The Big Picture: I love that the Dallas Mavericks have resurrected zone defense as a viable base defensive set in the NBA. The Celtics used a weird floating zone, but it what I saw was more veering toward "man with lots of switching" than a match-up zone the defensive three-second rule requires in the NBA.
Check out this primer on the Dallas zone (via Mavs Moneyball) for an idea of what we'll see the Mavs do for long stretches tonight.
The Bobcats cannot attempt to do the same things they always do if they want to be successful against this defense. For 7/8 of the game, they can do their thing, but against that zone, it's imperative that they not settle for long jumpers. They may end up with more three attempts during those times, but that's fine; they can't start their drives, abort, and pull up for 19-footers.
Musical Interlude: Run DMC vs. Jason Nevins -- "It's Like That"
Key to Victory: Dirk Nowitzki's lasting legacy will be that he -- more than Kevin Garnett or anyone since a young Arvydas Sabonis, really -- was a small forward in a center's body, and he used that skill set to torch defenses for over a decade. But what shouldn't be forgotten is that the dude isn't terrible on defense, as a big. With two seven-footers defending the paint, Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, the Cats would do well to go right at them early and often. making a concentrated effort to get either of them in foul trouble. Brendan Haywood ain't exactly chopped liver, but he's not the defensive wizard Chandler is, and he's nowhere near the dynamite total package Nowitzki is, so getting either of them out of the game ought to be a priority.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Dirk's mentor, Holger Geschwindner, is a really interesting dude.