The Dallas Mavericks (22-19, 8th in the Western Conference) have had two days off after crushing the Blazers by 40 points. The Mavericks and their fresh legs will look to get another win against a lackluster Minnesota Timberwolves (10-33, 15th in Western Conference) team.
The Wolves have been in a brutal slump over their last 16 games. Since Feb. 16, Minnesota is 3-13. During that time, they’ve placed 24th in offensive rating and 26th in defensive rating. That nets them as the league’s second-worst team from an efficiency standpoint. Meanwhile, the Mavericks place third in net rating over that same span. Dallas has the ninth-best offensive efficiency and seventh-best defensive efficiency since Feb. 16, a good sign that things are trending upwards.
Even as Dallas remains hot and Minnesota is as cold as their winters, this team has plenty of talented pieces that give them a chance to win on any given night. Let’s look at what the Mavericks need to do to make sure that doesn’t happen to them.
Unicorns and KATs
Karl Anthony-Towns is one of the most unique offensive big-men this league has ever seen. His numbers this year haven’t sky-rocketed and he’s not on track to record any career highs, but his game is continuing to develop in front of us. One area of his game I’ve noticed an improvement in this season is what he’s able to do with the ball in his hands. Towns is averaging just 4.0 assists to 3.3 turnovers per game, but some of the passes he has been making are breathtaking. Here’s him throwing a missile to a cutting Anthony Edwards for an easy bucket.
I'd love to see more of this off-ball movement from Anthony Edwards. Nothing special, but really effective when Towns is posting. pic.twitter.com/M10iBrpJ0D— Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) March 14, 2021
Here’s a very similar setup, except this time he finds a wide-open shooter in the corner.
Karl-Anthony Towns can pass that thing. Absolutely missiles this one right into Okogie's shooting pocket. pic.twitter.com/uvKafSg11P— Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) February 28, 2021
It’s fair to assume that Towns will receive some extra attention down-low when you consider some of the struggles Dallas has had defending the post this season. In that case, the Mavericks will have to make sure shooters don’t get themselves open and turn this into a shootout.
Slowing down the kid
Anthony Edwards has been one of the more interesting rookies to watch this season. He’s an explosive player who broke multiple records at the combine with his athleticism. He’s already collected an impressive collection of posters and is the third-youngest player in NBA history to score 40 points in a game. As fun as Edwards has been, he hasn’t always been efficient. Edwards has shot below 50 percent from the field in 37 of his 43 games played this season. Here’s a picture of his shot chart, which shows him failing to shoot league average from anywhere on the court.
Even as the rookie goes through some growing pains, he’s still shown plenty of flashes of being a dangerous player. We saw some of those flashes first hand in the game against Dallas earlier this season. Edwards scored 22 points in that contest while assisting on four baskets, grabbing two rebounds, and collecting a pair of both steals and blocks. He was also 8-of-19 from the floor and 3-of-8 from deep.
With a player that gets to the rim as easily as he does, the scoring is always going to be a considerable threat.
Along with the shooting chops (5/10 from 3) Anthony Edwards' strength, shiftiness and body control around the rim were on full display last night. pic.twitter.com/8TTtw7owSC— Jake Paynting (@jakepaynting) February 1, 2021
This season, we’ve seen the data suggest that when the Mavericks manage to not be awful on defense, they typically win. Here’s a good find from Mavericks staff member Bobby Karalla showcasing that.
This is really something: The Mavs are 16-4 this season when their opponent scores fewer than 114 points per 100 possessions in game. For reference, a 114.0 def rating would rank 27th in the league this season. That's been the threshold.— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) March 22, 2021
This season, the Timberwolves have scored 114 points per 100 possessions or more in only 10 of their 43 games played. At the other end of the court, they’ve held their opponents under that same efficiency just 17 times. When these teams played earlier this season, the Timberwolves' offense was clicking, scoring 117.3 points per 100 possessions. But the Mavericks were better, posting an offensive rating of 121.0 points per 100 possessions.
This game provides a good opportunity to do it again, and it opens up about a 15 game window where Dallas can make some serious noise. No game in this league is an easy one, but the Mavericks have a great opportunity in front of them to rise in the standings and build momentum. It’d be great if they could start it off with a win.
Where to watch
This game will tip-off at 7 p.m. CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest. You can also watch on NBA League Pass.