The Dallas Mavericks (27-21), hot off a four-game win streak, return home to a tall task: slowing down the league-leading Utah Jazz (38-11). It is a test in a variety of ways for the Mavericks, who are playing very different basketball from the last time these teams met in January.
At the time of this writing the injury report is rather full for the Mavericks (a theme that may have carried over from their last meeting), including starters Kristaps Porzingis and Josh Richardson showing up as questionable. Nevertheless the Mavericks will try to carry momentum into Monday night, after winning 14 of the 20 games they’ve played since the All-Star break.
Here is what we’ll be watching for in tonight’s game!
Staying the course
If the Mavericks can have a semblance of a healthy roster, this version of the team is very different than the one that visited Salt Lake City. Porzingis had appeared in just seven games by the time they played the Jazz, and Covid-19 had hit the team hard. It was an ugly time for the Mavericks, resulting in a six-game losing streak.
To be clear, the Mavs were chased out of the gym for two straight games and I’m not sure a healthy version of that group would have done much different. Leading into their January 27 game the Mavericks were a net -0.4, thanks to an offense that really hadn’t gotten going. In the 29 games since they’ve found their footing.
While they haven’t turned into the defensive juggernaut they were focused on being in the offseason, they aren’t pushovers. With a boost of offense and a Defensive Rating of 111.8, the Mavericks find themselves sixth in the league in Net Rating (+5.1) since January 30.
Hopefully this version of the Mavericks will be present Monday night at the AAC, but as has been the case often this season, health will be a major factor.
Bring the bench
Among the ten two-man lineups that have played at least 600 minutes together for the Mavericks, the tandem of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson have the third best Net Rating. Since building chemistry as the first two off the bench these two have become an impactful scoring duo, especially important in those moments where Luka Doncic gets a breather.
The switch to Hardaway on the bench didn’t happen until February, as Rick Carlisle shuffled pieces around while the roster became whole. So it isn’t shocking that in those previous games against the Jazz that the Mavericks were totally outmatched on the bench.
It is perhaps best to throw out that second game entirely where the Mavericks found themselves down 37-12 after the first quarter — it’s hard to glean much from that. But in the first game, the Mavericks bench was outscored 34-28, 31 of those points by presumed Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson. They were outscored by one player, who torched them in both (Clarkson had 49 between the two games). For the Mavericks to stand a chance on Monday, they need to find a way to slow down Clarkson and win the Doncic-less minutes.
Win the first
The Mavericks haven’t lost a game where they led after the first quarter. 19 wins. Or in other words, the Mavericks have only won eight games where they were down after the first. I’m not trying to spoil endings, or to press the panic button after 12 minutes. But...uh...I’d say that might be something to look for tonight.
How to Watch
Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT, and can be watched on Bally Sports Southwest (and the Fox Sports website?) as well as NBA League Pass.