The Dallas Mavericks (6-5) will look to recover at home Saturday when they host the Portland Trail Blazers (9-3), kicking off a five game homestand. The team just returned from dropping two frustrating games on the east coast, losing to teams missing their stars. Now Luka Doncic and the Mavericks face the prospect of a tougher schedule while trying to regain their footing.
The Blazers are off to a surprisingly hot start to their season, featuring the dynamic trio of Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and offseason addition Jerami Grant. Even in the five games Lillard has missed the team has stayed afloat, going 3-2 in those contests. They are also still without the added depth of Gary Payton II, who isn’t slated for his debut until November 15.
Here is what we’ll be watching for tonight:
The Dallas Mavericks are the slowest-paced team in the NBA. When things are clicking, they’ve used that deliberate style to their advantage, often taking teams looking to leverage athleticism out of their rhythm. But the Portland Trail Blazers are 28th in pace. So any hope of weaponizing the flow of the game goes out the window for both teams.
So how else can the Mavericks find that advantage? Maybe it’s in the turnover battle, where the Mavericks average just 13.5 per game (6th in the league) and the Trail Blazers average 16.5 turnovers per game (25th). Portland’s turnover ratio of 16.8-percent is 29th in the league, with one of the worst turnover frequencies in the game. It will be on the Mavericks to take advantage of that sloppiness.
The Trail Blazers aren’t hoisting threes at the rate of most teams, averaging just a hair over 30 per game. But they are connecting when they do. They’re currently 5th in the league in team three-point shooting, and have several players able to knock them down. The Mavericks task will be disrupting that perimeter play. At the time of this writing injury reports have yet to be released. Assuming health for their roster, the Mavericks will be looking to slow down all of the aforementioned Lillard, Simons, and Grant as well as Josh Hart, rookie Shaedon Sharpe, and Keon Johnson — all capable shooters.
The Mavericks, whether by luck or scheme, have done a solid job in this area. They are limiting teams to just 28.6 three-point attempts per game, and holding teams to under 35-percent from three. It will be a busy night for Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, and Josh Green in particular.
Buying Luka time
On the recent road trip, head coach Jason Kidd made several comments in speaking to the media about the workload that Luka Doncic is currently shouldering. Doncic himself has alluded feeling tired from the usage in the first few weeks of play. Not exactly great to hear these admissions so early in the season.
That is by no means Doncic’s fault. He entered the season fresh and in better shape than he’s been in maybe any of his five NBA seasons. He is just being asked to do too much. The bigger solutions to this involve roster moves, something the front office has failed to do for the most part, and none of that can or will be done in the immediate.
So how does Kidd buy Luka some time? Whether that’s on the bench or on the floor, how can they scheme ways to alleviate some of this? Because while the greater concern is in the length of the season, it’s also a problem inside of each game where Luka wears himself out by the time we reach the fourth quarter. Spencer Dinwiddie had nice games in Orlando and Washington, and took on much of the scoring burden when Doncic wasn’t connecting (and in the absence of Christian Wood). But Dinwiddie won’t be able to do that alone. Kidd will need to show some creativity on offense to problem solve this before Doncic is comatose by Christmas.
How to watch
Tip-off is set for 7:30 pm CT and can be watched locally on Bally Sports Southwest and the Bally Sports app.