The Dallas Mavericks (36-25) look to wrap up Luka Doncic’s birthday weekend with a win against a struggling Minnesota Timberwolves (17-41) team that has hit a reset button on their roster, as they continue to free-fall in the standings.
These two teams met just six days ago in Dallas, a 139-123 Mavericks win that was never in doubt. Now the Mavericks will look to use this game as a bounce-back from an inconsistent visit to the Miami Heat Friday night. Here’s what we’ll be watching for in this matinee matchup.
Luka Doncic battling injury
It may have been a pre-birthday hangover, it may have been injury, but early in the Mavericks games against the Miami Heat Doncic did not look himself. The Heat did a great job making him uncomfortable in his drives through the lane, playing physically any time he went off the dribble.
But there’s no doubt he’s been battling nagging thumb pain, something that was re-taped at least once during Friday night’s game. In his last three games he’s 4-of-23 from the three point line.
At the time of this writing Doncic is listed as “Questionable” for Sunday’s game. Is it this injury? Is it the after effects of a birthday weekend? Who’s to say. If he does play, hopefully there won’t be much asked of him against a weak Timberwolves team. In their last matchup Doncic was only needed for 25 minutes.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been falling rapidly since the start of December, going a startling 7-33 in that stretch. Just before the deadline they essentially blew up the roster, making large changes to perhaps right the ship and lineup their stars for the future.
They’ve been without cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns (fractured wrist), who missed 15-straight games, then the last six. In his absence they’ll lean on the newly acquired tandem of D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, who combined for 50 points in the last game against the Mavericks. Either one can get hot from deep (they’re both shooting 38-percent from deep on the season). It will be up to the Mavericks to shut that duo down, or force the rest of the roster to flounder, if they want to put this one away quickly.
Please more Porzingis
It was quite the month of February for Kristaps Porzingis, who posted averages of 25 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two assists, all while shooting 40-percent from three (on nine attempts per game). Granted, it was just nine games. But the big man looks to be taking another large step after a long absence.
He had a quiet showing when these teams last met, hitting just one three in eight attempts. But that was one of only two quiet performances in an otherwise impressive month of basketball. His chemistry with Luka Doncic and the rest of the offense around him continues to improve. It’s hard not get excited seeing it develop before our eyes.
Porzingis attempted 14 threes against Miami on Friday night (hitting six), but the hope is his effectiveness will stretch to all three levels as defenses have to respect him all over the floor. There’s no reason he shouldn’t dominate a lackluster Timberwolves squad.
How to Watch
Tip off is early, set for 2:30 CT, and can be watched on FSSW.