The Dallas Mavericks started the season off with three-straight losses. Now the champs have won seven of their last nine, including four straight. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings are reeling from a loss last night in Houston. Tonight, they try to do something they haven’t done in Big D since February 27, 2003.
Kings Probable Starters (4-8)
|Tyreke Evans||Jimmer Fredette||John Salmons||J.J. Hickson||DeMarcus Cousins|
Marcus Thornton is expected to sit out tonight’s game and give it a go on Monday against the Timberwolves. Jimmer Fredette will likely get the nod for a fourth-straight contest alongside Tyreke Evans in the starting backcourt. But if Jimmer struggles, don’t be surprised if Isaiah Thomas gets big minutes once again.
Mavericks Probable Starters (7-5)
|Jason Kidd||Delonte West
||Shawn Marion||Dirk Nowitzki||Brendan Haywood|
Suffering from back spasms, Jason Kidd has missed the last week of action for the Mavericks. But the hall-of-famer-to-be is expected to play, using tonight as a tune-up perhaps for Monday’s contest against the Los Angeles Lakers. Delonte West and Vince Carter have both filled in admirably in Kidd’s absence. Dirk Nowitzki made history last night, becoming the 23rd player in NBA history to score 23,000 points.
You may be familiar with ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 roundtables, which feature opinion and analysis from ESPN writers and TrueHoop Network contributors on pressing NBA topics. Along with other THN blogs, Cowbell Kingdom has brought that format to the local level in the form of our own 3-on-3 roundtable.
1. Match-up to watch?
Jeff Caplan: I’ll go with DeMarcus Cousins against Mavs center Brendan Haywood. Cousins posted four consecutive double-doubles before putting up a clunker against Houston Friday night. He logged only 18 minutes and should be ready to get things going against the slower Haywood, who has been pretty steady for the Mavs in the wake of Tyson Chandler’s departure.
Rob Mahoney: I’m interested to see how Rick Carlisle works the Mavs’ coverage on Evans, who – as Cowbell Kingdom readers likely need not be reminded – has been pretty fantastic of late. Kidd’s size and savvy make him the best theoretical choice for on-ball defensive duty on Evans, but Saturday (if Kidd plays at all) would be Kidd’s first game in 10 days. That’s not exactly ideal for an assignment as physical and aggressive as Evans. West, Carter, and Beaubois each have their defensive strengths, but none presents a cohesive answer on D. Carlisle and the Mavs’ defenders will certainly have their work cut out for them.
Jonathan Santiago: Isaiah Thomas vs. Jason Terry. It’s the Jet vs. the protege, with both men playing extremely well of late. Terry has been a critical factor off-the-bench for the Mavericks with his scoring and defensive play (check his defense vs.Ray Allen and Boston Thursday night). Thomas, meanwhile, has played well for the Kings – a true point guard who’s provided a steady presence for Sacramento when on the floor.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Jeff Caplan: I’ll go with rebounding. When the Mavs are active on the glass, and in particular keeping possessions alive on the offensive boards, they significantly increase their chances of winning. When they’re not active, they’ve been dominated on the boards. Defensive rebounds are key to triggering their flow offense.
Rob Mahoney: Rebounding. The Kings are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league, and to be honest, they’re very reliant on that capacity for second-chance points thanks to their generally errant shooting from the field. Dallas, however, has been the best in the NBA this season in defensive rebounding percentage. DeMarcus Cousins (and to a lesser extent, J.J. Hickson and Jason Thompson) will need to flex his offensive rebounding muscle against the Mavs’ gang rebounding approach, and the winner of the battle of the boards will have a decided leg up on this game.
Jonathan Santiago: The Kings will need to break the 90-point mark. Dallas has recorded a 7-0 record this season when they hold teams to 90 points or less.
3. Which Seattle sixth man has the bigger game tonight: Isaiah Thomas or Jason Terry?
Jeff Caplan: Give me Jason Terry, He’s been pretty steady this season and he loves to shoot at home. Terry was very vocal before this home back-to-back started Friday that he wants this sweep. He’ll make sure Dallas gets it.
Rob Mahoney: I’m a big fan of Isaiah Thomas’ game (and his fit with Sacramento, for that matter), but JET is one of the engines that powers the Mavs’ offense, and the Kings don’t have all that many capable perimeter defenders. I’d expect Terry to get his in the pick-and-roll and as a spot-up shooter, and for Thomas to have a respectable — but decidedly lesser — game as a jolt of energy for Sacramento.
Jonathan Santiago: Terry will be the bigger x-factor this evening. As witnessed in their102-76 blowout of Milwaukee yesterday, Dallas is finally catching their stride on defense. Unlike Toronto and Houston, I think Thomas might have a tougher time dissecting Dallas’ D through his penetration and passing tonight.