The Washington Wizards continue the road trip in Dallas tonight for a matchup against the Mavericks. These two teams are most recently connected by the seven-player deal they completed on February 13, 2010. Washington sent supposed cornerstone pieces Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson (and cash, don’t forget the cash) to the Mavericks in exchange for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross. The crew from Washington helped Dallas win an NBA championship; the crew from Dallas helped Washington accomplish nothing but a chance to clean up after mistakes. Haywood is the only player from the trade remaining on either team. What maneuvering. Moving on, for tonight’s 3-on-3 we have Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh) from the ESPN TrueHoop Network Mavs blog The Two Man Game (amongst other blogs), Beckley Mason (@BeckleyMason) of HoopSpeak.com/ESPN, and TAI’s Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Although questionable in general, Brendan Haywood is evidently not physically questionable against the Wizards tonight and is set to return to the court for the first time in five games, essentially (he sprained his ankle in the opening minute of Dallas’ loss to Oklahoma City on March 5th and missed the next four games). This will be the third meeting between the two former practice sparing partners, former Wizards teammates Haywood and JaVale McGee, and the numbers for each player over the previous two look pretty paltry. Who prevails in the matchup tonight and what does it mean for their respective teams?
IAN LEVY: I think Haywood gets the better of McGee, and it means a ton for the Mavericks. The Mavericks have capable depth in the front-court but when Haywood is out, everyone has to move up a chair into a role that asks a little more of them then they are capable. Getting Brandan Wright back will help settle the rotation as well.
BECKLEY MASON: McGee prevails with his activity and earnest effort. If McGee can control the glass, it might make up for what I predict will be a decided shooting advantage in the Mavs favor. The Wizards need to get more possessions, and while Dallas won’t test McGee at the rim too often on drives, he’ll need to be active and communicative on the perimeter. What I’m saying is: McGee will likely outplay Haywood, but he has to do more than that to swing the game.
KYLE WEIDIE: As long as Haywood doesn’t attempt to dribble a la Stanley from The Office, his team will likely get the best of JaVale’s team, and it will be because of Haywood. Why? Well, despite not being the biggest fan of Haywood’s robotic moves while he was in D.C., I did admire his ability to communicate with teammates as a defensive anchor in the paint. JaVale, on the other hand, is having none of that; I recall seeing him communicate on defense two, maybe three times in my life. Epic Vale will get a couple highlight dunks versus the old Mavs, but his team won’t make winning basketball plays.
#2) The Mavs are at home with two days’ rest after losing three straight to the Kings, Suns and Warriors on the road in a Thursday/Friday/Saturday triple-header last week. The Wizards are the Wizards, having lost their first game of this current road trip by 15 last night in San Antonio (the spread was Spurs by 14.5). Dallas is currently favored by 12.5 points tonight… Is Washington just what the Mavs need to get back into the win column? Or are their problems deeper than a win over a lottery contender?
LEVY: Both. The Mavericks desperately need a game at home against an over-matched opponent. But problems are also rising to the surface. Last season, execution was the spackle that covered up all their dents and dings. This season they just haven’t been able to get everything going in the same direction at the same time.
MASON: I honestly think it’s impossible to say whether Dallas’s problems are much more than midyear doldrums, but I’ll say this: at no point have they displayed the sustained dominance that they did at the beginning of last year. But ya, they are favored over Washington for a reason.
WEIDIE: A win will be nice for Dallas, but the problems are deeper (and older). Dallas has eight players on their roster with a combined 100 seasons of NBA experience (Jason Kidd – 17, Vince Carter – 13, Dirk Nowitzki – 13, Shawn Marion – 12, Lamar Odom – 12, Jason Terry – 12, Brian Cardinal – 11, and Brendan Haywood – 10). But by most measurable facets, the Mavs an average team (they are only three games over 0.500, after all). They defend decently and have shooting percentages that are understandably struggling in this post-lockout season, but the biggest hindrance is not having another reliable big man, especially since Haywood’s offense is so horrendous — B-Wood is shooting 47.4-percent from the free-throw line this season, worse, believe it or not, than McGee’s 48.6-percent.
#3) In order for Washington to pull off the upset, they need to make sure they do [___ BLANK ___] and hope that [___ BLANK ___] happens. What goes down? (Give your final score prediction.)
LEVY: They Wizards will need to be uncharacteristically composed and efficient. They’ll have to hope the Mavericks continue to play chaotic and fractured offensive basketball. My apologies to the Wizards fans, but I think the Mavericks win, 96-84.
MASON: In order for Washington to pull off the upset, they need to get some out of their pick and rolls against one of the league’s best pick-and-roll defenses and hope Trevor Booker can get out on the break and tax Dirk Nowitzki’s suspect legs. But here’s what goes down: the Wizards under a hail of 3′s. 113-104 Mavs.
WEIDIE: At a minimum, the Wizards will need to reach that magic number of 23 assists — because when they do, they are 5-4 on the season; when they don’t, 4-27. This means John Wall will have to establish his teammates first and worry about himself later. The hope is simple: pray to Flip Saunders’ basketball gods that Dallas just misses shots. The Mavs attempt 22.3 3-pointers per game, third most in the NBA, and they make 7.3 (sixth most); Washington is tied with Golden State in allowing the fifth best 3-point shooting percentage in the league (0.368). So, opportunity will be plenty, which is a scary thought for Washington. I’m calling it 101-89 for Dallas.