The Dallas Mavericks (45-28) head north Friday night to face the seventh place Minnesota Timberwolves (42-32) after beating them in Dallas earlier this week. It has been a crucial week for the middle of the Western Conference playoff standings, with the Mavericks leaving themselves a real shot to be fourth by the end of the weekend.
The 110-108 victory on Monday night at the AAC was a playoff atmosphere. There were clutch threes, late-game hijinks, even a rain delay — yes, you read that right. Friday figures to carry that momentum over as Minnesota, who is currently just a one point favorite, tries to work their way out of the seventh-seeded play-in spot.
Bev v. Doncic
There is a history between Patrick Beverley and Luka Doncic no doubt. The former Los Angeles Clippers guard is known for pesky defense and deadball antics — it’s more of the latter than the former the last several seasons — and those were turned to 11 for much of the game Monday.
Historically he has not defended Doncic well. Luka practically played him off the floor in the playoff bubble. But Wednesday Beverley did a lot to get under Doncic’s skin, who had just 15 points (5-of-17 from the field, 3-of-11 from three) along with six rebounds and 10 assists. It will be worth monitoring this scheme Friday. Do the Timberwolves test their luck and ride Beverley again? Do the Mavericks find adjustments to get Luka switched off him? Speaking of that...
Breaking the trap
In addition to Beverley, Minnesota was finding some success by pushing their defensive pressure and trapping well above the three point line. It made Doncic uncomfortable in stretches, or forced the ball out of his hands.
The Mavericks beat this with the shooting of Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock (combined 9-of-19 from three) and the pressure break of Dwight Powell (22 points, 8-of-8 from the floor). Teams continue to push that pressure out, daring someone other than Doncic to beat them. When those key role players are hitting, in addition to Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie, the Mavericks offense is unstoppable.
Mavericks defensive scheme
On the other end of the floor the Mavericks employed a strategy they’ve used frequently against the opposing team’s playmakers. They were pretty aggressive with trapping in trying to get the ball out of Anthony Edwards’ hands — sometimes putting effort in to deny entirely. That swarming held Edwards to 5-of-13 shooting, and the Timberwolves shot under 40 percent from the floor as a team.
Pretty impressive considering Minnesota were on a stretch of games where they went 13-3 and had scored at least 110 points in 15 of those games. It’s no secret now that the Mavericks are hanging their hat on a combo of Luka Doncic and defense. When the defense is fully engaged, and most night’s it is, they’ve done a really nice job of pinpointing a disruption point in an opponent’s offense. They did enough to keep Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell out of rhythm. Will they find that same level of success tonight? Maybe not. But that will need to be the focus in order to slow an athletic Timberwolves team down.
How to watch
Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT. and can be watched locally on Bally Sports Southwest or nationally on NBA LeaguePass.