Blasts from the Recent Past: Indiana Pacers - Dallas Mavericks Preview
The Dallas Mavericks play host to the Indiana Pacers this Saturday morning, in a match up between teams that are trying to forge new identities, following a summer of retooling of their respective rosters. While Dallas signed as many as 9 new players, the Pacers retained the core of their roster from last year, making a couple of key changes. Both teams are missing their franchise players due to knee injuries, the Mavericks having been without Nowitzki for the entire season so far, and will probably be without him for another month, while the Pacers will have to do without Granger till atleast February. Their injuries have meant that the offensive workload has had to be distributed amongst the rest of the squad, which has tested the rosters thoroughly.
The Mavericks spent the entire summer trying to entice Deron Williams to sign with them for the foreseeable future, but as that did not work out, they filled their roster spots with good talent quite well. Dallas traded Ian Mahinmi to the Pacers for Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones, a trade which gave Dallas a young, dynamic point guard which was something they were desperate for, along with a defensive enforcer. Collison is very adept at running the pick and rolls and has fit right in with the Dallas flow offense, which has very good post players in Nowitzki and Kaman. Also, Collison is very good in transition, and has already injected a lot of pace in the team during its transition offense and defense.
Kaman has been in particularly good touch, and is working himself back to fitness. Mayo has put the team on his back so far, averaging 21 PPG and 3 APG, and although he has been inconsistent with his mid range game, the last two games have been marked improvements. The backcourt of Collison (averaging a little under 15 PPG and 7 APG) and Mayo has started clicking properly and will test the Pacers definitely. The combination of their speed, shooting ability, and their transition offense will challenge the Indiana guards defensively.
Turnovers are what have been hurting Dallas badly, and as coach Carlisle maintained after the last game, they need to take care of the ball better. Dallas has started well in games, before falling behind in the 3rd quarter, and need to maintain their concentration for the entire game. This inconsistency has been the major cause for their 3- game losing streak before the win against the Wizards, where again they allowed the opponents to comeback from a huge deficit in the 4th quarter, before securing the game in the final few seconds.
Indiana on the other hand, started the season with everybody expecting them to challenge the Heat for the top position in the Eastern playoffs. However, the season so far has not gone to plan, and sees them at a position where they themselves didn’t expect to be. Frank Vogel has found it tough to keep their brand of “smashmouth” basketball going, and without Granger, the Pacers offense has struggled for points. Although they have been able to hold their opponents to around 91 points per game, it is their offensive efficiency, utilization of space and movement off the ball that has gone stagnant. The loss of Collison to Dallas in the off season has seen them lose their only true play-maker, and the acquisition of Augustin, though promising on paper, is yet to inspire confidence as he has been struggling to get any form going. Tyler Hansborough and Gerald Green, the latter on a comeback trail, have given them a boost off of the bench, both in terms of scoring and rebounding, but it has not been enough as the starters have really not stepped up. Hibbert and West have been unable to contribute so far, and need to step up offensively.
The Pacers’ roster is more or less the same when compared to last year, except for the trade of Collison. It remains to be seen whether they adapt to the new point guard soon, and pick up the slack to make up for the loss of Granger. Rediscovering their swagger and aggresion, or as they call it, their “smashmouth” style of play is crucial to the Pacers’ season, and it looks highly unlikely that they will do it against the Mavericks. Expect Dallas to take home the win in a close fought game to improve their record to 6-4 and drop the Pacers down to 3-7.
Dallas : Starting 5 – Collison, (PG), Mayo (SG), Kaman (C), Brand (PF), Jones (SF)
Reserves – Crowder, Beaubois, Wright, James, Murphy, Carter
Indiana: Starting 5- Hill (PG), Stephenson (SG), Hibbert (C), George (PF), West (SF)
Reserves – Augustin, Tyler Hansborough, Green, Young, Ben Hansborough, Mahinmi