The Mavericks have won both prior contests this season, first in blow out fashion in December and again in an overtime victory in January, which saw Dallas come back and win after getting behind by nearly 20 points.
The Kings are mainly young. They have a great deal of talent, but the talent doesn't fit very well together. But they are a dangerous team, one the Mavericks cannot take lightly.
The success of the Kings tends to start and finish with the focus and effort of Demarcus Cousins. He's lit Dallas on fire both games this season, averaging 27 points and nearly eight rebounds. Of course, both of those games he was guarded by Chris Kaman for stretches and Kaman does not have any of the prerequisites needed to contain a force of nature like Cousins. Expect doses of a variety of Mavericks on Cousins, including Bernard James, Elton Brand, and, heck who knows, maybe even Brandan Wright. Keeping him in check (or keeping him frustrated) will go a long way towards a Dallas victory.
The next concern is combo guard Tyreke Evans. Though he didn't play the first game due to injury, he came off the bench in the December game to score 20 points on just 11 shots. I expect Dallas will also try a variety of defenders on him, starting with Shawn Marion and O.J. Mayo. Evans is not much of a distance shooter, but possesses excellent driving capabilities and is quite strong.
The Kings boast a bevy of other offensive options, with second year guard Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thorton, and Fransisco Garcias all capable of putting up points in a hurry if given the chance. The Dallas defense will have to be focused from the opening tip.
Offensively, I'd like to see Dallas get back to basics. Which means Dirk, as Josh argued earlier in the week. I really love O.J. Mayo when his shot is falling, but the fact is on Monday he got some excellent bounces to poor shots in the first quarter and it boosted his confidence throughout the game, which was unfortunate, since he shot 3-11 in the second half. Mayo needs to learn to play off Dirk and not the other way around. Marion will also get his groove back; rare is the sequence when Marion has back to back poor outings for Dallas.
Simply put, Dallas can't afford to lose this game. Then again, I've thought that about every game since the Heat loss in early January. Time is running out. Seven games under .500 with 30 games left in the season. That's a ton of ground to make up, and fast. Dallas has a terrible record against teams over .500 this season and has quite a few of those teams left on the schedule, so taking advantage of a disjointed, though talented, Kings team is key.