The Dallas Mavericks continue their road trip Friday night with the first of a back-to-back set against the Sacramento Kings. After two very impressive road wins without Luka Doncic, Dallas is hoping to have the superstar back in the lineup to pair with Kyrie Irving for the first time. This is a crucial game, as Dallas enters the matchup two full games behind Sacramento for third place in the Western Conference. A weekend sweep would be massive, a split is necessary, and dropping both games would be dire. Here are three things to watch for as the Mavericks look to make it three in a row.
Will the dynamic duo debut?
Having Kyrie Irving on this team still doesn’t feel real. His presence in the lineup clearly provided the entire team with a major jolt of energy against the Clippers, as the Mavericks got out to a huge lead and earned an impressive victory. Now, there’s a very good chance that Luka Doncic could be back. On the injury report Thursday evening, Doncic was upgraded to questionable. If he’s able to suit up, it would make this game must-see TV. The Clippers aggressively doubled Irving throughout the game, forcing the ball out of his hands and making the role players beat them. The Kings will not be able to employ this strategy if Luka Doncic is on the floor. It will be so fun to see how Doncic and Irving play off each other; hopefully, that starts tonight.
Dallas must be ready to lock in on defense
The Kings are ranked second in the NBA in offensive rating at 117.4, just a shade behind Denver at 117.8. They are an extremely dangerous team with a ton of offensive weapons to throw at you. D’eAaron Fox is having what should have been an All-Star season. Domantas Sabonis is dominating inside the paint. Kevin Huerter has been one of the best offseason additions any team has had this year. Our old friend Harrison Barnes is hitting shots at a high level.
This team can hit you from everywhere; they play fast, they share the ball, and they can shoot it. Dallas needs to have a strong defensive gameplan and Josh Green, the Mavericks’ best defender, should remain in the starting lineup.
Who will win the rebounding battle?
Both the Mavs and Kings are poor rebounding teams. The Kings are 25th in the NBA while Dallas sits at dead last. Since the Kings are such a great offensive team, you simply cannot afford to give them extra possessions. Winning the rebounding battle doesn’t always correlate with winning the game, but in a matchup where both teams struggle to clear the glass, it could make a big difference. Dallas outrebounded the Clippers on Wednesday, in large part due to increased energy and activity level. They’ll need to match that effort against the Kings.
How to watch
This game is on Bally Sports Southwest and starts at the unholy time of 9 p.m. CST.