[Thanks to 'sin' (again) for today's game preview (sign up! someone besides sin!). Pretty pessimistic preview, I think the Bulls have do have a decent chance with their defense rested and the Mavs not having many shot-creators outside of Dirk. Hopefully Taj progresses back to the mean after 2 nights of cliff-falling regression. -ed.]
Who's had a fear of getting shots as a kid? I did, so anytime I knew I was about to get one, I'd do something like pinch my skin or poke it or something right before to prepare myself for that sharp pain. This game tonight feels like that pinch. I'm expecting tonight to be a preview of what's to come on Tuesday night. A nice old fashioned ass kicking before the massacre I'm expecting at Staples. Tonight we take on a loaded Mavericks team, and following that of course is that dreaded beat down the Lakers are sure to hand down to us.
The Mavs are off to a fairly decent start. Dirk Nowitzki seems to be playing at a high level again, Jason Kidd is still getting the job done, their bench is strong, and Tyson Chandler has been able to fit in quite well. Their lineup is definitely going to provide a TON of mismatches for us tonight, and we can only pray and pray that Rose goes into his MVP-mode as he has the last two games for us. Rose against Kidd is really the only advantage I see when I look at the two starting lineups. There's Deng too, but he has to show up first, and then after the Spurs game, we've learned he also needs to get some damn rest earlier before he actually has an excuse to disappear.
Now on to the fun part, the mismatches. Had Taj not shown us in the past two games the amazing 80 year old player we all love to hate on, I might have had a little more hope for tonight, but let's face it now: he's going to absolutely get murdered tonight. Every time Duncan scored the other night on Taj, I pictured Dirk doing the same thing, only he can do it from the three point line too. I'm interested to see how Noah does against Chandler as well. Although Noah is clearly the superior player, Chandler is one of the better athletic centers in the league and should be able to give Noah some fits on the defensive end with his shotblocking ability.
So that was the starting lineup, now onto the benches. Their bench? You really only need to look at Jason Terry. He continues to play well and give them that scoring punch when the starters need to sit, and also be a reliable scorer down the stretch. From what I gather, Caron Butler comes off the bench now as well. Man, I wish we had 6th and 7th men like that. Our bench on the other hand? Sigh. Yeah I know. I can say there's only one bench player I feel confident in so far, and that's Kyle Korver (I don't count Brewer because I feel he should be a starter by now because I really dislike Bogans). Asik is slowly and surely becoming reliable and I'll feel more comfortable with him once he gets more acclimated to the NBA game.
Now if anyone's been watching the Mavs this year, they've shown considerable improvement on the defensive end. From a quick glance, I saw only one team scoring over 100 on them so far (although that could be attributed to fairly weak competition for the most part). The thing that worries me tonight is how well their zone worked against us in that one preseason game. Yes, I know it was just a preseason game and we were still coming together, but honestly: we were destroyed by that zone and they could elect to go back to it for some stretches of the game, and with Deng being Dung and Taj doing his best Pargo impression, I'm even more worried about how we'll fare against a zone. Also another point of concern is our defense of the 3 point shot. Teams are shooting nearly 40% against us from beyond the arc the last time I checked. Sure the Knicks game skewed some of those stats but just from watching the games, often we are very late closing on shooters from outside. Our defense has definitely improved this year but that continues to be a major flaw in our defense thus far.
Key things to watch out for:
-Rotations: Thibodeau still doesn't seem to have a grasp on substitution patterns. I mentioned this in other threads before, but it seems like he's playing the starters as if each game were a playoff game. Obviously that needs to stop. I mean come on 38 straight minutes for Deng? You're just asking him to disappear.
-3 Point Defense: Same as the Spurs game. I called it in my preview and it definitely helped kill us last night. Just remember, and you'll probably hear it during the game as well, "HAND DOWN. MAN DOWN!!"
-Zone?: How we react to a zone defense if they go to it, and I definitely expect they will.
-Dirk: Manu was the big mismatch last night and it definitely showed. Tonight is an even deadlier mismatch. Sigh.
My prediction? After being too optimistic after that Houston win and predicting we'd win last night, I'm going back to the good ol' BaB brand of pessimism. We're going to lose. Badly. I imagine some lively threads for the game (which I sadly may not get to participate in for the first time this season *tear*).
Head to Mavs Moneyball for what is surely going to be a much more positive atmosphere, if at any point this thread gets too depressing for you guys.
Bulls vs Mavericks coverage games at 8:30 again. More ESPN coverage. The Jeff Van Gundy - Mark Jackson show Part 2. (Hopefully they'll talk about Melo this game when we're down by 20)