The Sixers road trip continues tonight in Dallas against a Mavs team riding a two-game win streak. The Mavs beat Boston, on the road, then took a measure of revenge against Grizzlies who handed Dirk and Co. their first loss of the season. Can the Sixers turn in another good effort against a playoff team? Will that effort translate into a concrete win this time, rather than just a moral victory? Let's look at the matchups:
Dallas seems to be playing a different kind of game this season. They're a below-average offensive team (18th in offensive efficiency), but they've been great defensively (4th). If you look at their starting lineup, especially over the past couple games, it's no wonder why they're struggling on the offensive end, relatively speaking. DeShawn Stevenson has found another starting job in the NBA. Stevenson is splitting time at the two with Jason Terry. Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood are doing the same at the five. Brian Cardinal is sort of in their rotation. OK, I have no idea what the hell is going on in Dallas.
As a team, they take more long twos than shots at the rim. Their attempts outside of 15 feet and inside 15 feet are about even. Basically, they're a jump-shooting team with limited athleticism and pretty good size.
The biggest question I have is who will guard Nowitzki? I assume it's going to have to be Brand to start, but I'm wondering how long it will take for the Sixers to fall back into the 1-2-2 zone we've seen over the past couple games. If they wind up in that zone, we could see Nocioni, Iguodala and Turner on Dirk when he catches the ball around the elbow. He's going to be a tough cover for them, he can easily just turn and shoot over them. The good news is that Dirk hasn't really shot the three at all this year (1/6 on the season). If Dirk isn't extending all the way beyond the three-point line, it makes it at least a little easier to account for him. Iguodala has done a good job in the past when he's been matched up on Dirk, so look for that if Nowitzki is killing them early on.
Neither Chandler nor Haywood is a dominant offensive big, but they will both crash the boards, they can both block shots and they're both physical players on the inside. Hawes will probably get pushed around, and someone is going to have to work to get a body on them. Securing defensive rebounds is going to be a top priority.
On the offensive end, Brand has a favorable matchup against Dirk and Jrue should be able to do what he wants against Kidd and/or Barea. At some point, we're probably going to wind up seeing Jason Terry guarding either Jrue, Turner or Iguodala. The Sixers need to attack that matchup mercilessly.
Lou is probably going to miss this game, which means more minutes for Meeks and it's probably going to mean Evan Turner will return to his role as backup PG off the bench, which is unfortunate.
If the Sixers are going to win this game, they're probably going to have to ride Brand, use penetration for easy hoops and to get the Dallas bigs in foul trouble. On paper, this doesn't look like a very good matchup to me.
Prediction: Dallas 95, Sixers 87.
The tip is at 8:30 p.m., the game thread will be up at 7 p.m.