Three straight wins followed by three straight defeats. The Mavericks (4-4) matches up against the Wizards of Washington (0-5 as of Tuesday afternoon), hoping to put all the pieces together and come out with a win.
The Washington Wizards finished second to last in the 2011-2012 season, posting a record of 20-42. They began the off-season sending Rashard Lewis and his massive contract to the New Orleans Hornets for center Emeka Okafor and guard-forward Trevor Ariza. Their lottery selection ended up being third where they selected University of Florida product Bradley Beal, a sweet shooting guard who might pair well with John Wall. Pairing these new additions with John Wall, Nene, Trevor Booker, and developing power forward Kevin Seraphin, the Wizards hoped the 2012-2013 season would be a season of growth and winning for the struggling franchise.
Unfortunately for Washington, John Wall is scheduled to be out for at least another three weeks after a stress injury was discovered in his left patella. The Wizards are also without center Nene, who has been dealing with plantar fasciitis since the beginning of the summer. As a result, the Wizards have struggled early, losing all of their games.
So how does Dallas match up against the seemingly hapless Wizards? Considering how bad Dallas has looked over the last 12 quarters and one over time, I wouldn't be too quick to assume anything. Roster to roster comparisons obviously give Dallas a solid advantage, even considering injuries to Marion and Dirk, but pride comes before the fall.
The Dallas back court should dominate A.J. Price and Bradley Beal. If they don't, particularly if A.J. Price has a good game, alarm bells will go up all over the Mavs organization. The last two games opposing point guards, Kemba Walker and Luke freaking Ridnour, have put up huge numbers. That has to change against A.J. Price.
The front court match ups are more murky. Shawn Marion is probably still out, which leaves Jae Crowder matching up against Trevor Ariza. With respect to Ariza he's a bit of a downgrade offensively compared to Carmelo Anthony and Kirilenko, and given his propensity to fall in love with his questionable jumpshot, I doubt he puts forth the sheer effort of MKG. Needless to say, I hope for a bounce back game for Crowder. Brand and Wright against Trevor Booker and Emeka Okafor should be key matchups. Though the Mavs stemmed the tide somewhat against the Timberwolves, Booker and Okafor are strong rebounders. Keeping them off the glass and limiting second chance buckets will be big.
The battle of the benches tilts towards Dallas. Kaman, Carter, Roddy, and Dahntay Jones all work well when pair with any members of the starting unit and despite the talent of players like Saraphin, Jan Vesely, and Martell Webster, I simply view the Dallas group as stronger over the course of a long game.
On Tuesday Darren Collison called this game a "must win". As the fellas over at Bullets Forever snarkily point out, this is not exactly a bold statement. Elton Brand said, "I don't think we were as good as it seemed earlier and we're not as bad as it seems right now." He's right, of course, but Dallas needs to find some sort of happy middle ground. After a three game win streak which saw the team shoot over 60% for two of the three games, shooting 39.2% for the next two is rather ridiculous. Some of that is bad luck, but a lot of it is bad offense and settling for long twos late in the shot clock.
As Darren Collison (and to a lesser extent, Roddy) goes, so does Dallas. Dirk's return might not happen for another three weeks, so the team needs to settle in for the long haul and to do that they need to establish a consistent offensive identity. Less Vince Carter isos, more drive and kick and drive and kick.
Against a team as battered and bruised as Washington, I want to see Dallas put together a complete game: decent shooting, competing on the boards, keeping turnovers to a minimum. Since last weeks win over Toronto (which was kept close because Dallas was surrendering points from everywhere), Dallas has lost in at least two of those three particular battles. Effort and focus will push Dallas back over .500 against the Wizards.