The Dallas Mavericks (19-17, 8th in the Western Conference standings) have split a pair of games to start the second half of their season. Kristaps Porzingis had 28 points and 14 rebounds to help secure a 115-104 win over the Spurs. But as both Porzingis and Luka Doncic sat on the second night of a back-to-back, the Thunder pulled away for a 108-116 win.
The Mavericks have a tough week ahead. They’ll play the Denver Nuggets, the LA Clippers twice, and the Portland Trailblazers twice before their schedule cools off a bit. But for now, Dallas needs to focus on what’s directly in front of them, and that’s an impressive Nuggets team.
What do you do about The Joker?
Everything Denver does on offense begins and ends with Nikola Jokic. The center has looked like the most impactful offensive player in the league at times this season and is building an impressive resume for MVP.
Jokic ranks in the top-11 of points (27.1 per game, 10th in NBA), rebounds (11.0, 11th), and assists (8.6, 7th) per game. He’s also putting up ridiculous efficiency, shooting 56.7 percent from the field, 41.8 percent from deep, and 88.1 percent from the line. Despite the strong season, Dallas has seemed to give him trouble making plays.
In the first meeting against Dallas, Jokic scored 38 points on 31 shots. Even with the high scoring, he had only four assists and three turnovers. He scored just 20 points in the second meeting and again struggled to pass the ball well, committing six turnovers while recording four assists. If the Mavericks can again hold him to low scoring and poor passing efficiency, they have a much better chance of getting a win.
What does Doncic do to answer?
While Jokic has been incredible this season, the Mavericks have an MVP candidate of their own. Luka Doncic has played phenomenal basketball against Denver this season. In the first matchup, Doncic scored 38 points despite shooting 2-of-7 from deep. He also ended that game with 13 assists and a career-high five steals. In the second matchup, Doncic had 35 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, and a season-high 16 assists. Denver and San Antonio are the only two teams Doncic is averaging a triple-double against among opponents he’s played at least two times this season. When he’s playing like this, it’s hard to overcome.
The supporting cast
As great as Doncic and Jokic are, games aren’t won by one person. That’s been shown in both of the games these two teams have played against each other this season. In the first matchup, Josh Richardson and Dorian Finney-Smith played key roles in the Mavericks win as they each scored 14 points. Boban Marjanović also made the most of his minutes, scoring 12 points. In the second meeting, Michael Porter Jr. scored 30 points off the bench for the Nuggets. JaMychal Green also scored 17 points, pushing a Mavericks’ victory out of reach.
Dallas could use all the help they can get, as they continue to run a short rotation. Since Feb. 12, only seven players are averaging more than 20 minutes per game. Rotation players need to make the most of their opportunities to give the Mavericks the best chance to win.
How to watch
This game will tip-off at 9 p.m. CT and will be televised nationally on NBATV. It will also be shown on Altitude and Fox Sports Southwest, although NBATV games can sometimes be blacked out locally.