The Dallas Mavericks (27-35), coming off an embarrassing loss at home to the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday night, head east to face the Brooklyn Nets (32-33). This is the second and final meeting this season for the teams, after the Mavericks topped the Nets 119-113 back in November in Dallas.
It’s been a tough stretch for the post-trade Mavericks, losing seven of their last nine games, while going 4-8 since the trade that brought Kristaps Porzingis and others to Dallas. While the focus is building stronger chemistry with new teammates and giving opportunity to some of the younger players on the roster, grabbing a win Monday night could prove a tall task as they face a Brooklyn squad looking to solidify their playoff spot in the East.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for tonight:
Finding their shot
The Mavs were just awful from the field against the Grizzlies, from the three-point line in particular. Sometimes it’s just basketball destiny and you can’t find the bottom of the net, but to go 7-of-40 from three (a staggering 17.5 percent) is nearly jaw-dropping. It was the entire roster this time around, Tim Hardaway Jr. being the only player to hit more than one (and he still went 2-of-7, while Luka Doncic was 1-of-8).
The Mavericks aren’t particularly good from three, a storyline that’s followed them all season. Currently 26th in the league as a team, shooting 34 percent from deep, while taking the third most attempts per game, the Mavs just don’t have consistent shooters. And really, no sharpshooters to make up the difference. Brooklyn and Dallas both defend the three well (7th and 8th respectively in opponent three-point percentage), so it’s possible both teams will have to find success elsewhere.
Brunson seizing the moment
Since the trade that sent Dennis Smith Jr. to the New York Knicks, rookie Jalen Brunson has assumed his spot in the starting lineup in all but two games. With a significant uptick in minutes, the seasoned rookie has mostly been a positive, averaging 11 points, four rebounds and four assists. Add to that him connecting on 38 percent of his three point attempts (a vast improvement from the start of the season), it’s becoming clear in his 28 minutes per game that there is longterm potential there.
Still, Brunson battles inconsistency like most rookies do. For every few games where he posts points in the teens, with five rebounds and five assists, he’ll have a 2-4-2 game while shooting 1-of-10 from the floor like he did over the weekend. Though some may be out of necessity, it’s a positive that Rick Carlisle is letting his rookie work through slumps to finish the year. Brunson looks to be an important bench piece next season.
The best surprises of the season
No doubt that watching Luka Doncic develop and dominate as a rookie has been the most fun storyline to follow for the Mavericks this season. And the acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis, his hopefuly running mate for infinity years, was something no one really saw coming. But the best surprise this year has been the development of Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber.
Not much new has sprouted up from the two restricted free agents recently, and their future in Dallas still yet to be secured. But it’s nice at this point of the season, while the product remains inconsistent as a team, to remember what a leap they’ve made. There are seven two-man lineups that have played 500-plus minutes together and have an even or positive net-rating, and each one of those features one of DFS and Kleber. That’s huge. It may reflect how weak the top of the Mavs roster has been, but it also shows the impact these guys have had. Even if it’s just an offensive rebound here, and block there, a couple threes drained, it’s nice to watch the hustle, effort, and success of these two.
How to Watch
Tip off is set for 6:30 CT, and can be watched on FSSW or the FoxSports Go app. It will also be featured on NBA TV.