I'm hoping this will become a regular segment here, but let's start with getting it off the ground. Hopefully it will be a nice way for us to think and talk about what's about to happen. Let's do it:
Games this week: @Toronto, Wed, Jan 22, @Brooklyn, Fri, Jan 24, Detroit, Sun, Jan 26
Prognosis for this week: Favorable!
General thoughts: The Mavs will be somewhat handicapped this week, because no sleep till Brooklyn. It's cool though, Dirk has a new baby, he's used to insomnia, eh? EH?
I'm just kidding, he totally pays people to deal with that.
Anyhow, here are three teams with a combined winning percentage of 45% and what's more, they're doing it against the East, which through my complicated "how much does the East blow" formula gives them a West winning percentage of 33%. I'm just kidding, there's no formula, these teams are winning 33% of their games against the West. True, that's not really fair since one might say that Detroit's 2-13 record against the West is really "Mike Jamesing" this party. But who's interested in being fair?
Toronto: I have kind of a running bet going with Jonathan Tjarks about whose model is a better predictor for the Mavs' season. He figures that without any semblance of defense or rebounding, it's hard to imagine the Mavs beating anybody. I figure that the Mavs are probably about as good as their record and have been pretty astoundingly consistent in beating teams that are worse than they are, losing to teams who are better. Then they just about split with the ones they're on par with. This month, for example, they beat Washington, LA, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix and Cleveland and lost to Portland, San Antonio, LAC and NYK. The Knicks are really the only surprising thing on there, and that can be attributed to the curse of Tyson Chandler which, I understand, is a four letter word.
The thing is, it's hard to know where to place Toronto on that scale. For a while, the Raps were riding hard on what Bill Simmons calls the "Ewing Theory". Having shipped Rudy Gay to a farm where shooting dumb jumpshots while talented teammates hang out is accepted and loved, they went on an immediate 13-5 run which could have been way better except that in that span they faced, and lost to, the Spurs (twice), the Heat, the Pacers and the mighty Bobcats, sure losses for most teams.
Now, however, they've fallen on hard times again. and are 1-3 over their last...wouldn't it be surprising if I said a number other than 4? Okay, focus, I can do this...losing to the mighty Celtics (Jared Sullinger 25-20), the mightier T-Wolves, and the Mightiest Swagatron 3000, Swaggy P and his Swagalicious Swagstars.
My guess is that this is more like the Raptors than the other thing. They have a lot of talent, but it's not front level talent. They only have two guys averaging more than 11 per game (DeRozan and Lowry). Jonas V has certainly taken a step forward but he's not exactly Dwight Howard. He hasn't scored more than 5 points since Jan 13th.
I think this is the most likely loss for the Mavericks, but it's a team they're better than.
The Brooklyn Nets are, unfortunately for the Maverinos, surging. They're 7-3 over their last 46, and they've beaten some pretty good teams, including Miami, GSW and OKC. Kevin Garnett, having feasted on the blood of the living, is back to a respectable 11 and 6 over the last 5. Paul Pierce has been hot. Shaun Livingstone, like Andray Blatche last year, has been weirdly good, including a 19-11 night against the Heat. Joe Johnson is averaging TWENTY FIVE POINTS in the last 5 games, which is crazy because Joe Johnson actually died in 2008.
So the point is an uber talented team has actually been showing it lately and that could be bad news for the Mavericks. The good news for them is that Deron Williams, Big Fish #1, is currently hobbled. He's back, he played 27 minutes on Monday, but he's still obviously in pain and apparently considering coming off the bench for a bit. He's only played in 21 games this season.
It is my sense that the Mavs match-up well with this team. What the Nets do well, which is veteran savvy and making the most of aging talents, the Mavs do just as well. What the Nets don't do well is...well anything, really. 21st in points scored, 28th in boards, 19th in assists, 14th in points allowed. They have indeed been playing well lately, but breaking into the top half of the league in just one of those categories is worthy only of the most sarcastic participation medal.
It's a winnable game, but the Mavs might be hitting Brookyln at the wrong time.
Because Detroit is awful and getting worse (3-7 over the last 19, rumors of everyone getting fired), this is more or less a guaranteed 72-70 game in which the Mavs play down to the level of their opponent the entire game and then desperately try to avoid the L. Beautiful poetry as always. The one thing to look out for here is that, especially with Dalembert potentially still out, Andre Drummond might have the greatest game an NBA player has ever had in the history of the league. It's a small possibility, but with 'Dre averaging a double double and the Mavs trying to role with their DeJuan Blair and Brandan Wright frontcourt, it very much exists.
Prediction: 2-1. Mavs lose to either Toronto or Brooklyn.