Friday afternoon I wrote a Mavs-Lakers preview that ended with this:
"With these Mavs I never know what to expect. Each game is a roller coaster. Making good decisions with the basketball and protecting the glass like they did Wednesday against a very good Knicks team can lead to success. Two early season victories against the Lakers seems like a lot to hope for, but we've seen how well the Mavs can execute when they focus. Let's hope they come ready to play."
As per the usual with this Jekyll and Hyde team, asking for effort was simply too much to hope for. I was and remain disgusted with that loss. But with the NBA there's always another game to play, so it's time to put my unhappiness on the backburner and look to Tuesday night's game against the 76ers (8-6).
The Sixers had an action packed off-season. With the fifteenth pick of the 2012 draft, they selected Maurice Harkness. They resigned Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes. Free agents Nick Young and Kwame Brown agreed to terms with the Sixers. In August they were one part of a four team trade that saw long time Sixer Andre Iguodala head to Denver, recent pick Harkness head to Orlando, and brought back All Star center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers and Jason Richardson from the Magic. The decision was also made to amnesty current Maverick Elton Brand.
As we all know, Bynum has not seen a minute of time this year due to his never ending knee injury (I am terrified Dallas will make him a big free agent offer, by the way), and the Sixers have had an up and down season with some good wins and maddening losses. They bring back recently resigned point guard Jrue Holiday, promoted swing man and former lotto pick Evan Turner, and multi-talented forward Thaddeus Young.
The back court match ups concern me. Collison has proven he's unable to get over a screen on defense and is unable to initiate the offense when pressured. As a result, Jrue Holiday might just be his worst nightmare. Holiday is one of the best on ball defenders in the league and is coming off a 33 point, 13 assist game. Richardson could wreak havoc on Dallas if Mayo approaches this assignment with the same lackadaisical effort he gave Saturday when he was matched up on Artest. Luckily, Richardson doesn't have the foot speed to keep up with Mayo, so unless Dallas opts to put Mayo in more pick and roll situations (seriously, watch for Mayo to make a poor decision out of a PnR... its happening a lot lately) he should be able to put up points. Also, its been reported that Mayo is dealing with a tender ankle; come game time I expect this to be a non-issue.
The front court match ups are more promising. Marion will probably be on the Swiss army knife that is Evan Turner, though Marion has befuddled greater swing men in his time. Brand should get the start again, if only by default, and should be tasked with keeping a lid on Young. Any offense Brand contributes is a bonus at this point, as it seems expecting him to hit the same shot he hit last year at a 45% clip is asking far too much. Brick, er, Chris Kaman will be matched up with second year power forward LaVoy Allen. Let's hope he's able to make a post move instead of settling for jumpers from the Liberty Bell. Of course, Carlisle could opt to play Wright at center but I doubt that happens. As for all of you clamoring for more Wright... he got one rebound in 13 minutes against LA and wildly tried to block shots and repeatedly found himself out of position. I don't care how many silly shots he hits from 18 feet. He needs to rebound.
The bench battle should favor Dallas, but that would mean never playing Troy Murphy, which, again seems like it would be asking far too much. Vince Carter and Jae Crowder each deserve some praise, as each has responded to the call from the bench with solid play lately. Dallas will need that tonight as well. Hopefully Bernard James will see his role increased as he actually makes a play for rebounds and doesn't play matador defense.
It's incredibly important Dallas come away with a win tonight and as many as possible in the first half of December. The schedule gets brutal the last 10 days of the month with games against Miami, the Spurs twice, the Thunder, the Nuggets and the Grizzlies. With the timetable for Dirk's return to game action not coming for at least 3 more weeks, Dallas has to try to hold their ground. Beating the 76ers is a good way to start.