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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks enter round 2 against the Warriors

The Mavs will try to split the baseball style series with the Warriors. Here are 3 things to watch for.

Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Mavericks head into tonight’s game against Steph Curry and the Warriors losers of seven of their last eight games, good enough to sit them at a 9-14 overall record. Things are getting out of hand quickly in Dallas.

In Thursday night’s embarrassing loss to Golden State, the game was close for the entire first half and most of the third quarter. But then the Warriors turned into an offensive buzz saw and the Mavericks turned into an offense that can be seen at your local YMCA — lots of deep jumpers, not a lot of movement, and zero creativity.

Dallas has what should be a nice stretch coming up. After Golden State, their next seven games are against Minnesota, Atlanta, New Orleans, Portland, Detroit, Houston, and Memphis. If they can rip off a nice winning streak, they’ll be right back in the playoff mix and the mood in the locker room should change drastically. Heading into that seven-game stretch after getting swept by the Warriors wouldn’t be nice, though. Winning this game against Steph and Co. is key.

Here are 3 things to watch for in the Mavs/Warriors showdown.

Kristaps Porzingis’ shot chart

Kristaps Porzingis’ struggles this season are well documented. He’s been a massive liability on defense, he’s not rebounding aggressively, and on offense, he’s turned into a spot-up shooter. There’s no creativity in how he’s getting his looks.

A lot of this is on Porzingis. He needs to do a better job of finding cutting lanes, making himself available near the rim for Luka Doncic dump-offs, and crashing the offensive glass. But some of this is on the Mavs’ offensive scheme right now. They need to do more to help Porzingis break out of this funk. They need to get him near the rim.

Take a look at his shot chart from the Mavs’ loss to the Suns on Feb. 1.

Kristaps Porzingis Shot Chart Feb. 1, 2021

That just isn’t going to cut it. Porzingis isn’t going to be a guy that beats you with post-ups (he isn’t good at them), but the Mavs still need to get him more looks in the paint. This season, he’s 40th in paint scoring per 100 possessions out of players taller than 6-foot-10.

3-point defense

On Thursday night, the team defense was atrocious. It doesn’t matter how many points come in garbage time, if you give up 147 points as a team, you did a lot wrong. On Thursday, it was the 3-point defense, and tonight, the game will be impacted by the same thing.

The Warriors shot over 51 percent as a team from deep on Thursday. If that happens again, it’ll be another long night for the Mavs. Some of the Warriors’ success from deep is a shining light on how potent their offense can be when it’s clicking, but a lot of it is an indictment on the Mavs’ defense. Frequently, they were late locating shooters in transition, sloppy with their closeouts and failing on basic rotations. That needs to change if the Mavs want a chance at winning anything in the near future.

Luka, Luka, and more Luka

It almost goes without saying but the way this Mavs’ team is currently constructed, the team will only go as far as Luka Doncic can carry them on his back. They’re in desperate need of a secondary creator and they simply don’t have one on the roster.

At this point, it feels impossible for this team to get a win unless Luka plays really well, so that’s what he’s going to have to do if the Mavs are going to split the two-game series with Golden State.

How to watch

The game tips off at 6:30 p.m. CT, and can be watched via the national broadcast on ABC.