Dallas is coming off of two thrilling victories over some of the Eastern Conferences premiere title contenders. They put down both Boston and Brooklyn courtesy of Spencer Dinwiddie threes. It was a pair of hard-fought games that took every ounce of gumption the team could muster, and what does Dallas get for its trouble? An MVP caliber Joel Embiid and his new friend James Harden on their home floor. Splendid.
It’s a tall order, but the Mavericks have been playing as well as any team in the league, posting a 10-2 record as they vie for playoff seeding in the waning weeks of the season. It’s reflected in the odds for the matchup, with Dallas coming in as only 3-point road underdogs.
Beat the best to be the best
Luka Doncic is on the outside looking in when it comes to contention for the MVP award. Fair enough. We all saw him shoot 9% from three for a month to start the season.
However, the team has been riding high for months now, particularly with the offense coalescing around the Luka-centric offense that’s taken hold following the trade deadline. And, for what it’s worth, a lot of that winning has come against other MVP-caliber players. He’s propelled Dallas to a 12-3 record against the teams of the top 7-8 names in the MVP conversation.
Now, typically, Embiid likely wouldn’t draw Doncic much as a defensive assignment, but with Luka hunting matchups - including against the best players in the league - we may see some fireworks from the two superstars. (This is if Embiid plays. He’s currently listed as questionable with a sore back due to a hard fall.)
Luka on hunting star matchups and iso ball. Full ep tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/dZQ4V6P9xb— JJ Redick (@jj_redick) March 17, 2022
There’s not much sense in writing about how the Mavs could hope to contain Embiid. They simply can’t. They don’t have the personnel for it. Getting Marquese Chriss back just to have 6 more fouls to throw at him might help. It’s not unlike the game plan from their game against Brooklyn; KD’s going to get his, stop everyone else.
A good enough strategy for a Nets team beset by injury. It’s a little harder to execute when one of the “everyone else” you’re facing is James Harden. He hasn’t missed a beat since joining Philly. If anything, he’s been shooting a little better in his nine games as a 76er than he was in Brooklyn. With Bullock still out due to personal reasons, the bulk of the responsibility for Harden is likely to fall predictably onto the shoulders of Dorian Finney-Smith. With the frontcourt dealing with Embiid and unable to do much to help with Harden, guys like Dinwiddie and, yes, Doncic, are going to have to stiffen up defensively. Forget the MVP race, it’s a golden opportunity for DFS to bolster his All-Defensive team credentials!
We’re a jump-shooting team
Coach Jason Kidd made some waves a few months back when he called the Mavs as they were constructed a “jump-shooting team.” He did not mean it as a compliment. To their credit, Dallas answered his call for a better team defense to great success.
That said, in a make or miss league, sometimes… you gotta just take some jump shots. The 76ers do a good job at funneling teams into taking mid-range shots in the mid-range. Not only do they force the 10th-most mid-range jump shots (considered to be poor possessions in the new NBA), they also give up some of the fewest corner threes. (More tough news for Dorian Finney-Smith.) By the numbers, it’s a solid defensive scheme. What else would you expect for a Morey-lead team? But for one game on one night, if the jump shots are falling, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot if it’s putting points on the board.
How to watch
You can watch the broadcast on Bally Sports at 6:00 CST.
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