The Dallas Mavericks (0-1) will look to bounce back in a major way Saturday night, as they host the Minnesota Timberwolves (1-1) — it is the Mavs’ regular season home opener. The Timberwolves are on the second night of a back to back, having played the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night.
The Mavericks were embarrassed in their first game of the season when they lost to the Phoenix Suns on the road 121-100 Wednesday night. Going through bouts of poor shooting, and showing no ability to defend the three-point line, there’s plenty to shore up from game one.
Entering the season, no other team had more public drama than the Minnesota Timberwolves. The ever-changing offseason storyline of Jimmy Butler and his relationship with his teammates and the front office seems to have quieted some since games have started. Still, the chemistry or lack thereof, seems to be constantly simmering across Tom Thibodeau’s roster.
Here’s what to watch for in tonight’s game:
Can the Mavericks defend the three?
In the three preseason games against NBA teams, the Mavericks let their opponent go 44-of-100 from the three point line. On Wednesday night the Phoenix Suns went 19-of-34 from three (an astounding 56 percent). It seems to be no secret early: the Mavs aren’t defending the three point line.
It’s one thing if a team is just hot — if the Mavs rotate and switch across the perimeter and the other team just can’t miss. But too often against Phoenix the Mavericks were leaving shooters wide open. More than once three or four Mavericks all found themselves standing under the basket as a shooter got the ball and had enough time to eat a meal before nailing another three. It’s unacceptable, and the Mavericks will have a tough time winning if they let teams get comfortable from three.
The Timberwolves were 19th in the league last season, shooting just under 36 percent from three as a team. This season they haven’t fared much better, going 16-of-44 in their first two games. So maybe this will be a good opportunity for the Mavericks to shore up some issues playing quality team defense on the outside.
The Mavericks have paper-thin depth
Rick Carlisle was already hurting for reliable options in the wing department heading in to the season opener. Dorian Finney-Smith has been filling in for Harrison Barnes, who is unlikely to be available tonight. Also removed will be Carlisle-staple Devin Harris, with an injured hamstring.
Harris’ minutes went to rookie point guard Jalen Brunson Wednesday night. In a curious move, Ryan Broekhoff was nowhere to be found after playing four minutes and hitting a three in the first half, never seeing the floor again. Perhaps that changes against the T’Wolves. At this point, it’ll have to be all hands on deck, with everyone finding ways to contribute while in the game.
Will the young duo bounce back?
Luka Doncic impressed early, then gassed out in his NBA debut. He missed all five three point attempts and was largely ineffective late. There were plenty of positives on both ends for Doncic, but clear areas to improve upon — mainly his conditioning and jump shot. How he handles his first home game should be fun to watch.
For Dennis Smith Jr., MFFLs perhaps saw his worst game as a pro a few days back. For long stretches it looked as if DSJ was the rookie and not Doncic. Having trouble getting in rhythm off the ball, missing a few layups at point blank range, and never really asserting himself, he really did look out of sorts. How he responds tonight may say a lot about where he is mentally and physically as a pro. Both DSJ and Doncic should have great opportunity to put on a show for their first home crowd.
How to Watch
Tip off is set for 7:30 CT, and can be watched on FSSW, the FoxSportsGo app, or NBA LeagePass.