he was taken in the lottery and he brings finishing and shot-blocking ability the team has been sorely lacking since Tyson Chandler's departure. Unfortunately, he's only 210 pounds which is why Dallas would prefer to avoid a team like Memphis (Marc Gasol) or LA (Andrew Bynum) with a big low post 5.

However, the top of the West is still extremely bunched up, so there's no point in trying to play for a certain seed. I don't think the Mavericks are scared of anyone though as the team still has a lot of confidence from the 2011 run where no one really believed in them.

How exactly DID you guys beat Miami? Bulls fans especially were expecting a Heat romp after they fairly easily handled the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Do you see any similarities in this year's Bulls team that can exploit the same Miami weaknesses?

The NBA really is a rock/paper/scissors league. I'm not sure Dallas could have beaten Chicago, but they had the exact mix to attack Miami: LeBron couldn't defend Dirk, who can shoot over him, and he had a hard time defending Terry b/c Terry's game is running off screens and jacking up fade-aways from all over the court. Miami could defend anyone in the NBA 6'3-6'10 last year, but Dallas' best scorers were 7'0 and 6'2.

Dirk didn't really have to outplay LeBron; Dirk just plays his game and there's nothing anyone can do about it. He rarely misses open jumpers and because of how high his release point is, pretty much any shot is an open shot for him. Chicago can win if Rose can outplay LeBron over a seven-game series; I'm just not sure he can.

How has the championship hangover been? Do you think the Mavs have become complacent or is it personnel changes that doomed them so far this season? As fans, are you considering this run more like playing with house money, or is will an early exit be a real disappointment?

It's hard to even say the Mavericks defended their title this season; Chandler was important defensively as Dirk was offensively, and the second he left, the championship went with him.

However, because of how well they've been managed over the years and the huge amount of goodwill they generated in 2011, the fans have trusted that the Mavs have a plan for 2012. Now that the team has made the playoffs, at worst they'll lose a tough first-round series and not embarrass themselves like Miami did after 2006.

Now, if Deron Williams doesn't come over this summer, I think you'll see a lot more rumblings about Dallas' long-term plan. Dirk had waited his entire career for an elite defensive center, and we saw what he could do when he had one. Personally, I wouldn't have broken up that pairing, but if the Mavs can pull off Deron in 2012 and Howard in 2013, that would really be something.

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