Minnesota comes into tonight’s game with the number-one record in the Western Conference at 17-5. Dallas has been on a great run lately and this matchup will be a serious test for them. Not only is this a big measuring-stick game, but it also represents an opportunity to pick up a game against a team Dallas trails by just 2.5 games in the standings.
Here are three things to watch for as the Mavericks aim to win their fifth straight.
The Wolves are enormous. They start the twin towers of Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns and have a collection of long, rangy wings in Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Troy Brown Jr. Skilled big Naz Reid plays heavy minutes off the bench. Anthony Edwards, their primary creator, is 6’4”. Minnesota supplements this size with athleticism and intensity, adding up to the best defense in the NBA. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are a bit vertically challenged. It will be difficult for Dallas to overcome this disparity; they need all hands on deck to rally together and play bigger than they are.
Another big test for Dereck Lively II
The Mavericks’ star rookie battled with Anthony Davis Tuesday night, and Davis largely had his way with him. Lively didn’t necessarily play bad defense, but Davis still found a way to put up 37 points and 11 rebounds. That’s what superstars do. Things won’t get any easier for Lively as he matches up against Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. Gobert isn’t much of a scoring threat, but Lively will have his hands full with him on the glass. On the other end of the floor, Gobert represents the platonic ideal for what Lively could become. It will be interesting to see how Lively handles the Frenchman's presence in the paint on defense. Towns is having another ultra-efficient season and it will be critical for Dallas to contain him. Though not entirely fair, the Maverick defense starts and ends with Dereck Lively— how well they hold up against the Minnesota frontcourt depends a ton on how well he holds up.
Can Dallas “math” Minnesota to death?
Though the Timberwolves have the obvious size advantage, the Mavericks are the better shooting team. Dallas comes into this game as second in the NBA in three-point field goals attempted per game at 42.9. Minnesota, on the other hand, is at 24th with just 32 attempted per contest. The Wolves are the much better team in the paint, and it’s hard to envision Dallas being able to shut down the paint against them. Still, three is greater than two, so if Dallas can limit open threes and outshoot Minnesota from behind the line, I like their chances.