The Dallas Mavericks, fresh off the heels of their most embarrassing defeat of the season, will travel across the country to face off with the lowly Washington Wizards on the second night of a back-to-back. The Wizards have been an abject disaster thus far; it is paramount that Dallas handles their business and gets back into the win column. Though playing two games in as many nights is never easy, there should be no excuses for coming up short against this Washington team.
Luka Doncic, in particular, will need to come through with a response game from what he did last night. He’s the leader of the team and he sets the tone for how things will go. It’s imperative that he and the rest of the Mavericks take this Wizards team seriously. Here are three things to watch for as Dallas aims to get back in the win column.
Pace, pace, pace
It’s been one of the season's biggest stories thus far; the Mavericks have played a much faster tempo this year. Through 11 games, Dallas is ranked sixth in the league in pace. For the most part, this has worked out for them. They’re getting easier baskets and taking advantage of the newfound athleticism they’ve added to the roster. The Wizards know a thing or two about running— they’re ranked number one in the NBA this season in pace at 105.05, a full 1.14 points above the number-two team. Knowing how much the Wizards want to run, it’s crucial that Dallas takes care of the basketball and limits turnovers. The last thing they want to do is fuel the Washington transition attack. Dallas had 20 turnovers last night in New Orleans; that simply can’t happen again.
Can anyone grab a rebound?
Both the Mavericks and Wizards are terrible rebounding teams. They rank 26th and 30th, respectively, in rebounds per game this season. Maverick fans are all too familiar with struggles on the glass; it’s been such a big issue that it’s hard to imagine there could be any teams worse in this area. Playing a team that is even more inept represents a big opportunity to control the boards for a change. When the Mavericks outrebound their opponent, they usually win.
We know there will be plenty of Jordan Poole misses to go get. Taking care of those and generating extra possessions on the other end will go a long way toward victory.
Containing Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma destroyed Dallas in their two matchups with Washington last season (both Maverick losses). He scored 66 total points on 26-of-39 shooting in these contests. Though Poole is the Wizards’ primary creator, Kuzma is by far their best player and highest usage guy. Dallas has to find a way to make life difficult for him. Derrick Jones Jr. and Grant Williams will have their hands full, as Kuzma is averaging a career-high 24.1 points per game on .485/.353/.781 shooting splits. He’s become a really nice player and the Mavericks will have their hands full trying to slow him down.