The Dallas Mavericks are 5-5 in their last 10 games, and 5-7 overall since their six game win streak was snapped in mid-November. Though several prominent West teams have faltered out of the gate, the tide may be turning and Dallas could really use a few extra wins before Christmas comes and the schedule gets tougher. Otherwise, they might be swept away.
Both the Pacers and Mavs stand at 14 wins, and both are (as of this writing) 5th in their respective conferences. There's another thread tying the two teams together, of course, that being a few ex-Mavs now in Pacer yellow. Monta Ellis' departure from Dallas and recruitment by Indiana are well-documented, but let us not forget that Ian Manhimi -- after patiently waiting for Roy Hibbert to play himself out of town -- has taken over the starting center job.
What do we need to know about the Pacers?
They shoot the three-ball extremely well. At 38.9 percent they are second in the NBA (if you watch basketball even occasionally you can probably guess who's number 1), and that could spoil trouble for a Dallas team that has some older guys running around out there, and as such has a very small margin for error when it comes to perimeter rotations. Though Ellis has shot the three poorly even by his own standards, he is flanked by George Hill, C.J. Miles and of course the completely unfair Paul George at power forward. If Otto Porter torched Dirk, I think I don't ever want to see him try to guard George. You may have to live with Dirk getting lit up by Dallas-native C.J. Miles instead, who is coming off a 5-5 from deep performance against Toronto on Monday, and put up 28 points in 28 minutes against Dallas last season.
Speaking of George, how the hell are they going to stop him?
They probably won't, but as I alluded to I'm guessing they will put Dirk on Miles, leaving Wes to contend with Paul George. This may be the game to start trying out Parsons as a small ball four a little bit again, as Parsons played a season high 28 minutes against Phoenix Monday, and had his best game in a month. Assuming Justin Anderson is in Indiana and not down in the D-League, you'd like to throw out your best athlete to match theirs.
Will Dallas have any advantage against Indiana?
Well, although the Pacers defense has been pretty solid over the course of the season so far, lately there have been some bumps on the road. Prior to Monday's matchup against Toronto, the Pacers had allowed 118 points or more in four of five games(!), and although they ended up beating the Raptors comfortably, they were down by 21 points at one stage. So, good offense can be successful against this team.
What will be the most important stat?
This will likely be said about every Dallas opponent this season, but limiting turnovers and not allowing the other team to get out in transition is key. The Pacers are among the league leaders in forcing turnovers, and anytime George and Monta are running something bad is going to happen. Expect the very proud Ellis to be ready for this game, no matter what his season percentages say.
How to watch
Fox Sports Southwest if you live in DFW or Indianapolis area, and League Pass if you don't. Tip off is scheduled for 7:00 Eastern Time, 6:00 CT.