On Saturday evening the Dallas Mavericks (2-2) play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder (2-3) at the American Airlines Center, with tipoff coming at 8 pm local time. Both teams are riding solid wins, with the Thunder riding a two game winning streak, beating the Los Angeles Clippers twice, and the Mavericks surviving the Brooklyn Nets in overtime.
It’s the first game of a five-game home stand for the Mavericks and the first game of their first back-to-back of the season. Oklahoma City have yet to win a road game in two tries this far in the 2022-23 campaign.
Here’s three things to consider before watching the second home game of the season for the Dallas Mavericks.
Contain, contain, contain on defense for the Mavericks
We all know Luka Doncic is among the league leaders in drives per game year in and out. Currently he sits in third at 19.5 per game. Do you know who leads the league this season? Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at 24.3. For those of you who don’t like math, thats 25% more than Luka. Fact is, he’s led the league on drives each of the past two seasons. He’s relentless attacking the rim and it’s one of the reasons he’s 11th in the league this year in scoring at 29.3 points per game.
I suspect Reggie Bullock gets the first crack at keeping tabs on SGA. It’s not going to be an easy assignment. He’s simply a really good basketball player and Dallas will have their hands full.
The Mavericks did not take the New Orleans Pelicans seriously until it was too late. As the Thunder have just proven against the Clippers, they are not to be taken lightly. Josh Giddey is dealing with an ankle sprain. Both Jaylin Williams (G-League) and Jalen Williams (broken eye socket bone) are missing the game. Chet Holmgren is missing the season.
The Thunder, on paper, are not incredibly talented. And yet they are going to be a difficult match up. Lu Dort is strong and feisty, the kind of defender who Luka Doncic either punishes or gets overly flustered by. The Mavericks could and should put this one away early, but it will take effort and consistency. From everyone.
Will defenders stick to Dallas shooters?
As of this writing Luka Doncic is leading the league in scoring at 36.3 points per game. That’s happening in no small part because opposing defenders are sticking to the corners and Dallas shooters much more closely than in season’s past. That, in turn is giving Doncic more pathways to score.
In my opinion this isn’t Doncic’s natural inclination, I think he likes the pass more than the make. But he’s also not an idiot and is putting the ball in the hoop really well. At some point I suspect opposing defenses bend on this decision, because I also believe Doncic can score more. He’s not had an explosive game yet, explosive quarters yes, but he went a long time against the Suns without scoring and still finished with a ton of points. There’s a 50 point game coming unless defenses cave some and dare Dorian Finney-Smith to beat them.
Where to watch
The Dallas Mavericks play on BallySports Southwest at 8 pm CST.