The season is barely underway and the Grizzlies face a tough test on the second night of a back-to-back after beating the Rockets 129-122 in Houston Friday night.
The Mavericks dropped the season opener in Phoenix 107-105 on Wednesday.
The guard no one can slow down vs the guard no one can speed up
Ja Morant exploded against Houston for 49 and after dropping 34 versus the Knicks. He enters tonight’s game versus Dallas seeking his first win on the Mavericks' home floor. He looks to change that as he leads the reigning Southwest Division champs into the AAC.
Morant took a quantum leap forward last season as his Field Goal percentage (49.3) and scoring (27.4 ppg) both saw an astonishing ascent from his sophomore season. Not only did Morant win Most Improved Player last year, but his Grizzlies pushed past Minnesota and into a very competitive matchup with Golden State in the second round. While Dallas was in a seven-game tussle with the Phoenix Suns, Memphis pushed Golden State to six games - the last three without Morant. Had Ja Morant remained healthy for that series, perhaps Memphis would have found the Mavericks awaiting them in the Western Conference Finals.
Morant and Doncic are two of the best guards in the NBA and their styles could not be more different. We get our first look tonight at the top two Southwest division teams from a year ago. While the Pelicans may have something to say about it, the Grizzlies and the Mavericks are the class of the division until that changes on the court.
Christian Wood is a revelation
We all knew going into the season that Christian Wood would be one of the most talented Maverick players to team up with Luka Doncic. The on-court chemistry between these two was projected to be hellaciously good and the first game backed up that notion.
It was more than his scoring outburst of 16 points in 4 minutes that staved off a Phoenix rally during the first half of the fourth quarter. Wood looked competent on defense and had a very nice weak-side block. He also showed playmaking skills with Spencer Dinwiddie in foul trouble. Yet it was his passing from the high post as a secondary facilitator that should have Mavericks fans very excited. When a defense decides to trap Luka, having Christian Wood as the high post outlet option creates so many more possibilities. Wood showed us that he can roll, pop, and, dish to the corners with ease.
As disappointing as the loss was in a game that saw the Mavericks with a commanding lead, watching what is possible with Luka and Wood on the floor together is promising for Dallas’ prospects this season. If Memphis decides to trap Luka in the home opener, watch for what that may set into motion if Wood is also on the floor.
The distribution of trust
Wood only played 24 minutes against Phoenix despite his effectiveness offensively on a night where the Dallas offense needed all the help it could get in the second half. Will we begin to see enough defensive competency from Wood early in the season to earn more minutes from the coaching staff - particularly in games that are close down the stretch?
The Mavericks played a tight playoff-style rotation against Phoenix. Will the home opener see the season debut of Jaden Hardy and Dwight Powell? How many games will Facu Campazzo miss as he ramps up in practice sessions with his new team in Dallas?
Will Jason Kidd adjust his timeout strategy after seeing a huge lead evaporate Wednesday? Or will he let the team attempt to navigate choppy waters on their own early in the season as the coaching staff and front office evaluate the roster in the first third of the schedule?
All of these questions come back to trust. It will be intriguing to follow the plotlines early in the season and size up who Kidd trusts when it matters - and who he doesn’t. The more players to earn that trust will help lower Luka’s usage rate and help number 77 save his energy for plays like this:
How to watch
You can watch the broadcast on NBA TV and Bally Sports at 7:30 pm CST.