The Dallas Mavericks just wrapped up a four game road trip in New Orleans with a 115-105 loss the other night, and will finally return home to the American Airlines Center to take on the playoff-hopeful Utah Jazz.
It’s funny, because you’d assume that both of these teams (or at least their fan bases) are very interested in the NBA standings every night, just for different reasons. The Mavs, currently slotted to have the fifth best odds in the NBA Draft lottery, may or may not be watching to see how much more they can increase those odds with only 11 games remaining. On the other hand, the Jazz have won nine of their last 10 games and are fighting every night to hold on to that final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Here’s three things to watch tonight.
Harrison Barnes has had a really tough time scoring on the Jazz this season
When you look at Barnes’ averages against each individual team in the league, his worst totals come against the Jazz. He’s averaged 7.5 points (31.8 percent shooting from the field — yikes) and 5.5 rebounds in two games against Utah this season. For whatever reasons (Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert may have something to do with those reasons), Barnes just hasn’t been able to forth a performance against the Jazz that is up to high standards.
We’ll see if Barnes can break the curse tonight and have a good scoring night against Utah.
A pesky ankle injury will keep us from seeing an epic rookie battle
Dennis Smith Jr. is set to miss his second consecutive game due to an ankle sprain he suffered a few days ago in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets. This is unfortunate, because it robs us from being able to watch Smith and fellow rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell go at it. Smith and Mitchell are both incredibly athletic and have a way of getting the crowd going at any given moment with a highlight reel dunk. Smith and Mitchell have shouldered a heavier load than typical rookies this season, as they are the top-two when it comes to rookies usage percentage this season.
If you’re comparing both rookie seasons side by side, you’d have to say Mitchell has the more impressive numbers. That said, you also have to wonder how much more efficient Smith would've been this season if he had a roster constructed similar to Utah’s. This should be an incredible matchup in every season going forward. We just won’t have the pleasure of seeing it in this game tonight.
Tank Watch: 11 games remaining
As mentioned in the intro, with only 11 games left the Mavs currently have the fifth best odds of winning the lottery. Dallas is only one game ahead of Atlanta and Orlando from being tied for the third best odds, and they are only a half -game back of Brooklyn and Sacramento from being tied for the seventh best odds. So long story short, this could still go a lot of different ways for the Mavs.
A lot of where the Mavs end up in the lottery is out of their control when it comes to other teams winning and losing, except for a few of the final games on the schedule. Dallas has some really important games coming up against the Suns, Magic and Kings that could really determine what the Mavs odds will be on May 15th when the NBA Draft lottery day arrives.