The Dallas Mavericks have had a day to recover from the beating that they received from the defending Champs. Jason Terry was not suspended for his actions in the altercation with Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. So they will have all hands on deck as they move up the coast to take on the Golden State Warriors, a team the Mavs have defeated three times already this season. They could not ask for a better opponent or could they? The Mavs have owned the Warriors this season. They destroyed the Warriors by a score of 101-73 the last time they played.
But is it possible that the Mavs will overlook this weak, injured opponent (Monte Ellis is day-to-day with an ankle injury)? Could it be that they will still have the Laker game on the minds, kicking themselves for such a lackluster performance? Might they succomb to the temptation to overlook the Warriors as they prepare to go up to Portland Sunday night, a possible first round matchup? This is a classic trap game for Dallas.
This game will show the heart and toughness of this team. If the Mavs come in, grab this game by the scruff of the neck, and take it to an inferior opponent, it will show the persistence that coach Rick Carlisle has been preaching. But if the team struggles, continuing to miss a lot of shots, turning the ball over frequently, and play sloppy basketball, the Mavericks will demonstrate the “softness” that their coach used to describe them earlier this season.
Here are five things to watch for tonight:
1. How does the team start the game?
They need to get off to a good start, demonstrating that the Laker game is in their rearview mirror and they have moved on. Lets see the oft mentioned persistence right away. Play crisp, play smart, and execute well.
2. How many minutes will Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki play?
The Mavericks are more or less locked into the third seed now. They have nothing to really play for as far as the postseason goes. Granted, you play hard and play to win everytime you put on sneakers. But you also need to have a grasp of the big picture. The goal is to win the championship. Every decision made has to have that goal in mind. Is it going to help the Mavericks win a championship if Kidd and Dirk are well-rested going into the playoffs?
Obviously the answer is yes. Plus the Mavericks have yet another set of back-to-back road games. I would rather see Kidd get more minutes against Portland, a chance to send a message to a possible playoff opponent, then waste his energy in a meaningless game. The same is true for Nowitzki whose knees could most assuredly use the rest.
3. How well do Jason Terry and Shawn Marion play?
Terry had a forgettable and emotional performance on Thursday. He needs to get back on track, put up some good numbers, and demonstrate that he can be counted on to put up some numbers. The same is true for Shawn Marion. These guys are going to have to play big and step up their games in the playoffs. Why not start dialing it up against a weaker opponent?
4. Can Roddy Beaubois stay out of foul trouble and put up some points?
You get the feeling that Carlisle does not really trust Beaubois. Beaubois, who has young legs, needs time and the opportunity to win Carlisle’s trust. Why not give him that opportunity tonight when no real harm can be done? Let him gain some valuable experience and confidence that will pay dividends in the postseason and years down the road.
5. Can J.J. Barea show that he has what it takes to run the show?
I am assuming that Kidd is going to spend some quality time on the bench. Barea has been hot recently and went for 22 against the Clippers Wednesday night. Lets see what he can do with some extended playing time. How does the team respond to his leadership? Is he able to get guys the ball in good position?
I hope that Rick Carlisle is correct. I hope this team has persistence. I hope they show that they have some grit. I hope that they play with some energy and urgency. I also hope that Carlisle is thinking and planning for the playoffs and is going to get key players some rest tonight. And I really hope that the Mavericks are embarrassed about their performance on Thursday and are looking to take out their anger on the Warriors.