The Mavericks are coming off of their first two game winning streak in over a month, and they managed the feat without their superstar point guard, Luka Doncic, who missed both games with a sore ankle. Sure, they did it against an Oklahoma City team who is clearly tanking and a good Charlotte team that was missing their star and three other rotation pieces, but this team was in desperate need of some good vibes after having lost four of their previous five games.
They’ll have a chance to make it three straight wins when the 15-13 Los Angeles Lakers visit the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. The Lakers, like the Mavericks, are trying to find their footing in the West coming off of two consecutive wins of their own against the Thunder and a rebuilding Orlando Magic.
Here are four things to keep an eye on Wednesday:
Health update for both teams
Luka has officially been ruled out again for this game. I was looking forward to seeing him go against LeBron in a nationally televised game, but it’s probably wise to hold him out since the Mavs’ don’t play again until Sunday when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves. A rested and healthy Doncic is absolutely necessary for this team to be at its best, so let’s hope he’s back then and truly ready to go.
For the Lakers, Anthony Davis (knee) and Lebron James (abdomen) are listed as a game time decisions, and Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard and Malik Monk are out with COVID-19 protocols.
Even when Doncic returns to the lineup Dallas is going to need to get more consistent contributions from its bench and secondary players. On Sunday night Bubble Burke made an appearance with 23 points in 22 minutes. Even with Doncic, the Mavs have need more shot creation, and when Trey Burke is rolling, he does it very well. With Kidd’s demanding defensive scheme and Burke’s limitations on that end, Burke will need to be very consistent offensively when he does get minutes to earn more playing time. If he could force his way into the rotation with his play, that would be a great thing going forward for this offense.
The young fellas
Over the last two games combined Jason Kidd has given Moses Brown 29 minutes and Josh Green 39 minutes. After getting their fair share of DNP-CD’s and garbage time minutes this season, it seems like it’s their time to prove they deserve some sort of spot in the regular rotation.
Brown has proven that he can provide a spark of energy when he’s in the game. He has a rare combination of size, athleticism, and motor, but he’s definitely raw on both ends of the court. Still, he rebounds, dunks, and hustles. If he can limit negative plays as his minutes creep upwards, I can see him taking a chunk of Willie Cauley-Stein’s place in the rotation. The Mavs bigs will have their hands full with the Lakers’ size so another good night from Moses would help tremendously.
Josh Green has looked lost and hesitant for most of his NBA career so far, but in these last two games you can see the potential he has. Like Moses, Josh is athletic and plays hard and the Mavs could use both of those qualities on a regular basis. He’s gone 3-of-3 and 3-of-5 from the floor in the last two, defended without fouling, and moved the ball with purpose. Hopefully this is the start of something good for him and he can start to regularly give the team some positive minutes.
Can the Mavs have 2 good offensive games in a row?
So far this season, the answer has been an emphatic “NO”. They’re coming off of a game against Charlotte where they shot 46.3% from three point range. That shooting plus energetic defense and rebounding made for an easy 24 point win against a good team. The ball moved extremely well but it’s easy to move the ball when everyone is hitting shots. It’s not as easy to make the extra pass when you know the guy you’re passing it to hasn’t hit a shot all night.
We’ve seen long periods of great ball movement and consistent shooting from this team in the previous two seasons with checks notes pretty much all the same players, so one would think the players have it in them.
The Lakers have struggled defensively this season, ranking 27th in points allowed, and if they’re without Anthony Davis roaming the paint, the Mavs should attack the basket consistently and not allow the game to be decided solely by their ability to hit jump shots.
Playing through maculate vibes
Coach Jason Kidd said after their loss to the Pelicans last week “when we miss shots we get into our feelings.” When things are going well these Mavs seem to have fun and play with energy, but when things start to go sideways, you can see the whole mood shift.
Monday’s game against the Hornets was a much needed FUN game. The Mavs were hitting shots, playing with energy, moving the ball, and locking Charlotte down on defense. The Unicorn as Unicorn as ever, blocking shots (5!), hitting threes, and catching alley-oops. It was so much fun to watch Dallas have fun for the first time in a while.
They didn’t play well offensively in the game against the Thunder, but there seemed to be a noticeable togetherness, probably forged from the focus they knew they’d need to weather the next stretch of games without their best player.
The Mavs are going to have to learn to play sharp basketball and stay TOGETHER through adversity. Every season has stretches that test a team’s resolve, and the Lakers will test Dallas’ resolve all night long. This team will need to somehow find the ability to pass those tests over and over.
How to Watch
You can watch the broadcast locally on Bally Sports Southwest, on ESPN, or out of market on NBA League Pass at 6:30PM CST.