Man it feels like it's been forever since we've had a game, but tonight our Bears are back in action against the reigning champs. Now, I don't mean to be a dick or anything, but does anyone else sometimes forget that this Mavericks team actually won a championship less than a year ago? I mean, I know Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, and J.J. Barea are all gone, but outside of Chandler and maybe Bulter (who was injured for most the season, so he barely counts anyway), it's not like they lost some really great players or anything. Plus, they added Lamar Odom and...uh...Vince Carter. This team should be pretty damn respectable, instead they're just kind of decent and last night they even lost to the Nets.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies have somehow found a way to overachieve this season, which is pretty impressive considering how much they overachieved last season. Our best player and team leader goes down and we don't miss a beat. Over at the mothersite, Tom Ziller analyzed the Western team's remaining schedules. From the Grizzlies' perspective, things are looking good and we have a good chance of leapfrogging several teams (including the Mavericks). Tonight would be a great start towards that, especially considering that Dallas will be without the services of Lamar Odom.
Dallas (21-14) at Memphis (19-15)
8:00 P.M. ET at FedEx Forum
Keys to the game:
1. Revenge match?: After losing to the lowly Nets last night, one of the major storylines of tonight's game will be how the reigning champs respond. Will they come out strong looking to prove a point to their doubters, or will they show complete disinterest and treat it like any other game? Personally, I have no idea. This team is difficult to get a read on. They don't seem to possess the intensity of other veteran teams like the Celtics and the Lakers, but instead they seem to share more similarities to their rivals the Spurs.
2.More Offense: When it comes to superstars, I've always had a belief that they simply cannot be stopped, so teams shouldn't even bother. Instead, teams ought to a) focus on shutting down their teammates and/or b) hope that someone, or a platoon of players, can step up and match the superstar's production. Look, Dirk is one of my favorite players in the NBA, and by now we all know that the man is so good that he can score at will on anyone. Here's the thing: if someone like Rudy or Marc matches Dirk's production tonight that basically creates wash, and I feel comfortable with our 2-8 guys against their 2-8 guys.
3. OJ Mayo: Tonight I think the most interesting (and most important) match-up will be played out by the sixth men. After last year's playoff run, I thought OJ could become a Jason Terry-type 6th man, and so far this season, he's proving me right (though, it's worth noting that his numbers, especially his efficiency, are not nearly as good as Terry's). Not only that, but it seems as if he's often the barometer for the entire team; when he plays well, we win.
If you're available, be sure to drop by later and join in on the game thread. Also, for all things Mavericks, visit our comrades over at Mavs Moneyball.