It was never going to be an easy stretch of basketball for the Dallas Mavericks (9-7). Even fully healthy this November trek was circled as several hurdles, one after the other. Now with recent injury setbacks to Maxi Kleber, and most importantly Luka Doncic, the Mavs are staring down the barrel of a three-game losing streak. They look to right the ship Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers (10-7).
Kleber made his first appearance on the floor since an early exit against the Sacramento Kings on 0ctober 31. Doncic, who was listed as a game-time decision and eventual scratch, may make a return in Los Angeles Tuesday night. Though with the Mavericks not set to play again until Saturday at home, it wouldn’t be surprising if he is held out for additional rest.
Here is what we will be watching for in tonight’s matchup:
Searching for THJ
Even though most of these games have stayed close, scoring has been down in the absence of Doncic. Whether it’s spacing or rhythm it seems to have really effected Tim Hardaway Jr. His 16 points per game over the last three is more than his season average, but he has shot 6-of-22 from three (27 percent) and 32 percent from the floor.
The Mavericks have had the misfortune of facing some pesky defense while being shorthanded, but the Mavericks really need Hardaway’s shooting to be competitive, Doncic or not. It has been a slow start to the season for the starting wing. Hopefully this is just a short-lived slump.
Wherefore art thou, threes?
On Sunday afternoon the Mavericks made six entire three-pointers against the Clippers. While L.A. went 12-of-29 from deep. Somehow the Mavericks were in it in the final minute.
Yes, we’ve heard maybe too much: shooting is down across the league. The Mavericks have been frigid for long stretches this season. But hitting six is roooough. Can they turn that around Tuesday night? It seems unlikely they can keep it so close if it is a repeat of Sunday’s output, while letting the Clippers be so efficient.
Role players playing roles
Any time there is an absence of a superstar nearly the whole roster is forced out of their role. It can be demanding and often confusing, with players filling spots they shouldn’t — see Hardaway and Trey Burke running the offense together.
The issues in production haven’t been up top. Kristaps Porzingis continues to be fairly effective on offense lately, and Jalen Brunson has been nothing but the best player on the team all season. This stretch hasn’t resulted in wins, but it’s hard to point fingers at those two.
Plainly, the Mavericks need more from guys like Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith, Hardaway, Reggie Bullock and the rest of the bench. It has been their shifts in responsibility that have shone the biggest gaps in production. It is unclear at this point whether Doncic will play Tuesday — either way the Mavericks will be without spark-plug Frank Ntilikina — but there’s no doubt the Mavericks role players need to find a new gear. And fast.
How to Watch
Tip-off is set for 9:30 p.m. CT and can be watched on Bally Sports Southwest locally, and NBA League Pass nationally.