After suffering yet another disastrous loss in San Antonio against the Spurs last night, the Dallas Mavericks are back home on the second night of a back-to-back. They’ll face the Denver Nuggets in a game that Dallas needs to win if they hope to ever climb out of their seventh seed purgatory.
Denver currently sits in third place in the Western Conference after ceding the second seed to the Los Angeles Clippers a few days ago. That the Nuggets are struggling since the All-Star break is good news for the Mavs. They’ve only gone 5-4 since the break. However, one of those wins was against the Milwaukee Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Dallas is having its share of issues as well. They’re 6-5 post All-Star and have some exceedingly frustrating losses under their belt—last night’s loss to the Spurs being the most recent. While the Mavs once looked like a team that could legitimately play well enough to potentially make the second round of the playoffs, they now look like a team that doesn’t have it anymore. To have any hope of avoiding their first three-game losing streak of the season, they’ll need to dig deep Wednesday night.
Of course, everything comes down to the health of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Doncic was questionable going into Tuesday’s game, but he played anyway. It was clear, though, that he wasn’t 100 percent. While he filled the box score, his right wrist and left thumb appeared to be bothering him, especially when Spurs defenders swiped across is body and made contact with either. Doncic loves to compete, but Dallas may want to take precautionary measures so that those appendages are able to heal.
As for Porzingis, Dallas rested him on the second night of their previous couple of back-to-backs. Is there any reason to have him play in this one? We’ll have to wait and see with him, but there’s at minimum a 50/50 chance that he could sit this one out.
Dallas got Dorian Finney-Smith back last night and he came up with some big plays. He’ll have to do so again as the Nuggets, when they’re clicking, have one of the most fluid and effortless offenses in the league.
At the time of this writing, there’s no word as to whether Seth Curry will suit up. Hopefully he can return from his nagging injury soon. He was shooting lights out and was a big reason the Mavs were routing teams when they were winning before he went down.
Offense vs. Defense
I know what you’re thinking. It’s the Mavs’ offense versus the Nuggets’ defense. Nope, wrong. Since the All-Star break, Denver is the team with the better offense (113.8 offensive rating) and Dallas has the better defense (107.5).
Leading the Nuggets attack is Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray (I should also mention that Will Barton III is playing well because my friend T.J. McBride would want me to should him out). They are averaging 18.2 and 17.7 points per game, respectively, and have offensive ratings of 114.1 and 115.3. Jerami Grant boasts the highest offensive rating with 117.8.
If Dallas is again without a number of players—or the game gets into the clutch—slowing down Denver will be a challenge. They Mavericks have to get stops, unlike they did in San Antonio. Further, Doncic can’t get caught ball-watching. He might not be a great defender, but he can’t stand there and do nothing. Regardless, Dallas should be scrappy enough to stymie Denver for at least a few plays.
Speaking of clutch situations, this is where the Mavs haven’t had it all season. I touched on it briefly after the loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday. There’s really no reason to delve more into. You probably already know the numbers. Their gauche play late in games have become so common that it’s become cliche. At this point, they just have to do better. That starts with the coaching staff and runs all the way down to Antonious Cleveland. If they can’t make it work then expect a rocky road ahead.
How to watch
Tip off is at 5:00 p.m. Central and you can watch on ESPN.