It’s been an extremely weird start for pretty much the entire league. The frequency of blowouts is up, injuries and health safety protocols are keeping teams off balance, and no offense to the Orlando Magic, but it seems doubtful anyone would’ve pegged them for second best record in the East three weeks into the season. Losing starting point guard Markelle Fultz for the season to a torn ACL certainly is not going to help sustain that momentum.
The Mavericks, on the other hand, perhaps haven’t started the season firing on all cylinders, but have pulled out two gutsy wins in a row against Houston and Denver. Now, fully seven of the West’s fifteen teams currently sit with the Mavericks at 4-4, so every win here in the next few weeks will seemingly have big impacts on seeding. Turn the two-win streak into three, avoid COVID, and add one Kristaps Porzingis to the lineup? Baby, you’ve got a contender going.
Here are three things to watch for:
Dallas started the season shooting an absolutely beleaguered 30.7% from three through six games. Not good for a team who last season set a record of offensive efficiency. With how the offense is built, this team really has no choice other than to try and shoot themselves out of a slump. Well, thanks to the hot hands of players like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber (not to mention Luka Doncic improving his 16% from three mark) the team has shot over 40% from three in their last two games, both wins.
I won’t say the Mavs are definitely going to shoot 40% from distance from here on out (but could you imagine how sick that would be?), but simply reverting to the mean a bit would go a LONG way to adding Ws to the win column. Dallas was 10th in the league in 3pt% last season, but currently sits at 25. Expect that to improve.
If it ain’t broke…
As the team awaits the arrival return of Porzingis, Coach Carlisle seems to have found a viable starting lineup. Hard to argue the results of the Luka/Richardson/Finney-Smith/Cauley-Stein/Kleber lineup that has performed so well in the two wins. By virtue of having written that sentence, Carlisle is likely to mix it up just to spite me. In particular, the play of one Willie Cauley-Stein deserves commendation. Like Hardaway Jr last season, the promotion to starter seems to have given WCS a shot in the arm. Ironically, Hardaway himself is a bit of a victim of all this as Cauley-Stein’s emergence has moved him to the bench - a role he’s publicly said in the past is not ideal in his mind. But, hey, winning fixes a lot, and if this team can keep winning, it may smooth over minor rough patches like that. Especially considering Hardaway Jr has been lighting it up from the bench.
Fultz down, who’s even left?
It’s truly an absolute bummer to see a guy like Fultz - who was playing so well at last after a long and public fall from grace - go down for the season. No doubt, any team in the league would find it tough to lose a starting PG, but for Orlando in particular, it appears the starting duties will fall to rookie Cole Anthony, who is, well, a rookie. The Magic still have plenty of talent (and a ton of length) in guys like Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Terrence Ross, but Fultz isn’t the only contributor they’re missing. Orlando is going to find themselves stretched very thin if guys like Evan Fournier, Al-Farouq Aminu, and even Michael Carter-Williams can’t lace ‘em up. Oh, and Johnathan Isaac is out for the season. Good lord.
All that to say… I’m very sorry to you, Orlando. Truly. But the Mavericks should crush this team. No other team in the league can match the Magic’s injury report in sheer loss of talent. They’re simply running out of bodies. The NBA is all about taking advantage of your opponents weaknesses, and as of now, Orlando’s biggest weakness is not having any basketball players left.
Bonus point: COVID Mavericks
After this was turned in, news broke about the three Mavericks who are in the NBA protocol for COVID-19. So this game is harder now as Dallas was without three of their top rotation players.
How To Watch
7:30PM CT Jan. 9th on Fox Sports Southwest - Dallas
If you’re one of those living locally with FSSW problems, you can listen live on ESPN 103.3 FM / 1270 AM (ESP).