After winning their home opener Saturday night against the Timberwolves, the Dallas Mavericks (1-1) will play host to the Chicago Bulls (0-2) Monday night, back inside the AAC. The Mavs grabbed their first win of the young season in a feisty high-scoring affair, that saw them put up 140 points and Luka Doncic scoring a team high 26 points.
The Bulls are still looking for their first win this season, after losing their first two against the Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons. Both teams are in a time of transition, relying on young budding stars to lead the way.
Here’s what to watch for tonight:
DeAndre Jordan is a perfect fit
There are no surprises here, and it’s early in the season, but it’s clear that DeAndre Jordan is fitting in nicely in Dallas. The 30 year old center, in his 11th season in the league, has been a massive upgrade at the center position for the Mavericks — averaging 16.5 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 31 minutes per game.
The league is trying hard to push players like Jordan to the fringes, opting for big men that have outside-in versatility on both ends of the floor. But watching Jordan play, even in two games, is a nice reminder how impactful and fun a player like him can be. And more than all the numbers (like, don’t look now, but DJ is 7-of-8 from the free throw line), Jordan has immediately assumed the role of vocal leader for the entire team. In moments Saturday night, DJ pulled Wesley Matthews aside to calm him after a technical, and has been noticeably mentoring Dennis Smith Jr. on the floor, both in his best and worst moments so far. That may prove more valuable than anything else this season.
The allas Mavericks
So far, there has been no D. The Mavs found ways to get key stops in key moments Saturday, but in a quick reaction from the first two games of the season it’s clear they have work to do to make opponents uncomfortable. Right now, they’re allowing 128.5 points per game, tied for second worst in the league.
There have been bright spots. Though he isn’t effective away from the basket, DeAndre Jordan is providing solid rim protection, and is a solid anchor to the defense (he had five blocks against Minnesota). And Dorian Finney-Smith, who has done admirable work as a spot starter in Harrison Barnes’ absence, might be showing that he’s the Mavericks’ best all-around defender. At various points he guarded 1-5 Saturday night, off switches — and was matched up with Karl-Anthony Towns for stretches.
The Mavs’ depth has been spread thin, and that does influence how effective they can be defensively, but they have major work to do — unless they want to outscore every team they play. The Chicago Bulls are averaging 112 points per game (18th in the league), so perhaps this is a chance for the Mavericks to right the ship.
Will we get to see Harrison Barnes?
It’s possible by the time you read this, that question will have been answered, but at the writing of this it’s still unclear whether Harrison Barnes will make his first appearance for the Mavericks this season. Rick Carlisle had said at the start of the weekend that Barnes had been practicing hard without any setbacks, all positive signs.
But the Mavericks also know how important Barnes is for the team, and will be careful in bringing him back. It feels like we’re inching closer to seeing a Barnes appearance, and it’s possible that happens tonight at the AAC.
How to Watch
Tip-off is set for 7:30 CT, and can be watched on FSSW, the FoxSportsGo app, or NBA League Pass.