The Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors both like to play a fast-paced game, but really couldn't be more different teams, especially this season. That said, it's going to be interesting to see how things play out when the two teams face off tonight at Oracle Arena.
Golden State has surprised everyone this season. Second-year head coach Mark Jackson has finally found that happy balance of a hot-scoring offense and a solid interior defense, and the Warriors rank fifth in the competitive Western Conference as a result.
Dallas, however, has not been so lucky. Just two years after winning an NBA championship, the team has stumbled into a rebuilding phase. Besides Dirk Nowitzki and O.J. Mayo, the team has no reliable go-to guys who can produce consistently and be a dominant force in their department.
Seeing as how the Mavericks will be out to avenge a November 19 overtime loss to the Warriors, this game becomes a lot tougher for them. Golden State likes to score, and Dallas ranks second-to-last in points allowed.
Throw in that the Warriors already have the home-court advantage, and this game becomes much tougher.
Time: Thursday, January 31, 10:30 p.m. EST
Records: Dallas Mavericks (19-16) vs. Golden State Warriors (28-17)
Betting Line: Not available as of Thursday, January 31, 8:37 a.m. EST
Injuries: Brandon Rush (knee, out), Stephen Curry (ankle, day-to-day), Harrison Barnes (calf, day-to-day), Carl Landry (shoulder, day-to-day), Andrew Bogut (day-to-day), Chris Kaman (concussion, out)
Key Storyline: Mavericks Seek Victory Against Banged Up Warriors
One key difference between the Warriors of this game and those that faced Dallas on November 19 is that for Round 2, there's no telling who will be available for Golden State. So many players are suffering from nagging injuries, and that could actually work to Dallas' advantage.
In fact, it's amazing that overtime was forced at all in November. The Warriors were fully stocked and won 105-101 on the back of 31 points and nine assists from Stephen Curry, plus 17 points and an incredible 19 rebounds from David Lee. On Dallas' end, O.J. Mayo led with 27 points while Chris Kaman chipped in 18 points and 17 rebounds.
But the scene is different now. Curry may not even play tonight, the Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup, and Chris Kaman's injury will leave Dallas without solid size in the middle. Nothing against Elton Brand, but he is slow on his feet and not the same player who was once able to keep up with elite big men.
As a result, this game is definitely going to be close once again. A team that has underachieved all season long will face one that may be put together with Scotch tape, and the numbers could be irrelevant.
That still doesn't take away from the fact that the Warriors have played extremely well at home, going 14-6 at Oracle Arena. Dallas, on the other hand, has struggled to a 7-17 record on the road.
With a close battle set to take place, it's going to be interesting to see which team is the last one standing.
Key Matchup: David Lee vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki missed the first couple months of the season recovering from knee surgery, and his age has really shown since his return. At age 34, he is no longer the same scoring and rebounding threat he was in the prime of his career.
Going into this game, he has posted just 14.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, shooting just 42.5 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range. Those are well below his career marks of 22.7 points and 8.2 rebounds and his career percentages of 47 and 38.
To Nowitzki's credit, he has done a good job of mixing up his shot selection this season. He has been utilizing his jump shot while also driving the lane, but he must do more of the latter tonight.
That is because he will be matched up with rebounding machine David Lee, who has played a key role in the Warriors' solid defense this season. The former Florida Gator is averaging 19.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game and has also made 52 percent of his shots from the field.
Lee is normally a stretch 4. He is a great rebounder with a fine interior game on both sides of the floor, but also has a solid jump shot that he likes to use. This season, since Andrew Bogut has been injured most of the time, he has not been able to use the jumper as often.
This has turned Lee into an absolute beast in the paint. Against Nowitzki, this is going to give him the upper hand. He is only 6'9", 240 pounds, while Nowitzki is 7'0", 245 pounds, but is younger at age 29.
He will be able to move faster than his more experienced opponent, which should give the Warriors the rebounding edge.
Long story short, the only way for Nowitzki to win this battle is to rely more on his inside game than his jumper. This means standing under the basket and taking a few lumps, no matter how much it may suck. The fact is that Dallas is in a great position to win this game, and it starts with Nowitzki being a beast on the boards.
X-Factor: Jarrett Jack
Whether or not Stephen Curry is able to play or not, the Warriors really need Jack to have a good game. He has been a solid backup for the team all season long, posting 12.8 points and 5.8 assists per game.
Jack has also been great from three-point range, hitting 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
However, his numbers over his last five games have been off the charts. Through that stretch, Jack has posted 14.6 points and 7.8 assists while shooting an astounding 57 percent from the field.
Golden State needs him to perform like that tonight, whether or not Curry is able to suit up. Jack is making a strong case for Sixth Man of the Year, and his playmaking and three-point shooting abilities make him a unique player. How many other players in an identical role have the same skillsets?
Granted, Jack's best scoring work is via his jump shot, but he must venture out of his comfort zone and drive the lane more often tonight. The Mavericks will be lacking in the size department, and the 6'3" Jack needs to use his inside game to get to the basket and draw fouls rather than use the jumper as his primary weapon.
So long as he can execute his goal on the inside, Golden State will have a shot at defeating Dallas once again.
As I mentioned earlier, this game is going to be close due to the Warriors being banged up and probably without some of their key players tonight. In spite of that, Golden State is going to defeat Dallas yet again.
Andrew Bogut will suit up and have another excellent game in the paint, throwing down dunks and swatting away shots as though he was never injured. David Lee will have a double-double, fully exposing Dirk Nowitzki's age and decline.
Who will win?
At the point, Jarrett Jack will have another phenomenal game. From driving the lane to dishing off pretty passes to sinking key threes, he will prove that the Warriors' offense does not need Stephen Curry to be a force.
On Dallas' end, O.J. Mayo will just try to shoot the Mavericks towards victory. Unfortunately, that will only be able to help so much. Defense is going to be the key to winning this game, and the Warriors are just going to bring more of it.
Dallas will put up a good fight, but their lack of help outside of Nowitzki and Mayo will ultimately send them to another road loss.
Golden State Warriors 100, Dallas Mavericks 95