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3 things as the Mavericks go for two against the Hornets

Dallas tries to string together this year’s most unlikely winning streak as a beleaguered Charlotte squad heads to the AAC.

NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It’s so far so good for the survival mode Mavericks. Coming off a win Sunday night, Dallas turns right around and heads home to face a similarly short handed Hornets squad that has been hit hard by illness. LaMelo Ball, Jalen McDaniels, Mason Plumlee and Ish Smith will all miss the game due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Dallas is short handed… but not THAT short handed.

What might have been a tough match up sans-Luka against one of the East’s fun up and comers has turned into another instance of “if we lose this one, people are going to be really upset,” that the team saw against the rebuilding OKC lineup. It seems strange to hold a team without its best player to such a high standard, but there’s no rest for the weary in the NBA, and when a chance to win presents itself, like it has in this Charlotte match up, the team needs to seize it.

Scoring by committee

Luka’s 26 points per game were going to be hard — nigh impossible — for one player on this team to shoulder. The approach used against OKC, where every player who stepped on the floor scored a handful of points, seems like the most likely game plan in the long term. Brunson led the Mavs in scoring on Sunday, but Moses Brown contributing a season-high 15 is the kind of opportunistic scoring Dallas needs while Luka’s ankle is on the mend.

Very few people on this team have played well enough this year consistently to demand a game plan centered around simply feeding them the ball, so the best way to generate a consistent offense will be to do what they can to break down defenses until an open man can get a good look at a shot.

Porzingis the focal point

THAT BEING SAID… it certainly wouldn’t hurt if someone, say, a certain 7’3 tall sharp shooter made things easier for everyone else by stretching opposing defenses to their breaking point.

Porzingis got the most shots on Sunday, turning 17 attempts into 13 points, but was 0-of-3 from deep. To a degree, it seems Kidd’s game plan against OKC was to pound the paint against the Thunder team that lacked the requisite size to prevent Moses Brown from scoring 15 points, so the lackluster long distance shooting wasn’t much of a detriment. However, if Porzingis comes out hot and firing on all cylinders, particularly from deep, it just creates that much more room for someone like Brunson to operate in the paint, or find cutting big men on the way to the rim.

Bench depth to the rescue

It’s true that Charlotte is missing a ton of talent. Not least of which is its dynamic play-making scorer, LaMelo Ball. However, there are six players averaging double digits for the Hornets, and any one of them has the ability to get hot. Charlotte didn’t so much lose all of it’s top line talent as it did much of its bench depth. Ball and Plumlee have been starters, but Smith and McDaniels are both 20 minute per game bench pieces.

With both teams missing their offensive engines, this could be a game that looks pretty ugly, scoring-wise, but if Dallas’ remaining starters can keep up with Charlotte, and continue to force the issue inside with Plumlee out, then maybe there’s an opportunity for a big night from one of the less heralded Mavericks, a la Moses Brown’s big game against OKC. Ntilikina coming out party? Boban for 31 like he did against Denver? A bubble Burke sighting?! Time will tell.

How to watch

You can watch the broadcast locally on Bally Sports Southwest or out of market on NBA League Pass at 7:30 CST.