The Dallas Mavericks (37-24) wrap up a quick road trip Monday night with a visit to the Chicago Bulls (20-40). It’s the second night of an away back-to-back, after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves handily Sunday afternoon 111-91.
A common thread through much of 2020, the Mavericks continue shorthanded as they battle injury of key players. Luka Doncic (thumb) sat out Sunday and, at the time of writing, is unclear he’ll make an appearance in Chicago. The team is also without Jalen Brunson, Willie Cauley-Stein and of course the season ending injury to Dwight Powell. And with this being a back-to-back, it’s possible they’ll be without Kristaps Porzingis, who had an outstanding game in Minnesota.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for.
Curry can’t miss
In his 25 appearances in 2020, Seth Curry has been on a tear. Knocking down 51-percent of his threes, on nearly six attempts per game, he has really rounded into form after a slow start to the season. Frankly, it couldn’t come at a better time.
Both Curry and fellow starting wing Tim Hardaway Jr. have taken turns holding the flame-thrower, and the cherry on top is that it’s coming with or without Luka Doncic on the floor. For this offense to truly sing Doncic needs shooters surrounding him and both players are shouldering a large portion.
In addition to his outside shooting, Curry has found a sweet spot from the midrange, connecting on 51-percent of attempts from 16 feet to the three point line. He’s been using Porzingis and Kleber screens well, and at times looks automatic when he gets to his spot.
Very quietly the Mavericks have proved many doubters (me and a list of others) wrong when it comes to their ability to rebound. At fourth in the league with 47 rebounds per game, the Mavericks are not only getting a lot of output from Kristaps Porzingis who is rebounding better this season than he has in his career, they’ve been a great on the glass a team.
The Chicago Bulls on the other hand come in last in rebounding this season. But in their last meeting with the Mavericks in January they held their own, actually just barely out-rebounding Dallas. The difference? The offensive glass, where the Bulls grabbed a staggering 17 rebounds.
The Mavericks will likely be without Porzingis, and will need to focus their efforts on protecting against second chance points. The Bulls were able to stay close to the Mavericks in the first matchup with a 72-46 difference on points in the paint.
Though both teams are middle of the pack in terms of pace, the Bulls were able to push the tempo of the game and managed to score 27 fast break points in the January battle. The Mavericks don’t look to play fast, and if they have turnover trouble (15 against Chicago) they’re forced into a race they prefer to not run.
If Doncic is back the Mavericks should be able to control tempo of the game and protect the ball. Otherwise game management duties may fall back to Delon Wright or J.J. Barea. Seth Curry has taken on more playmaking responsibility lately. With a thin bench, Rick Carlisle may be forced to tinker with rotations to keep players fresh on the second night of a back-to-back.
How to watch
Tip off is set for 7:00 p.m. Central, and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.