The Dallas Mavericks (5-4) visit the Charlotte Hornets (6-5) Wednesday night, looking for a bit of revenge after an embarrassing 118-99 loss at home to this same team at the end of December. To their credit, the Mavericks have gone 4-1 since that meeting, though the beginning of January has had it’s share of drama.
The Mavericks haven’t played since Saturday night, a 112-98 victory over the Orlando Magic, after their Monday night game against the New Orleans Pelicans was postponed due to NBA Health & Safety Protocols. The Mavericks were short-handed against the Magic after three players were left in Denver due to positive COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and since then more players have been added to the list.
Mavs out tomorrow vs. Hornets due to health and safety protocols: Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell and Josh Richardson. One of Dallas’ positive tests yesterday was one of the players still quarantining in Denver, per sources.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 12, 2021
The league has been in meetings all week with the NBA Players Association to determine new safety guidelines in and out of games. But for the Mavericks, their focus will be on navigating being short-handed through a demanding schedule.
Here’s what we’re watching for tonight:
Three’s the key
The three ball is the lifeblood of Dallas Mavericks basketball, a tale as old as time, and this season has told that story in stark contrast. Shooting 39.5 percent in wins and 29.5 percent in losses from the perimeter this season, the Mavericks have fulfilled all corners of the “make or miss league” cliché.
In their first matchup, the Hornets connected on 44 percent from deep, and the Mavericks were a devastating 28.6 percent. It’s possible, even in the midst of health adversity, that the Mavericks have right the ship as they hit 38 percent from three in the month of January. There’s no doubt that Tim Hardaway Jr.’s recent re-emergence has aided in this. But the Mavericks will also be without Maxi Kleber, who has been an utterly unstoppable 47 percent from three this season.
Known tinkerer and local head coach Rick Carlisle has quite the task ahead of him, though it might also be a personal paradise, as he has to sort out how his rotations will look in the games ahead. With tighter restrictions on practice time, he’ll be doing much of this on the fly in-game.
Nine different Mavericks have made at least one start already this season, something MFFLs should be used to by now. With only four of those nine available tonight, at least one more player will be added to that list. The not-so-secret addition appears to be Kristaps Porzingis, who is listed as “Probable” at the time of this writing and expected to play against the Pelicans on Monday before the game was postponed.
It was always clear that this season was going to be about next man up, and this game is the first true test of that for the Mavericks. They will be without their third, fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth scorers — perhaps a perfect time for a debut...
A unicorn rises
Porzingis was rounding into peak form in last season’s playoffs, when suddenly he was gone dealing with another lower body injury. He posted averages of 24 points, nine rebounds and one block while shooting a scorching 53 percent from three in three games against the Los Angeles Clippers, and really looked the part of a superstar second in command alongside Luka Doncic.
It’s unclear how long, or perhaps short, a leash Porzingis will have this season. He will most likely be looking at strict minutes restrictions and games of rest, in an effort to preserve his health for the postseason. But his appearance for the Mavericks really couldn’t come at a better time, as they look for a stable scoring option as well as interior defense.
How to watch
Tip off is set for 6 p.m. CT, and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest.