The Dallas Mavericks have had a few days off to digest their overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. They’ll try to get back on track on Sunday night as they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.
It won’t be easy, as the Mavericks are severely shorthanded. Dallas already announced that Luka Doncic would miss both games against the Timberwolves. If missing their best player wasn’t enough, the Mavericks will also have to play without Willie Cauley-Stein (personal reasons), Reggie Bullock (health & safety protocols), Josh Green (illness), Frank Ntilikina (illness), and Eugene Omoruyi (right foot injury).
The Timberwolves will be missing Anthony Edwards and Taurean Prince, who are both in health & safety protocols. Minnesota is surging, though, having won three in a row. Karl-Anthony Towns has been electric, averaging 27.7 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists during the win streak.
Here are three things to watch for in the first game of a home and home with Timberwolves:
Rebounding fundamentals will help.
The Timberwolves are the second-best offensive rebounding team in the NBA with 12.9 per game, just a tick behind the Toronto Raptors at 13 per game. This in turn leads to plenty of second chance points, which they’re also great at converting. The Timberwolves are second in the NBA with 16.5 second chance points per game.
The Mavericks so far have been great at keeping opponents off the glass, allowing only 9.3 offensive rebounds per game, third-best in the NBA. They are, however, allowing the eighth most second chance points per game in the league. The key will be keeping Karl-Anthony Towns and Jarred Vanderbilt, who both average about three offensive rebounds per game, off the glass.
The Timberwolves play at much faster pace than the Mavericks.
The Timberwolves play at the third fastest pace in the NBA. They’re eighth in the league in fast break points. The Mavericks, who have a tendency to argue with referees over calls and hang their heads after shots, often fail to get back on defense. They often end up in bad matchups on transitions and give up easy shots. They’re middle of the pack on fast break points, giving up the 16th most in the NBA. They can’t fall asleep on possession changes against Minnesota, or they’ll end up ceding easy baskets often.
Ball security will be key.
The Timberwolves lead the league with 20 points off turnovers per game, so the Mavericks will have to be careful with the ball. Luckily, it’s one of their strengths. Dallas averages the fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, and conversely, give up the fewest points off turnovers to opponents.
So long as the Mavericks continue with the superior ball security, they should eliminate a large source of the Timberwolves’ offense. With the Mavericks’ recent scoring struggles, keeping Minnesota from turning the game into a track meet will be key.
How to watch
The game tips off at 7:00 p.m. CST and can be seen on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA League Pass.