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3 things as the Mavericks hit the road against the Warriors

They say “defense travels,” and for Dallas visiting Golden State, it better.

Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Dallas ends a fruitful five-game home stand by traveling to visit the ever potent Golden State Warriors, on the fifth game of their own stretch of home games.

The 99-82 victory the Mavericks scored against the Warriors in Dallas on Jan. 5 was the interest-piquing win that kicked off Dallas’ dominant start to the new year. In any scenario, getting two wins against a premiere Western Conference team bodes well for this ascendant Dallas team. Getting one on GSW’s home court, where they’re an intimidating 21-4 this season, would be quite the notch in Dallas’ bedpost.

Golden State has won three of the four games they’ve played at home in this stretch, but they’ve looked uncharacteristically vulnerable while doing it. They’ve beaten struggling teams like Utah and Houston by just two points and, even worse, lost to the Pacers. Now, in this league, a win’s a win, and no one does it at home like Golden State, so Dallas better hope that defense they’ve been leaning on this January travels well.

Clutch genes

With how many close wins Golden State has been churning out as of late, it felt worthwhile to have a look at their clutch stats this season. Sure enough, they have the league’s fifth-best winning percentage in clutch games.

Their .652 winning percent in clutch games measures favorably to their .723 winning percent on the season, and miles ahead of Dallas’ mark, which is underwater at .429. Luckily for the Mavericks, they haven’t played in too many clutch games this season at 21 – just three more than the four teams who share the fewest clutch games played.

That Golden State has played in so many is perhaps due to their team mentality. Much of their dynastic core is still intact, and nothing about the Warriors implies that they’re a team that is satisfied to roll over once they get down on the scoreboard. For Dallas to earn this win, they’re going to have to play a wire-to-wire game. It’s highly unlikely Golden State will let them run away with one.

Bench press

For a stretch there, when the league was overwhelmed by covid, it seemed like teams may never again be able to count on a dependable rotation and solid bench depth. G-League players were getting snapped up left and right to fill holes in roster league-wide, including in Dallas.

Well, the Mavericks have come out the other side no worse for wear. In fact, they may have stumbled into one of the league’s better bench units.

Since Jalen Brunson was promoted to the starting lineup on Dec. 12, Dallas’ bench has the fourth-best net rating in the league. While the debate always seemed to be who should start between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Reggie Bullock, the answer, for now, seems to be neither. And Dallas is all the better for it. It’s true, the Mavericks stellar play this month is going to make just about every team stat pop – a rising tide raises all boats – but Dallas seems to have hit on something with the Luka/Brunson/Finney-Smith/Kleber/Porzingis starting unit that sets up the bench for success.

Being able to mix and match the core rotational players like Hardaway, Bullock, and Powell with pieces to fit the situation seems, for now anyway, to be a winning formula. The suffocating defensive identity the team has cultivated is now a 48-minute reality as Dallas has found a way to spread their defensive talent across enough of their lineups that there is very rarely a lineup that is going to fall flat on D.

Initiate launch sequence

Look. In the NBA any team can beat anyone on any given day. These are professionals, and they should never allow themselves to look ahead at their opponents and think they’ve got it easy. They should come into each and every game with the same competitive mindset that says “I’m going to go 100% until the final buzzer.”

…but I’m not a professional basketball player, so I’m allowed to do exactly that.

This Golden State game is the only game in Dallas’ next five in which the Mavericks’ opponent has a winning record on the season. If there were a game to leave everything on the floor, it’s this one. A win Tuesday night could be the spark that sees Dallas rocketing up the Western conference standings in the coming weeks. After what felt like an eternity with little to no movement (For Pete’s sake, Dallas has won 11 of 13 games and they’ve been stuck in 5th place in the West for nearly three full weeks), Dallas is finally within striking distance of a top four seed and home court advantage.

How to watch

You can watch the broadcast on TNT at 9 p.m. CST.