Preview and Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  March 2, 2008

Records: Lakers 41-18 (2 seed); Mavs 39-20 (5 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.6 (2nd) ; Mavs 112.7 (8th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.0 (6th); Mavs 107.2 (10th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Mavs: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Eric Dampier

Lakers Notes: It was one loss after a 10-game winning streak, on the second night of a back-to-back on the road against a good team. There are bad losses that tell you a lot about a team. That was not one of them.

One guy who continues to struggle is Luke Walton, who was abused on defense by Travis Outlaw and is not contributing a lot on the other end right now. Phil Jackson was slow with the hook, but his options with Ariza and Radmanovic sitting are limited, really the best option is Sasha at the two and Kobe at the three. I’d go to that early today if Luke has another bad game.

Aside that, there’s not much to seriously complain about right now. Well, except the price of a beer at Staples.

Get Well John Wooden. Nothing more to say there.

How ‘Bout Them Matadors Tough loss against UC Irvine last night, but I’m still on the bandwagon and not the only guy pumping them up on blogs, SportshubLA had a great piece too.

Good guards, pressure defense, fast pace. This is a fun team to watch, people. And we’re already dreaming NCAA tourney.

The Mavs Coming In: Kelly Dwyer over at Yahoo! said just about everything I would want to about the Kidd trade.

The misperceptions regarding Jason Kidd continue. TNT’s sublime studio crew spent the halftime break discussing how much Kidd adds to the team’s transition game, how the Mavs are going to have to keep their heads up because Jason is going to be spraying passes all over the fast break. Then TNT cuts to the first half stats to show that the Mavs have … six first half fast break points.

Just stop it. Kidd led two Nets teams to the Finals by being selective with the transition plays, and New Jersey consistently ranked among the slowest overall teams in the NBA. The Mavs, since Avery Johnson took over, have been a low-possession half court team. If Kidd is going to fit with the Mavs, it’s because he fits the team’s ideal of plenty of half-court offense mixed with the occasional (and, we mean, very occasional) transition foray.

And after Kidd called his own number and missed an open jumper with two minutes to go in the fourth, Doug Collins felt it necessary to point out how the Mavs acquired Kidd to “close out games.” Close out games? The guy shoots 37 percent; you’re telling me he’s shooting 33 percent over the first three quarters, and busting out with a 50 percent shooting mark in the fourth? Kidd’s too good to need this needless buildup.

If you want some more detail, JE Skeets breaks down all of Kidd’s passes to Dirk in that game. Did Kidd get Dirk easier shots? You decide.

To be fair, Kidd did find his shot on Friday night, scoring 21 on 9 of 18 shooting in a Mavs win over Sacramento. Kidd is shooting a solid 55% True Shooting Percentage since joining the Mavs (53% eFG%) but I’d still rather have him shooting than other guys on the floor. I don’t want to disparage Kidd, no doubt he’s a Hall of Fame point guard. But not for what he is doing right now. Purely from a Lakers perspective, LA has trouble with quick, slashing PGs that can breakdown a defense. Devin Harris could do that, Kidd not so much.

The Kidd trade is not like the Shaq trade — the Suns took a huge risk, with a player that may or may not be able to blend into their system and help. It was a big gamble. (He will sell a lot of tickets.) Kidd is not going to make the Mavs worse right now, the question is will he make them better? So much better that it was worth the extra salary and selling out a chance to get younger for a two-year window?

Keys To The Game: There are two matchups that really favor the Lakers today.

While Pau has had a couple of games below the standard he set since he came to the team (10 of 23 the last two games, 17 of 35 the last three), this is where he should bounce back. He should be able to pull Eric Dampier away from the basket, shoot over him, take him off the dribble and generally have a big game.

The Mavs have long had an issue stopping Kobe, and the Mavs coaches said yesterday that Kidd is going to get some shots at stopping him. Good. The 2001 Kidd would have worried me, but the current version is a pretty average defender at best. I think Dallas is going to have to throw a lot of looks (and players) at Kobe, which should open things up for other players.

Also, the Mavs are no longer a run-and-gun team, they are 26th in the league in pace. The Lakers should be able to get some easy baskets if they up the tempo — in particular Gasol should be able to outrun Dampier, get some early position and some early buckets.

Luke Walton has got to have a better game, likely drawing Josh Howard on defense. Phil has to be quicker with the hook if Luke is off. (Man, we miss Radmanovic and Ariza.)

Finally, I’m sure the Mavs watched the tape from Friday, so expect a lot of pick-and-roll early with Kidd and Dirk (at least that’s what I’d do). The Lakers defense on those needs to improve dramatically today.

Where you can watch: Game time is 12:30 and we get the consistently bad team from ABC today. Well, they can’t be as bad as those Blazers home announcers….