Preview & Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  November 28, 2008

Basketball: Laenderspiel 2004, USA-GER
Records: Lakers 12-1 Mavericks 7-7
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.4 (3rd in league) Mavericks 104.7 (18th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 96.5 (1st in league) Mavericks 103.0 (8th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Mavericks Jason Kidd, Antoine Wright, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzski, Erick Dampier

Andrew Bynum’s foot: Swelling and inflammation in your foot are not your friends if you are a professional basketball player.

But really, beyond that, we don’t know jack. Details should be forthcoming tonight (check the comments, maybe an update in this space). And without a few details, we are just throwing darts at carnival balloons trying to figure out how bad it is. It really depends on the size of the spur and where it is located.

And before anyone freaks out, here is the worst case scenario: The Lakers have to go with the starting lineup that got them to the NBA Finals last year for a month or so. Not exactly the end of the world. This is why it is good to be a deep team.

Lakers notes: One more note on just how hot the Lakers have been so far this season:
(my personal favorite stats site) has developed something called the “Simple Rating System” to figure out how good teams are. (And, this system over time has proved the axiom that simple is better.) Basically, you figure out how much teams are winning their games by (point differential) and adjust that for strength of schedule.

So far, the Lakers SRS score is 14. Second place in the NBA right now is Cleveland at 9.64. It gets better:

Just for comparison’s sake, last year’s Celtics, who steamrolled the league en route to 66 wins and an NBA title, had an SRS of “only” 9.31. In fact, the best full-season SRS mark ever belongs to the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks, who also rolled up 66 wins and an NBA crown, thanks to the efforts of Oscar Robertson and league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Their SRS score that year? 11.91, more than two points per game worse than L.A.’s current clip.

It’s a long season, but we need to recognize just what a historically good start the Lakers are off to.

Last Meeting It was one of the games from this season where the Lakers played 30 minutes of basketball and still won.

In the first quarter of that game the Mavs shot 61.9% (eFG%). But in the third quarter the Lakers defense picked up, starting with Gasol who overplayed Dirk’s left side and took him out of the game. For the third quarter, the Lakers held the Mavs to 35% shooting. In the fourth quarter, Dallas shot 30% and 25% from three.

It was also another big night for the bench — Trevor Ariza led the charge and the team for the night as a +16, with Odom and Sasha close behind at +13. And don’t forge the key play late, Ariza blocking a Stackhouse three-point shot.

The Mavericks Coming In: Now that we’ve covered that last game, throw all that knowledge out the window. This Dallas team is playing much better than that team and is on a five-game winning streak.

The reason is in part that key Mavs players are stepping up. During the streak Nowitzki has been shooting 46% (up from 40% the previous five), 50% from three point range and is scoring 28 points per game. Laker killer Jason Terry has thrived in the Lamar Odom sixth man role. He is shooting 53.6% and is scoring 23 points per game in the last five games

One other change, Dallas will have Josh Howard in the starting lineup, he didn’t play in the first meeting.

Finally, Jason Kidd has had a bounce-back year so far. He has a True Shooting Percentage of 58.7% (up from 49.9% last year), he’s creating more steals and his PER is up to 18 from 16.7 last year.

Keys To The Game: I just have a gut feeling Bynum will not suit up tonight. Basically, this is a November game and if you can rest a guy you do that now, there are still 69 games until the playoffs even start.

Pau Gasol did a good job covering Nowitzki in the second half of the Lakers win earlier this month, but if Bynum is out Gasol will have to slide over to the center spot to cover Erick Dampier (well, as much as one really has to cover him). Gasol just needs to keep Dampier off the boards — Dallas had 20 offensive boards last meeting. Lamar Odom likely would get the Nowitzki assignment, and he’s held Dirk down fairly well in the past (nobody really stops Dirk, the goal is making him less efficient).

If Bynum is not patrolling the paint, the rest of the Lakers need to be sharper with their rotations and in traps and zones. On the wings, it would be nice to keep Kidd from picking up another triple-double (he has just one this season and it was against LA).

On defense, the Mavs throw a lot of different looks at you, including a lot more 2-3 zone lately. Gasol should be able get hurt the soft middle of the zone, while Radman and Sasha shoot over the top of it. Fisher is allowed to take a shot only on a catch-and-shoot or at the rim, no jumpers off the dribble (half court or transition).

Where you can watch: Fox Sports locally, nationally it is ESPN with Mike , Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy in the booth.