The Dallas Mavericks (3-2) try to bounce back Sunday night when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (2-3). The Mavericks are tasked with recovering on the road after a heartbreaking home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night. The second time already this season.
While to the team should never look at this way, Sunday’s game kickoffs what looks on paper to be a small cushion in the schedule — a massive opportunity early in the season. Here’s what we’re looking for when these teams square up.
Free Throws. Dear God Free Throws.
The Mavericks went 16-of-23 from the line in their primetime matchup against LeBron James & Co. on Friday. While shooting less than 70 percent from the charity stripe is never acceptable, it definitely won’t cut it in a one possession game.
With 6.4 seconds left, Dwight Powell went to the line with the chance to put the Mavericks up four. Powell missed one, giving the Lakers life. And yes, there was a blown call on the ensuing possession. But if Powell makes that one...or Kristaps Porzingis connects on one of his three misses, et cetera, that last possession likely doesn’t matter.
The Mavericks have only shot 80 percent or better from the line once this season, in their opener against the Washington Wizards. If this team wants to continue their march toward postseason relevance, they need to sort out their problems shooting what should be free points.
A KP complete game
It should be expected that Kristaps Porzingis will need to take time to get all the way back to the level he was playing at before his injury with the New York Knicks. There have been flashes of brilliance in his first five games with the Mavericks. But he’s yet to put together a complete game.
KP’s averages of 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocks are solid numbers. Especially considering how long it’s been since he’s played competitive basketball. Whether it’s conditioning or consistency, it looks that deeper into the game Porzingis starts to fall off. Even if it isn’t a dominant performance, it would be nice to see KP with a complete performance Sunday.
The Wright Way
Delon Wright has come on strong early in the season for the Mavericks. He announced himself in their road victory in New Orleans against the Pelicans, but Wright has managed to be a high-impact player, no matter his role.
His counting stats aren’t jaw dropping: 11 points, three rebounds, four assists and nearly two steals per game. But taking a peak at his advanced stats, Wright currently has an offensive rating of 146, and a net Box Plus-Minus of 5.2 (second best on the team behind Luka Doncic).
It appears Carlisle may opt to use him off the bench, though no starting lineup should ever be declared a lock. Wright has thrived in both roles, and may prove to be a major steal for the Mavericks this season.
How to watch
Tip off in Cleveland is set for 6:30 pm Central, and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.