The Mavericks are currently scuffling, losers of three straight to drop them below .500 against (6-7). Unfortunately, their chance to break the streak comes against a quality opponent, an Indiana Pacers team that has quietly won eight games (8-5) and looks a little revitalized with a coaching change and some young players making leaps.
This won’t be easy for Dallas. Here’s what we’re watching for.
Both teams are shorthanded — who steps up?
Neither Dallas nor Indiana will be at full strength. The status of Maxi Kleber, Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell are all up in the air as of right now due to COVID safety protocols. With Jalen Brunson returning Monday night against Chicago, there’s some hope some of the rest of the quarantining players might be back soon.
The Pacers just endured two big lineup blows. The first was sending Victor Oladipo to Houston as part of the James Harden trade, with their return from that trade, Caris LeVert, out due to his physical showing a small mass on his kidney. He’ll be out indefinitely, although the Pacers are hopeful it’s a non-cancerous mass and he returns before the season is up. The other is more recent, with center Myles Turner suffering a fracture in his right hand. It won’t require surgery and he’s currently listed as day-to-day, but he’s likely missing the game against the Mavericks.
That leaves both teams shorthanded, so the question will be which team will get the necessary contributions from the next man up? The Mavericks were able to win two games with all their players out, thanks to a scoring outburst from Tim Hardaway Jr. against Orlando and the return of Kristaps Porzingis against Charlotte. Since then, the rotation losses have caught up to Dallas in a big way. Someone is going to have to step up and hit some shots around the Luka Doncic-Porzingis pick and rolll, as teams are just not fearful of the shooters the Mavericks are rolling out right now.
Can the Mavericks stop Domantas Sabonis?
The short answer? No. But they need to at least try to contain him
This would be a job for Maxi Kleber, the Mavericks jack-of-all trades defender that specializes against these bigger, nimble forwards. Sabonis is on some kind of tear this season, averaging 21.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, shooting 55.2 percent from the field.
Indiana loves using him all around the floor and as a facilitator from the high and low post. He might be too quick for Porzingis or Willie Cauley-Stein, but the Mavericks don’t really have anyone else that can match up. This will require a team defensive effort.
Will the Mavericks make any shots?
Dallas has struggled all season shooting the ball and it doesn’t help when you’re missing half your rotation for a week at a time due to COVID protocols.
The Mavericks started are giving more minutes to Wes Iwundu and Josh Green and while those two show great effort and energy on defense, they’re choking the Mavericks offense with a lack of shooting. The duo somehow combined to play 36 minutes and only attempt four three pointers against the Bulls on Monday, missing all four.
Porzingis and Hardaway have to step up. They’re the only active and healthy shooters with any sort of pedigree on the roster right now, until the rest of the rotation returns from health and safety protocols. Doncic needs some help, or the double teams will continue and the Mavericks defensive improvements this season won’t matter if they keep struggling to connect from deep.
How to watch
Tip off is set for 6 p.m. CT, and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA LeaguePass.