The Dallas Mavericks (16-18) will be out for revenge on New Year’s Eve when they face-off for the second time with the Sacramento Kings, after a heartbreaking 95-94 loss on Wednesday night. They’ll need to bounce back from a chaotic finish that saw the Mavericks turn the ball over on a shot clock violation then give up a corner three at the buzzer to Chimezie Metu.
Here is what we’ll watch for in this evening’s festivities:
The first game against the Kings found the Mavericks scoring under 20 points in a quarter for the first time since they have relied heavily on replacement players. Though the Mavericks were joined in Sacramento by Reggie Bullock after being the first player on the roster to enter Health & Safety Protocol, it is hard to say whether there is any end in sight with regards to roster shuffling.
The most recent change was finding a replacement for Brandon Knight and Boban Marjanovic, who both entered protocol Wednesday — that addition was veteran guard Isaiah Thomas, who had just finished time with the Los Angeles Lakers and was reportedly grocery shopping near his Seattle Home when Nico Harrison reached out on gameday. He played 13 minutes, logging six points and four assists in the loss.
This is the sort of chaotic energy the Mavericks are operating with. It reared its ugly head in the second quarter against the Kings, when they were outscored 35-13 in the frame. This whole experience looks like a ticking timebomb, and it’s unclear how much longer they can bide time until things really become unhinged. They may have lost on the final shot, but it was that quarter that felt the most ominous.
For now, they are relying on production from Jalen Brunson, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dorian Finney-Smith. That trio has combined to collectively average 61 points per game in the last two games. Of note, there have been breakout offensive performances from others — recently Frank Ntilikina and Dwight Powell — but none names of players you know you can rely on every game.
Until more of the regular rotation returns, and especially Luka Doncic, these three will need to find ways to build the offensive foundation every night. Without that, it’s hard to imagine the Mavericks grabbing wins from good teams or bad.
Kristaps Porzingis went 4-of-7 from the floor in the fourth quarter Wednesday night. His makes were mostly on the move or catch-and-shoot. The misses all were a variety of forcing the issue. The two final misses, both crucial possessions in a tight game, saw Porzingis attempting to post Harrison Barnes up from the right free throw line extended. Both resulted in turnaround jumpers.
Whether that is the call or not, whether KP prefers a turnaround jumper to an actual post move, one thing was certain: he was not moving Barnes from his spot. Something that is certain with the former Mavericks forward, Barnes is strong. And Wednesday he wasn’t giving an inch on either possession.
Late-game execution was rough, particularly on the final two possessions. Jason Kidd and this team have got to find another strategy while Doncic is away, than resorting to KP post looks that stall everything out.
How to watch
Tip-off is set for 5 PM CT and can be watched on BSSW locally or NBA LeaguePass nationally.