The Dallas Mavericks (8-13) are back on the road before a long home-stand, facing off against the Atlanta Hawks (10-10) — with the hopes of breaking a losing spell of six straight games. The Mavericks are coming off a heartbreaking 109-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns at home Monday night, and are looking to right the ship against a team they’ve split the series against over the last two seasons.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for in tonight’s game.
Head coach Rick Carlisle made clear after Monday’s game that while the Mavericks lost a close one they haven’t solved their problems, stating, “We’re not back on track. We’re still making mistakes but we’re making progress with chemistry. We’re going to be positive.”
Making it clear that there are no moral victories, he and the team expect better across the board. But that’s not to say they aren’t pointed in the right direction. Starting wing Josh Richardson had by far his best game since returning from Covid-19 protocol, posting 24 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals against the Suns. Tim Hardaway Jr., who returned to a bench role after starting for a stint, had 18 points while shooting 3-of-7 from three. And while it’s a process to return, Maxi Kleber was back on the floor after missing 11 games.
It’s going to be a process for the Mavericks to get on track, and they need to use those small areas of improvement to lay a foundation and some momentum. It would go a long way to see Richardson and Hardaway build off their Monday night showings.
Porzingis playing time
In the first six games returning from injury Kristaps Porzingis averaged 20 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks while shooting 33-percent from three. He had shifted to playing more time back at the center position, and seemed to find a rhythm. Those final three games he averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, and shot 43-percent from three.
And then he was held out a single game due to a back-to-back in the schedule. In his next three game stint, before being held out of the second game of another back-to-back, Porzingis posted 15 points, seven rebounds, one block, while shooting 20-percent from three.
In Monday’s contest against the Suns Porzingis had his moments finding a rhythm, adding 19 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks while going 3-of-7 from three. After the game he spoke to that comfort level, mentioning that he was able to play some longer stints without being subbed out. It allowed him to find a flow to the game and feel more comfortable. This was something he said he’d like to talk to the coaching staff about, and something we’d like to keep an eye on tonight and moving forward.
Luka vs Trae
Having only actually faced off twice against each other in the regular season, it’s still worth highlighting this matchup of two of the more exciting guards in the league; two guards that will be eternally linked, if only by Twitter fan bases.
The Atlanta Hawks guard is averaging 27 points, four rebounds, and nine assists this season, helping lead a team that did a lot of work on the free agency front in the off season. The Hawks will be without at least one of their primary additions, Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is recovering from a knee injury.
Nevertheless, Luka vs Trae should become appointment viewing, with both guards showing the ability to take over a game with the snap of a finger. Perhaps it’s this sort of matchup that helps the Mavericks pull out of their slump.
How to watch
Tip off is set for 6:30 P.M. CT, and can be watched on FSSW or NBA LeaguePass.