This has been a tough month. For all of us, fans, players, writers... anyone associated with the Dallas Mavericks (13-22) in any capacity has been frustrated by the way things have gone over the last 30 or so days as Dallas has managed a 3-12 record. I'd be willing to bet the last time any of us felt good, really good, about the Mavericks was the December 8th win over the Rockets, where O.J. Mayo out dueled James Harden.
So it's tough luck that as Dallas finds yet another low point in the season, they travel west to face the league's very best team in the Los Angeles Clippers (27-8). To be brief, it's going to take a ton of things going right for Dallas to get a win tonight. This is the second match up of the season, Dallas lost 112-90 back on December 5th.
With Dirk back, this is obviously a different team than the one last seen by the Clippers. However, the speed and athleticism of the Clippers will cause problems throughout the game, particularly if Rick Carlisle insists on playing the same un-athletic line ups we've seen the last two games.
There's also not a single individual match up that severely tilts in the favor of Dallas either. All-Universe/All-Dimension #PointGod Chris Paul leads the way for Los Angeles. Darren Collison has the speed and quickness to keep pace, but Paul is the best not because of his speed, but because of his mind. Any one tasked with guarding Paul is going to be in trouble. Willie Green is seeing extended minutes at shooting guard and one would think O.J. Mayo should be able to both stick with him on the defensive end and punish him on the offensive end, it's been weeks since Mayo has put together a complete game. Tonight would be a great night for him to do so, but I'm not going to expect it.
The small forward match up between Caron Butler and Shawn Marion is a bit of a wash. Marion should be able to take Butler out of his game offensively, but I believe Carlisle will have Marion matched up with a variety of Clippers as he's out best on ball defender. DeAndre Jordan's athletic ability and strength will cause problems for Kaman. He has trouble with more athletic defenders and his inability to rebound consistently will be punished by Jordan's effort on the offensive glass.
The power forward match up is going to be fascinating: the power of Blake Griffin versus the veteran guile of Dirk Nowitzki. If you've not followed Blake Griffin much and still think he's just a dunker, I implore you to read this here about his evolved post game. He's actually become a spectacular player and is still growing. Dirk should cause him plenty of trouble but it may be an instance of who gets into foul trouble first.
Going to the benches, things get dicey for Dallas. Though the Mavericks have a pretty good scoring bench, the Clippers have plenty of firepower themselves. Jamal Crawford may miss the game with a sore foot, which would benefit Dallas in a big way. Power guard Eric Bledsoe has been struggling as of late after a strong start to the season, and lack of speed of Dallas may be just the recipe for him to go off for a big game. Professional instigator Matt Barnes will also see time on the floor for the Clips. There's also a rumor that Grant Hill may finally see some action after dealing with a bone bruise all season. Brand, Carter, and whichever point guard Carlisle feels like playing are going to be in for a tough battle.
In order to win this game, Dallas is going to have to be at the best on the offensive end, limit extra possessions for the Clippers on the defensive end, and stay out of foul trouble. The Clippers are by no means invincible, but Dallas has shown an inability to close games lately. Part of this is due to bad luck, part of it is due to the wrong people playing at certain junctures. The Mavericks can win, but it's going to be an uphill climb.