Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
After a fantastic game against L.A., the Mavericks look to build on that performance against an up and coming Utah Jazz squad.
Well last night was certainly unexpected. I hoped that we would win, but to do so in such a convincing fashion was really something to see. But there's no rest for the good guys; tonight Dallas matches up against the Utah Jazz in what will be their first game of the season.
The 2011-2012 season saw the Jazz go 36-30 and enter the playoffs as an eight seed, only to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs. The Jazz off-season was relatively uneventful compared to many NBA teams. Devin Harris was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for forward Marvin Williams. Mo Williams returned to the team that drafted him as part of a four team deal with Dallas, the Clippers, and the Houston Rockets. Randy Foye was also signed as a free agent to bolster guard depth.
The returning squad is a mix of youthful talent and a few veterans in the primes of their careers. Mo Williams and third year Butler product Gordon Hayward make up the starting back court while Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Marvin Williams make up the starting front court. Al Jefferson and Millsap in particular have often given Dallas fits in the past, as each is an offensive force. The Utah bench is also quite deep, with 3rd year forward Derrick Favors, 2nd year forward Enes Kanter, and guard Alec Burks all pushing the starters for minutes.
In terms of match ups, this could prove to be a very interesting game. Collison should be able to handle Mo Williams on both ends of the floor, but the Hayward-Mayo match up could prove very interesting. Though I'd argue Mayo is the more talented player, Hayward has spent much more time as a starter and knows who he is as a basketball player. Marion should be able to handle Marvin Williams with ease, though I also expect Marion to match up some with Millsap as the night. Elton Brand will match up some with both Al Jefferson and Millsap during the evening, though I'd prefer to see Brand harass the bigger, stronger Jefferson with his long arms. Both Curry and Wright will have a hard time guarding any of the Jazz big men. The bench match up is also quite interesting. The Jazz are one of the few teams Roddy Beaubois has played well against consistently. I expect Jae Crowder to see plenty of action mixing it up against a variety of Jazz players. I'm curious as to how much we'll see of Brandan Wright; his slight frame does not match up well against the bigger, stronger Jazz bench players of Favors and Kanter.
Building off of last night's game, it was really exciting to see Collison and Mayo play with such confidence. While Collison won't always shoot 66% from the floor, Mayo won't always go 4 for 13. I also appreciate Vince Carter's confidence, but he fell in love with the long two point shot; in fact all of the guards did. That it was falling was great, but it won't always and I think we'd all be happier with continued penetration or a three point shot. Brand will continue to look to get on track offensively. While I was as shocked and pleased as anyone with Eddy Curry on the offensive end, I'd like to see him establish better position defensively as well as be in better position to rebound. Pau abused him off the dribble and due to his attempts at help defense he was in the wrong place to get a rebound most of the night. Shawn Marion continues to be everywhere. We should all be very thankful for him. Brandan Wright and Roddy Beaubois need to simply let the game come to them.
I'm excited for tonight's game. I've been a bit of an Eeyore in terms of the Mavs' chances this season, but I also hadn't seen confident team play like last night's game. The Jazz should provide an excellent challenge for a team that obviously feels undervalued by the basketball world at large. Starting the season 2-0 against stiff competition would be a great reminder to the rest of the league that the Dallas Mavericks will not go quietly into the night. What do you hope to see from tonight's game, other than a Mavs victory?
***Chris Kaman will be out against the Jazz and possibly Saturday against the Bobcats.