Can you feel it? The Mavericks are here. Even when each day felt like a rushed monumental checkpoint in the march toward a new season, it’s still got me feeling like Tony Perkis.
In a jam packed season there will be inevitable ups and downs. We’ve scoured the first half schedule like Cage uncovering the Declaration of Independence, trying to pinpoint every peak and valley. We’re preparing ourselves for the off-nights that make us want to run through the streets rage-screaming (masked, of course).
But what about the flip side? What about the games when Dirk the Basketball God’s light shines down on us, and for a brief moment nothing else matters but Mavericks success and the ultimate destruction of our foes? These are three of the games that will make us truly rejoice in the first half of this season.
Dec. 27 — @ Los Angeles Clippers (2:30 CT, NBATV)
Who among us has not stewed in the grief and anger of the Mavericks exit from the playoffs back on August 30 at the hands of the Clippers? Listen, on paper (and according to the regular season) the Mavericks really had no business going toe to toe with Kawhi Leonard and the Clips. Especially when you consider the injuries the Mavericks had racked up.
I think we have the clarity to understand now that a healthy Mavericks team would have eliminated the Clippers, who had to (ahem) resort to AnTiCs to steal away the series. In fact it was the tone of that series that motivated some offseason moves for the Mavericks. While they still aren’t completely healthy, the Mavs will leverage some revenge in a visit to Los Angeles early in the season.
Something to watch for: For most of that playoff series Luka Doncic could not be stopped (though he could be stepped on), averaging 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in those six games. Doncic looks to be playing him into shape right now, so he may not be quite ready to dominate. But there is no doubt he will be geared up for this one. Marcus Morris is currently listed as “Day to Day”.
Jan. 15 — @ Milwaukee Bucks (6:30 CT, ESPN)
The Mavericks have played the Bucks well of late, winning both games last season (and even the two preseason games in Milwaukee last week). The last time they met in a meaningful game was back in the bubble, and featured an iconic Luka Magic moment:
The newly extended, back to back reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo and his crew will always be a tough challenge as one of the elite defensive teams in the league. But the Mavericks will be ready to battle. This may be the game that lets the league know the Mavs are ready to be taken seriously this season.
Something to watch for: the timetable for Kristaps Porzingis’ return has been vague at best. He’s begun light practice work, but most indications are that he will return at some point in January. Porzingis was solid against Milwaukee last season, averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds against the Bucks.
Feb. 4 & 6 — vs Golden State Warriors (6:30 CT, TNT & 7:30 CT, ABC)
In a unique scheduling feature the Mavericks play the Warriors twice at home, both on national television two days apart. Even without Klay Thompson the Warriors will be a handful to deal with, especially chasing around multi-MVP Seth Curry.
The Mavericks really weren’t very relevant during the Warriors’ reign, so this might be the first time both teams can put on a show. There may be fewer fireworks than if Thompson was also on the floor, but look for the hopefully improved perimeter defense in Dallas to be tested. Will they win both? That would be tough. But be prepared for rejoicing.
Something to watch for: Josh Richardson has a small sample size facing the Warriors, but has shot a lights out 18-of-30 from deep in those matchups. Already in his three preseason showings with the Mavericks Richardson has shown his ability and the growing chemistry with Luka. By this point in the season, look for that duo to be completely in sync.