Memphishad Hallloween come early with a nighmarish opening night against the Atlanta Hawks. Now they get to travel on the road to visit division rival Dallas in what is shaping up to be, if not a must win, a must look respectable game. People can forgive the team for looking shell-shocked after Z-Bo’s horrific fall and with Gasol already out with a sprained ankle but it is time for the young talent on the team to step up.
Dallas won in a laugher over Charlotte on the road to start the season. This is the Mavericks home opener so you can expect a rowdy crowd at the game. Dirk Nowitski (28 pts and 13 boards), Jason Kidd (18 assists) and Jason Terry (22 pts, 6 assists) led the Mavs who were surprisingly weak off the bench. Still with an experienced bench that includes Shawn Marion, Brendan Hayword, Jose Juan Berea and rookie Donique Jones it is just a matter of time until Dallas’ bench becomesa strength not a weakness.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsJason Terry
Jason Terry is in the starting lineup for now but when Rodrique Beaubois returns that should change. For now Terry is more of a shooting guard but his lightning quick first step makes Conley a far better defender against Terry than Mayo. Conley had an excellent first game scoring 21 pts, grabbing 5 boards and dishing out 10 dimes but it wasn’t enough to off-set the Hawks fine shooting.
Shooting Guards:O J MayovsJason Kidd
I know that JKidd is the point guard but his lack of foot speed and tall size makes it far more likely that Mayo will be guarding him and vice versa so I am matching them up that way. Kidd started the season looking like he wants to take the mantel as best passer in the game away from Steve Nash. His 18 assists might last all season as a high number. Mayo had a surprisingly quiet game against Atlanta but it’s hard to get a shot off over 6-7 Joe Johnson. Kidd is tall but not a great leaper so Mayo ought to be able to get easier shots in this game.
Small Forwards:Rudy GayvsCaron Butler
Caron Butler shot lights out in his last pre-season game but someone turned the lights back on in the first game as he shot poorly. Rudy Gay tried his best to take up the slack from Z-Bo and Gasol’s injuries but his 21 pt, 10 rebound game wasn’t enough. Gay did show enough to make on think that the summer spent with the national team is going to pay dividends this season and Gay’s defensive work was much improved over Gay’s former matador defense.
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsDirk Nowitzki
A lot depends here on Zach’s backside. Will it be healed enough to bump into the likes of Tyson Chandler, Brendan Hayward and of course Dirk or will it be too tender? Not as discussed but equally troubling is the ankle injury Z-Bo suffered as well. It appeared to be just a twist but those ankles are tricky creatures. If healthy Z-Bo has the type of game that could give Dirk fits but that is a big if. Dirk started the campaign in mid-season form and his range should give Z-Bo fits trying to defend far away from the comfort of the paint.
Centers:Hasheem Thabeetvs Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler struggled with injuries the last few seasons so severe that a trade to Oklahoma City was voided because of his health but the story out of Dallas is that Chandler is fully recovered. If he is then you have a very good rebounding big man who can run the floor and has range out to three feet from the basket. Unfortunately that is a much wider range than Thabeethaswho missed three point blank shots on opening night and went 0-4 in the game. What’s worse is that a 7-3 center playing againstan undersized team could only muster 3 rebounds in nearly 20 minutes.
This battleofbackups normally is a mismatch but with Dallas’ injuries and age it may not be such a mismatch as usual. Dallas has plenty of youth and experience on the bench. Maybe too much of each. Shawn Marion and Brendan Heywood have the experience but Marion especially is way past his prime. Without Rodrigue Beaubois who’s recovering from a broken foot, Dallas is hoping for a fast learning curve for rookie Dominique Jones. Memphis’ bench isn’t very good before you take out Darrell Arthur and Sam Young. But if Memphis gets Z-Bo and Gasol back soon the bench is much brighter.