After a frustrating home loss on Friday night at the hands of the New York Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks (30-25) will play host to the Sacramento Kings (22-34) Sunday night. Somehow this is the first meeting between these two teams this season.
Having dropped four of their last six games, the Mavericks will look to jumpstart a vital final stretch of the regular season. It may be perfect timing to face the Kings, as Sacramento has lost nine straight.
Here are a few things to watch for in tonight’s matchup!
Finding their shot
The Mavericks aren’t packed with lethal outside shooting. It’s rather been a roller coaster ride from three, as a team shooting just 36-percent from three this season, finding themselves in the bottom third of the league. But since the all-star break the offense as a whole has found a rhythm, and it’s helped Mavericks shooters connect on open looks.
Prior to this recent skid that began on April 7 against the Rockets the Mavericks were on a bit of a tear, shooting 39.5-percent from three in the 15 games since the break through that date (good for fourth in the league).
And then the wheels came off. During this six game stretch, where the Mavericks can’t seem to find consistency anywhere on the floor, they’ve shot a startling 31.2-percent from deep — 29th in the league in that time.
Enter the Sacramento Kings, the league’s worst defense, with a baffling 117.7 Defensive Rating this season. The Kings are allowing opponents to connect on nearly 39-percent of their threes, and have the highest Defensive Field-Goal Percentage in the league. If ever the Mavericks need an opponent to give them space to rediscover their rhythm, this is it.
Set a tone early
The Mavericks have famously not lost a single game this season where they lead after the first quarter. In 19 contests where they lead after one, they have not lost. Which also means they’ve only won 11 games where they weren’t leading after the first 12 minutes. In these last bumpy six games the Mavericks have not led once after the first quarter.
They either set a tone or they don’t.
It is an odd and unique indicator of how locked in the Mavericks are on any given night. It would be nice to see them step on the floor and take some aggression out early and perhaps extend that first quarter streak to 20.
Slowing the perimeter
The Kings will be without big man Marvin Bagley (Hand), and likely soon-to-be free agent center Richaun Holmes (Hamstring). That means all focus should be on slowing down the Sacramento backcourt and wings: De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Heild, and Harrison Barnes.
It was reported around Draft Night in the fall that the Mavericks had made at least some effort to trade up and in the first round to select dynamic guard Tyrese Haliburton — though further reports made it sound like Haliburton and the Kings was destiny. This will be the Mavericks first encounter with the rookie that got away. He’s been solid this season with averages of 13 points, three rebounds, five assists, and just over one steal per game, while shooting 41-percent from three.
How to Watch
Tip off is set for 6:30 PM CT, and can be watched on NBA TV.