In an 82-game season of basketball, a lot comes down to timing. The Dallas Mavericks - as has been the case since the start of 2022 - are ascendant. Coach Jason Kidd’s defense seems to have taken root, they’ve beaten several teams that would be considered to be real title contenders, they didn’t even miss a beat after a trade deadline that shook up not just the starting lineup, but the entire team-building mindset in Dallas.
Brooklyn, on the other hand, is the kid sitting in the back seat of a family minivan, pestering their sibling and asking incessantly, “are we there yet?” To which the answer is constantly “no.”
A one-time title favorite, since January, they’re a meager 12-23. The Nets hype hasn’t matched the reality the entire season. Only three teams have lost more games, and you can bet none of those teams are thinking about a Championship this season. Brooklyn even fooled the odds-makers — they’re the worst team against the spread this year, covering only 39.4% of the time. The Nets made a panic trade at the deadline, swapping a disgruntled Harden for a work-in-progress Ben Simmons, and started letting Kyrie play away games. KD, like LeBron before him, is a generational player who sucks at team building. And now here they are, 8th in the East. As of this writing (9:30 pm on Tuesday) the MAVERICKS are 1.5 point favorites.
The refrain this season seems to have always been “just wait until we start making shots.” Well, in February, the Mavericks did! They were first in the NBA in three-point percentage, shooting over 40% as a team. Since March, that number has reverted to the mean, sliding to a touch over 33%.
In the Nets, the Mavericks will face an opponent who might help them buck that trend. Over the last 10 games, opponents are shooting over 40% from three against Brooklyn. But it’s not just shots from the arc; over that span, the Nets are allowing opposing teams to shoot 48.6% from the floor. It’s the 25th-worst mark in the league. If Dallas was looking for a chance to get their shooting mojo back, this is as good an opportunity as anything. Not to mention, Dallas will be coming off two full days of rest, compared to Brooklyn, who will be playing the second night of a back-to-back.
A Leisurely Drive
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise for a team who regularly plays three starting-caliber guards together, but Dallas drives the lane more than just about any team in the league. Over the last ten games, only the Pacers averaged more drives. With the news that Reggie Bullock likely won’t play in Brooklyn, it seems likely we’ll be seeing the Doncic/Brunson/Dinwiddie trio to start the game just like they did against the Celtics.
It stands to reason, then, that Dallas will be running a lot of its offense towards the rim. Whether that action leads to a kick out for three (again, Nets are allowing over 40% from there), or a high-percentage layup will be up to the ball handler. It might even be the case that Dallas starts to rack up free throws. Dinwiddie in particular seems to be adept at getting to the line since arriving in Dallas.
Anyone but KD
It’s a back-to-back. Kyrie can’t play in his team’s own building. Ben Simmons hasn’t returned to play. Seth Curry was ruled out for the Nets’ Tuesday game against Orlando. Will he be ready to play against Dallas?
There are a lot of factors at play there, but taken as a whole, it essentially means that unless Kevin Durant plays out of his mind, the Nets are going to have a hard time. Who’s going to put points on the board outside of KD? A still-settling-in Goran Dragic? Seth Curry on a tender ankle?
That said, does Dallas have the personnel to stop KD from being KD? No, not really. Maxi and Dorian Finney-Smith will surely try mightily, but this game will likely come down to who other than Durant steps up, and if Dallas can stay sound in its defensive game plan, it should be enough to hold the rest of the squad in check.
How to watch
You can watch the broadcast on ESPN at 6:30 CST.
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