This isn’t going to be another friendly battle between Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, and it isn’t due to some bad blood between the two best international players of the last decade.
Dirk Nowitzki has been benched by Rick Carlisle, probably with extensive use of rational arguments, due to pains in his right knee and conditioning issues. Sounds a bit Grant Hillian to Suns fans, doesn’t it?
But, Dirk or no Dirk, the Mavs are an unpredictable — if less dangerous team. Lamar Odom, slumping or not is still always a danger to make some plays on offence, and playing first fiddle in the starting lineup along with Shawn Marion might just force him to do that. Then there are guys like Delonte West, who can just destroy a team out of a mixture of spite, swag, and a need for impress, and finally, there’s the Mavs reserve core that includes guys like Ian Mahinmi, and Jason Terry, who will be sure to provide a sudden spark whenever he joins his teammates on the floor.
Does this mean that he Suns don’t have a shot at the Mavs? No. Without Nowitzki, the primary defensive concern disappears. No impossible fallaways are going to break anyone’s heart today, and Nowitzki’s central role to the Mavs ball movement is almost always understated. The Mavs will be weaker, even if they are as deep as teams come.
The question is, can the Suns capitalize? They can do it if they do one thing:
ALL GORTAT EVERYTHING
This should actually be titled “All Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat Pick and Roll Everything” but you get my point. The Mavs are a terrific defensive team, but their two weakest spots seem to be post ups and pick and rolls. Granted, 7th in the league (according to MySynergySports.Com in pick and rolls isn’t bad, but it isn’t good enough for Marcin and Steve. Remember, Gortat got a 20-10 on the Mavs in his last game wearing his annoying splint. Now, he might just as well go out for thirty (or so my deluded Polish mind thinks). And with all that in mind, Dallas ranks 18th in defending post ups. It might be Dirk’s mediocre post defence speaking there, but it also might be Haywood’s and Mahinmi’s tendency to pick up personal fouls at ridiculous rates speaking (they both average 4+ fouls per 36 minutes, and both usually play around 20 per game. That 8 minute gap leaves weaker post defenders to come in, too.). Whatever the case, you got to give Marcin, who scored 24 points in Boston the other night a chance to dominate early on.
Another issue that the Suns bumped into last time out was rebounding. Fortunately, the Suns are much stronger on the rebounding side of things now that Markieff Morris is in the starting lineup. Channing Frye is not a bad at rebounding — he’s bad at box outs. Another factor is Marcin Gortat’s quest to grab every single rebound around him, coupled with a great motivation from Alvin Gentry. What is the motivation? “If you get 20 rips in a game, you can shoot some threes.” Fine coaching if you ask me.
And finally, one last thing. Please don’t tease Lamar Odom. In the first game, he went off on a good roll for the first time in the season just because Channing Frye absolutely disrespected his skills. Hopefully, that mistake can be avoided. Nothing is more motivating for a player like Odom than seeing a sub-par player dare you to shoot a three. It’s like a spitting in a man’s face. You don’t do it, unless you want to get hurt.