The Dallas Mavericks (31-20) head to the nation’s capital Friday evening to take on the Washington Wizards (17-32). Dallas is coming off yet another home loss, this time to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Wizards lost to the Warriors on Monday at home and have had plenty of time to stew over the loss.
With just a week to go before All-Star weekend then solid break, many NBA teams are going through the motions. Dallas, though, cannot afford a loss. Though the playoffs remain a likelihood, a victory gives them more margin for error as the season progresses.
Here’s what to think about before the game and look for during it:
The offenses shall cook
The Wizards have cooled some after being in the top five in offensive rating for part of the year, Washington now sits with the eighth best offense in the NBA (offensive rating 111.5). Dallas, as we know, still manages to have the best offense in the league (offensive rating 115.9) despite only having Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in the same game just 8 times since December 12th.
Both teams are in the top five in points per game so the main differences in the offensive rating are accounted for by the fact that Dallas is just a bit more efficient in a number of areas.
Luckily for the Mavericks, the Wizards are dead last in the league in defensive rating and rebounding stats. They gave up 300+ points on back to back nights a few weeks back. That is impressive.
Will the injuries slow down Dallas?
Despite Dallas’ aforementioned statistical superiority, injuries have piled up. Depending on Friday’s injury report, the Mavericks may be missing four rotation players, including three starters. Dwight Powell and Luka Doncic are obviously out already, but Seth Curry is questionable with a knee issue and Kristaps Porzingis could miss the game as a result of his broken nose from Wednesday’s game. J.J. Barea is also questionable with an ankle sprain.
Every NBA team deals with injuries, but five guys out at one time is a lot. Rick Carlisle’s a magician with line ups but not even his tinkering might be able to overcome the loss of that much depth.
The Maverick bench needs to play better, plain and simple
With the exception of Courtney Lee, the various Dallas players who came off the bench Wednesday were universally terrible. The rotation is out of whack with so many injuries but the bench depth and variety of options has been a Dallas strength all year.
Delon Wright needs to shake off a tremendously bad performance and Willie Cauley-Stein would do well to at least fake giving a crap or he’ll be in the Carlisle Phantom Zone sooner than he realizes. These are opportunities to step up for players with limited roles. The Maverick players simply need to do so.
Will I see a fun game in person?
This is a question all of you should be thinking about. As I live just outside Washington D.C., I get to see one Mavericks game at most in person a year. My family joins me as my wife and I attempt to convince our three year old that the Mavericks are the best team to root for. Last year, Mark Cuban came over and took some of his popcorn. We don’t have as good a seats this year, but I’m still hoping for a fun game.
How to watch
It’s an early one, with a 6:00pm central tip off. The game will be on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.