The Dallas Mavericks are in Oklahoma City tonight to take on the Thunder. The Thunder are coming off of a loss and the Mavs endured a recent four game losing streak, so both teams teams are looking to find their latter season focus. Furthermore, the Mavs are going to remain a long-term hurdle for the Thunder to overcome in order to win the title, so it adds up to a little more zest for tonight's showdown. In the past, in order to gear up for a Mavs game we've had some great Q&A discussion with Lisa Rotter at Mavs Moneyball, and today we're able to join forces with another Dallas writer, Jonathan Tjarks, who is the SB Nation-Dallas Newsdesk Editor.
Jonathan asked us a number of great questions, and you can find our answers here:
Five Questions With Welcome to Loud City
Check out Jonathan's answers to our questions below.
1) What is your perspective on how the Mavericks' post-championship honeymoon has gone?
If you ever wondered whether defense is still underrated in the NBA, look at how people are viewing the loss of Tyson Chandler. He was as important to the Mavericks defensively as Dirk is offensively yet if Dallas didn't have Dirk this season no one would expect them to contend for anything. Dallas choose to pass up a chance at a title defense to make a run at Deron Williams and Dwight Howard in 2012. For now, Mavs fans will have to hope the gamble pays off.
2) Dallas is currently in the 6th seed spot, but six out of eight teams after OKC and San Antonio are within two games of each other. How do you think the seeding is going to unfold the rest of the season?
The big key for the Mavericks is staying healthy, especially given the number of 30+ vets on this team. If Lamar Odom doesn't have any more shore leaves, Dallas should be able to hold the fort until Delonte West, one of the most underrated signings of the off-season, returns in April. The Mavs should be among the six or so teams fighting for position behind the Thunder, and I get the feeling health will end up being the differentiating factor over the next two months.
3) Do you think the Mavericks are going to be able to stay healthy enough to be fully armed when the playoffs roll around? What is their biggest concern on that front?
Ha. I actually answered the last question before seeing this one. Given the age of the this team -- Dirk (33), Terry (34), Marion (33), Carter (35), Odom (32), Kidd (38) and Haywood (32) -- it's a huge concern. Nor have the younger players been able to stay healthy -- West is out another month after fracturing his finger while Brandan Wright, whose been surprisingly effective at the back-up 5, is out indefinitely with a concussion.
4) Even if the team is healthy what is the biggest obstacle that is going to keep the Mavs from reaching the Finals again?
The biggest obstacle is lacking Chandler. He's all of Dallas' three centers in one package: Haywood's ability to defend the low post, Mahinmi's athleticism and shot-blocking and Wright's ability to finish offensively and knock down free-throws.
The Portland and OKC series last year are a good example of what he brought to the Mavs: with Dallas forcing both teams to go small offensively, it left only one big on Dirk and Gerald Wallace/Durant on Chandler, and he was able to destroy them on the offensive glass. I'm sure everyone remembers Brandon Roy's Game 4 last year: what people forget is that everyone was writing off Dallas after that performance and in Game 5 Chandler had 13 offensive rebounds.
That being said, if the Mavericks have everyone healthy they're going to be an extremely tough out for anyone else in the West. I don't think they'll make it back to the Finals but if they can avoid Denver, who presents a lot of match-up problems athletically, they could conceivably win 1-2 rounds.
5) Jason Terry commented a while back that he saw OKC as Dallas' 'little brother.' What advantages do you think 'big brother' still has over 'little brother?'
I'd say two main things: late-game execution and floor spacing. Everything in Dallas is built around Dirk offensively, at the end of games, the other Mavericks spot up around the three-point line while Dirk posts up at the top of the key and they have the veteran shooters to make teams pay for doubling Dirk. In contrast, I thought the hidden storyline of the WCF last year was the Mavericks ability to crowd Durant with impunity because OKC was playing four non-shooters (Westbrook, Sefolosha, Ibaka and Perkins) around him.
It seems like OKC has gone a lot smaller this season with Ibaka, whose jumper has definitely improved, at the 5 and Durant at the 4. I'm curious to see whether that front-line can hold up on the defensive glass over a seven-game series.