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Sixers vs. Dallas Mavericks Preview

Coming off an extremely ugly loss at the hands of the icy-hot shooting Orlando Magic, the Sixers will be looking for another statement win to prove that - hey, we're still pretty good! Dallas hasn't been nearly as filthy as last season, but they're still 4th in the West and riding a 5-game winning streak and Marc Cuban's pony into town. I spoke with (t)Jonathan Tjarks from SBN Dallas and after we settled our football differences under the fact that the Giants suck, we talked about the game.

Read my answers to his questions here.

LB: Dallas is holding opponents to a startling 41.7% from the field. How has the defense gotten better since last season?

I'm not going to lie, that statistic really surprised me. The additions of Odom and West have really improved the team's overall athleticism, especially on the second unit, but I'd say any improvement is probably more a function of offense being down across the board b/c of the lockout. When Haywood is in the game, the Mavericks are really vulnerable to dribble-penetration and that will be exposed at some point in the playoffs.

LB:'s Vince Carter been?

He's been great in a more limited role in Dallas. While he obviously doesn't have the athleticism of his younger days, he's an incredibly skilled player who can use his length to get his shot off and he's won the Mavericks a few games this year with his offense, especially in the post, where he's very effective against smaller players.

The biggest thing for Vince has probably been all of the veterans in the locker room. There's a real strong core of 30+ guys -- Dirk, Marion, Kidd and Terry -- in Dallas and all of them have bought in 100% to Carlisle's system so Vince really has no choice but to swallow his ego, bust his ass on defense and accept a smaller role. I think he has a couple more good seasons left in him and if he can help the Mavericks get back to the Finals, he might get more Hall of Fame talk.

LB: Delonte West (28) is the youngest player on the Mavericks to average 20+ minutes per game. The Sixers have 7 guys younger than him averaging at least 20. I hate the term "window of opportunity". But Jesus, man - what gives?

The "window of opportunity" in Dallas is really three guys: Dirk, Cuban and Donnie Nelson (the GM). If you have a 7'0 first-ballot Hall of Famer who can score at will against anyone in the NBA, you're always going to have a good offense. Combine that with an owner willing to open his checkbook every year and a GM with a great eye for undervalued talent and you've got a franchise that's always going to be a threat.

The real beauty is that Dirk's game is based around height and shooting ability, two things which age doesn't really affect. He's "only" 33; he should still be an elite player until he's 35-36.

LB: Brandan Wright's been pretty terrific in limited time for the Mavs. As a Brandan enthusiast, why doesn't he play more?

I'm glad to see someone else on board the Brandan Wright bandwagon (ed. note: It's the second "A" that gets me). His playing time has been trending upwards all season and I expect that to continue. Of the Mavs three-headed center rotation, Wright is by far the most dangerous offensive threat, and as long as the other team doesn't have a true low-post 5 like Howard or Bynum, you can get away with him defensively.

LB: The Ultimate Question: odds on a repeat this season?

0%. The second they let Tyson Chandler walk out the door, they were throwing out any real chance of contention. He was as important as Dirk to last season's championship team. If Dallas doesn't get Dwight Howard in the off-season, I think letting Chandler go will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history. Dallas doesn't get by Portland or OKC without Chandler last year and they certainly aren't beating Miami in the Finals without his two-way play at the center position.

I absolutely love his honesty with the last question. It's something we reasonable non-fanboys can appreciate here, and to say that with a 19-11 club - much respect.

Thoughts on tonight's game? I expect to see a lot of Thaddeus Young on Dirk - Elton Brand can't play with him that long and Lavoy Allen/Nikola Vucevic will get eaten alive simply by his Dirkness. Should be a good game.

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