The Dallas Mavericks (0-1) look to get some early season momentum after losing to the Phoenix Suns on opening night. This time around they battle against LeBron James and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (0-1), who also dropped their opener to the Clippers on Tuesday.
The Mavericks haven’t played in a coveted Christmas matchup in nine years, back when they “Raised the Banner” in 2011 then soundly chased off the floor by the Miami Heat.
These holiday games are a league honor for up and coming teams, but if you somehow find yourself un-excited by the excitement perhaps this’ll do the trick:
The holiday battle between Luka Legend and King James starts at 8:00PM ET Christmas day on ESPN & ABC! pic.twitter.com/STpeBpDp40— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 22, 2020
Here are the things we’ll be looking for in this season of giving!
Give us some threes, please
In their 106-102 loss to the Suns on Wednesday, the Mavericks were a stomach-churning 9-of-37 from three. Last season they tallied single-digit three pointers only six times all of last season, playoffs included. No one shot the ball particularly well from deep on Wednesday, but the starters were a chilly 6-of-27. They can’t afford a repeat performance.
The Lakers were barely better from three in their opener verse the Los Angeles Clippers, going 9-of-29. Though it was not a core part of their identity last season, the defending champs will also need to be better from long range to right the ship.
But this is a bigger storyline for the Mavericks, who rely heavily on spacing the floor and getting up a high volume of attempts. One of the keys after a poor shooting night and a loss is likely to shoot through it. We shouldn’t expect them to be timid, and the numbers tell us they should regain some footing. The defensive length and athleticism of the Lakers will make life difficult, and the Mavericks will be looking to break the slump fast.
Give us some defense, please
It is not a gift to be tasked with slowing down LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While the Mavericks put an emphasis on defensive versatility and assertiveness, on paper there wouldn’t appear to be anyone that can shut either of them down. Or is there? Courtesy of staff writer Ryan Mainville:
It’s going to take a committee to keep up with either player, but it looks like Maxi Kleber might be the key, as he held Davis to an offensive rating of 95.5 in an albeit small sample size last season. Expect Kleber, Dwight Powell, and maybe even James Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein to all see time slowing Davis down. As The Brow averaged 27 points and nine rebounds in three games against the Mavericks last season, it’s going to be a team effort.
Give us some Luka v. LeBron, please
It’s well documented Luka Doncic’s worship of LeBron James, and King James’ admiration of the young phenom. He even recently lamented missing out on Doncic to be the face of his brand. That Doncic gets to face-off against his idol in a highly visible game is special.
It’s possible some of that reality has influenced his games against James, with Doncic averaging 21.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists in seven games. That that is below standard for Luka is a testament to his game. But undoubtedly the pressure he puts on himself to perform in these moments is felt.
James, who turned his ankle in the opener but has said he’ll be ready to go, called Doncic “an exceptional talent” during Christmas Eve’s media session. And judging from Lakers head coach Frank Vogel’s comments Thursday, they plan on throwing the kitchen sink at Luka:
I thought Frank Vogel gave some really interesting tidbits when it came to how the team plans to defend Dallas tomorrow, and Luka, specifically.— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) December 24, 2020
Also, his general thoughts on AD's ability in these situations against the better perimeter players in the league. pic.twitter.com/LF2GqsL9jI
It is sometimes hard to look past outcomes, especially when fans want the Mavericks to get off to a proper start to this season filled with expectations. But it’s okay to soak in the moment of watching the Mavericks and Doncic in this prime time moment.
Oh, also...WE GET GREEN JERSEYS BACK!
How to Watch
Tip off is set for 7 p.m. central time, and can be watched on ABC.