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Four things to watch for as the Mavericks try to stay perfect against Portland

I don’t want to jinx this, but…

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The much ballyhooed fun-fact getting thrown around after the Mavericks road win against the Pelicans was that this is the first time Dallas has started a season 2-0 since the ‘04-’05 season. So, with that in the bag, the next thing to do would be to match the start the team had the season before that in ‘03-’04. That, of course, being the year the Mavericks ripped off 14 wins in a row to start the season.

So what’s it going to take to get to 15-0?

A fast start

Just, as a matter of course in any kind of sporting competition, it’s ideal not to immediately have less points than your opponent. I’m no analytics guru, but one imagines that spotting the opposing team a quick five or ten points would negatively affect your own chances of prevailing in said game of sport.

And so, in the interest of winning games, I’d like to see the Mavericks jump out to an early lead for once. Yes, they’re 2-0, but they began both of those victories by going down 13-7 early against the Wizards, and then again against the Pelicans, when they fell in to a quick 10-4 hole on the road. Again, they came back to win both those games, so how much does it really matter? Well, in truth, I mostly just don’t want Josh to be able to send out this tweet for the third game in a row proclaiming how right he is all the time.


It’s obviously very easy to say, “you know, I bet if the Mavericks just went out and played well for the whole game… they’d really stand a good chance of coming away with a W in this one.” Fair enough.

But the thing that makes this team’s up and down play so baffling is that, even in just the two prior games, we’ve seen the heights they’ve been able to reach, if only for small stretches at a time — most notably in a 45-point outpouring in the second quarter in New Orleans. A quarter where they held the Pelicans to just 23 points.

Similarly, Dallas leaned heavily on their solid second and third quarter performance in the opener against the Wizards when they went out and laid a 17-point egg of a quarter in the fourth.

It would be nice to see them be able to utilize a bit more of the cruise control, so to speak, as opposed to slamming on the gas, following quickly by slamming on the brakes. And to that end…

Who the heck are the starters for this team?

Fans had their best guesses as to who was going to be the fifth starter. We assumed there would be a level of fluidity to that spot. But it’s safe to say most didn’t expect this level of fluidity. Dorian Finney Smith, Justin Jackson and Tim Hardaway Jr, three names in heavy rotation in the “fifth starter debate,” through two games, Jackson and Hardaway have a total of ZERO starts between them. Courtney Lee on the other hand? He’s started in both games.

I’d like to say we’ve seen the last of Courtney Lee as a starter seeing as how his -4 and -9 +/- score in the first two games has a non-trivial amount to do with those slow starts mentioned earlier.

Carlisle seems to agree with that notion since Lee, despite starting, saw just 6 minutes of action before being replaced by an impressive Delon Wright the rest of the way. But who knows. Rick might read this, clone Courtney Lee five times and start a lineup of all Courtney Lees, just to spite us.

How good are the Mavericks, really?

The win against the Wizards was necessary if for no reason than to avoid mass fan panic to start the season. They’re awful, and playoff-bound teams need to beat the awful teams. New Orleans is a team that, along with Dallas, is mentioned as a fringe playoff contender, so to beat them in their arena was another bolster to fan confidence.

However, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Portland is going to be the best team the Mavericks will have faced in this young season. The Blazers are 1-1 after dropping a close game against a Denver team that might be the best team in the West, they beat the upstart Kings and will be coming to Dallas looking to get above .500 for the first time this season.

After a surprisingly deep playoff run last year for Portland, they no doubt have their sights set on playoff success of their own, and CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard will be the biggest defensive test this newly assembled/work in progress Dallas front court has gone up against.

How to watch

The game tips off at 6 p.m. and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.