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3 steps to beating the Indiana Pacers

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The Mavericks open the season on the road against the new-look Pacers.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is finally here! Now, your nights will be filled with the rhythmic pounding of leather on the hardwood, the squeak of limited player edition hi-tops, and the swish of nylon. It’s a glorious time of year. Starting things off for your Dallas Mavericks, they’ll be on the road to face the Indiana Pacers. Before we get into what the Mavs must do to notch their first victory, let’s take a look at what the Pacers did during the summer.

Though they may have flown under the radar, especially with Kevin Durant changing zip codes, the Pacers made a number of solid acquisitions. The biggest move they made was to trade away George Hill to get Jeff Teague as part of a three-team deal. Indiana also inked big man Al Jefferson to a multi-year contract and signed Aaron Brooks.

Indiana also said goodbye to head coach Frank Vogel and promoted Nate McMillan to the big chair.

Okay, that should catch you up to speed. Now, let’s look at what the Mavs have to do to be successful.

Stopping Paul George

The Pacers have a lot of "tweeners" on their roster. That’s just what I’m going to call players who can play multiple positions around the perimeter and down low. Frankly, in today’s NBA, that’s a good thing. The most well known is obviously Paul George. He’s mostly played small forward during his career but has dabbled at the four as well. Stopping him, no matter what position he is playing (are there positions anymore? #deepthoughts), will be the Mavs’ number one priority.

So, how do you stop a perennial All-Star who averaged 23.1 points, seven rebounds, and 4.1 assists last season? With Harrison Barnes, naturally.

Look, Barnes has been much maligned for his play in last season’s Finals and during preseason. Some of that is warranted. Some of it isn’t. What we do know is that even if his shot isn’t falling, Barnes can play well on the defensive side of the ball. That’s what is going to be expected of him tonight. George will probably play 38 minutes in the game so expect Barnes to do the same, shadowing him on defense. Justin Anderson and Wesley Matthews might get a crack at him too but he will be Barnes’ assignment. That’s not an easy task to start the season.

Winning the backcourt battle

Aside from George, the Pacers can hurt you in other ways. The backcourt combination of Teague and our old friend (unless you are a member of the media) Monta Ellis pose an interesting duo. Both need the ball but Teague is more of a facilitator. Ellis, as we know, likes to create for himself and has done a decent job fitting in with the Pacers after being Dallas’ leading scorer several seasons ago. Last season, Ellis averaged 13.8 points for Indiana.

It will be interesting to see how the Mavs guard these two. Both can cause trouble for slower defenders with their speed. However, it’s likely to be defense by committee at first with Deron Williams and Matthews switching off until they figure out what works best. I don’t think that Williams is suited to guard Ellis all that well so he’ll likely spend more time defending Teague.

Get Dirk and Bogut involved

We’ve discussed defense up until this point. I think this team will be one of the better defensive units in the league once they find their groove. But let’s talk about what Dallas needs to do offensively in order to win.

First, they need Dirk Nowitzki to be Dirk Nowitzki. Not necessarily 2011 Dirk Nowitzki; 2015-16 Dirk will do just fine. He will always be the focal point of all opposing defenses as long as he is on the floor hitting one-legged fades, and that creates opportunities for his teammates.

One of those teammates is Andrew Bogut. During the preseason, head coach Rick Carlisle said that he wanted to see Bogut scoring down low and getting to the free throw line more. We didn’t see a whole lot of that in preseason. There were flashes, but Bogut mostly lingered at the top of the key, facilitating the offense as players rotated and made back cuts. It wasn’t the most fluid offense.

The Mavs need to get Bogut rolling to the rim in pick and roll situations while also swinging the ball from side to side to make up for the starting five’s lack of ability to create off the dribble.

Bogut and Nowitzki should be able to put up decent numbers against their counterparts: Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, Jefferson and whoever else the Pacers run out there. They just have to make the most of their matchup situations.

It won’t be easy but the Mavs have a chance to steal one on the road to start the season. If they do, it could go a long way in calming a fanbase that has been bombarded with skepticism since free agency began all the way back in July.