The Dallas Mavericks (14-11) host the Atlanta Hawks (6-20) Wednesday night, the first in a home-road back to back for the Mavericks — they’ll head west to play the Phoenix Suns Thursday. This will be the final match up this season with the Hawks, a team who will be tied to the Mavericks this season, and presumably long in to the future as the careers of rookies Luka Doncic and Trae Young progress.
The Mavericks have been hot at home of late, recently blowing out the Orlando Magic 101-76. They’ve now won 10 straight at home, the first streak of its kind for the Mavs since 2008. Going 12-4 since the first week of November, the Mavericks are in the middle of a friendly stretch of scheduling before a brutal four game west coast road trip that starts next week.
Here’s what we’ll watch for as the Mavericks try to shake off the memories of an embarrassing loss to the Hawks early in the season.
Hot start, Cold finish
When the Mavericks lost to the Hawks in Atlanta back in October, Dallas started the game super hot, up 20 after one quarter (an insane 42-22). They then went ice cold and played zero defense, allowing the Hawks to dictate much of the game, getting outscored 31-17 in the fourth. The loss marked the beginning of an ugly six-game losing streak.
Since that streak ended on November 6th, the Mavericks have still been a solid first quarter team, outscoring opponents by 56 points in those 16 games. But they’re also following up strong starts with strong finishes, outscoring opponents by 37 points in fourth quarters. The Mavericks will look to continue that trend tonight.
Both the Mavericks and the Hawks are top ten in the league in three point attempts per game — Dallas at ninth attempting nearly 34, and the Hawks at fourth with just under 36 per game. But there’s a jump when it comes to how the teams are connecting. The Mavericks are pretty middle of the road, 13th in the NBA shooting 35 percent from long range. But the Hawks are dead last connecting on less than 32 percent from three.
For Atlanta the line is pretty clear: in their six wins this season they’ve shot 40 percent from deep, and not even 29 percent in losses. The Mavericks, who have turned in to a solid defensive team, are still allowing opponents to shoot 36 percent from three (18th in the league). When they last met, Atlanta went 15 of 38, and it was largely what led their comeback, then sealed the victory.
For the rookies in the spotlight, Luka Doncic and Trae Young, they are nearly dead even on three point attempts this season (first and second among rookies with 144 attempts from Young, and 143 attempts from Doncic). The difference? Doncic is fourth in three point percentage among the 13 rookies that have at least 50 attempts, connecting on 37 percent of his tries. Young...last, shooting 24 percent. His two rookie teammates are better, with Omari Spellman hitting 32 percent on 60 attempts (9th), and Kevin Heurter hitting nearly 38 percent on 78 attempts (2nd). Watch for the three point line to be a major storyline.
Rookie slumps, Rookie jumps
In Luka Doncic’s first 20 games he was shooting a solid 44 percent from the field, and 38 percent from three. Then came a hip injury suffered against the Lakers that sidelined the rookie for one game. In that Lakers game, plus the four he’s played in since, Doncic has shot 30 percent from the field and 24 percent from three. Whether it’s due to the injury, or a plain old shooting slump, Doncic is searching for his shot.
The positive here is that even in the midst of that slump we still saw a clutch hot streak at the end of the game against the Houston Rockets. And even if the slump continues, we know Doncic can impact the game, as he proved Monday night against the Magic where he surely would have recorded his first NBA triple-double had he played at all in the fourth quarter (even though he was 2-of-11 from the field, and 0-of-5 from three).
Another fun development over the last several games has been the play of fellow rookie Jalen Brunson, who has spot started for an injured Dennis Smith Jr. In the last three games, where he has seen a huge spike in minutes, Brunson is shooting 70 percent from the floor, averaging 14 points and five assists in 29 minutes per game. Should DSJ have to sit out longer, Brunson is proving very capable in the starting lineup.
Is Dirk Nowitzki going to play? We’ll see!
How to Watch
Tip off is set for 7:30 CT, and can be watched on FSSW, the Fox Sports Go app, or NBA LeaguePass.