Something must be in the water the Dallas Mavericks are drinking because Rick Carlisle and company are playing strong basketball as the season winds to a close. The Mavericks are coming off two strong back-to-back victories against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers even without rookie sensation Luka Doncic.
As of this writing it isn’t clear if Doncic will suit up, but the next man up mantra has rung true each game as Justin Jackson shined Monday night and Trey Burke popped off Sunday afternoon.
The Mavericks have taken care of business against the Timberwolves twice this season, but here’s what to watch for when the two squads tip for the third and final time:
Karl-Anthony Towns ... obviously
We’re reaching groundbreaking analysis early, but KAT will certainly be someone to watch every second he’s on the floor. The 23-year-old is averaging an absurd 24 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. Those are terrifyingly ridiculous numbers from anyone, let alone a seven footer.
Dallas has had trouble defending Towns this season. In two games against the Mavericks, Towns has posted 30 points and eight rebounds while shooting a torrid 57 percent from the field and 56 percent from deep. The Mavericks called on Salah Mejri Monday night, and he answered to the tune of 16 points and 14 rebounds. He’ll likely be needed again in Dallas’ attempts to slow down Towns.
Dorian Finney-Smith sailing into the horizon
The DFS rollercoaster has been quite a ride this season. It’s had it’s ups. At one point he looked well on his way to a big pay day this summer. But it’s also had it’s downs. In the last seven games Finney-Smith has only played 13 minutes. Even with Doncic out the last two contests, DFS played for about 16 minutes each game. Justin Jackson has seemed to usurp Finney-Smith of his role, playing nearly 26 minutes per game in that same stretch. Even Ryan Broekhoff has logged nearly 19 minutes per night during that seven game span.
DFS’s shot has abandoned him as of late. He’s shooting only 17 percent from three in the last seven games. But maybe this is a case of Carlisle seeing what all he has on the roster since Finney-Smith is somewhat of a known commodity. But we’d all be lying if we weren’t somewhat concerned. Entering restricted free agency, it appears the Mavericks could either let DFS walk or ink him to a team friendly deal.
The other favorite role player
Maybe it’s just me, but for the majority of this season both Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber have been my favorite non-Luka and Dirk Mavericks. While DFS has faltered as of late, Kleber’s post-all-star stretch has taken a different trajectory. What’s most encouraging is his 41 percent mark from deep since February 22. Kleber’s a known shot blocker, and his energy can change the tone of a game. Unfortunately, he’s been a streaky shooter for his brief career. So let’s not take his recent hot streak as gospel, but it’s an exciting development as summer approaches.
How to watch
The game tips off at 7:30 CT and can be watched on NBA League Pass or Fox Sports Southwest.