Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 29th game of the season against the Dallas Mavericks in Washington are TAI’s Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It), and guests Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh), Kirk Henderson (@KirkSeriousFace), and Shay Vance, all of whom write about the Mavericks for the TrueHoop blog The Two Man Game.
Wizards Starters (4-24):
Garrett Temple, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
Mavericks Starters (12-19):
Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Mavericks over the past week?)
@HickoryHigh: The Mavericks are slipping below a rising tide of chaos and ineffectiveness. They lost all three games this week, extending a 1-9 stretch that began in the middle of December. Wrapped up in that icy-slide was the return of Dirk Nowitzki as well as O.J. Mayo’s regression to the mean (38.5 percent from the field and 24.4 percent on 3-pointers during his last 10 games) and Rick Carlisle’s uncharacteristically candid assessment of the team’s struggles, which included a thinly-veiled threat to suspend players who weren’t meeting expectations. Every element of this roster is in flux right now, from rotations and minutes to roles and production. The foundation they built to start the season appears to have completely eroded, and Carlisle is essentially starting from scratch now that Nowitzki has returned.
Over their next eight games after playing the Wizards, the Mavericks will see the Heat, Clippers, Grizzlies, Rockets, and Timberwolves—the schedule isn’t going to make things easier. Not many teams come to Washington in a must-win situation but that’s where the Mavericks find themselves.
@KirkSeriousFace: Really not good. Things have fallen apart for Dallas during their toughest stretch of the season, even though Dirk has returned. In the last week, Dallas has lost three games to the Thunder, Nuggets, and Spurs by an average margin of 14 points. Overall, Dallas has lost nine of its last 10.
Shay Vance: Not much, at least by the Mavericks’ standards. In recent seasons, the Washington Wizards have been a trap game: means nothing to win, hard to get the team up for it, but deflating if the Mavs don’t win. At this point in this season, it’s more like an answer to a prayer. Coming off 10 days including Miami, Memphis, OKC, two games with San Antonio, and a 20-point drubbing by the ‘easiest’ opponent, Denver, Dallas could use a matchup versus a team who, like the Mavericks, are wading in the lower tier of the standings until their best player is at full strength.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@HickoryHigh: Sleeping on the Mavericks is entirely understandable since nearly the entire roster has been asleep for the past three weeks. Darren Collison has been playing some of his best basketball of the season over his past five games, shooting 58.9 percent from the field and 57.1 percent on 3-pointers. Of course, the Mavericks have been outscored by 15.6 points per game with Collison on the floor over the same stretch, so all that efficiency hasn’t amounted to much. Dirk Nowitzki has been back for four games but is still working himself back into shape. He’s averaging just 21.8 minutes per game and is shooting just 32.4 percent from the field.
The hope in Dallas is that tonight’s game is a chance for Nowitzki to breakthrough, for O.J. Mayo to rediscover his shooting stroke, and for Collison’s points to become part of a coherent offensive approach. However, the way they’ve been playing lately I wouldn’t be leaping out of bed just yet.
@KirkSeriousFace: Chris Douglas-Roberts? He’s been fine, I guess. The reality here is that this question is hard because every Maverick has been bad as of late. Maybe Bernard James. He’s fun. CDR’s only been a Maverick for four games after being the first player in Mavericks history to be called up from the Texas Legends D-League affiliate. His game is a little bit awkward, but he plays hard and with enthusiasm. I predict CDR becomes the favorite player of a lot of Maverick fans. He also wrote this, which is excellent.
Shay Vance: Rumor has it that it was the Mavericks would have selected Royce White with the 17th pick in the draft had he been available. As easily the best thing in the Mavs season, they avoided that fiasco and swapped the 17th pick with the Cavs for the 24th and two early second rounders. Not much has been heard out of Jared Cunningham, but second rounders Jae Crowder and Bernard James have both brought excitement to a lackluster season. Crowder made the Summer League All-Stars and looks to be picking back up after a shooting slump. Bernard James has a bit of early DeAndre Jordan in him (all blocks and rebounds), though much older since James has already had a career in the military, a la David Robinson.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@HickoryHigh: The endless struggle for offense. Over their last 10 games the Wizards are dead last in the league in offensive efficiency, scoring just 90.8 points per 100 possessions. Second to last is the Dallas Mavericks at 94.4 points per 100 possessions. Both offenses feature struggling players, ineffective systems, and a general lack of chemistry and cohesion. The aesthetics may be brutal to behold, but if either team can build even a modest offensive flow it could be the difference.
@KirkSeriousFace: Carlisle and his players. All of the post game comments from Uncle Ricky have made it crystal clear that he is not happy with the play of the team and even less happy with how certain players are behaving. He’s cracking the whip for the first time since Avery Johnson was fired. It’s a challenging situation; the team doesn’t have the right players to win games more than half the time but is also filled with guys who are good at basketball, they just aren’t winning games.
Shay Vance: Somewhat fittingly that for New Year’s Day, the most important matchup from the Mavericks’ perspective is Dirk Nowitzki versus Father Time. As Wizards fans are surely aware, it’s tough to win games when your team is built around a player and that player is not healthy. Even off the bench, if Nowitzki can get going, it might bring back a bit of swagger to the whole squad. In the NBA, your team not only has to be better than the other squad, they have to believe it (see also: the L.A. Lakers). A good game from Dirk could do for the Mavericks what Nash’s return did for L.A.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@Truth_About_It: Um … points anyone? It took the Wizards until December 28th (the 27th game of the season against Orlando) for two players to score at least 20 points in the same game (Nene 23 and Jordan Crawford 27). In fact, there have only been 17 times this season in which a Wizard has scored 20 or more points (Crawford – 10 times, Beal – 2, Nene – 2, Martin – 1, Seraphin – 1, Webster – 1). In more fact, no Wizard has had a 30-point game this season (it’s been done 143 times by non-Wizards and at least once by someone on all other NBA teams).
Jordan Crawford is a constant threat to score points. Nene needs to be more of a threat. Otherwise, who else? Even without John Wall, it’d probably be good for team brass to have an answer to that question. (And no, current injured players not named John Wall are not answers.)
The Wizards are 4-point dogs and the over/under is 192 points (via USA Today).
@KirkSeriousFace: I think Dallas wins 104-98 after building a big lead and giving it up in the third.
Shay Vance: Mavs build 15-point lead, but let Washington bring it back to within six; Final score, 97-91. Want to beat Dallas? Take the Mavs to overtime where they are 0-5.
@Truth_About_It: I’d like to be wistful and predict a Wizards win, but they are the exactly the type of team that stumbling veteran squad like the Mavericks can get motivated against. The Verizon Center rims will appear slightly larger for Dirk Nowitski, Vince Carter might even find a way to splash a few, and rookie like Bradley Beal is ripe for being taken advantage of by O.J. Mayo. Dallas wins, 87-81.