Youth takes a run at experience in Jazz-Mavs series
The Old Dog Plays New Tricks
NBA.com analyst Bernie Bickerstaff previews the first-round series between the Jazz and the Mavericks.
Three Things For Utah:
Play their own tempo. Don't get forced into a road race by the Mavericks' transition game.
Donyell Marshall is happy to be a member of the Jazz.
Solve the multiple defenses that Dallas will throw at them.
John Starks and Bryon Russell have to step up for them and provide the consistency the Jazz have previously gotten from the retired Jeff Hornacek.
Three Things For Dallas:
Handle the screen and roll from Utah.
Force Karl Malone to play on the perimeter offensively by digging down on him in the post.
Keep Malone off the free throw line. He's about an 80 percent free-throw shooter and has gotten more than 500 points this season off free throws.
Marquee Matchup: Karl Malone vs. Juwan Howard
I don't think Dirk Nowitzki can handle Malone. I think that'd get Nowitzki in foul trouble because Malone's so clever down inside. So I think that's a key matchup there because the responsibility falls to Juwan Howard to contain Malone and provide the Mavericks with a true post presence. Utah has probably one of the better team defenses in the league. So if the Jazz trap the Mavericks into a half court game, Dallas' biggest hope is to get solid post play from Howard.
Utah's Offensive Approach:
John Stockton to Karl Malone. That combination has worked for the Jazz in the playoffs for more than a decade now and you know they're not going to mess with success. So we examine the rest of pieces. Danny Manning will be a big factor because of his experience and his ability to pass the basketball. I don't know how many minutes he can play. But the playoff format will help Utah's vet set because they'll get a rest now. They're not playing back to back games -- in fact, there's a 2-3 day layover between games. So I think Manning could be a big factor with his experience.
I think Marshall will step up and play. He'll create some problems and it's a great matchup between him and Dirk Nowitzki. What happens there is I think Marshall can beat Nowitzki off the dribble, which will create offense for the Jazz. Another big key to me is Starks has to give the Jazz the playoff performances that he has, like for the Knicks, in the past. When he gets in one of those streaks, he can really emotionally lift the basketball team. And the Jazz need consistency at the two-guard. I don't think they've had that consistency this season since Hornacek retired. The Jazz are a better basketball team this year talent-wise, but I don't know whether they've had that time where they mesh between the two positions with Marshall and Starks.
Dallas' Offensive Approach:
The Mavericks are an excellent offensive basketball team. They are really strong on the perimeter. You'll see a lot of different lineups because head coach Don Nelson wants opponents to chase matchups. He'll go big; he'll go small. Nelson can work Michael Finley as a post play one minute, then turn around and run him as the point guard in a big lineup. They've got sizeable players to plug up the middle -- Shawn Bradley and Calvin Booth, who has done a pretty good job on the offensive boards for Dallas. Neither has put up huge numbers, but the Mavericks can just keep throwing guys at you in that middle and they've got a lot of fouls to give there.
But the Mavericks, at heart, are a perimeter team and what happens with the Jazz is their defense is based on sinking and taking away easy baskets. Shooting from the perimeter will stretch Utah's defense and the Mavs don't want to slow it down too much or else they'll run into Utah's team defense. The Jazz really understand the concept of team defense because they've been playing together so long. The Mavs want to push it down the court, get good shots and then with those changes in defenses, they've got to try to create turnovers so they can get out in transition and get easy baskets. This makes the matchup of Steve Nash against Stockton very important.
Poised For A Big Series:
Howard Eisley could be the X factor playing against his former team. He knows the Jazz mindset better than some of Utah's newer players. Eisley's having a career year with his increased role on the Mavericks and is capable of tossing out double digits in assists on any given night. He's one of the few Mavericks with playoff experience and it's experience that comes from playing with their current opponent. This should only help Dallas in this series.
The Jazz have all the experience; the Mavericks have none. For now. But after one or two games, all of a sudden, you've got experience when you're talking about Dallas. I think this is the one series where you can take the home court advantage and throw it out. The Mavericks are confident in one aspect because they play well on the road. Any team that shoots the basketball as well as the Mavericks do has a chance.
This being said, I'm still going with the experience in Utah, but I think it should go five.
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