Coach's Corner: Butch Beard on Mavericks vs Nets
By Butch Beard (As told to Andrew Pearson)

The Mavericks visit the Nets Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET on ABC.


Beard
The Dallas Mavericks and the New Jersey Nets provide us with an interesting outlook going into the last five weeks of the season as they get ready for the playoffs. All year long the Mavericks have been playing to try and get the best record in the Western Conference so that they will have home court advantage. But they have come up with injuries to the people that they're counting on – Keith Van Horn, Josh Howard, Devin Harris and Adrian Griffin. Howard and Harris tried to come back earlier this week and did not play well. They didn't know how bad the injuries were, so Coach Avery Johnson is going to try now to get them healthy before the postseason begins. Of course they would like to win as many games as possible and have the best record in the West, but they're more concerned with having their people healthy going into the playoffs.

Lawrence Frank would like to cut down on the big three's minutes.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
As far as the New Jersey Nets are concerned, Coach Lawrence Frank would like to see if he can at least decrease the minutes of his big three. I know that he is concerned about Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter playing over 35 minutes – almost 40 minutes a night. He still wants to stay in the same position that he is in, but he also wants to try and see if he can get some people in the rotation and get them ready for the playoffs. It is interesting to watch what is going on with the coaches in terms of what they would like to do while still keeping their ball clubs sharp and winning games.

Sunday will also mark the one year anniversary of Avery Johnson taking over as head coach for Don Nelson. The little fella said that he was going to change Dallas' mentality. I think that a lot of people in the NBA were saying, "Change their mentality in what?" He wants to be a defensive ballclub. Amazingly he has been able to instill that mindset in his players. There was no question that the Mavericks could score, but could they defend? This year they have been able to defend, which makes them dangerous as far as the playoffs are concerned and is one of the big reasons that they have been fighting the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the West. It is going to be interesting to see if they can continue that in the playoffs.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

This game is all about tempo and is going to be decided by how the two point guards set that tempo. Dallas would like to have a fast tempo because of the weapons that they can use in the open court. Of course you know Dirk Nowitzki is going to get his points, and now that Jerry Stackhouse has come off of his injury and is beginning to play extremely well, they want to keep him in the mix. But it is up to Jason Terry to make sure that the tempo is just right for his ballclub. He is also going to have to do a tremendous job on his counterpart, Jason Kidd.

New Jersey will go the way that Kidd goes. Vince Carter will provide you with a lot of scoring but Jefferson really needs those two players to bring their A-game in order for him to have his A-game. Jason is going to spread the basketball to his teammates, but he also has to set a tempo that is just right, especially in the open court, so Jefferson can be effective, and then in the half court, where they can take advantage of Carter whenever they isolate him or post him up.

In the NBA you can have tempo and you can have great shooters, but you also need a low post presence. Nenad Krstic is playing extremely well. He is not a low post player per se, but he can go down inside and score. On the other hand, you have Erick Dampier, who isn't a scoring presence for Dallas, but is a defensive presence. He's got to be there to at least cause Vince some problems and alter shots when he goes to the hoop. The big men always play a factor in every NBA game. It all depends on how the coaches want to go to their big men. Do they want to go to them early on the offensive end and see if they can get something out of them right away? Or will they gradually work them into the game?

X-FACTORS

I think it is going to be a high-scoring game. The biggest advantage that the Dallas Mavericks have is that New Jersey has no matchup whatsoever height wise or athletic wise with Dirk Nowitzki. Now, on the other hand, Dallas can double team Vince Carter, especially when he is on the low post, or they can run at him when he is isolating. But if Vince can spread the basketball, he is going to make them pay for that. But I think Dallas has a big advantage having Dirk because he is a tough matchup for any team in the NBA.

BOTTOM LINE

The Nets need to win. The game is more important to New Jersey than it is to the Dallas Mavericks. I think it is going to be interesting at this stage of the season to see how the coaches now play their players. They may say one thing and do another. I know Coach Frank is saying that he wants to lessen the minutes and get a rotation, but this is a big game for a New Jersey in the mere fact that if they can beat an elite team at this stage of the season, it will boost their confidence.

For the Mavs, they are still just trying to get everybody back into the swing of things. It will also be interesting to see how long Avery will play his top people. I know he is afraid of more injuries now that he knows pretty much where his position will be in the West.

-- Butch Beard appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association.