The Dallas Mavericks (17-37) will take on the Golden State Warriors (41-13) at Oracle Arena tonight. Current standings have the Mavs as the worst team in the league and the Warriors as the best team, so conventional wisdom tells us that the outcome of this game could get ugly fast. The Mavs continue to trend in the wrong direction, having lost 6 of their last 7 games and 9 of their last 11, but the Warriors haven't been playing great basketball lately either, having dropped 3 of their last 4 games.
This is one of those games that the Mavs would need pretty much everything to go their way if they hope to pull out a win. Regardless of whether or not Dallas is able to do that, there are still four things we can watch for tonight.
Bounce back game from Dennis Smith Jr.
In the Mavs’ recent loss to the Clippers, Smith had trouble controlling the ball, as he committed a season-high nine turnovers. To make things worse, Smith really struggled shooting the ball as well, going 5-of-17 from the field and fouled out of the game with 24 seconds remaining. It was a rough night, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that Smith is still a rookie point guard.
I fully expect Smith to come out and play a much better game against the defending champs. This is what Dirk had to say about Smith the other night:
“He’s got to keep fighting, he knows that ... Listen, he’s way above the curve. When I was 20 in my rookie year, it was ugly. He’s way ahead of me. He’s a competitor. And it’s a long season. It’s a roller-coaster in the first year. He knows to keep working and keep your eyes and ears open, trying to learn every game and keep plugging, keep attacking. And when he makes a few mistakes, he’s not going to get discouraged. Keep attacking. We need him to get in the paint, and he’s one of the best at it.” — Dirk Nowitzki (via The Dallas Morning News)
That’s pretty good stuff from the 20-year veteran, and I think Smith will take those words to heart.
Last chance for Smith to yam on Draymond Green this season
Earlier this season, Smith drove into the paint and tried to put Green on a poster.
Not only did Green foul Smith pretty hard to prevent that from happening, but he then proceeded to talk trash about it during and after the game as well. When asked about Smith’s dunk attempt, Green said, “That s—t ain’t happening. This ain’t Summer League, bro. Better luck next time.”
At some point in the next few years, I think we’re going to see Smith get one on Green. It would be awesome if that happened tonight though, less than 2 weeks away from Smith’s appearance in the Dunk Contest on NBA All-Star Weekend.
It has been a long time since the Mavs have beaten the Warriors
To be more precise, the last time the Mavs won a game against the Warriors was on December 30, 2015. Even that win didn’t mean as much as it could have, because Steph Curry didn’t play that night. That last win also came at American Airlines Center.
A win at Golden State? That hasn’t happened for the Mavs since April 12, 2012. So, unless the Warriors decide to sit some of their superstars or the Mavericks miraculously become a super team themselves in the near future, it could continue to be a while before we see another win at Oracle. Never question Rick Carlisle, though, especially in what’s already been a really weird season for the Mavs when it comes to the quality of some of their wins.
#TeamTank fans are happy right now, but probably shouldn’t get too excited
One of the biggest debates among Mavs fans is whether or not the team should be tanking this season, which seems like a dumb debate, because we all know that the organization isn’t going to try to lose games on purpose. That said, everyone knows this is a lost season at this point, and we will probably start to see a lot more of what we saw a few nights ago, when Carlisle decided to ride it out with the young guys.
That also means the Mavs will continue to lose games, which will make some of the more pro-tank MFFL get excited about possibly netting that No. 1 pick in June. I’d love to see the Mavs get a top 3 pick this summer, but if you look at the standings, it’s probably not likely to happen. Currently, picks 1-8 are separated by 1.5 games -- and the Mavs have the 5th easiest schedule to finish out this season, while teams like the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns are in the top 5 for hardest schedules remaining.
Whether you’re for tanking or against it, the bottom line is that we all want the same thing — we want the Mavs to eventually be perennial winners again.
How to watch
The Mavs and Warriors will tip off at Oracle Arena at 9:30 p.m. Central time. You can watch the game on FSSW and NBA League Pass.