Our Dallas Mavericks (27-33) start their second to last road trip of the season by heading to Detroit to face the lottery bound Pistons (24-30). It's odd to think that our once mighty Mavs are a mere three games ahead of the Pistons but here we are.
The Pistons are without star rookie big man Andre Drummond, who is out for the rest of the year dealing with back issues. The Mavs won the first match up way back on December 1st, 92-77. O.J. Mayo scored 27 and Elton Brand chipped in 17, while Brandon Knight put up 20 points in the loss.
The Mavericks are still technically in the playoff conversation, having not yet been mathematically eliminated, but they are still six games under .500 with only 21 games remaining. Ten of those 21 games are on the road, where Dallas has only won 10 out of 31 games.
However, they start this road trip against a struggling Pistons team, which has won only twice since the All-Star break. Though many of us are in disagreement about the route Dallas should take moving forward, we all agree the team is much better than it's record and should win against a less talented Detroit team.
My attention against the Pistons will be focused on the back court match ups. Assuming Carlisle sticks with what worked Wednesday, Mike James should begin on former Raptor Jose Calderon. Though not as spry as many of the Western conference guards the Mavericks have seen as of late, Calderon is an adept manager of the offense and could cause Dallas problems with his ability to see the floor. Neither he nor James has much defensive ability, though, so as long as James handles the ball well, he should have a fine game.
Brandon Knight has shifted from the primary ball handler to sharing the role with Caulderon. As a result, O.J. Mayo will probably see most of his time guarding Knight. Mayo is coming off his best performance of the year, an understated game where his impact was felt throughout the box score. Mayo should expect more of a challenge defensively against the Pistons though, as his man will be handling the ball more often. Another solid performance would go a long way towards assuaging my fears that Dallas will be forced into overpaying a player reaching his ceiling.
"Rookie" Kyle Singler will see a heavy dose of Shawn Marion. Singler is a multi-position player who is capable of hurting an opponent in a variety of ways. But with Shawn Marion playing all universe defense recently, I expect Singler to remain under wraps for most of the game. Offensively, I expect we'll see a running Marion, similar to his performance against the Rockets. His baskets in transition were huge in terms of keeping the Dallas offense humming.
The Pistons have a variety of power forward options to try out against Dirk Nowitzki, none of whom should be very effective. Carrolton Newman Smith product Jason Maxiell (this guy was terrifying in high school) has been getting the start as of late, but he's been relatively in effective. Swedish product (and personal favorite of Mr. Seriousface) Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva should also get a shot at keeping Dirk in check. Mr. Nowitzki may have problems keeping up laterally with any of these giys, but none pose a devastating threat to Dallas.
With Drummond out, that leaves talented big man Greg Monroe patrolling the paint. Though he's a bit tentative as a defender, he possesses the post skills to cause Dallas major problems. In the previous match up he scored 15 points yet only shot 4 of 17 from the floor, missing a ridiculous number of chippies in the paint. Don't expect that sort of performance again against a Dallas defense that is prone to defensive lapses. Despite his solid performance against the Rockets, I suspect Rick Carlisle may turn to other options to keep Monroe from getting comfortable early.
The battle of the benches is no contest, with Vince Carter, Elton Brand and Darren Collison trumping the talent of the struggling Rodney Stuckey or the plucky Will Bynum. I am interested in seeing former Missouri product Kim English, who was selected in the second round this last summer. Darren Collison should play with a little more awareness. His defensive effort Wednesday was quite terrible; every time he went into the game Houston went on a run. He might not like coming off the bench, but that's too bad. He needs to show he's worth committing to long term and his wildly inconsistent play this season has done nothing of the sort.
I expect Dallas should come out with a victory, but given their road woes this season, it will probably be closer than will be comfortable.
Join us tonight for the game thread!