It was less than a week ago that Dallas had its first meeting with their Southwest division rival San Antonio Spurs. They managed to come out of that meeting with a win, but this rematch will up the difficulty to some degree as Dallas is on a back to back and on the road.
The Spurs are having their own struggles this season, notching just two wins in their first seven games. Though, regardless of record, a pop-coached team has the ability to beat anyone at any time as evidenced by their win over the Bucks in Milwaukee. Dallas will need to play a complete game to right the ship after a sometimes-close, but ultimately underwhelming 15-point loss to the Heat.
Where art thou, Kristaps?
As of this writing, Kristaps Porzingis is listed as questionable. He’s missed four straight games in this young season with lower back tightness. Yesterday, Coach Kidd used words like “progressing” and “hopeful” when it came to Porzingis’ availability to play in San Antonio.
Having an effective Porzingis would be a huge boon for Dallas. With the rest of the team having played against a grueling Heat defense less than 24 hours prior, a player with some fresh legs could help keep the energy up. Not to mention, the Maverick front court, which seemed practically bursting at the seams in the preseason, it already wearing thin. Maxi Kleber is set to miss a week with an oblique strain, making the Porzingis provided spacing and interior defense all the more important.
Brunson - backup ball handler or starting scorer?
Whether or not Porzingis is playing will of course have huge implications here, but it’s also worth noting the recent move Kidd has made to his starting lineup. With Porzingis out, he pivoted away from the two-big lineup Dallas was running with in the opening games. Instead, Powell was the lone big, opening up a spot for Brunson to start.
Many may have thought Reggie Bullock would’ve been the obvious addition to the starting five based on his starting role for the Knicks, but Brunson has been on an absolute tear early this season. His play coming off the bench was the spark that led to wins against the Rockets and Spurs, and he played probably his best game of the season as a starter last night against the Heat.
There’s certainly something to be said with pairing Brunson with Doncic more. Much has been made so far this season of the Mavericks’ lack of offensive fire power. Some of that is a small sample size and shot variation. Looking at the numbers from last season, though, of the lineups that appeared in more than 5 games, the two lineups with the highest offensive rating were ones featuring both Doncic and Brunson.
After failing to add a secondary ball handler in the offseason, there was some level of hope that Jalen Brunson would end up being that player. It’s certainly a role he’s been tasked with before. However, with the Mavs in need of some offensive punch, there’s evidence that the best way to bolster that end of the floor is to played Brunson with Luka as opposed to used Jalen to hold down the fort while Doncic sits.
Looking back at back to backs
Last year, in a condensed 72-game season, Dallas went 8-8 on back to back games. The season before that, they were a hair above .500 at 7-6. Aiming to split these sets of games has sort of been Dallas’ M.O. in recent years — choosing to rest players on either the front or back end of these pairs of games. Just getting to parity on double headers is a huge accomplishment for Dallas, after all. In the 2018-19 season, arguably the last “normal” NBA season, the team was an atrocious 2-12. Dallas needs to be better than that if they’re aiming for the post season.
Dallas already lost its first back to back (a worst-case scenario, playing in the altitude of Denver on no rest), so it’d be nice to get a win here. Not to mention, they’re coming off a loss. To lose tonight would be the team’s first losing streak of the season, and knock their record down to just .500.
How to watch
You can watch the broadcast on Bally Sports at 7:30 CST