The roller coaster Mavericks (6-5) play host to the Golden State Warriors (5-5) Monday night. The Warriors are playing the second game of a back to back, losing last night to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dallas hopes to win more than one game in a row and looks to take advantage of the tired legs of the Warriors.
Golden State had a strong off-season. Two first round draft picks for the Warriors resulted in UNC guard/forward Harrison Barnes at the seventh spot and Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli with the 30th pick. The Warriors also signed Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush, and Carl Landry to free agent deals. This is in addition to an already intriguing roster; Andrew Bogut was acquired at the trade deadline last season but was unable to play until this year. Stephen Curry (who recently resigned a 4 year extension) and David Lee return, as well as second year guard-forward Klay Thompson.
But like so many teams early this season the injury bug struck the Warriors hard; Bogut's ankle continues to give him problems and his timetable for return is vague at best. Brandon Rush also suffered a season ending ACL tear. Like Dallas, injuries to key rotation players have forced coach Marc Jackson to get creative with his rotations.
There are a number of potential matchup problems on the horizon for Dallas. Stephen Curry, while injury prone, is a fantastic point guard. His shooting numbers are down, but given the Mav propensity to allow guard penetration, he could be in for a huge game unless Collison is able to keep him under control. Klay Thompson and O.J. Mayo will be worth keeping an eye on; O.J. is playing better defense but his apses often come late in the shot clock. Against a dead-eye shooter like Thompson that cannot happen. Marion covering Barnes will be interesting as well. The knock on Barnes coming out of college was that he was too passive. Early returns this season are proving otherwise; he looks to be a great addition to the Warriors and Marion should have his hands full. If Brand continues to start he should have a challenge in keeping David Lee off the boards. The best part of this match-up is that its the first in sometime where Brand is not the smaller player. Ezeli has been solid in his limited minutes, but the Warriors seem to go small for larger stretches by bringing in Carl Landry off the bench. This cover could be rough for Kaman on defense but could prove a boon offensively if Kaman doesn't force his shot.
I'm very concerned about this game, and the next four following it. Dallas is lucky to be playing teams (New York, LA, Philly) coming off of other road games, but this could get ugly quickly. The Mavericks have to push the pace and try to get some of the Warriors in foul trouble. The Warriors bench is no where near as thin as the last three Dallas opponents, bringing in Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, and Draymond Green. Vince Carter, Troy Murphy, Sarge, Dahntay Jones and whoever Carlisle goes with at back up point are going to have their hands full.
Dallas cannot afford offensive lulls or rebounding lapses or this game could get out of hand. The Mavs must get their turnovers down from the Cleveland game as well; many of those were unforced or due to very poor decision making; 14 of the 20 turnovers came from the starters and is simply unacceptable. Kaman, Brand, and Marion must be very active on the defensive boards as well.
If it feels like I write the same thing every game for keys to Dallas winning, its because I do. Dallas escaped Saturday night in Cleveland. They shot 52% to Clevelands 37% and only won in the closing minutes. Turnovers and offensive boards killed Dallas all night. They have to do better or we're going to be on the wrong side of .500 Tuesday morning.
What do you want to see? Other than less Troy Murphy (hey! his shot looked great against Cleveland. Seriously.) Be sure to check out Golden State Of Mind too as well as my Q&A!