First and foremost, it must be mentioned that a potential game six is as of right now up in the air as players and teams across the league are opting not to play in light of the police shooting in Kenosha, WI. The league, for its part, has postponed all games that were to take place on Wednesday the 26th. As we wait to see what comes of this and what the player decide their next move is, we’ll focus on what the Mavericks can do to bounce back from a historically bad beat in game five.
Will we see Kristaps Porzingis play again this post season?
After being a late scratch to game four and sitting out again for game five due to right knee soreness, there is a very distinct possibility — probability even — that we’ve seen the last of KP this season, which would be a shame.
With the knee causing him to miss 10 games earlier this season and no guarantee the Mavericks will still be playing in 10 games time, it’s looking like they’ll have to find a way to replace his production if they have any hope of grabbing another game from the preseason title favorite Clippers.
Aside from the obvious downside of not having a player of Porzingis’ ability available to play, it’s also unfortunate that we were unable to really see how effective a playoff tandem of Luka Doncic and Porzingis could be, particularly in clutch time. Game one saw KP’s ejection, game two had Luka in foul trouble for much of the contest, and game three was when Luka injured his ankle. In particular, it’s game one that feels like the biggest what if, but it shouldn’t be overlooked how much the team has accomplished despite one of their top players missing most of the series.
One last chance to tinker.
With KP out the last two games, the starting lineup has been Kleber, Finney-Smith, Burke, Hardaway and Doncic with Burke being the player elevated to a starting spot in the absence of KP.
The results have been mixed. Game five actually saw the starting five build a nine point lead before the wheels completely fell off in the 43-point loss. To an extent, Rick’s hands are tied as he’s short three big men in KP, Powell and Cauley-Stein and a number of guards in Lee and Brunson.
Burke has been a revelation, hence the promotion to a starting spot, but Rick is nothing if not a tinkerer, even if his moves are limited. (Finney-Smith, Burke and Doncic all made an appearance on Wednesday’s injury report as “questionable,” though it’s hard to see them not playing) Seth could make an appearance in the starting five if they’d like to have Burke’s playmaking available off the bench. Maybe they’ll even try Boban at the tip off; it’s happened before.
Whoever ends up starting may be moot as it’s likely Rick is going to be mixing and matching at will in attempt to suit the game as it happens, but it’ll be interesting to see what the coach trots out as an opening salvo in an elimination game.
To an extent, the Mavericks have accomplished what they sought to do this season and that was to simply make the playoffs. That they drew the worst possible first round opponent is no doubt unfortunate, but the fact that they not only avoided a sweep but also were able to create possibly the most exciting moment for Mavs fans since Vince Carter’s game 3 game winner against San Antonio in 2014 is something to treasure.
That said, if this is it, it’s going to feel a lot better if we go down swinging. To get unceremoniously ejected from the bubble on another tape-to-tape route would be disappointing, even while trying to keep in mind that this is a team that’s ahead of schedule. While contingent on what happens during the draft and free agency, this is a team that could be talked about as a title contender entering next season; just two years removed from a Cuban-era low in wins and the drafting of Luka Doncic. This team has a future, and that’s not something that can be taken for granted as you look across the league at teams who have been toiling for far longer and have built far less.
Still. I don’t want to lose by 40 points again.
Where to watch
Game six will (pending developments with player boycott and potential strike) be on ESPN and starts at 8:00 CST.