The Dallas Mavericks (22-26) play host to second best team in the Eastern Conference Toronto Raptors (36-15), their second meeting of the season. The Mavs visited the Raptors way back on October 26th, a game they lost 116-107. The Mavericks are coming off two straight home wins and the Raptors have lost two in a row on the road.
This will be the Mavericks final home game before a quick three game road trip, part of a seven game stint against Eastern Conference teams that started Friday night at home against the Detroit Pistons — a 106-101 win for the Mavericks.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for in this early evening bout:
Let the youth lead the way
Friday night’s win featured Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. playing some of their best basketball together in the first half, combining for 31 points, eight assists, and just two turnovers at the break. They went on for 51 points, 13 assists (seven turnovers), with Luka also grabbing 8 rebounds.
It was a game that featured the young(ish) bench trio of Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, and Dwight Powell as well. Kleber in particular had outstanding play late in the game, with a few key blocks and a dagger three late.
This kind of play from the non-veteran players in Dallas should get the front office and coaching staff excited. And their opponent tonight will be much tougher, hopefully this group of five can carry some momentum with them from Friday in to this game.
Raptors on the road
When Toronto is on the road they do an excellent job of defending the three point line. In fact, their opponent’s three point percentage is slightly worse away from Toronto. Limiting opponents to just 33 percent from deep is a key for the Raptors gaining leverage away from home. Helped greatly by their plethora of quality perimeter defenders.
And the three point line may be the deciding factor tonight. The disparity between the Mavericks’ three point shooting in wins and in losses is noticeable. And with the Mavs attempting the fourth most in the league, their only hope in taking down one of the East’s elite may be from deep.
In their last two games, both wins, the Mavericks limited turning the ball over — with 11 against the Los Angeles Clippers, and nine against the Pistons, they weren’t wasting many possessions and giving up free transitions to their opponents.
That hasn’t always been the case this season for the Mavs, 26th in the league in turnovers with over 15 per game. It isn’t a surprise, with the majority of their ball handlers being first and second year players. But it’s also an easy thing to point to when looking at a losing box score.
The month of January has seen noticeable improvement though. Bringing the team turnovers down to 13, a full 2.5 turnover improvement from December, the Mavericks are giving themselves a better shot.
How to Watch
Tip off is set for 6 CT, and can be watched on FSSW, the Fox Sports Go app, or NBA LeaguePass.