The Dallas Mavericks (15-16) will try to regather themselves after a loss Thursday night, but it won’t be an easy task. They face the streaking Brooklyn Nets (22-12), who are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.
It’s been a recent roller coaster for the Mavericks after an unexpected hiatus — a week packed full of wins and losses, off-court drama, and hopes of turning the ship around before the all-star break. Here is what we’ll be watching for tonight at the Barclays Center:
Maybe KP, no KD
The Mavericks had multiple games postponed in the midst of winter storms, which gave opportunity for a week of practices, something rarely afforded to teams in the midst of the season. But during that break Kristaps Porzingis began to experience what he and the team has reported as “back tightness”, causing him to miss this week’s games. Made evermore mysterious by reports that the Mavericks might be shopping the big man before the trade deadline, this week has worn out the imaginations of MFFLs everywhere.
Both Rick Carlisle and Porzingis himself spoke with media on Friday, and it’s believed there’s a decent chance the shooting center will be able give it a go Saturday night. In the eight games he has appeared in in the month of February the Mavericks’ center has averaged 23 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, while shooting 42-percent from three.
On the other end, the Nets have reported that forward Kevin Durant will be sitting out through the All-Star break, as he recovers from left hamstring strain. It won’t be an easy night as the Mavericks try to corral both Kyrie Irving and James Harden, but there will be one less superstar to worry about chasing around the floor.
Will there be defense?
Even when both have been at their all around best this season, neither team could be described as a defensive juggernaut. Whether it’s scheme or effort, there hasn’t been much success slowing opponents down.
That alone could promise a high-scoring affair, but it might be a straight up guarantee considering both teams are in the top five in Offensive Rating in the month of February. The Mavericks (118.2, fifth) and the Nets (120.8, third) are scoring at a nearly unsustainable rate. But Saturday night may take scoring to a new level, with both teams shooting at or above 40-percent from three this month as well.
There’s no secret that the Mavericks are at their best when Luka’s support system is clicking. It can come in a variety of ways, but offensively the engine is Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson. The evidence is quite obvious.
In wins this season Hardaway is averaging 5.7 more points per game (19.7 points), and shooting a full 10.9-percent better from three (44.2-percent). He has also found a budding chemistry alongside fellow bench guard Brunson, whose Offensive Rating is a jaw-dropping 131 in victories.
A lot of times the NBA is pretty straight forward: when your best players play well you win games. Luka Doncic is certainly capable of dragging this team across the finish line. But he needs Porzingis, Hardaway and Brunson on offense, and Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Maxi Kleber on defense. It doesn’t have to be all of them every night, though that would be nice. But to steal games like this one in Brooklyn, this group will need to step up.
How to watch
The game is on ABC. Which means anyone with a TV antenna can watch. It’s on at 7:30 p.m. CST.