Tonight we have a matchup of two teams with nearly mirrored records, as the Dallas Mavericks (9-25) go head to head with the Toronto Raptors (23-8). This is the first meeting of these squads this season.
After playing one of their most complete games of the year at home against the Detroit Pistons, the Mavericks churned out two very mediocre performances on the road. They lost Friday night to the very beat up Miami Heat, and followed that up Saturday by losing for a second time this season to the NBA’s last place Atlanta Hawks.
Now with one game at home before a quick three game road trip to finish the week, the Mavericks will try to turn their fortunes around after a bumpy 2-8 record over the last three weeks.
A DSJ bounce back
Dennis Smith Jr. has now played three games since returning from injury. In his first game back against Detroit, DSJ looked in control as he eased himself back in to action (15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 50 percent from the floor). He took over for a bit to end the first half, and it was clear his presence was felt in his return.
In the road matchups over the weekend, Smith Jr. had a tougher time from the field, going a combined 4-of-15 from the floor. These sort of roller coaster stat lines from game to game are standard for a rookie season, and will certainly continue the rest of the year. Smith Jr. will have an intriguing matchup tonight as he takes on a savvy vet in Kyle Lowry. Look for DSJ to reassert himself getting to play back at home.
Did someone say a defensive battle?
Will these two defensive juggernauts trade knockout punches for 48 minutes the day after all that peace on earth and goodwill toward men? No, probably not. But it might surprise you that Toronto and Dallas rank 9th and 10th in the league in opponents points per game (giving up 102.4 and 103.2 per game respectively).
You can be the judge as to how that’s even possible for this Dallas squad, but the fact remains that these two give up the same amount of points per game. It might be worth looking at the defensive rating for each team to determine who is the more legitimate defense (Toronto is 6th, Dallas is 16th). Or even check what each team is scoring per game (Toronto is 4th at 111.3 per game, Dallas is 27th with an even 100 points per game).
For Dallas to have a shot at a holiday home win, expect the pace to be slow, and the scoring to be low.
The Mavs have a clutch problem
In the 34 games the Mavericks have played, 19 of those games have the Mavericks facing a clutch situation - that is, a game inside five minutes where the score is within five points. That means though the Mavericks aren’t notching too many wins, they’re putting themselves in position. And that’s where the positivity ends, as the Mavericks settle in with a jaw-dropping 1-18 record in those contests (the next closest team is Utah with a 4-7 record in clutch situations).
There are a number of reasons the Mavericks have this problem. Perhaps it’s a generalization, but it doesn’t seem to be an inexperience problem, with plenty of veteran players getting time. In many cases, it’s a flat out talent problem, with the Mavs only closer being a 39 year old mummy (with all Dirk respect).
The bottom line is the Mavericks need someone to turn to in close games, and they don’t really have it. Harrison Barnes stands out as the statistical leader in those clutch minutes, but he’s averaging just 2.1 points in clutch minutes (good for 49th in the NBA).
How to watch
The Mavs have an early tip-off at 6 CT, and can be watched on FSSW or NBA League Pass.