Gametime: 7:00 p.m. EST
After a middling season last year, the Mavericks of today have flown a bit under the radar in the national basketball consciousness. Lo and behold, Mark Cuban's darlings are 10 games over .500 at 31-21, just barely making the cut as the current 8-seed playoff team in the tough Western Conference.
They're on a five-game win streak, though most of those wins were over the dregs of both conferences. Still, their offense is clicking and they're playing well right now taking care of business against lesser teams as they come to Charlotte to face the Bobcats.
Dirk is still a marksman with a jump shot and has done well with Monta Ellis in the pick and roll. Armed with a plenty of solid shooters, Rick Carlisle has the Mavericks taking good shots, and not just from behind the arc. Carlisle likes to use the pick and roll a lot, something Devin Harris' return has helped with, and down screens to help Dirk and co. get advantageous spacing in the midrange.
However, though their offense is excellent and performs disciplined execution, their defense is a major soft spot. They foul too much, don't rebound well and just flat out aren't a great defensive unit. They severely lack size and often play smaller, which gives rise to the rebounding problems, and some of their best players have lost a bit of a step thanks to Father Time.
Dallas has been taking care of business against lesser teams lately, so a win over the Mavericks would be pretty impressive. They'll certainly have a chance. The Mavs will throw Samuel Dalembert in to defend Jefferson, but other than that, Dallas' frontcourt is undersized and lacks defensive depth. Big Al could have another big night. And Monta Ellis is questionable with a strained hamstring.
A strong defensive effort before the home crowd against a Western Conference playoff team could speak volumes about these Bobcats and their continuing run of solid play.