The Dallas Mavericks (2-1) play host to the other Texas team Thursday night, the San Antonio Spurs (1-3), after beating the Houston Rockets earlier in the week in the home opener. It’s been an up and down affair during the first three games of the season, as the Mavericks try to find footing with new head coach Jason Kidd.
The Spurs look to be fully embracing a new era of San Antonio basketball, after parting ways with veterans like DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay in the offseason. The oldest player in their rotation early this season is 29-year-old Doug McDermott, and the only player older than 30 in the entire roster is 33-year-old Thaddeus Young — and he’s played just 12 minutes this season.
It’s a full tide shift between the in-state foes, but MFFL’s everywhere know that you should never count out a Popovich-led team. So far this season they’ve played the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Lakers close.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for tonight:
Much was made of starting power forward Kristaps Porzingis entering play with a fully healthy off-season, a novelty of sorts in his career. To his credit he looks fresh and has been moving well. He has been active on defense, and looks to be more engaged across the board.
That aside, he’s been poo poo on offense. He’s shooting 23.5 percent from three and 30 percent from the floor, while averaging 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the first three contests. Kidd has made it clear he wants to free KP up to get more looks that aren’t just at the three point line, but there has been zero rhythm to his game.
Porzingis was held out for most of the second half of Tuesday’s game against the Rockets, after posting nine points (2-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-4 from three) and three rebounds in 20 minutes. In-game reporting and postgame comments described the precaution as “back tightness” that kept the oft-injured Porzingis off the floor, though he did remain on the bench without receiving much visible treatment.
The Mavericks have shown they can win games without KP leading the way, but for the Mavericks to take any step forward they need him to be a contributor, and they really need him healthy. After the game Kidd said Porzingis is okay (listed as Questionable), and that they will continue to monitor his discomfort and availability. Maybe this is just a blip on the journey of this season, but the more these occurrences pop up expect Mavericks’ nerves to shoot up (and maybe trade talks increasing).
Along Came Polly (2004) is a movie that follows the shooting woes of the Dallas Mavericks (2021). I’m not sure how they found future footage, but there you have it.
As a team they are 26th in the league from three, at just under 31-percent. It’s not been good folks. The first two games were a spacing battle, and the Mavericks found no rhythm. But Tuesday against the Rockets they actually started to find some of the great open looks they’ve had in recent seasons — they just weren’t going in. Part of this is undoubtedly good process, bad results. But with the way this roster is constructed they are going to have to find life from three. Unfortunately the Spurs have been fairly solid defending the three early this season. While the Mavericks showed they can while shooting just 28 percent from three against the Rockets, most nights that won’t work.
Bench chemistry building
This roster is mostly the same, but there are a few pieces being added to the mix. The most talked about, rightfully so, is wing Reggie Bullock. Though it feels obvious that Bullock should be starting or at the very least playing more, he’s found himself coming off the bench in spurts early this season.
Tuesday night felt like the first time we’ve had a taste of what it looks like to have Bullock and sixth man Jalen Brunson both clicking. Pulling from lead assistant coach Igor Kokoskov’s playbook, the Mavericks made a point of letting Bullock find a rhythm. In moments, it felt a little like watching Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr. operate off the bench last season.
It seems clear at this point that for any bench crew to work and give Luka Doncic time to rest, the Brunson-Bullock combo has to be impactful. It would be nice to see them build off last game, which saw Brunson post 11 points and 11 assists, while Bullock added 16 points (4-of-9 from three).
How to watch
Tip-off is set for 7:30 CT, and can be watched locally on Bally Sports Southwest, and nationally through NBA League Pass.