I’m back from my New Year’s hiatus and coming into a long weekend I’ll be doing some catching up on the blog. However, before I start going all ambitious blog post on you, perhaps I should give you the breakdown of today’s matchup.
Phoenix doesn’t seem troubled by road trips so far. After all their first game was won on the road without much stress factoring in. Maybe it’s because we’re early in the season, or maybe it’s because this team doesn’t have much travel issues, but I think the Suns will do fine on the road, even despite this shortened season.
Now, somehow, the Suns have a better record than the defending champions. Granted, the Mavs had a few hard games on their schedule, and just didn’t seem to gel early one, but the 2 wins they managed to come up with make you wonder: Are they still a good team?
Of course, a lot of blame has to go to Lamar Odom who has been playing ridiculously bad basketball. Perhaps he was really a Trojan horse sent by the Lakers to kill the Mavs? Who the hell knows. Whatever the case, even if you’re not a stats geek, I doubt you’ll be able to convince me that a 1.90 PER after 5 games of the season isn’t the definition of “Why the hell are you still playing him?!” (Just as a matter of comparison, Josh Childress’ PER is 7.73).
Now, the Suns lost all of their games to the Mavs last season, mainly because of their amazingly improved defence handled by Tyson Chandler and Dwayne Casey’s schemes. Now, that both are gone, the Suns find themselves in a situation to capitalize on the Mavs absolutely horrid D. (Or, as I like to call it, “Return to Castle Nellystein”)
The Mavs are 28th in opponent eFG%. 28th. Just to give you an idea of how bad it is… The Wizards allow a lesser opponent eFG% than the Mavs. The friggin Wahington Wizards! Dallas is also 23rd in defensive efficiency (the Knicks are 16th) and the only thing they seem to do right is force turnovers (2nd in the league in Opponent Turnover Rate). It is probably that ability to force turnovers (hello there Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion) that ranks them 3rd in opponent assist ratio. Without Chandler protecting the rim, their opponents can easily win with simple ISOs. This might seem like trouble for the Phoenix offence, but given that the ball handling was surprisingly OK thus far, given the 12.23 turnover rate, which is good for 3rd in the league.
Essentially, bar a miraculous comeback to glory from Lamar Odom, the Mavs are going to be a mediocre team. Oh, and a fun factoid for you, according to a report by the Dallas Morning News, Marion missed the morning shootaround with an illness and will be a game-time decision. Who’s Marion’s backup? Well, it’s either Lamar Odom or perhaps will it be Vince Carter? Whatever the case, the Suns will have an advantage in depth tonight, especially with the stellar play of Markieff Morris and Hakim Warrick, and Steve Nash’s slow recuperation.
Anytime somebody plays the Mavs, one question always has to be asked: “Who will defend Dirk this time?” Will it be a small guy or a big guy? Will it be the centre, the power forward or the small forward? Yada yada yada. So, who’s drawn the shortest straw tonight.
Logically, it would probably be Grant Hill. Hill loves himself the challenge of defending the game’s best, and since Dirk isn’t exactly an athletic beast that Hill usually ends up matching up with, he should be able to make Dirk at least a bit uncomfortable. However, if Hill does not feel up to the task, the obvious answer to that would be Marcin Gortat. Gortat is a great post defender, quick on his feet, and certainly able to bother Dirk with his size and strength. Whatever the case, Channing Frye shouldn’t play a single minute guarding Dirk. That didn’t go well last year.
We all know how much Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki respect each other. They call each other major influences on their careers, they made each other All-stars, et cetera. However, when the lights go out and the starting lineups are introduced, their friendship turns into a friendly rivalry. And hell, they made some history with that one.
Let the good times roll:
The Phoenix-Dallas Connection
Are the Suns a farm team for the Mavs? 2 starting players for Dallas have been drafted by Phoenix (Kidd and Marion) while Vince Carter (as we all unfortunately remember) played in Phoenix last year. That’s 3 former Suns in Mavs uniforms. As for the Mavs? Steve Nash played for the Mavs, and Marcin Gortat got his current contract because of Dallas qualifying offer. The most perplexing thing here? None of these players changed their teams via a direct trade between Phoenix and Dallas. What a weird connection.
If you watched last years game in the Air Canada Center, a pissed off Vince Carter lead the Suns to a win against the Raptors. Granted, these were the Raptors, but there’s just something about Vince playing former teams. If Half-man half-burned out manages to find a motivation for a game, beware. How does $14 million dollars of lost money (the $4 million buyout exercised by Phoenix) sound? Like a lot? It is a lot. Watch out for Vince’s (attempt at) revenge tonight.
The Retirement of the Splint
As I was snooping around the Polish interwebs I found an interview with Gortat where he claims the splint that was bothering him might be taken off as soon as Friday. That’s a pretty good way to his first All-Star ballot appearance, along with Grant Hill and Steve Nash no less! Whatever the case, this might be the last game where we see Marcin play under 30 minutes. But hell, if he feels good enough even with the splint, he might play that either way.
Markieff the Beast?
I have a totally separate post coming up on this after tonight’s game, but Markieff Morris has been good. Very good. In fact, he has been insanely good for a rookie. Most experts list him as one of the top rookies this year. Is he the steal of the draft? We still have an entire season ahead of us, but it sure as hell seems so thus far.